Most competent and/or popular rulers

This will not surprise considering my username, but I submit Diocletian. For much of history, Diocletian was remembered above all else as the author of the Great Persecution. Indeed, among the few people who happen to be aware of Diocletian, the Persecution is still the main and sometimes only thing that comes to mind. However, beginning with Gibbon, and more so from the late 19th century onwards, scholars have increasingly recognized the stability, success and innovation that characterized his rule.

Diocletian had his faults. His ambitious Tetrarchic scheme of rulership was an extraordinary success with Diocletian at the helm, but it did not succeed in becoming an enduring solution to imperial instability since it ultimately required his personal influence to hold it together. His prices edict was a notable failure, but it nonetheless reflects the poor understanding of economics that existed in ancient times. But Diocletian was an innovative and incredibly hands-on ruler who was trying to find solutions to bring an end to the political, military and economic instability of his time, and in many key respects he succeeded. The Sassanians suffered a truly decisive defeat (and the humiliating Treaty of Nisibis) to the Romans, the taxation system was reformed to be more regular and equitable, a five-yearly census was introduced, the emperorship became more ideologically protected through the introduction of elaborate ceremonial and by being more closely associated with the divine, control over the provinces became more centralized, the imperial bureacracy was expanded, the frontiers were strengthened, law was compiled into codices for the first time, military support was successfully elicited after decades of rampant military rebellion (in part by emphasizing in propaganda that he and Maximian were brothers-in-arms), the power of individual governors and generals was weakened (reducing their ability to rebel), numerous barbarians were defeated, the power of the praetorian guard was diminished, the ten-year usurpation of the British emperors was defeated, the provincial cities of imperial residence were revamped with major building programs and the foundation of mints to become effective capital cities with more strategic significance than Rome, and the twenty years of Tetrarchic dynastic rule that Diocletian achieved (although that in itself did collapse into civil war after his abdication) paved the way for the political stability brought by Constantine and his dynasty, whose initial ascendancy came off the back of Constantius' legitimacy as a Tetrarch, thus helping to end the succession crisis of the later third century.

Diocletian's persecution of the Christians should be viewed through the lens of his problem-solving. In a time of great crisis, it is not surprising that there were people who thought that the gods were angry. The Christians were travelling the empire, converting people to their faith. They taught that it was wrong to sacrifice to idols. In 301 Diocletian tried to stem inflation through his ambitious prices edict, and this effort led to further inflation. In 302 he persecuted the Manicheans, whom he declared to be impious and a Persian fifth column to boot. In 303 the persecution of the Christians began. The context of Diocletian the problem-solver, a man who was working within the context of what he thought he knew about the world, does much to explain the persecution, but the persecution itself has done much to draw attention away from a broader appreciation of this unusual and successful emperor.
I should have added that the Tetrarchic system helped against both the problem of foreign incursions and the threat of military rebellion (the officers and soldiers of each frontier wanted a present emperor to look after their affairs). I should have also specified that Diocletian and Maximian presented themselves as brothers to one another, not necessarily to the soldiery. Their propaganda constituted a somewhat paradoxical combination of messages including fraternity among military emperors, collegial harmony and symmetry, near-divine status, and the hierarchical supremacy of Diocletian.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
Alfred the Great and Elizabeth I of England.

As far as George III, what was said in the Declaration of Independence was propaganda and justification. Before the Declaration, they never said anything about the king, because that would be treason. When declaring independence, they had to pin everything on the king. France and Spain did not want to hear about the desire for even more political rights and westward expansion. Britain did do well under his reign, but his power was limited, so he should not get all the credit.
Jun 2015
UK PMs - Macmillan

US Presidents - Coolidge and Ike

medieval English kings - Edgar the Peaceful
King George III

In America we all know his reputation, however in Britain he was beloved and served as symbol of patriotism and unity, most notably in the Napoleonic Wars.

Under his reign Britain defeated France in the 7 Years' War, the Agricultural Revolution reached its peak, India was almost completely conquered, Australia was colonised, the Industrial Revolution started and Britain emerged as the most powerful nation in the world following the Napoleonic Wars, there is much more to be said about him but this is as brief as possible.
He had no direct role in this though. If anything, his meddling in the government was a hindrance and helped further the creation of constitutional monarchy in Britain. He had no capacity to directly inspire the Industrial Revolution, or oversee the First Fleet.
Feb 2019
He had no direct role in this though. If anything, his meddling in the government was a hindrance and helped further the creation of constitutional monarchy in Britain. He had no capacity to directly inspire the Industrial Revolution, or oversee the First Fleet.
Maybe, however he was still beloved and I would rate him as one of the most competent British monarchs. He fulfilled his primary function, being a symbol of the state, pretty well I would say. I didn't credit him solely for all the events, I just said that they happened under his reign.
Likes: Futurist
Mar 2019
It is a very broad question. It would probably be easier to answer if it was specific to one trait but even than it would be hard to say which one. Especially when the records we have are incomplete and some are even lost. There might be one competent ruler in Africa but we will not know because the records were lost or in Asia or Europe or the Americas. And we do not have these facts because some got deleted, altered or lost. Unlike today when we have projects like or Wikipedia were to erase or lose a recording is almost impossible. But for the sake of the argument here is my list:

Gediminas The Grand Dutch Of Lithuania - He is credited with founding this political entity and expanding its territory which, at the time of his death, spanned the area ranging from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. He was responsible for both building Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and establishing a dynasty that later came to rule other European countries such as Poland, Hungary and Bohemia. It is believed that during his reign he has raised the Lithuanian army to the highest standards and was one of the great diplomats of that time.

Amina Nigerian Queen - A great military leader, Amina brought most of the other Hausaland city-states into her orbit, and is credited with encouraging them to surround themselves with huge defensive mud walls. She also opened up trade routes to the south, enriching Zaria's economy with gold, slaves and cola nuts. However, it is hard to say what stories are real and what are myths and legends.
Jun 2019
I think this should be categorised into centuries. Anyways, if we are talking strictly about most loved rulers then Vytautas the Great springs to mind:
  1. He saved Lithuania from: Teutonic knights, Golden Horde, Moscowies,
  2. Romehow managed to keep Lithuania independent from Poland,
  3. Reformed Lithuania's economy and modernised it,
  4. Made Lithuania the most tolerant state at that time (by doing this he saved thousands if not millions of jews and other groups of people),
  5. Expended Lithuania into its biggest and powerful form.

Sorry for my bad english.
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