FULFILLED PROPHECY (HISTORY)
2. Neo-Babylonian Empire
3. Medo-Persian Empire
4. Greek Empire
5. Roman Empire
When the book of 1 & 2 Kings end, the Israelites were brought into exile by a new world power, the Babylonians. The invasion of their land and the consequent exile was brought upon them due to their persistence in the sins of idolatry and immorality towards a God who had called them to be His people. This watershed event ushered the Jews into a new period of Jewish history, known as the “Times of the Gentiles”. Henceforth, the Jews fell into the hands of many other nations.
In the book of Daniel, it will become evident that the course of history was in fact shaped carefully according to timetable by God, who graciously revealed his program for the world (i.e. Gentiles and Jews) to his prophet through visions and dreams.
Before the Babylonians came into power, Assyria was the dominant power of the world. The Assyrians were known to be a war-like and cruel people and they reached the peak of their power in the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. During this time, they controlled the affairs of the Near East and their empire stretched from the Nile Crescent to the Persian Gulf, including the territories of Media, S Anatolia, Cilicia, Syria, Palestine, Arabia, Egypt, Elam (ancient name of Persia) and Babylonia (Map 1).
However, Assyrian foothold over the neighboring nations didn’t last long. Often they were quelling rebellions of their vassal states, especially Media, Elam and Egypt. Then in 626 B.C., Nabopolassar (626 – 605 BC), a native Chaldean governor, rose to the throne in Babylon. With haste, he drove the Assyrians out of Babylonia in 625 B.C. Chaldea is the name of the land and its inhabitants in S. Babylonia. It was later used to denote Babylonia as a whole.
In later days, the Babylonians (led by Nabopolassar) joined forces with the Medes (led by Cyaxares) to capture Asshur, the ancient Assyrian capital (614 B.C.) followed by Nineveh (the Assyrian capital) in the summer of 612 B.C. By this, the prophet Nahum’s prophecy of the impending fall of Nineveh came to pass (Nah 1:15-3:19). The remnants of the Assyrian army, led by a surviving member of the Assyrian royalty, Ashur-uballit II, fled to Haran in northwest Mesopotamia. However, the Assyrians succumbed to the Babylonian army at Haran in 610 B.C. despite support from Egypt. A year later, the Assyrians, now supported by a new Egyptian Pharaoh Neco II, attempted to repossess Haran but this attempt was unsuccessful. By 609 B.C., the consolidation of the Chaldean Dynasty was complete. The victories of Nabopolassar over the Assyrian and Egyptian armies made Babylon the master of Mesopotamia and placed Babylonian armies in position to advance southward into Syria and Palestine. Only Egypt, then ruled by Neco II, could put up any effective resistance to the Babylonian advance.
The prophet Habakkuk foresaw these events, declaring that God was “rousing the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize habitations not their own” (Hab 1:6)
By this time, the aged Nabopolassar entrusted his Babylonian army to crown-prince Nebuchadnezzar and in 605 BC, he attacked Carchemish and defeated the advancing Egyptian army at Hamath. The Battle of Carchemish established Babylon as the dominant power all the way to the border of Egypt. He continued his march southward toward Syria and Palastine, where King Jehoiakim (a puppet king placed on the throne by Egyptians) submitted to Nebuchadnezzar in 604 BC during Nebuchadnezzar’s campaign in Palestine. This constitutes the first of three invasions by Nebuchadnezzar in which he carries off hostages, including Daniel and his three companions, to Babylon. While in Palestine, Nebuchadnezzar heard of the death of his father and immediately returned to claim his throne.
Thus Nebuchadnezzar (605 – 562 BC) succeeded his father Nabopolassar and grew to become the greatest of all Babylonian kings. In the 45 years of his reign, he extended his rule to the then known world
In 604 BC, Nebuchadnezzar exacted tribute from all Syro-Palastine. Meanwhile, the Babylonian army continued to press onwards to Egypt. In 601 BC, their army reached the Egyptian border where the Babylonians battled the Egyptians, resulting in heavy losses to both sides. It was only then that the Babylonian army turned back to re-equip the army. (They would return to invade the country in 598/7 as prophesied by Jeremiah; Jer 46)
It was probably during this time that the Egyptian pharaohs provoked the Judean King Jehoiakim into rebellion of their masters to distract their Babylonian enemy. When King Jehoiakim refused to pay tribute to Nebuchadnezzar and chose, against the advice of Jeremiah, to transfer allegiance to the Egyptians, the Babylonian king once again invaded their land and captured the city in 597 BC after his son Jehoiachin came into power for a short period of 3 months. This time, he deported 10,000 people, along with King Jehoiachin and Ezekiel. In 586 BC, King Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and the city of Jerusalem including the temple was destroyed, a determined last effort to stamp out any future rebellion. Hence the divided kingdom of Judah met its end, with King Zedekiah and the remnant of its populace carried off into exile to become slaves.
Judah was not the only nation that resisted Nebuchadnezzar. Tyre was another who made an alliance with Egypt. The Babylonians besieged Tyre for thirteen years (Eze 29:17-21) and defeated them. This siege of Tyre was followed by an attack of Egypt in 568 BC where Nebuchzdnezzar’s armies occupied Egypt’s frontier.
For more than twenty years after the fall of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar reigned over the mighty Babylonian empire (Map 2). His architects raised the capital city of Babylon to the height of its splendour, adorning it with the famed hanging gardens, recognized as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Babylon also boasted of a staged temple-tower and several colossal gold statues weighing many tons. However, his kingdom started to disintegrate under successive less able rulers. Within 6 years of his death in 562 BC, there were four kings, each ruling no more than 2 years.
However, this comes to no surprise as 100 years before the rise of Babylon in 612, Isaiah had already prophesied the Fall of Babylon. Then, Babylon was already envisioned as a “the jewel of kingdoms” and “the city of gold” (Isa 13:19; Isa 14:4). Babylon’s fall was also pictured in detail, naming the unknown Medes as destroyers of Babylon (Isa 13:17-19). It was all within God’s program that Babylon was to supercede Assyria (Isa 14:25); Media was to supercede Babylon (Isa 13:17); and Babylon was to pass away forever (Isa 12:19-22, 14:22-23, Dan 5:31).
God merely used Babylon as his instrument of judgment against His people. The exile of the Jews were to last 70 years, after which God would deliver them back to the promised land. The words of Jeremiah provided comfort to the Judean exiles.
“But when the 70 years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever. I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.” (Jer 25: 12-14)
Babylonia & Daniel – Observations
1. On the premise that Daniel was the author of the book and that it was written in the 6th century BC, narratives and visions related therein straddles between the first two world empires of Babylon and Persia. Specifically, chapters 1, 2-5 and 7-8 all occur during the reigns of the Babylonian/Chaldean Kings while chapters 6 and 9-12 occur during Cyrus’ reign (first Persian King)
2. It is important to note that on the three occasions where Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and its temple, temple vessels and treasures were always among the pillaged and were carried off to the temple of his god in Babylon. This was not a mere act of looting but a direct challenge to Jehovah, implying that Jehovah was powerless to protect His people against his god, Marduk.
Years later, when at a banquet, Belshazzar (co-regent to the last king of Babylon) decided to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and desecrating them, it indicated a sense of total disrespect, irreverence and insolence towards the Jehovah God. That same night, the judgment was pronounced and Belshazzar was slain – The connection between his sin and his fall was inescapable! His kingdom was transferred to the Persians.
3. Babylon is introduced as the first of four world empires that God had foreordained and referred to as the “golden head” of the statue Nebuchadnezzar dreamt of (Chap 2) and the winged “lion” in the vision of four beasts that came out of the sea (Chap 7). (Chart 1).
In fact, Daniel’s interpretation of the symbols had alluded to the king himself, Nebuchadnezzar, as he epitomized the strength of the Babylonian Empire. In the vision of the lion which had wings of an eagle, the description of what happened to the lion – i.e. having its wings torn off, being lifted off the ground, standing on two feet like a man and being given a heart of a man – seem to point to the humbling experience Nebuchadnezzar had in Dan 4. Yet, although Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest human king of the Babylonians, this power was bestowed upon him by an even greater king, God (Dan 2:36-38).
The Aryan peoples of Persia and Media were nomads, originally from Southern Russia but were forced to relocate themselves in the plains of Central Asia by migrating peoples in 2000-1800 BC. They settled into the region between India and Mesopotamia.
(B) Persia and Media as separate states
By about 700 BC, Media and Persia were established, though they were subject to Assyria. Assyria had by that time conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. [Sargon II (716 BC) actually deported the captive Israelites to Media (II Kings 17:6; 18:11)].
The Medians were initially bound by treaty to the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (681-669 BC) but they soon rebelled and joined Scythians and Cimmerians against the declining power of Assyria after 631 BC. Under Phraortes (675-653 BC) there began open attacks. When he died in battle against Assyria, his son Cyaxares continued his campaign against the Assyrians which culminated in the fall of Niniveh (612 BC) and Harran (610 BC) where they allied with the Babylonian. The Medes controlled all lands to the north of Assyria.
The Persians managed to free themselves from Assyrian dominance in 681 BC, when Archaemenes was their king. However the original kingdom was split into two parts (Parsa & Anshan) because of the struggle between the two sons of Archaemenes over the inheritance. Soon however, one of the kingdoms, called Parsa, was absorbed into Media.
The other kingdom, centred in a region called Anshan, provided the basis for the eventual Persian empire and the first dynasty of the Achaemenids, that lasted till 330 BC.
After destroying the Assyrian empire together, the Babylonians and Medians continued their agenda to subdue nations under them. Cyaxares campaigned in northern Mesopotamia, capturing Armenia and Cappadocia, Lydia and Parthia (Persia?). The Babylonians campaigned in Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine. However, while this two kingdoms rivalled for power, Persia began its rise toward dominance of the Near East, through Cyrus the Great (a descendent of Archaemenid).
(C) Media and Persia united
The ascendancy of a Persian world dominion may be credited to the person, Cyrus II the Great (550-529 BC) whose grandfather was a Mede (according to legend). He began his reign in 559 BC where he was crowned king of Anshan. During this time, Persian was still a vassal of the Media. He rebelled against the last king of the Medes, his maternal grandfather and in 550 BC defeated him, taking his capital, Ecbatana together with all of the Median empire. Cyrus then gave himself the title of “king of Medes” and made Ecbatana his HQ. Many Medes maintained their positions of responsibility and their customs and laws were combined with those of the Persians (Dan 6:8, 15).
So the former subordinate Persians became the dominant power in the former Median empire.
|– Arms & chest of silver
||– Persia & Media as separate states|
|– Bear raised on one side
– 2 Horns of Ram – one longer than the other
|– Persia & Media united
– Persia the stronger of the two
|– 3 powers of Lydia, Babylon & Egypt defeated by Cyrus the Great||– Bear had three ribs in mouth|
1. The Medo-Persian Kingdom is identified with the silver arms and chest of the Nebuchadnezzar’s statue.
2. In Daniel’s interpretation of the of the dream, the second kingdom (Medo-Persian) was a kingdom “inferior” to the first (Babylonian kingdom), yet not in terms of geographical territorial might, for the Persian Empire was more vast than that of the Babylonian Empire. What Daniel meant was that nature of gold was more precious than silver or brass, which were obviously inferior metals. Indeed, the Babylonian Empire was characterized by a central authority and a fine organization, something the succeeding empires of Medo-Persia and Greek lacked.
3. The use of the different metals to describe the kingdoms also has symbolic meaning. Gold represented the wealth of the kingdom – it was a common metal during Babylonian times. As for silver, it was a common metal in the Persian kingdom and Persia was not as rich as Babylonia.
Chap 7 & 8
1. The second beast of Daniel’s vision resembled a bear raised on one side. The ram in Daniel’s third vision had two horns. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later.
2. The description of the lop-sided beast is best explained as representing the one-sided union of the Persian and Median Empires. Persia, despite coming onto the scene later, through Cyrus the Great in 559 BC, was greater and more powerful and had absorbed the Medes. This is also represented in the two horns of the ram with the horn that comes up last being higher and greater. The ram with its unequal horns is identified as “The kings of Media and Persia”(Dan 8:20).
1. Lydia (Asia Minor)
Under the kingship of Cyrus II (the Great), the Persians were a force to be reckoned with. In Cyrus’campaign for world dominion, he pushed northwards, defeated Croesus of Lydia in 547 BC. This was a major victory for him since the confederation of Media and Persia.
After that, Cyrus turned his attention to the east to extend his realm into NW India. By 540 BC, he was strong enough to attack Babylonia. In Oct 539 BC, he entered Babylon in triumph. Babylon, under the kingship of Belshazzar, fell before his army led by Gubaru (Darius the Mede?) and became part of the Medo-Persian empire (Dan 5:31). Cyrus now controlled whole of Mesopotamia.
Cyrus reached his goal of building an empire that was greater than Babylon. He organized his empire into 20 satrapies (provinces), ruled by governors and watched over by officers. Cyrus continued to fight in the east until he died in 530 BC. His son, Cambyses (529-522 BC), took over the kingdom and conquered Egypt (525 BC) which, until that time escaped foreign rule. He died in 522 BC, possibly by suicide.
1. The bear-like beast in Daniel’s vision had three ribs in its mouth
2. This corresponds to 3 principal conquests made under the leadership of Cyrus and his son Cambyses: Lydian kingdom in Asia Minor, Babylonian Empire, kingdom of Egypt.
After Cambyses’ death, an upstart claiming to be his half brother, Pseudo-Smerdis (522), took the throne, before Darius son of Hystaspes (522-486 BC), a distant relative of Cambyses, deposed and assassinated him. When he ascended to the throne, the empire was crumbling on all sides because of separate patriorisms in the satrapies. Leaders of the provinces tried to seize power in Media, Elam, Babylon, Egypt, and even Persia. Darius stemmed each revolt by sending loyal generals to subdue rebel forces. Within 2 years he was able to unite the empire and was recognized as a great king over most of the empire. His re-organization of the satrapies, his system of military commanders, and his introduction of coinage, legal and postal systems lasted as long as the empire. These facilities coupled with the considerable degree of autonomy allowed to subject peoples contributed greatly to the stability of the empire and allowed such a small community as Judah to survive, with Jewish officers acting as governors there. Hence he re-established the Persian Empire from Egypt to India, as far as east as the Indus River, an area larger than what he had inherited (he did not bring the Scythians in southern Russia under his rule, though he did gain a foothold across the Bosporus by taking Thrace). This was the peak of Persian rule.
1. The ram charged towards the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
2. The directions that represent the conquests of the ram include all except the east. Although Persia did expand to the east, its principal movement was to the west (towards Babylon), north (towards Lydia) and south (towards Egypt).
(E) Persian & Greek Affairs
At the peak of the Persian Empire (Map 4), the European Greeks who lived in independent city states on his western border were just about the only peoples left for the Persians to conquer in the known world. However, when he did try to add mainland Greece into his empire, he failed and was defeated at the battle of Marathon (490 BC) by a small Greek army. At his death, this task was left to his son Xerxes I (485-464 BC).
However, Xerxes did not manage to sustain the empire like his father did and the empire started to crumble under his rule. Xerxes faced 2 problems at the beginning of his reign: Greek cities that were in a state of constant revolt and Egyptians who thought that it was a good time to revolt. Next he had to contend with the Babylonians who staged a revolt. In all his responses, he made grave errors of judgment. He burned Athens and lost any support he might have had in the Greek cities; he angered the priests of Egypt by taking their temple treasures; he destroyed Babylon’s temples and ordered that Marduk’s golden statue be melted down.
In 481 BC, Xerxes decided that it was time to attack Greece a second time, after four years of painstaking efforts to collect troops and materials from across all the provinces of his empire. By 480 BC, the Persian hordes reached Hellespont (now called Dardanelles) and crossed the Hellespont from Asia to Europe in one week. They occupied Athens, forcing Greek refugees to flee with the Greek navy to Salamis. It was then there was a turn in fortunes and the Greeks trapped the Persians and destroyed an entire corps as well as the Persian navy (Battle of Salamis, 480 BC). Xerxes’ army retreated and was defeated at Plataea in 479 BC.
Max Dimont wrote:
( Dimont, Max I. Jews, God and History. New York: Penguin Books, Mentor Printing, 1994)
“There was no question as to who would annihilate whom. There was no logical reason for a supposition that the tiny Greek city states would defeat the colossus form the East, but that is precisely what happened at the famed battle at Marathon (490 BC) and the equally famed sea battle at Salamis (480 BC) where the Greeks shattered the vastly superior Persian forces. It was illogical, but history never stops to apologize for her inconsistencies, she continued to be illogical and permitted the Greek tribes to defeat the Persian armies over and over again.”
The wars between the Persians and the Greeks were very significant as the Persia was the second empire prophesied by Daniel and Greece was the third! If the Persians had defeated the Greeks, the development of Europe would have been very different. Yet this never happened in God’s timetable.
After Artaxerxes I (464-424 BC) inherited a weakened empire, he tried to unsuccessfully to keep it together with many battles in Bactira, Egypt and Greece. He accepted a peace treaty of Callias (449 BC) which only managed to postpone a full fledged war with Greece.
Later Persian kings – Xerxes II (424), Darius II (423-404 BC), Artaxerxes II (404-359 BC), Artaxerxes III (359-338), Arses (338-336 BC) and Darius III (336-331 BC) – declined still further in power. In fact, the last 70 years of the Persian Empire was filled with plotting and murders.
The last Persian king, Darius III, was a capable ruler who faced an impossible task of uniting a fragmented empire, while still having to withstand the onslaught of the great and ambitious general of Macedonia, Alexander the Great. Before the Greeks conquered Persia, Darius III had assembled a large army (over a million) to try to stop the progress of the Greeks, which had only about 32,000 infantrymen. In spite of that disparity in numbers, Persia was still defeated in three successive battles: first at the Granicus River in Asia Minor in 334 BC, then the battle at Issus half a year later (333 BC), and finally at the Gaugamela (331 BC) by the small Greek army.
1. Just when Daniel thought that no one could stand against the ram, a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west. The goat attacked the ram shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the lamb from his power.
2. In Daniel’s interpretation (Dan 8:21), the goat represents the king of Greece. The horn, in particular, is the “first king”, i.e. Alexander the Great.
3. The breaking of the ram’s horn symbolically refers to the disintegration of the Medo-Persian Empire upon Alexander’s military onslaughts.
1. In the vision revealed to Daniel, it is announced that three more kings will appear in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece.
2. The prophecy most likely came to Daniel in the third year of Cyrus (Dan 10:1). The “three more kings” refer to Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis and Darius I Hystaspes with the fourth referring to Xerxes I, who led the great expedition against Greece which backfired. Xerxes never recovered from this defeat and these times were the beginnings of the empire’s fall and final dissolution.
3. Secular history also bears testimony to the fact that Xerxes I used his great riches and a period of four years to prepare for the expedition against Greece.
Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will appear in Persia, and then a fourth [Xerxes], who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained great power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has appeared, his empire will not go to his descendents, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others.
(A) The Fall of Persia
Just when the Persians were enjoying a near world dominion under Darius’ (522 – 586 BC) rule with many victories under their belt, the Persians finally met their match in the Greeks (or more specifically, the Athenian fleet) where they were defeated at the Battle of Marathon (490 BC). After Marathon, the Athenians began to consider themselves as the center for Greek power and culture. And it was upon such pride that much of their cultural achievements were built on. While the Greeks considered the Battle of Marathon to be one of the greatest Greek military achievements, it was no more than a little irritation for the Persians. This defeat had apparently not registered with the Persians for after all they were they were in a position of power, with dominion over Asia Minor, Lydia, Israel, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Hence within the next 10 years, the Persians would once lead an expedition against the Greeks. This time they were determined to get it right.
After Xerxes I (485 – 464 BC) came to the throne, he used his great riches and a period of some four years to gather a great army amounting to hundreds of thousands, one of the largest armies in the ancient world. This was the climax of Persian rule. However, the expedition he led against the Greeks in 480 BC resulted in heavy losses and finally defeat in 479 BC. Xerxes never recovered. From then on, the Persian Empire began its decline.
While Xerxes gathered his army at the Hellespont, the narrow inlet to the Black Sea that separates Asia Minor from Europe, most Greeks despaired of winning against his powerful army. Of the several hundred Greek city-states, only thirty-one decided to resist the Persian army; these states were led by Sparta, Corinth and Athens: the Greek League.
The Greeks although outnumbered, decided to wage a tactical war and came out victors. They believed that the Persians could only succeed if it were successfully supported by supplies and communications provided by the Persian fleet. Therefore, they needed to delay their arrival on land and fight a battle at sea. The war planner, Themistocles (an Athenian) also understood that the Aegean Seas was a violent place, subject to dangerous winds and sudden squalls. So he kept his Athenian fleet in harbour, while many of Xerxes’ boats were destroyed at sea and then he waited for the right time to destroy the Persian fleet.
The Greeks had boats that were inferior to that of the Athenian fleet, a fleet that Themistocles had built up in anticipation of the return of the Persians despite their defeat at Marathon. The Greek boats were slow and clumsy in comparison with the Persian boats, so they capitalized their advantage and turned their boats into fighting platforms. With soldiers packed onto a much more stable platform, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat. It was a brilliant move and the Athenians managed to destroy the majority of the Persian fleet. The Persians were defeated in 490 at the Battle at Salamis.
This unexpected defeat prompted Xerxes to retreat to Asia. Despite this, one Persian general, Mardonius together with 100,000 soldiers, remained and wintered in Greece. But Mardonius met with the largest Greek army in 479 BC and under the leadership of the Spartan King, was killed in the battle of Plataea, resulting in the retreat of his army back to Persia.
While the Spartans were principally responsible for the victory, the Athenian fleet was probably the most important factor for the victory.
Greek internal affairs – Struggle for Power
The victory at Salamis proved that the Athenian fleet was the most powerful fleet in the Aegean. As a result, the majority of the city-states chose to turn to Athens instead of Sparta to form alliances and came to be known as the Delian League. The Delian League catapulted Athens into a dominant force as well as the cultural center of the Greek world.
This period has also been called the golden age of Athens. Under Pericles, Athens surpassed its former glory. The buildings of the acropolis, including the famed Parthenon, belong to this period. The greatest Greek writers also hail from this period (Periclean era). The debates of Socrates began the Greek philosophical tradition that Plato and Aristotle were to adorn in the next (or fourth) century. The Athenian fleet ruled the Aegean Sea and with that superiority came wealth and power.
Sparta resented this power and pulled Corinth and Megara into a league of their own to remove Athens from her Greek world power status. This sparked of a series of battles between Athens and Sparta, known as the Peloponnesian wars. These ended with Sparta defeating Athens in 404 BC. In the years that follow, the city-states continually battled among themselves for control of Greece. Sparta first gained full military control of the mainland when she allied with Persians to face fierce resistance from Corinth, Athens, Argos, and Boeotia in the Corinthian war. Subsequently, control passed from Sparta to Thebes (a city-state north of Athens) in 371 BC. Thessaly, for a brief period threatened Thebes until its leader was assassinated.
This state of affairs set the stage for Alexander the Macedon, who had a broader and more ambitious vision, that of building a world empire.
Rise of the Macedonians & the Advance of the Hellenistic Empire
In 359 BC, a young man named Philip II became the new king of Macedonia. He had been captured in a battle with Thebes and while prisoner, had learned war tactics from general named Epaminondas from Thebes, who had earlier developed a new military tactic that revolutionized Hellenic warfare.
Once released from prison, he quickly conquered Macedonian city-states and made in-roads to the Greek peninsular. Soon Macedonia established its control over much of the Hellenic peninsula.
Strong Macedonian presence soon prompted the Hellenic city-states to mobilize against the Macedonians. But their attempt to stop the Macedonians from advancing failed and Greece fell into the hands of Philip’s army. Here Philip’s son, Alexander first appears as a calvary officer.
Philip then called for a meeting of representatives from all Greek city-states, except Sparta. He was elected as the hegemon (ruler) of the Hellenic League. So for the first time since the Persian Wars, the Hellenic cities were unified under one powerful ruler.
In time, the Macedonians, initially considered as foreigners because they didn’t speak their language, soon absorbed Hellenic culture and dialects. Attic Greek – the language spoken in Athens – was adopted as the official language. As such, for the first time on the Hellenic peninsula all the people began to speak a common language, known as koine (or common) Greek. Later, Alexander brought this language with him to whichever communities he conquered.
(B) Rise of Greece
Alexander the Great
Alexander was born around 356 BC and studied under the Athenian philosopher, Aristotle, who was a student of Plato. It is probably him who trained Alexander in politics and instructed Alexander through the reading and discussing of Homer and the Greek tragedies. Naturally, Alexander acquired his deep love for Hellenistic culture, and this in turn drove him to the Far East in order to spread the Hellenistic “spirit” to a Greek World Empire.
In 336 BC, at the age of 20, his father Philip II was mysteriously assassinated and Alexander was made the next Macedonian King.
Alexander’s route to a world empire (Map 5)
1. March to Persia
In 334 BC, Alexander crossed over the Dardanelles into Asia Minor to begin his conquest of Persia. He first engaged the Persian troops at Battle of Granicus. The Persian troops were overwhelmed by their invaders as they were yet unaccustomed to the Macedonian War Tactics. This victory at the Granicus River quickly opened up a corridor to the towns of Sardis, Ephesus and Miletus for Alexander to continue his conquest.
Alexander had initially planned only to free the Hellenic cities in Asia Minor from Persian rule. But the resounding victory spurred Alexander to strike at the heart of the empire. After seizing all coastal cities in Asia Minor, and securing their ports, he turned inland towards Syria in 333 BC. There, he met with the royal armies of Darius III where the Persians succumbed to the Macedonian phalanxes. Darius retreated, relinquishing Asia Minor to Alexander.
In 322 BC, Alexander swept through Syria, Palestine and Egypt. He managed to conquer a Phoenician naval base that was central to Persian Naval operations. Moving southward, he entered Jerusalem. Next he conquered Egypt, without a resistance from the Persians. He was hailed as deliverer who freed the respective peoples from the Persian overlords.
When Tyre, an important base for Persian naval operations was conquered, Darius III lost all hope of recovering Asia Minor, Phoenicia, or Palestine, so he offered to cede all of the Persian Empire west of the Euphrates River to Alexander if he would stop his advancement.
However, this deal was rejected as Alexander had other plans. In 331, he crossed the Euphrates River into Mesopotamia, defeating the numerically superior Persian army at the Battle of Gaugamela or Arabela. After the battle, Alexander was crowned king of Asia. This marked the end of his crusade for Hellenistic vengeance.
The Persian Empire was soundly defeated.
2. Sights on the Orient
After Alexander defeated Darius III at the Battle of Arbela, he immediately captured the old Persian seats of power in Susa, Babylon, and Ecbatana. The Persians had amassed great amounts of wealth from the tribute paid by the various states that were under them and while there, Alexander took a handsome booty to finance the rest of his expeditions.
While at Ecbatana, he decided to explore the Orient. In 330 BC, Alexander began the march north and east of the Persian Gulf. By 329 BC, he pushed all the way eastward to Afghanistan, overrunning the provinces of Bactria and Sogdiana. While at Bactria, Alexander married the princess, Roxane. In the latter part of 327 BC Alexander began to move his units south, crossing the Hindu Cush mountains towards the Indus River. There the Macedonians won battle but was compelled by his battle-weary troops to abandoned the eastward conquest. Alexander then returned to Ecbatana, his capital city in Babylon, to further lay down strategies for consolidating his empire.
Thus in seven or eight years, Alexander accomplished the most dazzling military conquest in human history. However, he was weakened by his heavy drinking and was unable to survive a bout of malaria. He died of a fever in 323 BC, at the age of thirty-three.
(C) A world empire divided (Map 6)
After the death of Alexander III, his empire was not given to the legitimate heirs. Hercules, the son of Alexander at the time of his death, Philip, his half-witted half brother and his son Alexander IV, yet unborn of Roxana at his death, were all removed by murder – Phillip in 317 BC and Alexander III in 310 BC.
Instead, Alexander’s empire was eventually divided among his four generals after a brief period of imperial regency under Perdiccas (murdered in 321 BC) and Antigonus who declared himself king of the Greek empire bringing upon himself a coalition of four generals determined to out stead him. He was finally crushed at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC [Dan 2: 4].
|Thus Alexander’s vast domain was parceled out to:
(1) Antipater & son Cassander who ruled in Macedonia-Greece
|– Belly & thighs of bronze
– Goat with prominent horn attacks Rams
|– Persia defeated by Alexander the Great|
|– Third Beast like a leopard with four wings on its back||– Dazzling military conquest within a span of 7-8 years|
|– Four heads of leopard = four governmental divisions||– Vast domain parceled out to four generals|
1. The third beast that Daniel saw was like leopard, with four wings on its back and four heads. Dominion was given to it.
2. The leopard was a swift and much feared animal in the Old Testament. Leopards characteristically would lie in wait for their prey and pounce on their victims with great speed and agility. The presence of four wings also emphasizes the concept of speed.
3. The history of Alexander the Great corresponds to what is described here – the lightning speed of his conquest. This was without precedent in the ancient world.
4. The four heads refer to the intelligent direction of the beast and indicate that the third empire would have four governmental divisions with corresponding heads. This was true of the Greek Empire in that Alexander did have four generals who succeeded him upon his death and his empire was divided into four divisions.
(D) Hellenistic Dynasties of Ptolemy & Seleucid Established
Of the four generals who claimed portions of Alexander’s empire, the two who are important in the history of Israel are Ptolemy I Soter in Egypt and Seleucus I Nicator in Asia. Both of them founded dynasties.
Ptolemic (Egyptian) Dynasty (323 – 30 BC)
After the death of Alexander the Great at Babylon in 323 BC, Ptolemy I Soter one of his generals quickly appointed himself as satrap of Egypt while recognizing the nominal reigns of Alexander’s half-brother and infant son Alexander IV. Only a few years after the murder of Alexander IV in 310 BC did Ptolemy take the title of king of Egypt (304 BC).
During the reigns of Ptolemy I Soter, his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285 – 246) and grandson, Ptolemy III Euergetes I (246 – 203 BC), Egypt was once again revived of its power in the Near East; yet not as a pharaonic one but as a Hellenistic one. Everything – from the people who governed Egypt (chief ministers & senior ranking officials) to the armed forces to the official language of administration – was Greek. This was a purely Macedonian Greek dynasty that ruled Egypt from 323 BC to 30 BC.
Egypt was the king’s personal estate and run on strictly business lines to extract the maximum profit for the crown. Alexandria was the capital and was famous for its buildings and institutions (the Museum, the Library, Seapeum etc) and its exports of grain, Papyrus, perfumes glass etc.
There was a large community of Jews in Alexandria. These Jews were deported by Ptolemy I Soter from Jerusalem to Alexandria. In time, within a generation or two, the Jews gave up their old Semitic tongue and spoke Greek. This necessitated the translation of the Scriptures into Greek so that the Jews could understand their worship service. The translation of the first five books of the OT (the Torah or Pentateuch) was undertaken during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285 – 246 BC). Only by the middle of the 2nd century was the OT completely rendered in Greek.
Seleucid (Syrian) Dynasty
Seleucus I Nicator (312 – 281 BC) had originally been serving under Perdiccas and Antigonus of Babylon but had a falling out with the later in 316 BC. He later defected to Ptolemy I. Together they defeated Antigonus. After the defeat of Antigonus, Seleucus returned to Babylon under Ptolemy’s sponsorship in 312.
This victory paved the way for Seleucus I Nicator to gain control of the entire area from Asia Minor to India (with the Indus on the eastern border and Syria and Phoenicia on the west) while Ptolemy, his sponsor, had to be content with the territories of Egypt and Palestine. The Seleucid empire grew to be much bigger and stronger than the Egyptian empire. By 280 BC, it extended from Greece to India.
The Seleucid dynasty, which began in 312 BC, endured till 64 BC, when Pompey delivered the coup de grace to a truncated empire that had already lost Babylon and all its eastern dominions to the Parthians.
The vast and heterogeneous population called for a policy of active hellenization if their power was to be established. This and the fact that Palestine was the disputed frontier with the Ptolemies of Egypt caused trouble for the Jews. The Maccabaean revolt, with its legacy of petty kingdoms and principalities, and the religious sects of Jesus’ time, was the result of the Seleucid attempt to secure Palestine.
At first Ptolemy and Seleucus were allies, but it was not long before cold war existed between them. Frequently open hostilities erupted, the contention being Israel, since it was located between the two nations. For 125 years the northern empire (Seleucids) and the southern empire (Ptolemies) fought for the control of Israel. The Judeans who were caught in the middle were forced to pay tribute to whoever was the victor.
(E) War Between Ptolemies (King of the South”) and Seleucids (“King of the North”) (Chart 2)
1. Ptolemic Superiority
Intermarriage – a Political Maneuver
After the death of Ptolemy I in 285 BC, his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus continued the contest with the Seleucids till 252 BC, when a peace treaty was finally arranged with Antiochus II Theos, wherein, Antiochus was to marry Ptolemy Philiadelphus’ daughter Berenice. By this, it meant that Antiochus was compelled to divorce his wife, Laodice, a powerful and influential woman, who nonetheless had to be banished. On top of that, he debarred her children from succession to the throne.
However, within a few years of the marriage, Ptolemy Philadelphus died; and Antiochus took back his wife Laodice. However, to exact revenge, Laodice had his Egyptian wife and the infant son whom she had borne to Antiochus assassinated; then poisoned Antiochus to death. Shortly after that she installed herself as queen regent while her son Seleucus II Callinicus was still young. (prophecy regarding Berenice was fulfilled).
Therefore whatever political advantage was supposed to issue out of the marriage came to naught. In fact, it precipitated a whole series of reprisals with 3 deaths and the war between the Seleucids and Ptolemies was perpetuated.
A Brother’s Revenge
While Ptolemy Philadelphus may have died, his capable son, Ptolemy III Euergetes (246 – 221 BC) organized a great expeditionary force to avenge his sister’s (Berenice) death. The war (246 – 241 BC) against Seleucus II Callinicus ended victoriously for Ptolemy. Ptolemy was able to capture (princes) and pillage the Seleucid capital of Antioch (of idols & precious vessels of silver and gold). He also invaded its eastern domains as far as Bactria. Finally he returned to Egypt laden with spoils. Of significance were the recovery of long lost idols and sacred treasures from Persia which had been taken as booty by Cambyses in 524 BC when he conquered Egypt. For this return of the cherished images, the Egyptian people who were steeped in idolatry received him with adulation and called him Euergetes (Benefactor).
Beyond that, he succeeded on other fronts, for he reunited Cyrenaica (at the western end of Libya) with the Ptolemic domains after it had enjoyed twelve years of independence. He also recovered all of his father’s conquests on the coasts of Asia Minor and temporarily gained control of some portions of Thrace.
After this successful conquest where he subdued Mesopotamia, Persia, Susiana, Media and all the countries as far as Bactria, he refrained from attacking the Seleucids.
After the Egyptian invasion, Seleucus II Callinicus mounted an attack on Egypt to retrieve his riches and his prestige in about 240 BC. However, Seleucus was defeated and was forced to return to his own land empty handed.
This was only the beginning of the seesaw battle between the two nations.
2. Seleucid (Syrian) Ascendancy & Return of Holy Land to Syrian Control
Although Seleucus Callinicus was unsuccessful against Egypt, his sons proved to be more successful. While Seleucus III (226 – 223 BC) fell in battle in Asia Minor, his brother, Antiochus III (the Great) (223 – 187 BC) was able to mount several campaigns against Egypt.
Route to Palestine
Beginning in 219 BC, Antiochus the Great launched a campaign to take back Phoenicia and Palestine. The approach of armies near the Egyptian border aroused the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy IV Philopator (221 – 203 BC) to assemble a large army to resist the advancing troops of Antiochus’. There were about 70,000 soldiers on each side and at the battle at Raphia (217 BC), Antiochus was finally soundly defeated. He lost his entire army and was almost captured but managed to flee to the desert. Although Ptolemy Philopator had now gotten the upper hand, he never pursued his advantage even when Syria was bleeding from defeat. A temporary peace followed whereby Antiochus the Great was compelled to cede all Phoenicia and Palestine back to Ptolemy Philopator and leave him in undisturbed possession of them till a more convenient time.
Meanwhile, Antiochus turned his sights to conquests in the east. During the period from 212 to 204 BC, Antiochus attained much military success, subduing and subjugating the rebellious provinces in the Middle East all the way to the borders of India and as far north as the Caspian Sea. He gained much wealth and strength enroute to the east.
Then, finally in 203 BC, when Ptolempy Philopator and his queen died mysteriously and were succeeded by their young son Ptolemy Epiphanes (aged 4), Antiochus saw his opportunity to strike Egypt again.
This time he assembled another large army, larger than the first and began a series of attacks on Egypt. Encouraged by the rising power of Rome which threatened Syria, Egypt fought back. General Scopas who led the Egyptian forces, was initially able to punish all pro-Seleucid Jews who allied themselves with Antiochus and were disaffected by the Ptolemaic government. However, the Egyptian armies led by Scopas were defeated at Paneas, near the headwaters of the Jordan River. From there, he retreated to Sidon on the Phoenician coast and it was there where he surrendered to Antiochus after attempts by 3 Egyptian leaders to rescue the besieged Scopas from Sidon failed. The control over the Holy Land passed into the hands of the Antioch government in 198 BC. On his entrance to Jerusalem, he was welcomed as a deliverer and benefactor.
3. Decline of Syrian Power
Threatened by Rome, Antiochus was quick to effect a diplomatic settlement with Egypt by marrying his daughter Cleopatra to the young king, Ptolemy V Epiphanes with the intention of bringing the boy king Ptolemy V under the influence of his daughter, with the expectation of her maintaining a strongly Seleucid policy in Egypt. Then of course if Cleopatra should give birth to a son, that boy would become legal heir to both crowns. This in turn might create a situation favourable to intervention or strong control in Egypt on the part of Antiochus himself, as the maternal grandfather. However, the plan to ruin Egypt was not to be and it turned out that Cleopatra became completely sympathetic to her husband, Ptolemy V Epiphanes such that when she gave birth to the heir Ptolemy VI Philometor, it gave Antiochus III no political leverage whatsoever.
Antiochus’ Ambition Marred by Rome
After his successful defeat of Egypt and General Scopas, Antiochus turned his attention towards the threat from the west and attempted to equal the conquests of Alexander the Great by conquering Greece. It was a totally futile attempt for four centuries before Antiochus the Great, God had already prophesied of another kingdom arising – Rome the legs of iron in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the large statue began to thwart the plans of Antiochus the Great.
Upon his invasion of Greece, Rome declared war on Antiochus, expelled him from Greece and drove him to a retreat into Asia Minor in 191 BC when he was defeated at Thermopylae north of Athens. There at the battle of Magnesia (189 BC), the Romans, under Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus inflicted a humiliating defeat on Antiochus. Antiochus was compelled to surrender not only all claims to Europe but also the greater part of Asia Minor as well. From a historic viewpoint, this was important as the removal of Asiatic control of Europe paved the way for Roman expansion later. Besides ceding his territories to Rome, he had to surrender his navy and his elephant brigade and pay a hefty indemnity. Worst of all, to make sure that the indemnity was paid, the younger son of Antiochus the Great was taken to Rome as a hostage. [Antiochus’ son spent his formative years in Rome learning firsthand about Rome’s iron-fisted use of power. In a few decades, the Jews would feel his fury. He was called Antiochus IV Epiphanes].
Then, unable to meet the requirements of indemnity payments out of his exhausted treasury, he resorted to plundering a temple in Elam where he was killed him by the enraged local inhabitants.
Seleucus IV Philopator (221 – 203 BC)
After the death of Antiochus the Great, Seleucus IV Philopator succeeded him and during his twelve-year reign had exacted heavy taxes on the people of Israel in order to pay tribute to Rome. Through the yearly payments to Rome, the treasury became impoverished. Hence upon news that the Jerusalem temple had enough treasures to meet the king’s financial needs, Seleucus Philopator sent his minister and tax-collector Heliodorus to plunder the temple. However, before the task was completed, Heliodorus assassinated the king by poisoning him.
Persecution of Jews under Antiochus IV Epiphanes
(a) Rise of Antiochus Epiphanes (175 – 164 BC)
Antiochus IV Epiphanes is described as the “little horn” who will suspend the worship of God in the Jerusalem temple in Dan 8:9-12 and now appears as the tyrant who will shed much blood and enjoy power for a time Dan 11:21-35. Antiochus Epiphanes was prominent because of his desecration of the Jewish temple and alter, and his bitter persecution of the Jewish nation.
After the death of Seleucus Philopator, next in line to receive the crown was Demetrius I, the young son of Seleucus IV. But since he was still held as hostage in Rome, it was deemed best to put his uncle Antiochus IV in charge of the government as prince regent. But Antiochus was determined to set aside his nephew’s claims to the throne. So Antiochus bribed governmental leaders, promising promotions and large favours in return for their support. Hence, he managed to secure approval to succeed the throne. Soon after, he converted his regency into royalty and began an active life of military conquest and intrigue in his struggle for power against both Egypt and Rome.
In the early days of Antiochus Epiphanes’ reign, Jerusalem was ruled by the high priest Onias III, a strictly orthodox Jew. The Hellenistic Jews opposed Onias and supported his brother Jason, who had promised Antiochus a huge tribute. Hence upon their suggestion, Onias was deposed and imprisoned and Jason was declared high priest. Aided by his appointed priest, Antiochus plundered the temple treasuries to finance his first war against Egypt. Though this infuriated the conservative Hasideans (a group of pious Jews as they came to be known) they were only a small minority and were helpless against Antiochus’ aggression.
(b) Antiochus’ Growth in Power
Ambitious to extend his power, Antiochus robbed the rich countries under his control and used the money to secure cooperation of others. He carried out several expeditions against the Egyptians and managed to defeat the king of the south. Even those who should have supported him conspired against him. In general then, Antiochus was victorious over the Egyptians.
(c) Antiochus opposed by Rome persecutes Jews
However, at the appointed time, Antiochus invaded Egypt again. This time with the ultimate purpose of uniting Egypt and Syria and quelling the rising tide of Rome. In the summer of 169 BC, he invaded Egypt with a great fleet and a huge force of men, chariots and elephants. However, he was met by a Roman consul Gaius Popillius Laenas near Alexandria, who demanded that he leave Egypt or face Rome. Rather than risk war with Rome, Antiochus though greatly displeased withdrew from Rome immediately.
Disgruntled at his defeat at the hands of Rome, he vented his anger on the Jewish people. Antiochus determined to put an end to Jewish religion. No longer would the Torah be the constitution of the Jewish state. He forbade the use of the Scriptures and eh observance of what they taught: the Sabbath, circumcision, food regulations. He ordered the immediate adoption of the Greek state religion and forced the Jews to offer sacrifices in their temple to the Greek gods. In fact he ordered the sacrifice of the most unclean of all animals: Pigs. Any refusal was punished by death. Synagogues were destroyed and Scriptures burned and people were killed by the thousands.
In Dec 168 BC, the temple of God was consecrated to the pagan god Zeus and a pig was sacrificed on the altar. This was the “abomination that causes desolation” of Dan 11:31.
This desecration of the temple precipitated the Maccabean revolt and managed to drive him out of Judea and returned to their religion. They later made an alliance with Rome in 161 BC and enjoyed independence until 63 BC when the Romans invaded Palestine.
1. This portion of Scripture has been fulfilled in detail and trace about 200 years of history starting from the major rulers of the Persian Empire to major events that follow Alexander’s death and finally concluding with Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
2. Beyond v 35, are those prophecies yet to be fulfilled.
5. Roman Empire (Map 7)
Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron – for iron breaks and smashes everything -and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.
After that, in my vision at night I looked and there before me was a fourth beast – terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts and it had ten horns
He gave me this explanation: “The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from the kingdom.
(A) Early Developments – Roman Republic
Rome was founded in the 8th century. By the 5th century, Rome was run as a republic where there were two classes of citizens – the patricians (persons of nobility or higher social rank) and plebeians (people of lower class). Then from the 4th century BC onwards, wars were fought as it absorbed other peoples, granted them citizenship and treated them as allies.
During the early period of Rome’s growing power, the Romans engaged in constant warfare. The Gauls invaded Italy in 390 BC and occupied Rome for 7 months. They left only after receiving a large ransom from the Romans. Then in 340 BC, the Romans fought off an invasion by the Latin League, their former allies who had become jealous of Rome’s power. Rome also had to conquer the Samnites, a tribe in the central Apennines in 290 BC.
Later, while the successors of Alexander the Great fought over the division of his vast empire, the Romans conquered the Greeks in southern Italy. By 270 BC, Romans controlled all of Italy.
(B) The Rising Power of Rome
After that, the Romans began to fight foreign wars – the People of Carthage had contended with the Greeks for control of Sicily for over a century. For 64 years (264 – 201 BC) Rome fought a series of long wars with Carthage known as the Punic Wars. As a result of the first Punic conflict, Rome occupied Sicily in 241 BC. In the second Punic war, a major conflict between Rome and Carthage, the Romans finally defeated the famous general Hannibal in 201 BC. After adding Spain to its conquest, Rome turned to the east, conquering Macedonia, Greece, and Asia Minor.
(C) Route to World Dominion – A Synopsis
(a) The Ceding of Seleucid territories to Rome – In 189 BC, Antiochus III (the Great) was stopped from invading Greece by the Romans and was soundly defeated at the Battle of Magnesia. As a result, Antiochus had to surrender to the Romans, the Seleucid territories as far east as the Taurus Mountains (in Asia Minor).
(b) Macedonia Defeated – In 168 BC, Macedonia was defeated and their kings removed in the battle of Pydna. At the same time, when Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted yet another invasion on Egypt, he was prevented from doing so because of Roman intervention.
(c) Seleucid (Syrian) Empire destroyed – By 63 BC the kings of the Seleucid empire in Syria were removed. Roman general Pompey swept into Jerusalem after destroying the remnants of the Seleucid Empire (Syria).
(d) The last Greek-influenced Ptolemic (Egyptian) Empire destroyed – By 31 BC and with the death of Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt, the dynasty of the Ptolemies ended. Egypt became a province of Rome.
(D) From Roman Republic to Roman Empire
Up till 27 BC, Rome was technically a republic governed by two consuls and the senate. However, revolutions by the underprivileged and the demands of widespread colonies Rome was taking on necessitated a more centralized/executive government.
Julius Caesar was the first to seize the opportunity for absolute power. He was a popular politician and able leader who proved his strength by extending Rome’s borders north to the Rhine and west to Britain. However, in 44 BC, he was assassinated by the supporters of patrician republicanism.
With his death, a power struggle ensued and only ended in 31 BC at the battle of Acticum and that only after claimants to Julius Caesar’s seat were eliminated. Octavian, Julius Caesar’s nephew and adopted son emerged the victor. In 27 BC, he took on the title Augustus and became the sole ruler and founder of the Roman Empire.
The Rome that Augustus had inherited from Caesar was a political hotbed of rival classes and contenders for power. Augustus had witnessed Caesar’s rise to power and the tragic way in which his rule ended. So Augustus gradually transformed the structure of the Roman Government to assure his control. Augustus brought peace to the Roman Empire through strict control of his army and land. Also, his willingness to allow provinces local government, coupled with his quick use of military force to stifle rebellion or terrorism ensured the maintenance of peace within the empire.
Historians have given the title Pax Romana (“the Roman peace”) to the period from 30 BC to 180 AD where Rome flourished in a time of imperial greatness. Wherever the Romans went, they brought good roads and public works, government officials, soldiers and sometimes colonies of Roman citizens. All these contributed to the peace and prosperity within the empire.
(E) Ancient Roman Empire (145 BC – 476 AD)
The ancient Roman Empire spanned from 145 BC to 476 AD. At its peak, it was centred on Rome and connected by a vast system of Roman Roads. This empire was one of the most extensive and powerful in all human history up till this point in time. Roman legions conquered and ruled a vast region throughout northern Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
Because the empire spanned such a wide region, it was necessary for an extensive system of roads to be constructed so that it could accommodate the transportation of economic good and military forces.
The Roman road system was remarkable in its extent – from throughout Britain in the west, to the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers in the east, and from the Danube River in central Europe to as far south as North Africa. The Roman Roads were also noted for their high quality of construction. Most were straight solid-surfaced and had proper drainage systems just as modern highways have today.
The vast Roman Road system especially facilitated Roman military conquest. The clear road system enabled troops to move relatively quickly across what was then still the wilderness of Europe. It also made possible the efficient administration of the conquered territories.
Augustus relied on his army to keep peace throughout the Roman empire. It came to be known as “the Roman Legion”. Troops were drafted from all over the empire and required to become citizens. The legions included Britons, Spaniards, Slavs, Germans, Greeks, Italians, and even Jews. Centred Rome, it was unquestionably the sole military superpower of its day.
An average Roman legion contained about 6000 men packed with animals, calvary horses, and servants. Each legion was divided into 10 Regiments of 600 men each. Each regiment was further divided into centuries of 100 men, with a centurion commanding each century.
1. Daniel describes the “legs of iron” of the statue as one that is strong and breaks in pieces all that opposes it.
2. The breaking and the smashing especially characterized Ancient Roman Legions which had the ability to crush all resistance with an iron heel.
(F) Emperors of a United Rome
After Caesar followed many emperors of Rome. Due to the sheer number of them, listed here are some of the more famous ones.
FAMOUS EMPERORS UNDER THE UNITED ROMAN EMPIRE (27 BC – AD 476)
|Augustus (27 BC – AD 14)||Rome’s first emperor & most important figure in Roman history. In the course of his long and spectacular career, he put an end to the advancing decay of the Republic and established a new basis for Roman government that was to stand for three centuries. This system, termed the “Principate,” was far from flawless, but it provided the Roman Empire with a series of rulers who presided over the longest period of unity, peace, and prosperity that Western Europe, the Middle East and the North African seaboard have known in their entire recorded history.|
|Claudius (AD 41 – 51)||Was the third emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. His reign represents a turning point in the history of the Principate for a number of reasons, not the least for the manner of his accession and the implications it carried for the nature of the office. During his reign he promoted administrators who did not belong to the senatorial or equestrian classes, and was later vilified by authors who did. He followed Caesar in carrying Roman arms across the English Channel into Britain but, unlike his predecessor, he initiated the full-scale annexation of Britain as a province, which remains today the most closely studied corner of the Roman Empire. His relationships with his wives and children provide detailed insights into the perennial difficulties of the succession problem faced by all Roman Emperors. His final settlement in this regard was not lucky: he adopted his fourth wife’s son, L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, who was to reign catastrophically as Nero and bring the dynasty to an end. Claudius’s reign, therefore, was a mixture of successes and failures that leads into the last phase of the Julio-Claudian line.|
|Nero (54 – 68)||Was well known for his immoral behaviour. He murdered his mother and his wife. Nero unleashed the first official imperial persecution of the Christians in Rome (64 – 66).|
|Titus (79 – 81)||Before he was emperor, he was given authority by his father, Vespasian (69 – 79), who was then the emperor to destroy the great Jewish temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.|
|Trajan (98 – 117)||He was a great conqueror. Under his rule the empire reached its greatest extent.|
|Diocletian (284 – 305)||He put an end to the disastrous phase of Roman history known as the “Military Anarchy” or the “Imperial Crisis” (235-284). He established an obvious military despotism and was responsible for laying the groundwork for the second phase of the Roman Empire, which is known variously as the “Dominate,” the “Tetrarchy,” the “Later Roman Empire,” or the “Byzantine Empire.” He split the empire into 2 pieces – West and East. His reforms ensured the continuity of the Roman Empire in the east for more than a thousand years.|
|Constantine (306 – 337)||He was the first Christian emperor. He reunited the empire again and chose his capital to be the small town Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople.|
(G) The Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire (AD 476 onwards) (Map 8)
The Byzantine Empire began as part of the Roman Empire. When the Roman emperor Jovian died suddenly in 364 AD, officials chose a high-ranking military officer named Valentinian to succeed him. To help keep order in the huge empire, Valentinian I split it in half and made his younger brother Valens emperor of the east. This was not the first time that co-emperors had reigned over the empire, but it was the beginning of a permanent separation of the empire into two realms, East and West.
Three decades later, East and West Rome were briefly reunited under the leadership of a single emperor, Theodosius I. But upon his death in 395 BC, the empire was divided between his sons Arcadius and Honorious, and from that time on East and West were ruled separately.
The Western Empire was overthrown by barbarians in 476 but the Eastern Empire lasted for almost a thousand years more. Over time it evolved into a society very different from that of ancient Rome, and later historians gave it a new name: the Byzantine Empire. The word Byzantine comes from Byzantium, the original name of the empire’s capital, Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey)
Among the most notable emperors were Justinian I who had Roman laws compiled into a single code, and built the great cathedral Hagia Sopia, which still stands today in Istanbul.
In the 11th century, the Byzantine Empire started to fall apart due to the lack of strong leadership and the encroachment of the Turks and other enemies. It completely collapsed after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453 BC.
1. It is important to note that two legs of iron were portrayed in the image.
2. The commonly accepted interpretation is that the two legs of the image represent the Roman Empire, because in AD 364, the Roman Empire split into two. There was the Eastern Empire with its capital in Constantinople and the Western Empire, with its capital in Rome.
3. Another interpretation has it that the upper part of the leg represented the twofold stage of the last period of the Alexandrian Empire, with the Seleucids (Syrians) in the East and Ptolemies (Egypt) in the North. It was two-legged because it embraced two continents/geographic areas. The Roman Empire continued this twofold division and extended its dominion over the entire Mediterranean area as well as western Asia. Although Egypt has traditionally been grouped with Syria as belonging to the East, from a prophetic viewpoint however, both Egypt on the continent of Africa as well as the European Nations, including Macedonia could well be considered the Western division, which eventually expanded to include the whole Mediterranean west of Asia.
In this interpretation, the image is prophetic of the rise of the Roman Empire and this geographic inclusion of the East and West. This geographical distinction was ultimately recognized in the political division of the East (Byzantine) and West by emperor Valentinian I in AD 364.
The meaning of the two legs is therefore geographic.
4. Finally, although the western and eastern empires of Rome fell, in AD 476 and AD 1453 respectively, the Roman Empire is by no means over. The feet portion of the image symbolizes a Revived Roman Empire, which will also include the Western and Eastern areas possessed by ancient Rome