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There is greater difficulty in this Fourth Monarchy. Those who are endued with moderate judgment, confess this vision to be fulfilled in the Roman Empire; but they afterwards disagree, since what is here said of the fourth beast many transfer to the Pope, when it is added a Little Horn sprang up; but others think the Turkish kingdom is comprehended under the Roman. The Jews for the most part incline this way, and they are necessarily compelled to do so, since Daniel will afterwards add — I saw the throne of the Son of Man; since it is clear, from this prediction, that Christ’s kingdom was erected by the overthrow of the Roman dominion, the Jews turn round, and, as I have said, join the Turkish monarchy with the Roman, since they do, not find their Christ according to their imagination. And there are some of our writers who think this image ought not to be restricted to the Roman Empire, but ought to include the Turkish. In nay view, there is nothing probable in that opinion; I have no doubt that in this vision the Prophet was shown the figure of the Roman Empire, and this will be more apparent as we go on.
He says a fourth beast appeared. He gives it no fixed name, because nothing ever existed like it in the world. The Prophet, by adding no similitude, signifies how horrible the monster was, for he formerly compared the Chaldean Empire to a lion, the Persian to a bear, and the Macedonian to a leopard. In these comparisons there was something natural; but when he descends to the fourth beast, he says, it was formidable in its aspect, and terrible, and very brave or strong, and without; any addition calls it “a beast.” We see then his wish to express something prodigious by this fourth beast, as there is no animal so fierce or cruel in the world which can in any way represent with sufficient strength the nature of this beast. Behold, therefore, the fourth beast which was formidable, and fearful, and very strong. We know of no such Monarchy before this. Although Alexander subdued the whole of the East, his victory, we are sure, was not stable. He was content with fame alone; he, granted liberty to all people; and as long as they flattered him, he sought nothing else. But we know the Romans to have been masters even as far as Babylon:; we know the following countries to have been subdued by them: Asia Minor, Syria, Cilicia, Greece, and Macedon, both the Spains, Gaul, Illyricum, and part of Germany. At length Britain was subjugated by Julius Caesar. No wonder this beast is called formidable and very strong! For before Julius Caesar became master of the Empire, the whole Mediterranean Sea was in all its parts under subjection to the Roman Empire. Its amazing extent is well known. Egypt had indeed its own kings, but they were tributary; whatever edicts the Romans decreed, they were executed immediately in Egypt. Mirror sovereigns existed in Asia Minor as a kind of spies, but this state of things we shall treat presently. It is also well known that they possessed supreme power throughout the Mediterranean Sea, and that by the conquest of Mithridates. Pompey reduced Pontus under his dominion. In the East affairs were all at peace. The Medes and Persians gave them some trouble, but they never moved unless they were provoked. The Spains were not yet accustomed to the yoke, but we know that there were always two praetors there. Julius Caesar was the first who entered Britain after subduing Gaul. Hence we see how far and wide the Romans extended their power, and with what immense cruelty. Hence Daniel calls this beast, formidable and very strong
He afterwards adds, It had large iron teeth. This ought to be referred to its audacity and insatiable greediness. We see how completely free their nation was from the fear of death, for they were so hardened that if any one deserted his rank for the sake of avoiding danger, he was afterwards branded with such marks of infamy, that he was compelled either to strangle himself or to incur a voluntary death! There was, then, a certain brutal cruelty in that nation, and we also know how insatiable they were. For this reason Daniel says they had large iron teeth. He adds, it consumed, and broke to pieces, and trod the remnant under foot. These things are spoken allegorically, not only because this vision was offered to the holy Prophet, but also because God wished to paint a kind of living image, in which he might show the peculiar characters of each government. For we know how many lands the Romans had consumed, and how they transferred to themselves the luxuries of the whole world, and whatever was valuable and precious in Asia Minor, and Greece, and Macedonia, as well as in all islands and in Asia Major — all was swept away — and even this was insufficient to satisfy them! This, then, is the ravenousness of which the Prophet now speaks, since they consumed, says he, and rubbed to pieces with their teeth. He adds, they trod the remnant under their feet — a metaphor worthy of notice, as we know they were accustomed to distribute the prey which they could not carry with them. They devoured and tore with their teeth the treasures and costly furniture and everything else; for their supplies were provided by tributes which produced large sums of money. If there was any portion of the Mediterranean which they could not defend without keeping a permanent garrison there, we know how they engaged the services of tributary kings. Thus the kingdom of Eumenes increased to a great extent till the time of his grandson Attalus, but they bestowed it partly on the Rhodians, and partly on the Cyprians and others. They never remunerated those Allies who almost exhausted their own possessions in aiding them, out of their own resources, but enriched them with the spoils of others; and they not only seized upon the property of one city and bestowed it on another, but they set up their lands for sale. Thus, the liberty of the Lacedaemonians was betrayed to the tyrant Nabis. They also enriched Masinissa with so much wealth, that they acquired Africa for themselves by his means. In fine, they so sported with kingdoms in seizing and giving them away, that they rendered provinces tranquil by the wealth and at the expense of others. This was remarkably conspicuous in the case of Judea, where they created out of nothing Ethnarchs and Tetrarchs and kings, who were nothing but their satellites — and that too but for a moment. For as soon as any change occurred, they retracted what they had given as easily as they bestowed it. Hence, this their cunning liberality is called treading under foot; for that remnant which they could not devour and consume with their teeth they trod under foot, as they kept all those whom they had either enriched or increased subject to themselves. Thus we see with what servility they were flattered by those who had obtained anything through their generosity. And how degrading was the slavery of Greece from the time the Romans entered the country! for as each state acquired any new territory, it erected a temple to the Romans. They also sent their ambassadors there to act as spies, who, under the pretense of punishing the neighboring people for ‘plotting against them, enriched themselves by plunder. Thus the Romans held under their feet whatever they had given to others. We see then how suitably and properly the Prophet speaks, when he says, the Romans trod down the remnant; for whatever they could not consume, and what their voraciousness could not devour, they trod under their feet.
He adds afterwards, And this beast different from all the former ones, and had ten horns. When he says, this beast was different from the rest, he confirms what we formerly said, namely, this was a horrible prodigy, and nothing could be compared to it in the nature of things. And surely if any one attentively and prudently considers the origin of the Romans, he would be astonished at their remarkable progress to such great power; for it was an unusual monster, and nothing like it had ever appeared. Interpreters treat in various ways what the Prophet subjoins respecting the ten horns. I follow simple and genuine opinion, namely, the Prophet means this Empire to belong to more persons them one For the angel will afterwards assert the ten horns to be kings; not that so many kings ruled at Rome, according to the foolish dream of the Jews, who are ignorant of all things; but the Prophet here distinguishes the Fourth Monarchy from the rest, as if he had said it should be a popular government, not presided over by one king, but divided into really heads. For they even divided provinces among themselves, and made treaties with each other, so that one was governor of Macedonia, another of Cilicia, and another of Syria. Thus we see how numerous the kingdoms were. And with regard to the number ten, we know this to be a frequent and usual form of speech in Scripture, where ten signifies many. When plurality is denoted, the number ten is used. Thus when the Prophet states the fourth beast to have ten horns, he means, there were many provinces so divided, that each ruler, whether proconsul or praetor, was like a king. For the supreme power was given to them, while the city and Italy were given up to the consuls. The consul could indeed write to the provinces and command whatever he pleased; then he could elevate to honor whom he pleased for the sake of favor and friendship; but each of the praetors and proconsuls when he obtained a province, became a kind of king, since he exercised the supreme power of life and death over all his subjects. We need not be too anxious about the number, as we have already explained it. Those who reckon the Roman provinces make great mistakes; they omit the principal one; they make only one of Spain, and yet we know there were two. They do not divide Gaul, yet there were always two proconsuls there, except under Julius Caesar, who obtained the control of both Gauls. So also they speak of Greece, and yet, neither a proconsul nor s praetor was ever sent into Greece. Finally, the prophet simply means that the Roman Empire was complex, being divided into many provinces, and these provinces were governed by leaders of great weight at Rome, whose authority and rank were superior to others. Proconsuls and proctors obtained the provinces by lot, but favor frequently prevailed, as the histories of those times sufficiently assure us. Let us proceed, —