23. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.
23. Sic dixit, 1 Bestia quarta, regnum quartum erit in terra, quod erit diversum ab omnibus regnis: et vorabit 2 totam terram, et conteret, 3 et comminuet eam.
24. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
24. Et cornua decem ab illo regno, decem Reges sunt, qui exorientur, qui surgent, et aliud postremum surget post illos Reges, 4 et ipse 5 erit diversus a superiorbus, 6 et tres Reges affliget.
This reply of the angel is subject to the same obscurity as the vision itself, but it ought to be sufficient to calm the minds of the faithful to know that various changes should arise and shake the whole earth; for as many troubles were, prepared for the saints, so also they were braced up to fortitude and endurance. For God was not willing fully to explain what he had shown to his Prophet; he only wished to set before him this conclusion -- a kingdom shall arise completely different from all others. Thus the angel says, The Fourth Beast signifies a fourth kingdom, which shall differ from all the kingdoms. Previously to that period, no state was so extensive in its sway. For although the Spartans and Athenians performed illustrious and memorable exploits, yet we know them to have been included within narrow boundaries; and the ambition and wordy vanity of the Greeks caused them to celebrate those wars which were scarcely of any consequence, as we learn even from their own histories. Whichever way we take this, Sparta obtained with difficulty the second rank in Greece, as Athens did the first,. As far as concerns the Roman Empire, we know it to have been more extensive and powerful than the other monarchies. When all Italy came under their sway, this was sufficient for any noble monarchy; but Spain, Sicily, part, of Greece, arm Illyrieum were added, and afterwards all Greece and Macedon, Asia Minor, Africa., and all the islands; for by one word they expelled the king of Cyprus, and sold his goods by public auction. When the dregs of the people were collected, Claudius made a law for the banishment of the king of Cyprus, and this he accomplished by his single voice, without the use of force at all. No wonder then that God foretold how different this kingdom, should be from all the others; it had no single head; the senate had the chief authority, though all power was centered in the people. there was therefore a kind of mingled confusion, since the government of Rome was never settled. And if we weigh all things prudently, it was neither a republic nor a kingdom, but a confused compound, in which the people exercised great power in a tumultuous way, and the senate oppressed the people as much as it could. There were three ranks -- the senatorian, the equestrian, and the plebeian, and that mixture made the kingdom like a monster. The angel, therefore, announces the fourth kingdom as different from, the others.
He afterwards confirms what we said before; it will fall, says he, and break to pieces, and tread down the whole earth. This was fulfilled after Gaul and Britain were subdued, Germany partially subjugated, and Illyrieum, Greece, and Macedon, reduced to submission. At length they penetrated to Asia, and Antiochus was banished beyond the Taurus; his kingdom afterwards became their prey, then they obtained possession of Syria. The kings of Egypt were their allies, and yet. became dependent upon their nod; the sovereign dared not appoint an heir, without consulting their pleasure. As, therefore, they ruled supremely so long and so widely, they fulfilled this prophecy by devouring the whole earth. For such lust for dominion never existed before; wars were heaped upon wars, they were alike greedy of the blood of others, and by no means sparing of their own. The whirlpool was insatiable, while it absorbed the whole world, and their pride crushed it and trampled it under foot,. Cruelty was added to pride, for all looked up to the Romans, and conciliated the favor of Rome by flattery, for the purpose of raging savagely against; their own people. By these arts almost the whole of Greece perished. For they knew how many innocent persons everywhere perished in every city, a kind of diversion which delighted them; they were fully aware how easy it was to attract all the power of the whole world to themselves, when it was able to .put forth neither strength, nor skill, nor power against them. For their nobles were constantly at variance; sometimes one faction and sometimes another was supreme, and thus the splendor of every city easily, and gradually diminished. Thus all Greece was spoiled, and the Romans exercised their dominion there without difficulty, as over brute beasts. We may say the same of Asia also. We are not surprised then at the angel saying, the earth would be trodden down and trampled on by this fourth beast.
He afterwards adds, The ten horns are the ten kings which should arise. These Ten Kings are clearly comprehended under one empire, and there is no question here of separate persons. In the Persian kingdom, we observed many kings, and yet the image of the second beast was single, while it embraced all those kings until the change occurred. So also no when treating of the Romans, the Prophet does not assert that ten kings should succeed each other in regular order, but rather the multiform nature of the kingdom, under more heads than one. For the royal office belonged to the senators or leading citizens, whose authority prevailed very extensively both with the senate and the people. And with reference to the number, we said the plural number only was denoted, without any limitation to the number ten. The conclusion is as follows, -- this kingdom should be like a single terrible animal bearing many horns, since no single king held the chief sway there, as was customary by constant usage in other lands, but there should be a mixture, like many kings in place of one holding the pre-eminence. The fulfillment of this is sufficiently known from the history of Rome; as if it had been said, there should not be any single kingdom, as of Persia and other nations, but many kings at the same time, alluding to the mixture and confusion in which the supreme authority was involved.
The Little Horn follows: A king shall arise, says he, different from those, other ones, and shall afflict three kings. We showed how unintelligible this becomes, unless we refer it to the Caesars to whom the monarchy passed; for after long and continued and intensive strife, the whole power passed over to the Triumvirate. A conspiracy was entered into by Lepidus, Mark Antony, and Octavius. Octavius was then all but a boy, having scarcely arrived at manhood, but all the veteran soldiers were in his favor, in consequence of the name of Julius Caesar and his adoption by him. Hence he was received by the other two into that alliance, of which Lepidus was the first, and Antony the second. At length discords arose among them, and Lepidus was deprived of his place in the triumvirate, and lived, as if half-dead, while his life was only spared to him because he was raised to the office of chief priest
Reverence for the priesthood restrained Antony from putting him to death, so long as he was content to live in privacy and retirement. Octavius at, length became supreme, but by what artifice? We said Julius Caesar took no more upon himself than the office of dictator, while consuls were annually elected as usual. He did not strain the power of the dictatorship beyond moderation, but he so restrained himself, that some popular rights might seem still to flourish. Octavius also followed the cunning of his uncle and adopted father. The same conduct will be found in the other Caesars, though there were many differences between them. As the shadow of a republic yet remained, while the senate was held in some degree of reverence, it is not surprising, if the angel predicts that the beast. should survive, when another small horn should arise different from the others.
He adds, And shall afflict the three kings. I have explained this point by the slight change which the Caesars effected in the provinces, for if any of the provinces were warlike, strong armies and veteran soldiers were usually sent there. The Caesars took these to themselves, while some executive management was left to the senate with regard to the other provinces. Lastly, by this form of speech, the angel portrays the coming dominion of the little horn, and its diminishing the strength of the former ones' and. yet the beast should remain apparently entire; thus, the effigy of the republic was preserved, as the people were always designated -- in the forum, by the high-sounding name, Romans, and in battle, as fellow-soldiers. Meanwhile, although the name of the Roman empire was so celebrated, and its majesty was in every one's mouth, the supreme authority was. in the possession of one little horn which lay concealed, and dared not openly raise its head. This, then, is the pith of the interpretation of what the angel here sets before us. It; follows, --