Head #2 - Roman Military (Rev. 17)
Revelation Time Period #2:
The time during which Head #2 was the dominant ruling power in the realm corresponds to the 2nd time period of Revelation, which also corresponds to the 2nd Church, the 2nd Seal and the 2nd Trumpet.
217 - 486 AD
RiseDuring the third and fourth centuries it became common for generals to become emperors (see Head #1 for details on the Military take-over of the realm). They fought each other for control over the empire. The military came to feel free to support its commander over its emperor, and the armies often usurped the throne, murdering the emperor and placing their own choice into power. Military usurpers caused revolts throughout the empire. It was a time of massive upheaval.
The emperors in the West developed into mere figureheads, while the real rulers were the generals. These military giants, such as Stilicho, Ricimer and others, sometimes appointed to the powerful office of magister militum, would set up and depose emperors as they saw fit. Some could not become emperors themselves due to their Germanic heritage, but they controlled the government through puppet emperors.
This chaotic and bloody time period of military political dominance developed alongside an increase of Germanic peoples in Roman lands. The migration had begun during the second century when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power, during which it ruled over approximately twenty percent of the world's population.
As the number of Germanic peoples in the Roman realm increased, there were major concerns over the large quantities of people and resulting devastation on the countryside. At the same time, these people became indispensable in helping to defend the empire. Their presence in the military became increasingly prevalent.
As an exmple, in 378 AD, the Visogoths defeated the imperial forces at Adrianople in a decisive battle. This weakened the empire so that it needed more troops, which were recruited from among the "barbarians" (a term the Romans used for people considered to have a barbaric culture, such as the Germanic tribes, or anything non-Roman). Additionally, in 382, the Goths were made into the first independent "barbarian" nation within the Empire and their soldiers were integrated into the Roman army. The romanized "barbarians" became extremely valuable in the Roman army.
Helping to defend the empire naturally resulted in Germanic peoples assuming administrative positions and key military offices. Some of them rose high in the command structure. By the early fourth century, the "barbarians" in the army began to surpass the Roman and the officers of the highest rank in the western army were mostly German.1
Another development during this time period was the dividing of the realm into two sub-empires. In 395 AD, Theodosius divided the Roman empire into East and West and set his two sons as rulers. Though the two new sons were technically joint rulers of one empire, in reality they became independent of each other and separate.2 The two empires were never reunited.
Bible prophecy deals primarily with what was the western, or Roman, portion of the empire. The eastern portion was a Hellenistic kingdom and grew into what is called the Byzantine empire. The western portion was a Latin kingdom and the Roman legacy continued in the divided successor states.
TransitionMany contributing reasons are speculated for the decline and fall of the Roman empire. Just a few of these are a lack of a heriditary rule of succession, too much pay demanded by the troops, military defeats, civil wars, inflation, excessive taxes, division of the empire into east and west, over-stretching of resources, mass migration, rise of Christianity, weak administration, opening up of citizenship, corrupt politians, disruption of trade, ineffective economic policies and a loss of civic virtue. The book, A History of Rome, summarizes it well: "The Roman army both made and unmade the Roman Empire."3
As problems compounded, imperial authority began to irreversibly decline from about 410 AD. Between the 420s and 450s, the main focus of the imperial court was on deciding which areas of the western Empire were dispensable and which must be defended and kept under imperial rule at any cost. It was decided that Gaul was the primary region, other than Italy, that must be governed directly.4
While the imperial government weakened, the Germanic tribes became stronger. They were gradually delegated more and more territory through treaties and recognized as regional rulers within the Empire.5 One of these tribes, the Franks, began to distinguish themselves. From the year 260 AD, the Franks had been increasingly promoted in the Roman army. By the mid fourth century, they were filling powerful command positions.
The last Western Emperor, Romulus Augustus, was overthrown in 476 AD, not by foreign armies, but by federated Germanic troops from within the Roman army. This was nothing new, and if the Germanic leader, Odoacer, had so chosen, he could have become emperor and continued the name of the Western Roman Empire. However, he chose to become King of Italy instead of Emperor.
When Odoacer took over Rome, the Domain of Soissons became the last place of Roman rule in the West. This area was in Gaul, which was the very place, other than Italy, that imperial rule and resources had been focused for the previous fifty plus years. It could be described as imperial Rome's last stand. It was ruled by Syagrius, the magister militum of the Roman military, who was arguably known to the Germanic people as the King of the Romans. After the Domain of Soissons was cut off from Rome, Syagrius continued to rule it as a Roman domain.
Clovis, King of the Franks, set his sights on Syagrius and finally gained the victory at the Battle of Soissons in 486 AD. This marks the overthrow of the last magister militum (senior military officer) in the western empire and the callapse of central authority in the West. Clovis here destroyed the last western stand of the Roman army and it would never be able to assert itself to the same political dominance again.
Clovis went on to unite the Frankish tribes and all of Gaul under his rule. He was the son of Childeric (whose father was a Salian Frank named Merovech), who founded the Merovingian dynasty. Clovis' achievement of unification is so significant that his kingdom is seen as replacing the Western Roman Empire and laying the foundation for future domination in Europe.
The fall of the Roman military from dominant political power, corresponds with the loss of centralized rule in the Roman realm. Historians describe this as the "Fall of Rome", and is depicted in the 2nd Trumpet of Revelation. The realm became divided, as predicted in Daniel 2 and 7. Though divided, it is still referred to in prophecy as one kingdom (realm) that continues until the second coming of Christ. It is a realm lacking central rule, is divided into individual nations, but none-the-less considered as a prophetic unit. As such, there would be elements of cooperation and central influence (7 Heads) through varying entities until the second coming (see the Roman Realm).
The Merovingian Franks thus became the next dominant political entity of the Roman realm. Clovis became the ruler of a kingdom with a mixed Roman and Germanic population whose cultures were increasingly being blended together. His power was furthered by becoming a Christian king and his descendents went on to extend their borders and power. The Franks were to be an undeniable force in spreading Christianity over western Europe during the next time period of the third Trumpet.
Continue to: Head #3
- 1. A Survey of European Civilization, (Cambridge: The Riverside Press), page 125.
- 2. M. Cary and H. H. Scullard, A History of Rome, (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975), page 550.
- 3. M. Cary and H. H. Scullard, A History of Rome, (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975), page 556.
- 4. Roger Collins, Early Medieval Europe, page 81.
- 5. Roger Collins, Early Medieval Europe, page 93.