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Great Dreadful Beast of Daniel 7

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Great Dreadful Beast of Daniel 7

Interpretation Principles Used - Characteristics on the beast, move from the body to horns to go forward in time, a horn comes up after other horns to move forward in time, similarity and differences between powers represented by the horns and body, concurrency of the horns.  For more information, see Prohpetic Rules of Interpretation in the Main Menu above.

Daniel 7:7 -  And after this I was looking in the night visions. And, behold, the fourth beast was frightening and terrifying, and very strong! And to it were great iron teeth. It devoured, and crushed, and stamped what was left with its feet. And it was different from all the beasts before it; and it had ten horns.















Daniel did not give a species name to the 4th great beast, but he did describe it as a very powerful animal, dreadful and terrible (perhaps suggesting it was rather ugly), and its behavior as quite dangerous.  That certainly would be a fitting description of Rome. The description of this beast illustrates the Characteristics Principle, which says that secondary characteristics (things other than just the body, heads, or horns, these would be things such as wings or teeth or claws or the fact that one of the horns on this beast talked) tell us about the behavior of the nation represented, or else tells us something about what or how it would do something.

Every beast that Daniel saw in the vision recorded in Daniel 7 was represented by animals that were in fact used by those nations to represent themselves. The Babylonians apparently used winged lions to represent themselves. The Medes and Persians used a bear as a symbol of themselves. The leopard was used by the kingdom of Alexander the Great to represent itself. The Romans, which this dreadful beast represented, used a dragon to represent themselves, which certainly would be like what Daniel described, though he did not say it was a dragon.

Now, some take this to mean that the fourth beast that Daniel saw was a dragon. This may or may not be true. We cannot be sure of this because Daniel does not name the species of the beast he saw in vision. However, given that the other beasts Daniel was shown were used by their respective nations to represent themselves, it seems likely that the beast Daniel saw was in fact a dragon, which, of course, is a mythical beast that is considered to be huge and of immense power. This certainly is fitting for Pagan Rome.

The 10 horns are believed to represent all the European divisions of the Roman empire after the teenage emperor was forced to resign from office in 476 AD and hand the kingdom over to Odacer, a man who became Italy's new king and essentially dissolved the Western Roman Empire. So, the body of this beast represented Pagan Rome and its time of existence and the 10 horns occurred after the time represented by the body of the beast (after Pagan Rome). This follows the pattern of the Miller Principle.  Note that these 10 horns started out their political existence together and they all ruled at the same time (Concurrency Principle) until, one by one, they fell when they were conquered by other powers.

Note that the 10 horns grow out of the beast they are on, so they will usually be of a like nature unless we are told otherwise. In other words, the Similarity Principle is followed here because the beast was a political power and the ten horns were also political powers just like the beast they were on. They were split off the original empire so were smaller and weaker than the original empire (the Difference Principle). 

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Why is a dreadful looking beast used to represent Rome?

Why is a dreadful looking beast used to represent Pagan Rome?  Consider that a dinosaur could have been used, or maybe an elephant.  Yet that is not what was done so far as we know.  Why is this animal without a species name? 

Consider that the description of this beast is another example of the Characteristics Principle being applied.  This beast is said to "devour, and crush, and stamp what was left with its feet" (Daniel 7:7) and also "...which was different from all of them, very frightening, whose teeth were of iron and its nails bronze..." (Daniel 7:19).  This describes its behavior - what it would do when it attacked.  You might say this is a description of it's method of attack.  Rome did have a policy that it would respond with overwhelming force against any rebellion, and it tended to do this very well.  Of course, it was much more successful in doing this than the Persians were, but its troop training and battle equipment was superior to that of the Persians. 

The important point is that its behavior was described quite accurately by the description of the beast itself.  It could indeed devour and crush its enemies with those "iron teeth". Rome was known for its use of iron weapons which gave it an edge over its enemies. Stamping on its enemies with feet that had brass claws perhaps is a reference to its tendency to completely destroy any opposition by smashing it totally. 

The fact that it was not given a species name but was described as very frightening again tells us something about its behavior.  It would seem that something that is frightening like this would be very intimidating, and history bears out that Rome was very intimidating to the nations it confronted.  For example, in 168 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes IV was in the process of invading Egypt.  He was met by a representative of the Roman Senate who informed Antiochus Epiphanes that the Romans were demanding that he withdraw from Egypt, then drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus Epiphanes and told him not to leave it until he had made up his mind to cease the invasion and leave Egypt.  History records that he stopped the invasion of Egypt and went home to Syria.  The danger posed by Rome must have been quite frightening, for this man simply withdrew without a fight against the Romans and ran home.  You can be sure it was quite difficult for him to accept this because he had gone through all the expense and difficulties of an invasion of Egypt, and yet he left.  Hence, this prophecy of Rome as a dangerous and frightening power was clearly fulfilled in this and many other incidents.

Daniel was told that this beast would be different than all before it. What did this mean? How was it different than all before it? The others had one thing in common, which is that all of them were ruled by kings. But, Rome did not share that characteristic with them because Rome experimented with six different forms of government before it broke up in 476 AD. If you think carefully about this, notice that God had not said anything about the form of governments of the previous kingdoms. He was silent, almost as if He had this unwritten rule about the other kingdoms, but with this one He changes the rule and only then notifies you of its existence by informing you it was being changed. The statement that the fourth dreadful beast is diverse from all those who went before it is an example of the Exception Principle being applied by God, which means whatever rule was in effect up until the exception is stated, is now obsolete and the new rule takes its place from this point on for this power.

Another aspect of this kingdom that made it different than those that went before it was that it conquered most of Europe.  Previous kingdoms did not succeed in doing that for various reasons.  Babylon never approached Europe.  The Persians tried to take over Europe, but were stopped by the Greeks.  The Greeks seem to have gone from Greece eastward all the way to India, but apparently did not go west or north into Europe (though some recent discoveries suggest they may have planted colonies on mainland Italy).  So, Rome was different in this aspect from the beginning.  Again this reflects use of the Characteristics Principle.

This beast evidently had one head with iron teeth (the bible only mentions the iron teeth, so it seems reasonable that there is a head - it does not mention 2 or more heads, and teeth without a head would look ridiculous.  It originally had ten horns, but after them another came up (horns coming up after other previously existing horns, another form of the Miller Principle) which had a mouth and eyes like a man and spoke great words against God.  The author likes to refer to the horn that talked as the "Talking Horn" because of its behavior. Some people refer to it as the little horn power, which is the same thing. This new talking horn was responsible for uprooting 3 of the original 10 horns.  The author shows the image above with 3 of those horns removed (you can see where they "broke off" on the head), with the 3 horns on the ground below the beast.

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Building the Roman empire by destroying the Greek empire:

Rome was known as a particularly cruel empire, but it also created a peace that had not existed before then, something that many businessmen no doubt appreciated.  Because Rome had a policy that it would respond with overwhelming force against any rebellion, it forced a peace among the many peoples it governed who would otherwise have sooner or later gone to war against each other or against Rome.  Because of the peace that Rome forced onto the region and because of a more reasonable justice system with laws better than other countries, many people respected Rome.  Several kingdoms were in fact quietly handed over to Rome because of this.  For example, the Attalid Empire, centered in Pergamum (more detailed information on Pergamum here), was willed by its last king to Rome in 133 BCBithynia (Wikipedia article) was also willed to Rome in 75 or 74 BC when its last king (Nicomedes III) died. 

Pergamum, the capital of the Attalid Empire, is near the northwest sea coast of Asia Minor just to the south across the strait from an area once known as ThraceClick here to see a map of Asia Minor during the time of the Greeks and Romans.  Note this map is rather large so may take a minute or two to download. Click here for a general history of Asia Minor, which is known in modern times as Turkey and also known as Anatolia.

Rome conquered the three remaining divisions of the four Greek kingdoms that came out of the empire of Alexander the Great.  This conquest of the Greek kingdoms began when Rome took Asia Minor away from the Seleucid Empire in 188 BC. Of course, at that time Rome did not destroy any of the three remaining Greek kingdoms that came out of Alexander the Great's empire. The region of Asia Minor was originally one of the four kingdoms that came out of Alexander the Great's empire and was a kingdom ruled by Lysimachus until Seleucid went to battle against him and took it away from him.

The first conquest that destroyed a Greek empire was against the Greek Macedonian empire (an empire begun by Cassander) in 168 BC (at the Battle of Pydna which is also considered the beginning date for the Roman Empire by historians).  The second of these conquests was the Greek Syrian empire (an empire begun by Seleucus I) in 63 BC.  He was attacked on one side by the Parthian empire and Rome on the other at about the same time.  The third was of the Greek Egyptian empire in 30 BC., an empire begun by Ptolomy I.

In 31 BC, the Roman general Octavian defeated the Ptolomy empire in the naval battle of Actium, which meant he also defeated Mark Anthony. Both Octavian and Mark Anthony were engaged in a civil war to decide which of them would become the emperor of Rome Mark Anthony had Cleopatra's help from Egypt.  This battle resulted in Octavian becoming the emperor of Rome and gained the title Augustus.  Mark Anthony and Cleopatra both went back to Egypt as fast as they were able.  The following year, 30 BC, Octavian attacked Alexandria. Mark Anthony and Cleopatra committed suicide, and Egypt became another province of Rome..

What had started as a single empire by Alexander the Great, was initially divided into 4 smaller, less powerful empires.  About 20 years later, the empire run by Seleucus I (In Syria and Babylon) swallowed the empires run by Lysimachus (in Asia Minor), leaving 3 empires behind by 280 BC.  One by one, beginning in 168 BC, the Roman empire conquered and swallowed the remaining 3 parts of Alexander's original empire.  The final event in 30 BC effectively ended the remnants of the empire of Alexander the Great.   After 30 BC there was nothing left of the empire begun by Alexander the Great.

Click below to see a chronology of the Greek empires after Alexander the Great:

The Greek Ptolomy empire  (Scroll down to just below GRECO-ROMAN PERIOD)
The Greek Seleucid empire 
The Greek-Macedonian empire 

Click here to see the Roman empire battles.

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The Talking Horn - who is it, how and when did it have power?

The horn with the mouth and eyes which spoke against God has been believed by many to represent the papacy, which certainly got legal powers it did not have after the date historians note as the end of the Roman empire (476 AD).  The papacy certainly existed before the fall of Rome, to be sure, but the symbol of the talking horn coming up after the other 10 horns began to have their day of power, is trying to show us that the time when it had legal power to work against God is what is represented here, which began in 538 AD.  It is not trying to show us that it existed only after 476 AD, for it certainly did exist before then. 

Just for your information, click here for a map of the remains of the Roman Empire and the Barbarian kingdoms in 530 AD. It is quite interesting and worth a few minutes to study it. Click here for a map of the Barbarian invasion paths, identity of the invaders, and when they invaded the Roman Empire.

To understand exactly what happened in 538 AD that makes it significant, the reader needs to know some history and basic facts of government.  These facts of government are as follows:  (1) decrees or laws issued by a government are only applicable to territory they control, so if you don't control a territory, you cannot apply laws there as they are unenforceable, (2) even if you reside in and control a territory, you cannot control another territory unless you can back it up by force of arms, and (3) be able to communicate with that other territory.  All three of these factors must exist for a government to be able to enforce laws upon any given territory.  Now, with these facts in mind, please click here for a history of what happened when Belisarius entered Rome

The papal power over other bishops and the power to punish heresy was given to the pope as a matter of legal right in the spring of 538 AD after Justinian's general, Belisarius, managed to break the siege of Rome by the Ostrogoths, which lasted from March of 537 to March of 538Belisarius first entered Rome in December of 536 when the Ostrogoths (more information about the Ostrogoths and more about the Ostrogoths from the Catholic Encyclopedia) abandoned Rome as he entered it.  But, he had to immediately begin preparations for the siege that he knew was coming and facing an enemy with probably10 times as many troops.  This would leave him little time for setting up and running a Roman law administration, so consequently, it is extremely probable that he did not get that done. 

Once the siege began, Belisarius could not extend his power beyond the walls of the city to any appreciable extent, so any laws that Justinian had made that were to be generally applicable and enforceable outside of the city by the pope, or anybody else, were simply not enforceable.  You cannot enforce a law that you cannot get a message out about nor can you enforce a law that you cannot back up with the force of arms.  They (Belisarius and the pope) could get messages out but could not mount significant force of arms to back up what was ordered.  So, it was a toothless law.  Once the siege of the Ostrogoths was lifted, the decree of 533 AD by Justinian making the pope supreme bishop and giving him power to punish heresy was implemented and enforceable by law (click here to read the decree of Justinian in English). 

One interesting point about the siege of the Ostrogoths against Rome is what happened to weaken the Ostrogothic army, which made their defeat almost inevitable.  The Ostrogoths cut the aqueducts supplying Rome with water, expecting that without water the city would give up in a matter of days.  But it happens the people of the city made do with water that was already available in Rome itself.  Rome did have an internal source of water, so their attempt to cut off the water was futile. Further, the act of cutting the aqueduct turned against the Ostrogoths because they could not stop the flow of water through the aqueducts and could only divert the water elsewhere.  This water collected in ponds that bred millions of mosquitos, which in turn became infected with malaria parasites. The now infected mosquitos then bit the Ostrogothic soldiers, thereby infecting them with malaria.  This essentially defeated the Ostrogoths and made them so weak that Rome was able to fend them off and they finally had to give up.  One can only surmise if this event eventually played a large role in the final defeat and dissolution of the Ostrogoths some 16-18 years later.

At this point in time, March of 538 AD, all three factors necessary to enforce the decree were is place: (1) Justinian's government controlled Rome and (2) they (Belisarius and the pope) could now send messages to/from the outside world, (3) and back up what they ordered with force of arms.  Thus it was that this decree became enforceable in March of 538 AD.  This power lasted until 1798 when Napoleon's general Berthier invaded Rome and on the 15th of February of that year, wrote a decree ending the powers of the papal government, which officially ended the power the pope had over other governments and religious authorities (click here for historical details). 

It is important to note that this decree didn't end the papacy, for clearly it continued to exist. However, the power the Papacy had over other governments was over. It could no longer persecute on the basis of religious beliefs through other governments.

Some would argue that nothing significant happened in 538 AD, but that is untrue.  It is recognized by historians that the pope consolidated his powers in Rome in the year 538 AD, and not before.  It is from this point in time that the setup of the church with the powers it would have for the next 1260 years was created, not later.  The power of the church began to grow some from this point in time as well.  Further, it gave the pope powers he did not have before so that he could control the church from his post in Rome.  It also removed the direct control of the Ostrogoths as a force opposing the pope, for they were Arians and were opposed to papal power because of the beliefs they had.  It also prepared the way for pope Gregory, who came along late in the 6th century, to be able to greatly consolidate and concentrate papal power, which further enabled him to reorganize the church.  All of these things tie back into the events of 538.  Without that event, none of these would have been possible.

If one still has doubts about this, consider that on February 15, 1798, General Berthier of the French army issued a decree ending the power the Papacy had over other governments to effect persecution based on heresy. The Bible said that the power the talking horn was to be given over the saints of God was to continue for 1260 prophetic days, or 1260 literal years. So, go back 1260 years prior to February 15, 1798, and this takes you to March of the year 538. That is when the Ostrogoths withdraw from Rome, freeing the pope to enforce the decree given to him by Justinian.

Note that a decree created the power that the bible recognizes the pope got beginning in 538 AD, and 1260 years later (almost to the month) Napoleon's army undid this by decree.  Thus, a decree created the talking horn, so a decree is necessary to remove it. Also, a decree is at the root of all such major changes of beasts shown on beasts. To understand this, read about the Decree Transition Principle.

Click here for an EXCELLENT writeup about this with additional details of this history by another author,  which is where the author of this web page originally learned of the historical facts about the decrees defining and delimiting the 1260 year time period from 538 AD to 1798 AD.   Further historical documentation can be found on this Biblelight.net web page.

In what other ways does the author know that the decree is what defined the start of the 1260 years?  Dan 7:25 says "And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time."  The phrase "and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time" tells you that during the 1260 years the people of God would be given into the hands of the talking horn.  Who gave them into his hand?  Justinian, by a simple decree which gave the pope the power to punish heresy.  Justinian had to do this because the pope could not just hand that power to himself. That power of arrest, trial, and sentence execution rightfully belonged to the state, a power that the pope did not naturally possess. Therefore, someone with that power in hand had to legally give it to the pope. Hence, the Bible says that the people of God were given into his hand, meaning into the hands of the talking horn, which the pope headed.

The decree clearly allowed the pope to decide what was heresy without any oversight by anyone else.  His word was law without question.  Historically, it is known that the papacy did engage in some persecution before 538 AD, but after that it was explicitly legal for them to do this, unlike the situation before.  So, the people of God were literally given into the hand of this power.  That, combined with the identity of the talking horn (other places typically refer to this power as the "little horn"), and the obvious historical fact that they had this legal power for 1260 years almost down to the month, is reasonable evidence that the years 538 AD to 1798 AD constitute the 1260 years based on the decrees.

God dates changes within the beast powers by human legal decrees in both Daniel and Revelation.  Whenever Bible prophecy shows a beast with more than one head or more than one horn, you can be sure that a decree has or will mark the changes from the body to the heads or to the horns from either the body or heads of these beasts. Consider Dan 9:25 which says "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times."  Note here that God dated this 70 week (70x7 in years or 490 years) from the time that the command to rebuild and restore Jerusalem was sent out.  This means that God dated the beginning of a time prophecy in Daniel using a decree. However, no decree was used to mark the end of the 490 years because the beginning of it was known.  So, likewise, history shows that a decree is used to date the 1260 years. Because the talking horn power will return and God shows this power in Revelation 13 as a sea beast with three phases to its existence (unlike Daniel 7 which does not give us that level of detail), there must be a decree to mark the beginning of the second phase of its history. The result is that both the beginning and the end of the 1260 days are marked with a decree. 

There are some who question the beginning date of the 70 week prophecy, preferring to date it from 444 BC, while others prefer 457 BCClick here for a discussion of which date is correct based on evidence from history, the Bible, and language analysis.

Now there is the saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it certainly is true.  History shows the results of this, for unknown numbers of people were killed on the orders of the popes during this time period.  If you doubt that, consider that Pope John Paul II has admitted that they persecuted and killed many, and he "apologized" for the errors of past popes in doing this.  Catholic protagonists argue that "only a few heretics were killed", which statements history does not support as a lot more than just a few were killed.  But, even if their statement were true, which it is not, what if you were one of those "few heretics" who was burned at the stake for your beliefs?  How would you feel about it?  God says what he thinks about it, for Dan 7:26 says about this talking horn "But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. So, those who do these things will receive their punishment from God. 

Remember that Jesus said "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2).  This indicates that there would come a time when people would be killed by those who think they are doing a service to God, which is not unlike the murders done by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City, who believe that they were doing a service to Allah (their god).  We all know that those terrorists will meet the judgment bar of God and receive punishment for what they have done.  Likewise those who kill others for their beliefs, as was done by the Catholic Church during the dark ages, and those protestants who did the same to Catholics after the Protestant Reformation was over, will also meet the judgment bar of God.  The same standard will be applied to both sides.

Catholics have argued that the governments of the dark ages killed far more than the Catholic Church. This is true. In many instances, the governments had people arrested for being heretics, tried them in court, and after conviction, they were punished, which sometimes included a death sentence. Over the centuries, this added up to quite a few individuals who were killed for their beliefs. One can be sure, however, that those officials in the governments responsible for this will be punished by God. However, the leaders of the Catholic Church will also be held responsible for this because they instigated this in the first place. They were the ones who taught the government leaders that the pope is God and must be obeyed. Therefore, they will not escape the jubgments of God either. It is sad indeed that these things were ever done, but the results are sure. God has promised that those who do these things will receive judgment at his hands for what they have done. He never lies so will keep his word on this.

The talking horn did certain other things that can be used to identify it.  Daniel 7:24 says that it will subdue three kings, meaning 3 tribes that opposed the papacy were to be destroyed. This does not necessarily mean it was directly responsible for their destruction, just that it had an influence with regards to these events.  Several questions are raised by this. First, the Bible says there are 10 horns. There have been numerous attempts to identify the 10 nations that came out of the Western Roman Empire which this applies to. The facts are that there were more than 10 tribes that came out of Rome, so how is one to understand the number 10? Is it literal or symbolic?

The Bible explains the nature of the number ten in Daniel 1:20. In Daniel 1, the story is told of how Daniel and his friends, after being taken from Jerusalem and selected for service for the king of Babylon, determined not to eat of the foods that the king served to them because they were foods that God had forbidden. Instead, they wanted to eat foods that God had instructed are the proper way to eat. After a ten day testing time, the man overseeing Daniel and his friends decided that the results were good, so their new diet was continued. When they were tested by the king at the end of their training period, the king apparently found them to be "ten times better than all the astrologers and magicians in all his realm".

Now, it is not that hard to realize that they could not really be that much better than all the others, though the difference was likely very significant as you can easily imagine. To describe the difference between Daniel and his friends compared to the others, the Bible is almost certainly using hyperbole, which is extravagent exaggeration of the actual facts, to illustrate that Daniel and his friends excelled in their studies and service to the king afterwards in spite of their use of a "strange diet" which the Chaldeans were not likely familiar with. Clearly, they were better than the others. The difference was sufficient that the king could tell the difference. As a result, they stood before the king in his presence in their service work for him.

Because of the experience of Daniel and his three friends, you should be able to see that the number ten is used to illustrate not only the extravagent exaggeration, but also to create a symbol for comparison purposes to show that the number ten represents something that is "a lot more" than something else by comparison. Thus, it is not necessarily a literal number, but can also be a symbolic number.

The ten horns can represent simply "a lot more" than what came before. With the dreadful beast, there was one kingdom before and then there were "a lot more" than before. History records some twenty tribes or so that arose after Western Pagan Rome, though it did turn out that ten of them were the roots for the major nations of modern Europe. So, it is likely that the number ten is symbolic of all the tribes that came out of Western Rome and is also literal because the major nations of modern Europe were formed from ten of those tribes.

In the past, the ten most influential tribes in Europe are the ones typically proposed for the ten horns as these eventually evolved into the major nations of Europe that we see today. The table below has a list of the ten tribes that became the major nations of Europe which includes their primary religious preference prior to 538 AD:


Tribe Nation Religion
Anglo-Saxons England Catholic
Alamanni Germany Arian
Burgundians Switzerland Arian
Franks France Catholic
Lombards Italy Catholic
Suevi Portugal Catholic
Visigoths Spain Arian
Vandals Destroyed in 533-534 AD Arian
Ostrogoths Destroyed in 554-556 AD Arian
Heruli Destroyed in 493 AD Arian


In history, what is known is this.  There were originally 6 tribes in Europe that were Arian in their beliefs, which means they did not believe in the Trinity of the Godhead.  The Catholic Church believed in the Trinity, which means they believed that Jesus was divine. This set the papacy against those who did not believe the same way.  There were 3 Arian tribes which did not actively oppose the Papacy and three Arian tribes which did actively opposed the papacy. The three Arian tribes which actively opposed the Papacy were the Heruli, the Vandals,  and the Ostrogoths.  For more information about the Vandals, here is a web page on the Vandals from the ancient history web page, and an additional page about the Vandals from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Though most of the Heruli were Arian, it appears from history that some of them were more pro-Catholic in beliefs.  The Heruli in Rome were Arian and worked as imperial guards and as mercenaries for the Roman army until they revolted against Rome (the emperor was Romulus Augustulus) in 476 AD and made  Odoacer their king.  To learn more about Odoacer, see: ODOACER at LoveToKnow. They revolted because they requested land for their service in the Roman army, but their request was turned down by the teenage emperor, who apparently didn't really understand the importance of the request presented to him. Historians generally consider this act to have ended the Western Roman Empire officially.  The Eastern Roman Empire continued to exist for about another thousand years in Constantinople until the Muslims were finally able to take it.

Odoacer remained king until 493 AD, when the Ostrogoths installed their own king, Theodoric the Great, on the throne in Rome by deposing and killing Odoacer. They invaded Italy beginning about five years before at the request of Zeno, who wanted to get the Heruli and their king out of the way. Apparently he believed that if the Ostrogoths removed the Heruli from Italy, it would remove one threat to the Papacy, which he wanted to favor because he also was Catholic. He probably had several other reasons for wanting this done.

Several Heruli tribal groups in Italy and Austria were destroyed by the Ostrogoths under Theodoric as they invaded Italy, and after the invasion was complete and Odoacer and his followers were dead, it seems the Heruli disappeared from the history of Rome. As a people, the remaining Heruli disappeared altogether from history about 550 AD when the Lombards destroyed them during their invasions that eventually led right into Italy.  The removal of the Heruli from Rome in 493 AD solved one problem for the pope.  But the coming of the Ostrogoths to replace the Heruli created another problem for the pope because the Ostrogoths were also Arians.The Ostrogoths granted religious freedom to all, which didn't set well with the Papacy because it wanted absolute control of religious beliefs of all people. But they had to wait. This problem remained for the Papacy until March of 538 AD and was solved by Justinian through General Belisarius when he drove the Ostrogoths out of Rome.

The Vandals were destroyed on the order of Justinian, who had his capital at Constantinople and ruled the Eastern Roman Empire.  He sent General, Belisarius after the Vandals in North Africa in 533 AD.  By 534, they were either dead, dispersed, or removed, so they were never heard from again in history.  It is reported in history literature that the final battle against the Vandals was so fierce that the men of the Vandal tribe simply abandoned their property, wives, and children, and fled into the desert around their living place, never to be heard from again. It seems likely that nearly all of them died in the desert.

A historian traveling with the troops sent to destroy the Vandals recorded that this action was being taken to "protect the Christians", meaning the Catholics were to be protected from the Arians as a result of this military action (Procopius, History of the Wars, 3.10.19, cited by C. Mervyn Maxwell in God Cares, page 146, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Nampa, Idaho, USA). As a result, we can easily see that this was in fact done to remove opposition to the Papacy. Clearly then, the Vandals were almost certainly one of the three uprooted tribes.

The Ostrogoths were a Germanic tribe (of which there were several) that moved into Italy and eventually took over Rome.  The Ostrogoths remained in Rome until December of 536 AD, at which time they left when Belisarius, under orders from Justinian, came and entered the city of Rome.  The Ostrogoths felt they could not successfully defend Rome against a siege, so they voluntarily left.  A few months later, they returned for a year long siege of Rome, not leaving until March of 538 AD.  By the spring of 538, Roman laws under the government of Justinian were once again the ruling force in Rome, Justinian had undisputed claim to Rome, and it was then also possible for the pope to enforce the decree of Justinian written in 533 AD.  It was this event which marks the 1260 year time span mentioned by Daniel 7 (time, times, and half a time, and since a prophetic time is 360 days and a day is symbolic for a year, this makes 1260 years, see explanation of 1260 years equals 3-1/2 times). 

The Visigoths, which were another branch of Goths, hung on in Spain for about another 50 years, but eventually they too fell and were absorbed into the Catholic system that lasted until Napoleon.  As said by W.H.C. Frend in his book, The Rise of Christianity on page 815, medieval Europe would be based on the monarchies of the time and the Catholic Church.  Behind this would be the idea of Justinian which created this situation (in 538 AD) which would last until Napoleon.  So, there you have it direct from a recognized church historian that the setup of Europe by Justinian (in 538) laid the foundation for church and state for the next 1260 years.  Remember that Justinian was not able to create this situation until he had his victory over the Ostrogoths.  After that, he would be able to implement a Roman administration in Rome with Roman laws and enforce laws outside of Rome.  He owned Rome so he could make and enforce his laws there. That set things up.

Now, you may ask, why would the Eastern Roman Emperor want to help the pope?  History seems to record that Justinian wanted to recreate the entire Roman Empire under his control, and in order to do that, he needed to have control over Rome as well as the other territories Rome once ruled.  To gain that control, Justinian saw that by favoring the pope he would gain leverage over many citizens loyal to the pope, and by destroying the tribes opposed to the pope, he would increase the pope's power, thereby increasing his own, hopefully.  By removing those opposed to the pope, he created a situation where there was one religion everywhere in the region that he hoped to combine into the reconstituted Western Roman Empire. Plus, he removed forces occupying the original Roman territories and government by removing the 2 remaining tribes opposing the pope (Vandals and Ostrogoths), a move that favored his objectives by removing a divisive force. He never fully regained the empire but he did a lot to create a situation where one religion and one pope reigned over the kingdoms of the time and set things in motion that resulted in the medieval system that lasted for a long time.

Justinian wrote a decree in 533 AD (some say 529 AD) in which he stated that the pope (1) was supreme bishop over all other bishops, and (2) had the power to prosecute heresy.  But it does not take a genius to realize that this was not enforceable when written because Justinian did not rule Rome.  It would be like the United States Congress passing a law for a province in Canada - it clearly would not have the force of law there unless that province later decided to join the United States to become part of it.  Should it do so, then any laws passed by the US Congress would become enforceable in that province. 

The same is true with Justinian's decrees involving the pope.  They were null and void until Justinian controlled Rome and the territories surrounding it that Rome once controlled.  Further, he needed to be able to enforce the decree from Rome, something that cannot be done under siege conditions.  Once that control was established and the siege lifted, then he could enforce his decrees.  So, it is plain to see that both Justinian and the Pope had to find some way to remove the Vandals and the Ostrogoths that stood in the way of their common objectives.  Hence it is that Justinian dispatched his army to destroy the Vandals to remove their opposition to the pope, and drive the Ostrogoths from Rome.

For more information about this event of history from a slightly different perspective, see Patmos Papers, 1260-Year Prophecy.

Some have objected to selecting these 3 tribes (Heruli, Vandals, Ostrogoths) for fulfilling the prophecy.  It is true that there were several other tribes which were also Arian in beliefs and therefore opposed the pope's power and beliefs (Alemanni, Visigoths, Burgundians).  But, these tribes were not at the power center of government around Rome, and especially important, made little effort to directly oppose the pope.  Therefore, it was not essential to remove them to gain supremacy, so they were not destroyed by the Eastern Roman Emperors.  Eventually the 3 remaining Arian tribes changed their beliefs to match that of the popes.

What is interesting is that Daniel was shown that the talking horn continues to speak against God until it is given over to the flames.  It indicates that it has power for 1260 days, after which it continues to speak even though it has lost power. We know from history that the talking horn clearly matches the combination of the Roman Church with the leaders of the nations of Europe during the dark ages. Clearly, the papacy matches the events recorded about the talking horn in Daniel 7, so it must be the leader of this power. The leaders of the nations must be involved because their power is required to authorize the talking horn to persecute the "heretics". Thus, though the talking horn is led by the Papacy, the national leaders are involved with it too. To learn about the 7 ways which show that the Papacy is involved with the talking horn, which is referred to by some other authors as the little horn or the stout horn, click here  (Go to the middle of their web page)

The talking horn that came up after the other horns that were already on the head of the dreadful beast is an example of the Exception Principle being applied by God in this prophecy.  Here is how that works. All previous parts of this beast were political in nature but here comes to light a power that is different than all before it.  This horn represented a power that spoke against God and oppressed the people of God.  What is interesting about this power is that the description of this power seems to center on religious power, rather than political power. The beast this talking horn arises from does have political power, to be sure, but there is something different about this power compared to the others because its power, as described by God, focuses on religion rather than politics. So, we should apply the Exception Principle, which means that we consider this power and anything that comes from it to take on the characteristic described by the exception. So, in what ways was thls power different from that which came before it?

To answer that, let us consider history and Daniel 7:11, which says the following about the nature of the beasts:

These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.

Combine this with Daniel 7:23, which says:

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.

Now, let us put some thoughts together from these two verses to explain things a little clearer. Begin with this: "These great beasts ... are four kings". Then consider that verse 23 tells us that "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth". Combining these two verses together tells us that the four beasts each represent a kingdom and that these kingdoms are led by kings.

Now history plainly shows that each of the four kingdoms was led by multiple leaders who succeeded one another, so the word "kings" is clearly representative of a line of kings. Even Babylon, which did not survive all that long as an empire (about 65 years approximately), was led by a series of kings, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar. Further, each individual king within a given line of kings was generally an inherited position, one inherited from his father. The Roman Republic was a form of government of Rome whose leaders were elected rather than inheriting their position, but the other forms of Roman government had leaders whose positions were inherited - usually. Last of all, these leadership positions were those over a political organization. The kings may have had some religious duties and responsibilities, but their primary function was as political leaders.

Now, what does it mean by the following in verse 17?

"...four kings, which shall arise out of the earth."

What does it mean to "arise out of the earth?" How could the kings do that?

Clearly they cannot literally rise out of the earth because they are humans, not rocks or plants, so it must be symbolic. Remember that the four beasts arose out of the waters in Daniel's dream or vision, and these clearly represented nations and peoples from among which the four kingdoms arose (if you don't believe that, see Revelation 17:15). The winds upon the waters which stir up the waters indicates that these four kingdoms arise during times of warfare among nations and peoples. They arose from areas that had functioning governments and were populated and reasonably well organized politically.

There are two different reasons why Daniel 7:17 says that the kings arise out of the earth. First, to say that the kings arise out of the earth is to say that they are not nations and do not arise in the same way that the beasts do. In other words, the kings don't arise out of the waters because they are not a nation which which arises by armed struggle of nations against nations. Instead, they arise from families. You could say that nations "give birth" to nations, whereas families give birth to children. They are a product of individuals within the nations from which they come. As it happens, these families normally were the royal families of the nations, so that these kings were born into each of those families and inherited their thrones from their fathers.

The second use of the phrase to "arise out of the earth" is as a literary phrase to link this verse with the term "kings of the earth" from Revelation. After all, it should be obvious that "kings of the earth" should be those that "arise out of the earth", so they are representing the same basic idea - they represent political leaders of nations. The kings of the earth are mentioned in Revelation 1:5; 6:15; 16:14; 17:2,18; 18:3, 9; 19:19; and 21:24. Without Daniel 7:17, it would be that difficult to guess who the "kings of the earth" are, but with Daniel 7:17, you should have no doubt that it means they are the political leaders of nations. This literary linkage helps us understand Revelation, especially Revelation 17, more clearly, and vice versa.

So, what do we know about this talking horn that was different than those who came before?

To understand this, we need to summarize what we know about the kings who arise out of the earth.

The kings who arise out of the earth were:

  • political leaders of nations
  • primary duties and powers were political in nature
  • were born into Royal families
  • inherited their thrones from their fathers - normally

Now, consider the following verses:

Dan 7:17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth...

Dan 7:23 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.

Dan 7:24

(a) And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise:

(b) and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.

Dan 7:25 And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.

Now, please carefully consider the following evidence extracted from the verses above. Note that the kings in verse 17 are defined to be kings who arise out of the earth, or in other words, they are the political leaders of the nations whose duties are primarily political in nature. If you take time to read verse 18 through 22, you will NOT find that the word "kings" is redefined anywhere in those verses. Therefore, when one reads verse 23, which says that the fourth beast is the fourth kingdom upon earth, you know that it remains a political kingdom because it has a political king. The word "king" is NOT redefined in verse 23. It is said to be diverse, but that is because its leadership is diversified over the life of this empire. It remained a political kingdom and nothing changed about that. But the fact that Rome had six different forms of government over its existence as an empire certainly makes it different from those coming before it in the line of empires that Daniel was shown.

Verse 24 has been split by the author into two parts to make it easier to see the different parts. Part (a) tells you about the symbolic 10 kingdoms that the Western Roman Empire will split into after Rome fell. There were 10 main kingdoms that came out of Rome after the fall of its government, but there were more than 20 tribes that existed after the fall of Rome. What is significant is that the word "king" is NOT redefined in verse 24 part (a). Thus, these kings were to be political kings.

Part (b), which refers to the talking horn that Daniel saw, is said to be diverse from the first, meaning from the beginning he will be different from those who came before him. This could be different in the sense of Pagan Rome where it was said to be diverse and yet it remained a political kingdom. But that turns out not to be the case because in verse 25, it tells us several specifics of exactly how this power would be different from previous powers: it is a religious power that believes it can change God's laws and persecute the people of God. It also has power for a specific time period during which the people of God are handed over to it.

As a result, we can say the following is true of the talking horn. It is described by things which are the converse of the description of the kings of the earth or kings who arise from the earth:

  • They were religious leaders as opposed to political leaders
  • Their primary powers and duties were religious in nature
  • The were NOT born into royal famiiles
  • They did NOT normally inherit their thrones from their families
  • Are NOT kings of the earth because they do not arise from royal families or inherit their thrones from their families and they do NOT arise out of the waters as the beasts do so are not nations

These things must be true of the talking horn king because he is diverse from those who came before him and exercises his power in a religious way, so he cannot be the same things they are but must be different from them.

Note that this means the talking horn king is simply a king, not a king who arises out of the earth, or a "king of the earth" as he is called in Revelation 17. The talking horn king is the equivalent of the "kings" as they are referred to in Revelation 17, who are NOT kings of the earth. Thus, the kings of the earth in Revelation 17 are political leaders while the kings of Revelation 17 are religious kings, not political kings. There is a difference between them.

Ultimately, what this tells us is that there are two types of kings described in Daniel 7. These are:

  • The political kings, those who lead political empires and are described as rising from the earth, or as Revelation 17 calls them, the kings of the earth
  • The religious kings, those who lead religious empires and exercise their power in a religious way

Since these parallel the different kings of Revelation 17, we can create the following table:


Daniel 7 Revelation 17
Kings Political Leaders Kings of the Earth Political Leaders
Diverse king Religious Leader Kings Religious Leaders




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Time of the horns - This time occurred after the time of the body, or after 476 AD.  It is believed that the 10 horns probably represented the most important 10 kingdoms in Europe to come out of Rome after 476 AD, but we are not told anything in Daniel by which we may be absolutely certain of exactly who all 10 are. 
Time of the body - This represented the time of the Roman empire until the Empire began to split up, which began in 476 AD.  The body and 1 head count as one kingdom because there was no split in the kingdom until the 10 divisions occurred.  God chose to show the divisions as horns rather than heads to teach us that horns as well as heads can represent split up kingdoms.