When Rome was replaced by Europe
|Introduction: the big picture|
The New Testament church knew that the Great Apostasy was coming. They knew it would begin when the Roman Empire lost its secular power over the church. (See the William Smith Bible Dictionary for details).
This occurred in AD 570. But this is all part of a much BIGGER prophetic picture.
Daniel's prophecies cover the whole of human history from his time period, up to the final triumph of the Saints. The events that have already passed can be summarized as follows:
Assyria, Egypt, the early Hebrews
Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Rome's successors
up to the time of the final triumph of the Saints
Let us now look at what the history books say. The following table shows the book "Western Civilizations" volume 1, by Verner, Meacham and Burns, 12th edition, London Norton, 1993:
the dawn of history"
Assyria, Egypt, the early Hebrews
the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome"
from the Greek city states to the end of Rome
the middle ages"
Byzantium, Islam, and early medieval western world
The boundary between part one and part two
Here Daniel pretty much agrees with the historians. Daniel was writing in the early sixth century BC, which was about the time that the Greek city states such as Athens were reaching their greatest power. (The history book actually begins this section with the eight century BC, but within a couple of lines has skipped forward to the more interesting sixth century BC).
The boundary between part two and part three
This is where it gets really interesting. The historians begin part three with a chapter entitled "Rome's three heirs: the Byzantine, Islamic, and Early Medieval Western worlds". This is interesting because they all pivot around the same date. Byzantium's greatest hour was under Justinian, who reigned up until AD 565. Islam was founded by Mohammed, who was born about AD 570. The early Medieval world was dominated by the papacy, which was effectively created by Gregory the Great, whose career began about AD 570.
What makes this even more interesting are the signs that Daniel gives of the appearance of the "little horn":
- First it appeared from the smallest of the divisions of Alexander's empire.
- Second, it subdued three of the ten divisions of the what had been the Roman empire.
- Third, it made great religious claims.
- Fourth, it trampled on the true church.
As I will show here and in the page on the little horn, the book of Daniel is an accurate record of the key events in western history - written a thousand years before they happened.
|Compare and contrast: the Roman Empire and Europe|
Let us be clear what we are talking about. There are many similarities between Rome and Europe - so many, that John the Revelator considers that the "beast" (the Roman empire), or something like it (a second beast) continue right up to the time of the Second Coming. The Roman Empire and Europe are very similar culturally. They share the same marks, and Europe looks back to Rome in many ways - the Holy Roman Empire, the title Tsar or Kaiser (Caesar), the study of "the classics", and so on.
How are Europe and the Roman Empire different? (Note: unless stated, the information on this page is based on the relevant articles in the Britannica, 1997 CD-ROM edition).
- First, geography. The Mediterranean sea (as its name suggests) was right in the middle of the Roman Empire, but it forms the southern border of Europe.
- Second, language and culture. European languages mainly come from two places. The classical world ("Romance languages" in Southern Europe) and the northern "Barbarian" world (the "Germanic languages" of northern Europe). Indeed, Europe can simply be thought of as Rome PLUS the Barbarians.
- Third, Christianity. Although Rome was "Christian" as it declined (from the early fourth century onward), Rome was built on paganism. Europe, in contrast, although including a wide variety of faiths (including a strong Islamic presence in the south), was built on what they called Christianity.
- Fourth, Europe has always been divided. Previous world empires have had a single head, but Europe is a collection of different kingdoms, often at war with each other.
|The origins of Europe|
The "four grand historical processes"
In "Europe - a History" by Norman Davies (London: Pimlico, 1997), part four is entitled "Origo - the Birth of Europe, AD 330-800".
Davies identifies four "grand historical processes" that caused the end of the Roman empire, and "dominated the period that [was] later to be dubbed "the Dark Ages". They are:
- Barbarian Invasions
- The rift between East and West
- Christianity going to the northern Pagans
As I will show here, on the next page, and in the page on Gregory the Great and the little horn, all four of these processes pivoted about the year 570:
- The last barbarian invaders of Italy were the Lombards, 568-571.
- This accelerated the rift between East and West, and Gregory (Prefect of Rome from circa 570) ensured that Italy was independent from Byzantium.
- It was Gregory who had the special interest in converting the barbarians.
- It was in the year 570 that Mohammed was born.
|Byzantium - chief city
of the western world
See also "A history of the Gentiles"
Forget about AD 476.
If you ask someone who knows a little history, "When did the Roman Empire end?", they will quote you AD 476. This was when the "barbarian" king Odoacer deposed the last Roman Emperor in the west, Romulus Augustulus. But this simply reflects our modern western bias - look more closely at the previous sentence. It said "the last Roman Emperor in the west". However, the capital of the Roman Empire at this time was not Rome, but Byzantium! At the time, the Roman Empire was split in two, east and west. It had two emperors, eastern and western. The city of Rome, for the previous century and more, had "limited political influence" despite its emotional appeal (Britannica). The Eastern empire was where the power lay. The Eastern empire continued to survive - and flourish. Indeed, it made major gains in the sixth century.
When Constantine changed the name of Byzantium to Constantinople, he vastly increased the size of the city, and called it "New Rome". According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
"It was an act of vast historical portent. Constantinople was to become one of the great world capitals, a font of imperial and religious power, a city of vast wealth, and the chief city of the western world"
Is it right to say that Europe began as Byzantium?
"western Europe was perpetually in debt to her ...up to the Latin capture, Constantinople was the unquestioned capital of European Civilisation." - S. Runciman, "Byzantine Civilisation" (Arnold, 1933) p.277
Did Byzantium's influence reach beyond the eastern empire?
Elsewhere I have shown how Byzantium, when it ruled the empire, allowed in the northern kingdoms and also fostered the medieval church. But that was not the limit of its significance. "In this shifting world [the transfer from Rome to Europe, AD400 to 800] Byzantium played a leading role and the influence of the great imperial city was felt throughout Europe. Its commodities were available even in England, as the finds of the Sutton Hoo site have shown." - Gerald Hodgett, "A Social and Economic History of Medieval Europe" (London: Methuen, 1972) p.12
Byzantium is the key to understanding the origins of Europe. Byzantium is discussed at length, in its broad historical context, on the page about "the times of the gentiles."
Did the Papacy owe its strength to Byzantium?
As the church drifted further into apostasy, it tended to look to the bishops of the major cities for guidance. There were four major bishops, or patriarchs: at Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Rome. Since three were in the eastern empire (Byzantium), and that included the earliest churches, there was more potential for disagreement. The eastern church seemed to be always struggling with one doctrinal dispute or another. The eastern church, forever divided, could thus never be as strong as the church in the west.
"the controversies of the eastern church tended to raise the bishop of Rome to the position of arbitrator of Christendom". -Philip Smith, "History of the Christian Church" (London: John Murray, 1886) p.394
|When exactly did the Roman empire end?|
Constantinople did not fall until 1453. But although this is sometimes still referred to as the end of the Roman Empire in the east, it had long since become more European than Roman, according to the definition of European as used above. So when did the shift happen? I shall quote the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
"[the term "Roman" could be used] until the last half of the sixth century, as long as men continued to act and think according to patterns not unlike those prevailing in an earlier Roman Empire."
The late sixth century was also the key period for the western empire.
Although the western empire had technically fallen in the late fifth century, it still continued in practice until the late sixth century. Partly because the old institutions continued uninterrupted, and partly because there was nothing to replace them - until the church began to take lands and political power to itself.
The "Orb" encyclopaedia web site has a very interesting "Overview of Late Antiquity". The section on "the extinction of Urban Culture" points out that, although Rome had been sacked in the fifth Century, the culture and institutions still survived. People still read classical texts and listened to the old aristocracy and believed in the pagan gods. The cultural changes took place in the late sixth century. After a series of devastating plagues, the old rulers lost their power base, and were driven out or ruined financially. After centuries of being the basic institutions of Roman culture, the town councils and even the Roman Senate (well over 1100 years old) ceased to meet.
"The towns of Italy had not just been impoverished, an important thread of tradition had been broken. The same crumbling of Roman infrastructure seen earlier in Britain and other borderlands in the previous century was now affecting the Mediterranean heartland. This break in tradition gives the sixth century a special importance in any history of the Middle Ages. ... [the old order had gone and the church filled the vacuum.] Bishops and monks found themselves, suddenly, the victors in a centuries old struggle, the undisputed teachers and theorists of their society."
|The Senate and cultural change|
The sixth century was the lowest point in Rome's history. The city was "the most desolate and the most neglected" in the whole empire, with a population less than 50 000. Although Justinian had reunited the country for a time in 534, the final straw was the Lombard invasions. "After 568, Lombard armies destroyed forever the unity of the reconquered provinces of Italy." (From "The Rise of Western Civilisation" by Peter Brown. Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1996, p.133)
This century also saw perhaps the greatest change in Roman culture since the empire began. The power of the Senate ended. This in turn created two changes that had great impact on the nature of the church:
- The aristocracy was independent of the church. So although it would interfere if it wished, it was quite possible that some bishops could quietly carry on in their own non-catholic way here and there.
- The Roman class system had allowed spiritual minded citizens the time to think and to pray. There was a tradition of lay people coming to their own conclusions about the scriptures.
But with the end of the old class system, that all changed.
"It is difficult to measure the exact extent of the desolation of Italy. What was clear by 590, when Gregory became pope in Rome, at the age of 50, was that an Italian ancien regime had all but vanished, taking with it a distinctive form of upper-class Christianity. From the resignation of Romulus Augustulus, in 476, to the arrival of Justinian's armies, in 534, Italy had been kept recognizable "Roman" through the dominance of a narrow group of landed aristocrats, who were members of the ancient Senate of Rome. With their Italy-wide connections and vast estates, the "Romans of Rome" eclipsed the local churches and the lesser provincial nobility. Unlike the fiercely regionalised magnates of Gaul, they did not need to take over the Church by becoming bishops: bishops remained humble figures, clients of the Roman grandees. ... What was lost, through this development, was a truly leisured class, and the styles of culture and religion that went with such a class. ... What had continued in Italy up to the youth of Gregory was a style of Christian life that still left room for the devout lay person." (p.134-137, emphasis added)
The power of the Senate began to fall when Justinian's men invaded, and the Senate was finally closed down by the invasion of the Lombards, 568-571.
Gregory saw the end of the ancient world
Elsewhere I have shown that historians - both religious and secular - are even more precise. They assign the start of the early medieval period (the "Dark Ages") to the career of Gregory the Great. Gregory's career began in 570, when he defended Italy from the invading Lombards. Gregory saw this as one more sign that his world was ending, so he then gave up his wealth and became a monk.
"For many Christians, the end of the empire came to be synonymous with Christ's Second Coming, with doomsday itself." - Norman Davis, "Europe - A History" (London: Pimlico, 1996) p.213
|How Gregory (prompted by Byzantium) built Europe|
The church could see that Gregory was the only man who had the track record to save them, so he was forced to become Pope, against his will. This was the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the medieval world. Gregory knew that the world he knew was coming to an end, but did not fully appreciate what was coming next. According to "The Christian Centuries" (BBC books, 1989, p.65):
"A large element in Gregory's world view was that he thought it was coming to an end, and very soon. He foresaw the decline of the Roman empire and saw his own position in Rome as being the shepherd of the flock at the end of time. That was why he was so insistent on gathering the Anglo-Saxons and the Germanic tribes. They had to be brought in before the end of time comes, before the great judgement.
"But in fact Gregory stands at the beginning of a huge new development because, finding that Constantinople of the Eastern Empire was going to be no use to him as a support to keep things going, he then turned to the Franks, to the Lombards themselves, and to the Visigoths, to build up a new Church in the West in which he, the pope, will be the only person of significance. He is the founder pope of the Church of the Middle Ages in the West and it is there that his great fame lies."
The role of Byzantium in hastening this change - allowing the Barbarians in and effectively forcing Italy to look north instead of east - is discussed in the page about the gentiles.
"The growing interdependence of the ex-Roman and the ex-Barbarian worlds... gave birth to the entity called "Christendom", the foundation of European civilisation" - Davis, p.213.
Gregory's church as the replacement for Rome
"Gregory the Great represented what Hobbes described the Papacy to be: 'the ghost of old Rome sitting crowned on the grave thereof". For many generations afterwards the Catholic church assumed implicitly that it was the empire"
- "An Unfinished History of the World" by Hugh Thomas (London: Macmillan, 1995) p.168
|The height of the Byzantine Empire - subduing three kingdoms|
A key prophecy relating to the "little horn" is that Rome (the fourth beast) breaks into a number of kingdoms, then the little horn subdues three of them. I have argued that the horn is Europe, and its origin can be traced through Byzantium. As far as the three kingdoms are concerned, I will simply quote from the history book, concerning the crucial sixth century transition period:
527-65 Justinian, married to Theodora (d.548), ended the war with the Persians by agreeing to an "eternal peace", which enabled him to regain part of the Empire: N. Africa 535, Italy 553, Southern Spain 554, through Belisarius and Narses."
(From The Penguin Atlas of World History: London: Penguin, 1974. Volume 1, page 139.
For more about the history of Europe in general and Byzantium in particular, see the page on the Gentiles. Byzantium continued to have its golden age under Justinian, with his grand building program and his legal system that became the basis of law for much of Europe. But from the year 570 the decline set in.
570 was also the turning point for Italy. Because of the damage wrought by the Ostrogoths (who were appeased and set up as defenders of the northern borders), and then their removal which allowed in the Lombards, and the financial costs imposed by Byzantium, the Lombard invasion of Italy (568-571) was the final straw. After years of facing east to the old world, Rome (and Europe) began to face west and began something new.
The events of the year 570 will be discussed in more detail elsewhere.
the bottom line
the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of Europe took centuries. But the key date is 570.