ASK Commentary
July 24, 2004 

The Ten Nations and the Roman Empire

Commentary for July 24, 2004 — Never Was, Never Will Be “Europe Revived”

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An erroneous prophetic interpretation has been floating around for almost 100 years. That is the notion that the 10 Nations of the image in Daniel chapter 2 and the beast of Revelation chapter 13 will be a revived Roman Empire.

This is an impossible conclusion as I shall show by reviewing some historical realities. I will not go into Scripture because that has been shown by Dr. Martin, see his article “Mystery Babylon the Great .”

The Nature of the Roman Empire

It is important to consider how the Roman Empire was constituted. It was a vast empire that spread from Britain in the north to south of Egypt, from Spain and North Africa in the west to the borders of Parthia (Iran today) in the east. In the 1st century, when the New Testament was written, the border of the Roman Empire in Europe stopped at the Rhine and Danube Rivers. It never included any significant portion of Germany or Eastern Europe. The center of the Roman Empire was never Gaul (France today).

The heart of the Roman Empire in the 1st century were the great cities of Rome itself, Alexandria in Egypt, and the great Greek cities, with the great cities of Antioch, Damascus, and Jerusalem that were inland from the Mediterranean coast. The cities were supplied by hundreds of thousands of farms all over the Empire.

However, peaceful trade across the Mediterranean was the major factor that gave the Roman Empire cohesion and economic strength. Political, legal and economic unity, along with reduction of piracy, made peaceful sea trade extremely profitable. Linguistic unity of the three great languages of Greek, Latin, and Aramaic made for a cohesive society. Greek and Latin were the literary languages throughout the empire, Latin the official language of command throughout and the business language for the western empire, while Greek and Aramaic were the business languages of the eastern portion of the empire.

A common Roman law, coinage and road system all assisted commerce throughout the empire, but all of these were on the exterior of the empire. The center of the empire — the center of gravity so to speak — was the main means of commerce, which was trade across the Mediterranean Sea. Commodities and financing could travel the length and breadth of the Empire in safety due to pax Romana or the “peace of Roman.”

Once this is understood the statement must be made clearly: The Roman Empire was a Mediterranean empire, not a European empire. The power base of the Roman Empire was the peaceful trade across Mediterranean Sea. It was never a European empire. Gaul, (France today) was never the center of power for the Empire. The land of Germany was outside the Empire, as were the Germanic tribes that helped weaken the Empire. Italy as the center of political power was due to its location, and the fact that Italy juts out into the Mediterranean. While European Spain was profitable for Rome, it was not a center of political power. Rome had a name for the Mediterranean. They called the Mediterranean mara nostrum, meaning “our sea.”

The western portion of the Empire was relatively poor and unproductive. Little power was there, except for Rome itself. The western portion brought in comparatively little revenue and provided few military or political leaders. The original Romans of the Republic mostly moved out of Italy. A new people moved in. See Dr. Martin’s book (in serial form on the ASK Website) The People That History Forgot where the issue of the population change of Italy and its implications are fully discussed.

Those who think the Roman Empire will be revived as the Beast power had better remember to squeeze Turkey, Greece and Egypt into their prophetic scenario as 3 of the 10 nations of that revival, because all three were major provinces of the Roman Empire. However, I have never seen anyone include those lands as part of the 10 toes or 10 horns.

The Fall of the Roman Empire

It can be said Rome became a great empire because it gained control of the Mediterranean Sea. It can also be said that the Empire fell because it lost control of the Mediterranean Sea. The slowly decreased control of the Mediterranean Sea had many reasons, the most important of which were civil wars, barbarian incursions, famine and plagues. This interrupted trade and put the economy into decline. All combined to diminish the population of the Empire.

When Constantine changed the Roman capital to Constantinople in the 4th century he recognized that the economic and political power had shifted from the western to the eastern portion of the empire. Western Europe was no longer an important part of the Empire. It was an economic backwater, and expendable.

The western Mediterranean was actually lost to the Empire. Later Justinian strove mightily to reconnect East and West Empire in the 6th century C.E. by strategic use of military power, particularly naval forces. He almost succeeded in re-unifying much of the Roman Empire by controlling the Mediterranean Sea, but later emperors neglected the Western Empire because the cost was greater than the benefit. When Islam arose and the Arabs launched from Arabia, the manpower of the Empire was in a reduced condition and could not stand the onslaught of a vigorous and comparatively numerous people.

As professor Lynn Harry Nelson, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Kansas, Lawrence wrote in “Rome at its Height” regarding the decline of the Roman Empire:

“The imperial system had proven unable to maintain internal peace and order, and Rome could no longer maintain those institutions and policies upon which the unity, security, and prosperity of the Mediterranean lands depended.”
Other historians such as Henri Pirenne believed that the rise of Islamic states disrupted the relative Mediterranean peace and trade, and ended classical (or “ancient”) civilization as we define it. This gave rise to the medieval world and civilization in Europe. The Islamic civilization gained control over much of the Mediterranean. When the Islamic states lost that control of the Mediterranean, their civilization also declined.

The Eastern Roman Empire lost much of its economic, political and military power when its connections via the eastern Mediterranean Sea to Egypt and Palestine and Syria were severed when those lands were conquered. The Arabs and allies disrupted trade throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and removed many of the markets and revenues from the Eastern Roman Empire. Justinian’s dream of reunifying the Roman Empire was forever lost.

During World War II, the Italian dictator Mussolini clearly understood the importance of the Mediterranean when he expressed his warped dream to reestablish the Roman Empire. He envisioned Rome as dominating the nations with shores on the Mediterranean. It was his misguided idea to have the Mediterranean become a Roman lake as it was in the time of the Roman Empire.

Europe Today

Germany, which was always outside of the Roman Empire, is the economic powerhouse of Europe, followed by Great Britain, France, Italy and then Spain in all factors of economic and political power. Germany is the center of the European Union. It is NOT the center of a revived Roman Empire. Most prophetic commentators who believe that fanciful idea see Germany as leading the way. In no way is this possible historically or biblically — and it goes against common sense. As usual the Bible has little relationship to what these religious teachers present in their understanding of the future. Prophecy is not based on what we wish it to be, but on biblical identifications.

The Prophetic Problem

Anyone who tells you that the 10 nations will be a revived Roman Empire must explain how their concept of the future fits with the reality of the past. Identifying the 10 nations with the Roman Empire does not in any way correspond to the Bible texts. The reality of past political geography cannot be changed to suit their prophetic fantasy. So if anyone mentions that the revived Roman Empire will fulfill prophecy, challenge him or her with some simple questions:

  1. Will Germany be part of that revived Roman Empire? If they say yes, then ask:
     
  2. Where does it say that in Scripture?
     
  3. Ask them, do you know that Germany was never part of the original Roman Empire? How could it be part of a revived Roman empire?
     
  4. Will Egypt be part of the Revived Roman Empire? Egypt was part of the Empire from the end of the Roman Republic to the rise of Islam. It could even be said that the Roman Empire began with placing Egypt under Roman administration.
The 10 nations are identified and named in the Bible. They are around Israel, just as you would expect. They are in proximity to God’s promised land There is no mystery who they are or where they are located. See the identifications in Dr. Martin’s article “The Prophesied State of Palestine.”

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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