The Ten Horns Of Daniel 7 An Historical Perspective
"After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast-- terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.
"While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
Dan 7:7-8 (NIV)
Throughout history many theories have developed to explain the Ten Horns mentioned in the book of Daniel. Daniel tells us that these horns represent kings that shall come from the kingdom represented by the forth beast. Daniel also tells us that a small horn shall come out of these ten horns and it shall uproot three of the kings. This king, which is different from the others will grow powerful and wage war against the saints. One of the theories regarding the Ten Horns is that the horns represent kingdoms established in the Roman territories in the fourth through sixth centuries. This theory also holds that the little horn that uprooted 3 of the 10 kingdoms represents the Roman Catholic Papacy. What follows is an examination of the historical accuracy of this theory.
First we must review what the leading proponents of this theory have to say. Uriah Smiths wrote:
But all historians agree in this, that out of the territory of Western Rome, ten separate kingdoms were ultimately established, and we may safely assign them to the time between the dates above named; namely, A.D. 351 and 476.
The ten nations which were most instrumental in breaking up the Roman Empire, and which at some time in their history held respectively portions of Roman territory as separate and independent kingdoms, may be enumerated (without respect to the time of their establishment) as follows: Huns, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Suevi, Burgundians, Heruli, Anglo-Saxons, and Lombards.* The connection between these and some of the modern nations of Europe, is still traceable in the names, as England, Burgundy, Lombardy, France, etc.
* In harmony with seven leading commentators the author includes the Huns as one of the ten kingdoms. Others, with historical precedent, name the Alamanni, or Germans, instead of the Huns--Editors.1
Concerning the three horns uprooted by the little horn Uriah Smith wrote:
The position is here confidently taken that the three powers, or horns, plucked up by the roots were the Heruli, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths; and this position rests upon reliable historical data. Odoacer, the leader of the Heruli, was the first of the barbarians who reigned over the Romans.2
From the historical testimony above cited we think it clearly established that the three horns plucked up were the powers named: the Heruli, A.D. 493, the Vandals, in 534, and the Ostrogoths finally in 553, though effective opposition by the latter to the decree of Justinian ceased when they were driven from Rome by Belisarius in 538 as stated on page 127.3
Another Seventh Day Adventist author, Roy Allan Anderson lists his preferred choices for the ten kingdoms as follows:
On occasion interpreters of prophecy have alleged that "at no period of Roman history was the empire composed of precisely ten kingdoms." However, it is well documented that the ten kingdoms appeared after the decline and fall of the empire of the Caesars. Gibbon, as well as other authoritative historians, make it clear that the ten kingdoms did indeed come into being after Rome's collapse. In his Horae Apocalypticae, Elliott lists these as Anglo-Saxons, Alemanni, Franks, Visigoths, Suevi, Burgundians, Bavarians, Heruli, Vandals, and Ostrogoths. (Some of these were known by other names at different times, and some other lists suggest various different kingdoms.)4
A professor of church history C. Mervyn Maxwell in his book on Daniel provides us with another list of the ten kingdoms, he wrote:
Over the next century or so the Visigoths were followed by perhaps a score of other tribes, some large, some very small, the makings of the European nations of today. Of these the most significant besides the Visigoths were the Ostrogoths, the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Lombards, the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks, the Alemannians, The Heruls, and the Sueves. Here are Daniel's "ten horns".5
While the above mentioned authors may not agree on who makes up the ten kingdoms, (discrepancies regarding the Huns, Bavarians, and the Lombards), they do agree on the three kingdoms that were uprooted, the Heruls, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths. Maxwell sums it up as follows:
But the Catholic emperors of the eastern empire found ways to help the pope by eliminating three of the Arian tribes. The catholic emperor Zeno (474-491) arranged a treaty with the Ostrogoths in 487 which resulted in the eradication of the kingdom of the Arian Heruls in 493. And the Catholic emperor Justinian(527-565) exterminated the Arian Vandals in 534 and significantly broke the power of the Arian Ostrogoths in 538. Thus were Daniel's three horns--the Heruls, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths--"plucked up by the roots."6
Why is there a discrepancy between these authors with regard to who makes up the ten kingdoms, if in fact history so clearly shows that ten kingdoms carved up the Roman territory? To answer this question we must examine the historical evidence. Does history teach that there were ten kingdoms that took over the Roman territory? First, we must examine what changes occured in the Roman Empire.
The Pagan Roman Empire began fierce persecution of the Christians in 250, The Emperor Decius enforced edicts which commanded all citizens to sacrifice to the traditional Roman gods, those who did not obey were executed. Persecution continued though not always as fiercely until the end of the reign of Diocletianus, who in 303 caused the most severe persecution the church had ever faced.7 The Roman Empire first became divided under Diocletianus (284-305), who divided the empire into an East and West terriotories in order to maintain efficient government control over the enormous empire. His scheme caused many civil wars; Constantine the Great emerged from these struggles and became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. In 312 Constantine became a Christian, the next year he proclaimed equal rights for all religions and returned the property confiscated from the Christians. Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople formerly Byzantium, and now known as Istanbul. Constantine divided the territory among his sons shortly before his dealth 337, their reigns did not last long (337-361). The Empire was permanently divided in 395 upon the dealth of Theodusius who divided the empire between his two sons. 8
Theodusius made Christianity the sole religion of the empire.9 Constantinople assumed preeminence over other Christian centers in the East as did Rome in the West. The Eastern Roman Empire is commonly called the Byzantine Empire by modern historians. Its beginning is commonly dated from the establishment of the new Roman capital of Constantiople in 330. The Byzantine Empire lasted for a thousand years after the Western empire collasped, until it finally fell to Turkish onslaughts in 1453. 10
The Western Empire ended in 476 when Odoacer defeated and killed Orestes and deposed Romulus Augustulus. Justinian (527-565) restored imperial authority over Italy, North Africa and part of Spain by defeating the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Vandals, all of whom were Arian Christians. Arian Christians believed that Jesus the Son, though Creator, was himself created and therefore could not be truly divine like the Father. The cost of Justinian's conquests were crippling, and his successors lost nearly all of what had been gained to the Arian Lombards, and the Muslim Arabs, and a resurgence in Spain of the Visigoths. For many centuries the Emperors were not only the highest military leader, supreme judge, but also the protector of the church and orthodoxy. Justinian reached the height of imperial influence in religious matters. Popes and Patriarchs were regarded as his servants, he directed the affairs of the church as he did that of the state. In matters of belief and rituals his was the final decision.11
As we read of the Barbarian invaders which enter into the old Roman Empire we must remember that they are invading only the Western half of the Roman Empire. The Eastern Empire ( Byzantine Empire) ruled lands from the Euphrates in the east to the Strait of Gibraltar in the West. The Byzantine Empire was a continuation of the Roman Empire, which stood as a bridge between the ancient world and the medieval and modern worlds.12
The following is a listing of most of the tribes that played a part in the development of Europe during the decline of the Roman territories.
West German Tribes: Franks, Frisians, Saxons, Thuringians, Bavarians (Marcomanni, Quadi), Lombards, and the Alamanni. The Alamanni were a branch of the Suevi, the Sueves also included the Semnone, Chatti, Quadi, and Marcomanni, the last two later settled in a land the German settlers called Bavaria around 500. The Suevi established itself in Spain, while the Alamanni established a duchy in southwest Germany known as Swabia.13,14,15
East German Tribes: Bastarnae, the Gepids, the Rugians, the Heruls, the Scirians, the Vandals, the Burgundians, and the Goths (in the second century the Goths gradually divided into an eastern branch known as the Ostrogoths, and a western branch known as the Visigoths).16
Other Tribes: The Angles, and the Jutes, who along with the Saxons invaded Britain (also of German ancestry).17 Alani (Indo-Iranian nomads),18 Avars, (Altaic tribal confederation, formed an alliance with the Lombards and destroyed the Gepids),19 and the Huns (A confederation from northern China).20
After reading of all the different tribes which entered upon the ancient Roman Territory it is easy to see why the authors who support the ten kingdom theory noted at the beginning of this paper, had trouble agreeing upon who makes up their ten kingdoms. There are no contemporary history books that list ten kingdoms, which occupied the Roman territory. There is significant impact from each of the above tribes, either through their alliances with, or against Byzantine Rome, or by their alliances with other tribes. There are certain tribes that had a greater impact on the territory. These could include:
The Huns, the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths, the Vandals, the Sueves, the Burgundians, the Franks, the Alamanni, the Bavarians, the Lombards, the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes.21
It is clear after examining the history of the Barbarian invasions and the Byzantine Empire, that there were more then ten tribes which invaded the ancient Roman Empire. This would explain why the proponents of the ten kingdom theory are unable to agree on which ten tribes were involved. The second part of their theory involves the idea that three of the ten kingdoms were destroyed so that a new kingdom could emerge. These eliminated kingdoms being the Heruls in 493, the Vandals in 534, and the Ostrogoths in 538. Now let's examine what history has to say about the demise of these three tribes.
In 533 the Byzantine emperor Justinian ordered his general Belisarios into North Africa, where he easily defeated the Vandals. The king was taken captive to Constantiople and many of the Vandal warriors were impressed into the Byzantine army to fight against the Persians. Within a short time all Vandal traces had disappeared.22 After a decisive victory by Justinian's general Narses in 552, and the surrender of the last Ostrogoth city in 561 the Ostrogoths rapidly faded from history.23 The Heruli were defeated by the Lombards in lower Austria around 508.24-27 Of the survivors some returned to Scandinavia, some joined the Gepids, and others served in the Byzantine Armies, but they vanished as a tribal entity. 28,29
Here is an obvious discrepancy between what history tells us and what the proponents of the ten kingdom theory purport to have happened. In their theory the Heruli kingdom was destroyed by the Ostrogoths on orders from the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire). Thus they would have all the three kingdoms removed by the Eastern Roman Empire so that the Roman Catholic Papacy can become a great power. It is not too difficult to understand how the proponents of the ten kingdom theory arrived at the false conclusion that the Heruli were destroyed in 493. It has to do with a "king of Italy" named Odoacer, but first here is a brief description of the historical events.
Odoacer (sometimes spelled Odovakar, or Odovacar) was a German barbarian of Scirian, or Rugian ancestry, the son of Edeco, one of Attila's generals. In 470 he entered Italy with the Sciri and joined the Roman army. In 475 Odoacer led a rebellion against the Roman general Orestes who had previously overthrew the Western Roman emperor Nepos. Odoacer was elected to be king by his troops in 476. Orestes was captured and executed and his young son, the emperor Romulus Augustulus was deposed and exiled. Odoacer desired to retain his authority while recognizing the overlordship of the Eastern Empire, he was granted the position of Patrician by Zeno the Eastern emperor. However Odoacer refused to recognize Julius Nepos, Zeno's candidate as Western emperor. Thus officially ended the Western Roman Empire.30-32 Odoacer's kingdom did not rest on the leadership of a single German tribe, but was composed of a heterogeneous group of German and Eastern soldiers, (mercenaries), who were technically part of the Roman army.33-36 In 484 Odoacer attacked the westernmost provinces of Rome in response to the pleading of Illus the master of the soldiers of the Eastern Empire, in an attempt to depose Zeno. In retaliation Zeno incited the Rugi to attack Italy, Odoacer crossed the Danube in 488 and defeated the Rugi in their own territory. As the Ostogothic power grew it became clear to Zeno that they could be a threat to the Eastern Empire. To solve this problem and the problem in Italy with Odoacer Zeno commissioned the Ostrogothic king Theodoric to go to Italy and overthrow Odoacer. In 488-489 the entire Ostrogothic nation headed to Italy. After a series of bloody battles Theodoric concluded an agreement with Odoacer in 493, which provided that the two kings would share the rule of the territory. However at a banquet to celebrate the treaty Theodoric killed Odoacer with his own hand.37-39 Theodoric's followers proceeded to kill Odoacer's family and supporters. 40,41
Despite Theodoric's treachery with Odoacer, he proved to be an able and conscientious ruler of the Ostrogoths. In 497 the Eastern emperor Anastasius recognized Theodoric with the imperial title of Patrician. Thus Theodoric ruled Italy in the name of the Eastern Empire, although in fact he ruled with virtual independence and was regularly addressed as king. Distrustful of the Eastern Empire he formed a confederation with other Germanic kingdoms. Matrimonial alliances were established with the Franks, Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Heruls, and Thuringians.42 After Theodoric's death less able leaders took his place. The Eastern emperor Justinian's general Belisarios attacked the Ostrogoths in 534 in order to extirpate the Arian heresy and to bring Italy back under direct imperial control. Over the next twenty years the city of Rome changed hands between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern empire several times. The last of the Ostrogothic cities fell in 561. After the Eastern empire's victory over the Ostrogoths the Roman garrisons which occupied Italy were undermanned leaving a political vacuum. This vacuum was filled in 568 by the Lombards who conquered the Po Valley and much of the central part of the peninsula.43
Of the proponents of the ten kingdom theory, none of the three that were cited at the beginning of this article list a reference for the idea that in 493 the Heruls were destroyed. There are no historical references which state that the Heruls were destroyed in 493. However there are rare references which call Odoacer the king of the Heruli, or the chief of the Heruli.44-46 Since Odoacer was the king of the mercenaries who had been in the Roman army, and this was composed of people from many Germanic tribes, it is possible that to some he was considered to be the king of the Heruli. Another source labels Odoacer as the leader of the Herulian and Rugian mutineers.47 There is still another reference which identifies Odoacer as a Visigothic Chief.48 Again this is a possibility because of the heterogeneous population which had elected Odoacer as king. However even those few sources which seem to indicate that Odoacer was the king of the Heruli, do not indicate that the Heruli met their end with Odoacer's defeat in 493, as the ten kingdom theorists claim. Another evidence that the Heruli were not destroyed in 493 is the fact that in 505 the Lombards were under the control of the Heruli.49,50 The Lombards then rose up and in 508 destroyed the Heruli.
Another discrepancy between history and the ten kingdom theorists is the date of the destruction of the Ostrogoths. The ten kingdom theorists place the demise of the Ostrogoths at 538 when Belisarius invaded Rome and after a year long siege he won the battle. Here is what Uriah Smith has written on the subject;
The whole nation of the Ostrogoths had been assembled for the siege of Rome, but success did not attend their efforts. Their hosts melted away in frequent and bloody combats under the city walls, and the year and nine days during which the siege lasted, witnessed almost the entire destruction of the nation. In the month of March, 538, dangers beginning to threaten them from other quarters, they raised the siege, burned their tents and retired in tumult and confusion from the city, with numbers scarcely sufficient to preserve their existence as a nation or their identity as a people.
Thus the Gothic horn, the last of the tree, was plucked up before the little horn of Daniel 7. Nothing now stood in the way of the pope to prevent his exercising the power conferred upon him by Justinian five years before. The saints, times and laws were now in his hands, not in purpose only, but in fact. This must therefore be taken as the year when this abomination was placed, or set up, and as the point from which to date the beginning of the prophetic period of 1260 years of papal supremacy.51
By using the date of 538 the ten kingdom theorists can add the 1260 day/years (from Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 12:6,14; 13:5) to attain and ending date of 1798 when the pope was taken captive during the latter part of the French Revolution. However history does not indicate that the Ostrogoths were crushed in 538. It is true that from 534-553 the Ostrogoths were exhausted by the wars with the Byzantine Empire. The wars lasted for nearly twenty years. In 541 the Ostrogoths elected Totila who proved to be an effective leader. From 545-546 Totila besieged Rome occupying it in December 546. This siege nearly decimated the civilian population of Rome. Belisarios who had returned to Italy in 544 pressed the Ostrogoth army causing their withdrawal from Rome. However the Byzantine forces were inadequate to take further offensive actions against the Ostrogoths. Again in 550 Totila recaptured Rome and then invaded Sicily. This time Justinian appointed Narses to the Italian command, Narses insisted on a large army which was provided to him. Finally in 552 the Ostrogoths and the Byzantine armies met at Taginae in the Appenines where Narses won the victory. The Ostrogoth king Totia was killed, ending the organized Ostrogothic resistance. Although the Bzyanatines had to take the Ostrogothic cities one by one until the last city fell in 561.52
The following is a representation of most of the kingdoms that occupied areas of the Roman Empire. Some of the tribes beginning dates are somewhat uncertain, so starting dates are often the date when the tribe invaded into Roman Territory or what had once been Roman Territory.53-70
| Destroyed by Lombards
| Destroyed by Odoacer. Remnant joined the Ostrogoths
| 375 Huns------------454
| Upon Attila's death many German tribes revolted
| 454 Alamanni-----------495
| Alamanni submitted to Frankish rule...in 687 they threw off Frankish rule
| and except for a period of 709-712 remained independent until 748 when
| they again came under Frankish domination.
| Franks extended rule over Thuringians|
| Destroyed by the Byzantine Empire
| 406----443 Burgundians--------535
| in 443 Burgundians allowed into Roman territory. They were incorporated
| into the Frankish Kingdom.
| 406 Alani----------------------------535
| Destroyed by the Byzantine Empire
| Destroyed by the Byzantine Empire
| Destroyed by an alliance between the Lombards and the Avars
| Incorporated into the Visigoths
| 488 to 520------------------------555 Bavarians
| From 555 to 788 Bavarians ruled by Frankish dukes.
| Destroyed by the Moors
| 567 Avars----------------------------------------803
| Destroyed by the Franks
| 568 Lombards------------------------------774 | Lombards enter Italy in 568, by the end of the 5th century they were in Lower
| Austria. Defeated by the Franks
| 442 Angles, Saxons, and Jutes------------------------------------------------------------------1066
| Formed a lasting power in Britain until the Norman Conquest
| 486 Franks-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| The sole Germanic nation to establish a permanent and lasting power in
| Western Europe
|--------330 Byzantine Empire (Eastern Empire)--------------------------------------------------------------------------1453
| A continuation of the Roman Empire. In 330 Constantine moved the capital to
Constantinople. Destroyed by the Turks
According to the ten kingdom theorist Daniel chapter 2 also discusses these ten kingdoms. The following is what Uriah Smith has to say on the subject:
The image of Daniel 2 is exactly parallel with the four beasts in the vision of Daniel 7. The fourth beast represents the same kingdom as do the iron legs of the image. The ten horns of the beast correspond naturally to the ten toes of the image. These horns are plainly declared to be ten kings which should arise. They are as much independent kingdoms as are the beasts themselves, for the beasts are spoken of in precisely the same manner--as "four kings, which shall arise." Daniel 7:17. They do not denote a line of successive kings, but kings or kingdoms which existed contemporaneously, for three of them were plucked up by the little horn. The ten horns, beyond controversy, represent the ten kingdoms into which Rome was divided.71
Uriah Smith goes on to say that the words "king " and "kingdom" are used interchangeable by Daniel.72 Uriah Smith further writes:
Time has fully developed this great image in all its parts. Most accurately does it represent the important political events it was designed to symbolize. It waits to be smitten upon the feet by the stone cut out of the mountain without hand, that is, the kingdom of Christ. This is to be accomplished when the Lord shall be revealed in flaming fire, "taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thessalonians 1:8. (See also Psalm 2:8,9.) In the Days of these kings the God of heaven is to set up a kingdom. We have been in the days of these kings for many centuries, and we are still in their days. So far as this prophecy is concerned, the very next event is the setting up of God's everlasting kingdom. Other prophecies and innumerable signs show unmistakably that the coming of Christ is near at hand.73
Here we see that this ten kingdom proponent thought that the ten kingdoms which divided up the Roman territory were to last until the end of time, until Christ set up His everlasting Kingdom. These same sentiments are also found in C. Mervyn Maxwell's book:
If we are to understand the vision correctly, we must remember that the supernatural stone did not hit the image on its golden head (Babylon), or on its silver chest (Persia), or on its bronze thighs (Greece), and neither did it strike its iron legs (Rome). The Bible says that it hit the feet and toes, and that it would be "in the days of those kings" that the God of heaven would set up a kingdom that should never be destroyed. Daniel 2:4474
The idea that these ten kingdoms have continued up to the present day is further expressed in material printed by the Seventh-Day Adventist's for use in their Revelation Seminars. Here is what one of their pamphlets entitled "Identifying And Locating The 1260 Years Of Persecution" has to say:
The TEN HORNS of the non-descript beast represent the ten kingdoms into which Rome was divided by barbarian tribes which carved up the empire, Daniel 7:17,23,24. They are:
Anglo-Saxons (England) Franks (France) Vandals
Alamanni (Germany) Lombards (Italy) Ostrogoths
Burgundians (Switzerland) Suevi (Portugal) Heruli
Unfortunately what these ten kingdoms proponents advocate is not historically accurate. As can be seen from the graph on page 7 of this article, the only lasting kingdom was that of the Franks. Which through a series of different dynasties developed into what we now know as France. The assigning of modern day nations to those of the Barbarian kingdoms seems to have been done by comparing the territories which the Barbarian tribes had control of at one time to the territory which now is occupied by a modern nation. Totally ignoring over a thousand years of history, and in fact completely disregarding the history of Western Civilization. Since the Ten Kingdoms are no longer in existence, (except France), they cannot be the kingdoms which are destroyed at the end of time by the coming of Christ as mentioned in Daniel 2.
From a review of history it is clear that there were not ten kingdoms that divided up the ancient Roman Empire, but more than ten which impacted this area. If a ten kingdom proponent were to insist that there were ten kingdoms as their lists indicate, they would also need to show that they occurred concurrently. History reveals that several of the so called ten kingdoms did not exist during the same time period. For instance the Lombards did not enter the area until 568 many years after some of the other tribes on their lists had disappeared. The evidence also shows that the three kingdoms which according to the ten kingdom proponents were removed to make way for the Papacy do not fit history. Two of the kingdoms were destroyed by the Byzantine Empire and one by the Lombards who later were conquered by the Franks. It is also curious that the proponents of the ten kingdom theory ignore the Byzantine Empire as one of the ten kingdoms, since the Byzantine Empire was a continuation of Rome and certainly the most powerful kingdom. Their ideas about the papacy also do not fit history, the papacy had made wide claims of authority before 538 but they did not attain to these claims until after 1100. Having up till that time being under the secular kingdoms. And even after attaining a high degree of power the church battled with the secular rulers of her day. While the papacy is beyond the scope of this paper it would be wise for those interested in this subject to review its history, as well as the other areas of medieval history. It is plain that the facts do not fit the ten kingdom theory and it is time those who hold to this theory rethink their position.
Though the purpose of this paper was to examine the history as it relates to the theories set forth by the ten kingdom proponents, I feel it necessary to briefly express my theory regarding the Ten Horns. In the last days Ten nations will arise out of the area that had once been occupied by the Romans. I am uncertain whether this ten is a literal number or ten in the symbolic sense of a complete or final number.76 From among this group a powerful individual shall arise causing a destruction of three of the nations, probably by absorbing these kingdoms into his own kingdom. This represents the Anti-Christ who will wage war upon the followers of God. His destruction is to come at the second advent of Jesus Christ who will then set up an everlasting Kingdom. As with most prophecies about the future, the specifics are unknown, for prophecy is not meant for use to predict the future, but rather develop our faith as we see prophecy fulfilled. If what the ten kingdom theorist teach happened long ago with the Barbarian tribes it should be clearly revealed through history, which it unfortunately is not. When the ten kingdom theorists present their ideas in a Revelation Seminar the information seems very plausible. However when examined by the light of actual history it is seen to be very flawed.
French copyright 1960) p.139
A famine, which afflicted Italy at the time of the irruption of Odoacer, king of the Heruli, is eloquently described in prose and verse, by a French poet (Les Mois, ii. 174). I am ignorant from whence he derives his information; but I am well assured that he relates some facts incompatible with the truth of history.