Four monarchies

Four monarchies

The fifth monarchy is a millennarian idea, based on Biblical sources. The "Book of Daniel" [ [] : Biblical text, expounded.] refers to four monarchies or 'world empires', namely (under a conventional interpretation [Attributed [] to Jerome.] ): the Assyrian Empire; the Persian Empire; the Macedonian Empire; and the Roman Empire. The fifth monarchy, according to interpretations of the "Book of Revelation", would be the culminating imperium of the final days.

Classical times

There are references in classical literature and arts that apparently predate the "Book of Daniel". One is in Aemilius Sura [John Joseph Collins, "The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature" (1998), p. 93.] , who is quoted by Velleius Paterculus [ [ The Failure of Daniel's Prophecies ] ] . This gives Assyria, Media, Persia and Macedonia as the imperial powers. The fifth empire became identified with the Romans.

An interpretation that has become orthodox after Swain is that the 'four empires' theory became the property of Greek and Roman writers at the beginning of the first century BCE, as an import from Asia Minor. They built on a three-empire sequence, already mentioned in Herodotus and Ctesias [Erich S. Gruen,"The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome" (1986), p. 329.] . This dating and origin has been contested by Mendels, who places it later in the century.

In the Middle Ages

A standard medieval interpretation drops mention of the Medes, and ties the fourth monarchy and its end to the end of the Roman Empire; which is considered not to have come to pass. This is the case for example in Adso. [ [ A ] ] The 'four monarchies' theory existed alongside the Six Ages and the Three Eras, as it had done in the work of Augustine of Hippo [Isabel Rivers, "Classical and Christian Ideas in English Renaissance Poetry: A Student's Guide" (1994), p. 56.] . It had been orthodox for Christians since the commentary by St. Jerome on the "Book of Daniel" [Chris Given-Wilson, "Chronicles: The Writing of History in Medieval England" (2004), p. 115.] .

Early modern theories

The "Speculum coniugiorum" (1556) of the jurist de Alonso De la Vera Cruz, in New Spain, indirectly analysed the theory. It cast doubts on the Holy Roman Emperor's universal imperium by pointing out the historical 'monarchies' had in no case held exclusive sway. [David Andrew Lupher, "Romans in a New World: Classical Models in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America"(2006), p. 163.]

The theory was endorsed in an influential 1557 work of Philipp Melanchthon and Johann Carion [Anthony Grafton, "What was History?: The Art of History in Early Modern Europe" (2007), p. 171.] , based on Carion's earlier "Chronika". The early modern version of the four monarchies in universal history was subsequently often attributed to Carion.Herbert Butterfield, "Man on His Past" (1955), pp. 45-6.]

Jean Bodin was concerned to argue against the theory of 'four monarchies'. He devoted a chapter to refuting it, in his 1566 "Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem" [ [ Jean Bodin (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) ] ] . The theory was particularly emphasized by Protestant theologians, such as Jerome Zanchius [ [ Certain Praelections ] ] , Joseph Mede [ [] ] , John Lightfoot [. [] ] .

In the conditions leading to the English Civil War and the disruption that followed, many Protestants were millennarians, believing they were living in the 'end of days' (Capp, 1972). The Fifth Monarchists were a significant element of the Parliamentary grouping and, in January 1661, after Charles II took the throne following the English Restoration, 50 militant Fifth Monarchists attempted to take over London to start the 'Fifth Monarchy of King Jesus'. After the failure of this uprising, Fifth Monarchists became a quiescent and devotional part of religious dissent (Capp, 1972).

Fifth Monarchy views were also held, much more in the mainstream, by John Dury [ [ PDF] , p.4.] . "The Foure Monarchies" was the title of a long poem by Anne Bradstreet from 1650 [ [ PAL:Anne Bradstreet(1612?-1672) ] ] .

There were still some defenders of a 'four monarchies' model for universal history in the early eighteenth century; but the periodization with a 'Middle Age' came in strongly from philology, with Christopher Cellarius, based on the distinctive nature of medieval Latin.


*H. H. Rowley (1935), "Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel. A Historical Study of Contemporary Theories"
*Joseph Ward Swain, "The Theory of the Four Monarchies: Opposition History under the Roman Empire", Classical Philology, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Jan., 1940), pp. 1-21
*Gerhard F. Hasel, "The Four World Empires of Daniel 2 Against its Near Eastern Environment", Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 1979 4: 17-30
*Doron Mendels, "The Five Empires: A Note on a Propagandistic Topos", The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 102, No. 3 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 330-337
*Bernard Capp (1972), "Fifth Monarchy Men: Study in Seventeenth Century English Millenarianism", Faber ISBN 0-571-09791-X


External links

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