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Chapter 5 - The Future of Rome in Three Greek Historians of Rome

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2020

Jonathan J. Price
Affiliation:
Tel-Aviv University
Katell Berthelot
Affiliation:
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris
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Summary

A historical theory of uncertain origin is directly relevant to how Roman historians, particularly those who wrote in Greek, understood the future of Rome: four empires have dominated the world, Rome is the fifth, signifiying either the continuation of a natural process or the end of the historical cycle. This 4+1 model of world empires occurs also in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic, deriving ultimately from the Book of Daniel, where it may be a reworking of a Zoroastrian tradition.1 So compelling was the idea for the Jews and Christians living in the Roman Empire, nursing messianic dreams, that its absence in a major Jewish thinker of the first century requires explanation.2 Among historians of Rome the model first appears as a tool of explanation and prediction in Polybius’ Greek history of Rome, then in Latin Aemilius Sura3 and Pompeius Trogus – in each of these first cases, indirectly, or in quoted fragments – then certainly in Dionysius of Halicarnassus and later Greek writers. Thus, the 4+1 scheme appears in Greek prose literature from as early as the second century BCE, around the time that the Book of Daniel was being redacted.

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The Future of Rome
Roman, Greek, Jewish and Christian Visions
, pp. 85 - 111
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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