Flavians end, Antonines begin, Christians die Domitian was succeeded by Marcus Cocceius Nerva who was quite elderly and feeble by the time he had been appointed Caesar (ruling only from 96 to 98). Nervaâ€™s reign then was brief with nothing much either to commend it or to condemn it. However, in the oddest move of succession, Nerva adopted Trajan as his son. Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus, who was then about 40, though well known in Rome, had been a total stranger to Nerva up until this hasty act was suggested by the leading Senate counselor. Trajan apparently prospered greatly by being in the right place at the right time, or so it would seem.
The Chaldean (or Babylonian) Empire first subdued Assyria, then Egypt; and beginning in BC 587 the Southern Kingdom of Israel (Judah). It also pushed eastward in forays up to the Indian sub-continent. This empire had its beginnings under its great king Nabopollasur, and continued to grow in strength under the Nebuchadnezzar’s. In time it fell while under the rule of Nabonidus, who had shared the throne with his son Belshazzar as co-regent. Nabonidus spent his time off in the far reaches fighting others and on various expeditions while Belshazzar ran things in his stead. This is why Belshazzar had offered Daniel to “be third ruler in the kingdom” (Da. 5:16). The empire is dated from BC 650 to 539.
The Chaldeans were overthrown by the Persians (Nabonidus never made it home) and the Persians were themselves absorbed by the Medians in less than a generation, ending in 539. That year marks the beginning of the Medo-Persian or simply the Persian Empire. The entire period of the rule of the Persians, the Medes and the combined empire spanned from approximately BC 550 through 323. Some of the notable rulers were Cyrus of Persia (mentioned in Isaiah 45:1 and elsewhere), and Ahasuerus or Xerxes (Esther 1:1 and elsewhere). Median emperors included Darius the Great (who is mentioned in Ezekiel 4:24). The Persians pushed into Europe, throughout the Mid East and also into the Indian sub continent, much as the Chaldeans.
These were followed in history by the Macedonian or Grecian Empire. Alexander the Great, who had assumed the throne of Macedon following his father Philip the Second’s death, defeated the Persians in 323. This empire dates from BC 323 to 146. It is said that Alexander wept when he ran out of people and places to conquer. He had seized most of the real estate that would later come under Roman rule.
These three empires or kingdoms are all mentioned by name in the book of Daniel (Babylon is mentioned throughout – the Medo-Persian in chapters 5:28, 6:8 and 15, and 9:1, – the Macedonian or Grecia in chapters 8:21, 10:20, and 11:2).
Chronologically, the next in line that followed Grecia was Rome, which should figure in any study of New Testament times, early Christianity, or for studies concerning the book of Revelation and the fulfillment of the prophesies there.
Rome — from republic to empire
The city of Rome had been founded 749 years prior to the birth of Jesus: accepting the year 1 AD (that is – 1 Anno Domini which corresponds to 749 Anno Urbis — “Year of the City”) as the year of his birth. This is what is recorded by all of the extant ancient sources that discuss this topic and timeline.
Rome was originally a republican system of city-states much as Greece had been prior to the Macedonian Empire. During this period (and particularly the 100 years preceding the forming of the empire) Rome began to systematically conquer their neighbors and the adjacent countries, notably those in whom they perceived any sort of threat. As they had perfected the armies use and were the masters of military machines of the day – the siege tower, and the catapult, they were able to subjugate all they encountered. By the time of the Antonine emperors, Rome ruled virtually all of Europe, to the north into Scandinavia, the Balkans, all of the Mid East, all of Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Persia, the bulk of the sub-continent of India, and the upper half of the African continent.
The Empire was consolidated in power beginning with the Triumvir (First Triumvirate) of Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Struggles for power ensued for several years during which Crassus and Pompey were eventually defeated and assassinated.
In BC 49 Caesar brought his legions across the Rubicon River and into Rome proper initiating a civil war to force his declaration as First Consul (his words upon crossing the Rubicon: “The die is cast”). This was a violation of both longstanding tradition and Roman law: that no citizen should come armed against Rome or its legions. That did not stop Caesar and he gained sole control by BC 48. Caesar had simply decided that he was destined to rule Rome as dictator and in light of his acquired power and fierceness no one was in any position to stop him.
Rome began down the path that would cause it to cease being a republic (which it had been for 520 years) and Julius was granted the title of Imperator in 45. He was also elected by the humbled senate as sole dictator for life, though his life was to come to an end as abruptly as he had come to power. He controlled Rome for less than five years and ruled as emperor for slightly less than a year before he was assassinated by a cabal of Roman Senators and other knife-wielding assassins the following year on the Ides of March (the 14th).
Rome continued down the path to ruin passing through despotic dictatorships, civil wars, and coups, but managed to survive as a world power in some form until the successive invasions of the Germanic tribes: the Thervingi or Visigoths (Western Goths) second but first full-scale invasion under Alaric in 409, the Vandals in 422, the Huns in 440, and finally the Heruli and Greuthungi, or Ostrogoths (the Eastern Goths). The “Dark Ages” are dated from the fall of Rome to the Ostrogoths in 476. By 488 the Ostrogoths had conquered most of northern Europe and all of Italia under Theodoric.