Saturday, January 28, 2023

A Byzantine Interpretation of the Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

Image of the Dream of Nebuchadnezzar, with an inscribed stone smashing the feet of the statue that says "Logos", which refers to the coming of Christ.
The Book of Daniel is an eschatological text (some believe it to be a 2nd century Hellenistic text) that contains the well-known dream of King Nebuchadnezzar with the statue of which each part is made of a different metal and symbolizes/prophesies five kingdoms or periods of rule.

The value of the metal gradually decreases from the first to the fifth Kingdom. The head of Gold (Babylon), body of Silver (Persians), thighs of Bronze (Hellenic civilization), which presumably means the legs of iron is Roman Civilization.

Regarding the fifth Kingdom, which are the feet of the statue and are made of a fragile mixture of iron and clay, opinions differ.

So let's focus on the Byzantines/Romans and specifically on Kosmas Indicopleustes (+ 550) who lived during the reign of Justinian, a time when the Roman Empire is still powerful and seems impossible to lose.

Kosmas is therefore not convinced that Rome is the decadent kingdom made of iron, and rightly so if one considers the conquests of Belisarius, Narses and Liberius. We are talking about an era where the entire reconstitution of the Roman Empire is visible, including its western part.

Kosmas therefore interprets the dream as follows: Babylon (Gold), Media (Silver), Persia (Bronze), Alexander the Great (Iron), and the Diadochi (Iron with Clay).

The Diadochi ("Successors") were the rival generals, families, and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death in 323 BC.

Kosmas' analysis makes sense because the time of the Diadochi was indeed a completely unstable time, and secondly it is also a hint that the reign of the Romans (Byzantine Empire/Romania) would continue to exist until the end of time.