Seven heads, seven kings

Oecumenius ( Greek Commentaries on Revelation (Ancient Christian Texts) , 75) turns to more recent history to interpret the seven mountains-heads-kings of the beast of Revelation 17. The seven kings are not in order; rather they refer to the seven persecuting emperors of Rome: Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Severus, Decius, Valerian, and finally Diocletian. Five have fallen, and one is, namely Valerian. The one who will rule for a short time is Diocletian who “instigated his persecution in the final two years and then forfeited imperial power.”

The hero of the sequence is Constantine: John “identifies this ‘other’ as Diocletian after whom the government seated in Rome ceased and was transferred to the city named for pious Constantine when Constantine moved the seat of government there.” As Andrew of Caesarea says of Oecumenius’ interpretation, he takes the kings and the harlot as representations of “old Rome” that ended with Diocletian and became a new Rome with Constantine and Constantinople.

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