Chapter III The First Four Trumpet Visions

In order to enter in this part on our comparison of the prophecy and the history to the best advantage, it will be peculiarly desirable that we should endeavor to place ourselves, as it were, in the situation of the Evangelist; to see the varied images of the successive visions, as far as possible, so as he saw them:— more particularly, I mean, as each locally affecting, and locally associated with, its assigned portion of the Roman world; that same Roman world which seems to have been extended in living though miniature landscape beneath and around him, with its triple divisions of territory marked therein, and their respective boundary lines, whether of river, sea, mountain, or desert. All this,— though the unassisted human eye could not comprehend it,— the prophetic eye might, as usual with the prophets, or indeed the natural eye, as with Christ in his temptation,[1] be strengthened to discern. And need I suggest what an advantage it must have afforded to St. John all through, towards the right understanding of the visions? Much of that to which a laborious train of reasoning has already thus far conducted us, would have been manifest to him, as I conceive, at a glance. And as in regard to what has preceded, so in regard to what is to follow also: above all in figurations such as we are now entering on; where distinctive symbolic details are comparatively scanty, and the most distinctive part of the symbol is its local origin, course, or destination. Hence the importance to those who have not had it given them to be eye witnesses, of calling the imagination in aid, in the manner I suggested. To facilitate this a Map has been appended; with the three great divisions, which we have seen reason to suppose alluded to, distinguished upon it by different colors: and, in regard to which several territorial divisions, it may be well to remind the reader that each one included its third of the Mediterranean or Roman sea,[2] as well as its third of the land; and each one also its own characteristic stream of the three great frontier rivers, the Rhine, Danube,[3] and Euphrates.— In order yet more to aid the imagination, I shall make the attempt, before entering on historical events and fulfillment, to describe the imagery of the successive visions, so as I conceive it to have passed over the landscape of the Roman world before the eye of the Evangelist:— always taking care that there shall be in this no unlicensed play of the fancy; and nothing inconsistent with that faithful adherence to the written descriptions which is due to every word of God’s Holy Book.— I have already hinted that it is one and the same Western world of the Empire to which I apply alike all the four first Trumpet visions;— its land territory, its maritime dependencies, its frontier rivers valleys and fountains, its sun and stars. This the unity of these four visions seems to me to require.

I. The Imagery of the Preliminary Altar-Court Action in the Apocalyptic Temple, and of the First Four Trumpet Visions Consequent.

Behold, then, the Angel-priest has come forth from offering the incense of his faithful ones in the inner temple: his censer still in hand; but emptied of the sacred embers of fire, with which that incense had been kindled by him before the Holy One. And see! He moves straight back again to the great altar in the altar-court, and takes again of the same burning embers, and fills the same censer with them;— only now not to bless, but to devote to destruction. For, having filled it, he scatters the fiery ashes from the temple height, that they may fall on the despises of his proffered mediation and atonement in the world below;— the world professing but apostate. Not an instant passes without signs of recognition in heaven and on earth, alike by the animate and the inanimate creation, of this devoting of the land to a curse. Forthwith from the cloud of glory there issue thunderings and lightnings. And see! They are responded to by the bursting of tempests (the four angel forms seen darkly careering therein) over the central provinces of Illyricum, Greece, and Epirus; the first that selfsame district which they had already sometime before appeared to overhang, murky and threatening. The Roman earth quakes simultaneously through its vast extent; and he faces of men gather blackness: some from present suffering; all from forebodings of greater evil to come.

But look to the temple again. See! The trumpet angels are preparing themselves to sound; and therewith the more definite evolution of the divine judgments to be defined, and to proceed. Which is the first grand destined scene of suffering?

1st Trumpet.[4]— The first Angel sounds his trumpet and lo the same tremendous tempest as before, black with other clouds from the cold hail generating countries beyond the Danube,[5] and charged with lightning and hail, appears driving westward. “The third of the land,’’ or continental provinces of the Western division of the Roman empire, is declared the fated scene of ravage. The Asiatic continent and maritime province of Africa are to remain unharmed by the storm: and the European provinces too, of the Eastern Empire mostly to escape. The skirts of the storm discharge themselves, as it passes forward, on the Rhaetian hill country. Then quickly its course is towards Italy. As it sweeps across the Italian frontier, other terrific thunder clouds from the distant north-west quarter of the heaven succeed, and intermingle with the first. Once and again the almost united tempests spread in desolating fury over Italy, beyond the Alps and Apennines. Then dividing, a part, impelled yet further south, bursts with terrific lightnings directly over the seven hilled imperial city, and passes thence to the southernmost coast of Bruttium beyond. A part, driven backward, takes a westerly course over the Rhine into Gaul, and far and wide devastates it; then, crossing over the Pyrenasan chain, pours its fury on the Spanish provinces: nor spends itself till it has reached the far shores, west and south, of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.— Thus has the entire continental division of the western empire been involved in its ravages. Throughout the whole the lightning fire runs along the ground, even as in the plague of ancient Egypt; burning in wide spread conflagration country and town, trees and pasture. And there are signs too, not to be mistaken, of the destruction of life, as well as of vegetation: for blood appears mixed with the fire and hail. Slowly at length the storm subsides; destroying, however, even in its retreat. The desolation that it leaves is frightful. The land was as the garden of Eden before it, what remains, is a wasted wilderness.

2nd Trumpet.[6]— A pause ensues. Then presently there is heard another trumpet-blast of judgment.— Now is the visitation of the Western third of the Mediterranean sea, and the islands and transmarine province included in it;[7] a part hitherto unscathed and safe. Behold yon giant mountain-rock, blazing with volcanic fires, that up heaved from the southernmost point of Spain near the Straits of Gades, and cast into the sea, looks like Etna in its raging! Mark how the waters of the midland sea are agitated by it The lava pours down the mountain sides. The igneous stone and ash of the volcano are scattered for hundreds of miles all round, on sea and mainland, coasts and islands[8] first on the coast of Africa, then on that of the opposite continent, from the Atlantic Straits, all along up to the head of the Adriatic. Ships appear set on fire by them, at sea and in the harbors, and light the water with their conflagrations. Blood marks the loss of life accompanying; just as in the former vision. Over the whole maritime scene of its devastation whatever is habitable appears desolated; whatever had life, destroyed. “The third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of living creatures[9] in the sea [Ie. those that were in the third part of the sea] died; and the third part of ships was destroyed.”

3rd Trumpet.[10]— The volcano has not yet fully spent itself, when another of the angels sounds his trumpet. And what the new scene of judgment? “The (Western) third of the rivers,” it is said, “and the fountains of waters.”— It begins where yon mighty river to the North forms the ancient limit between barbarian Germany, and the lllyrian or middle Praefecture of the Roman empire. Mark the portentous meteor that glares over it; like a blazing torch trailing its long red line of light[11] behind it in the Northern sky! And see! where the Teiss, pouring itself into the Danube, marks the central point of the base of the great lllyrian Praefecture; there suddenly it descends, and blazes, and taints with its sulphureous exhalations the downward course of that ancient river.— But it was the same Western third of the Empire, as before, that was in this case also to taste specially of the bitterness of the woe. And mark how, in fulfillment of its mission, the meteor, rising again, tracks the course of the upper Danube, and then reaches and moves along the Rhenish frontier-river of the Western Empire; blazing over and poisoning its waters, down even to the Belgic lowlands. Thence again unquenchable it rises; shoots in rapid course westward; is repelled, as if by some counter force, and as from a region on which it behooved not that it should permanently shed its malignant influences; then in southerly direction falls on the fountains of the European waters, there where the Alpine snows are dissolving from their eternal glaciers.— Wheresoever it has fallen, the rivers and their tributaries have been poisoned by it; and the dead and dying, of those that drink them, appear lying on the banks. “For the name of that star is Wormwood;[12] and many died of the waters because they were made bitter.”— Having thus done its part, it shoots back towards the Danube; there blazes for a moment longer, and is extinct.

4th Trumpet.[13]— The vision has past; the fourth angel sounds. Hitherto, though its land, its sea, and its frontier river and fountains of waters have been desolated, yet the sun has still continued shining on the Western empire, as before. But now at length this too is affected. To the extent of a third part of its orb, it suffers eclipse. The shadow falls over the Western empire. Then the night supervenes.— And see the eclipsing influence act on the luminaries of the night also. Presently the Western third of the moon becomes eclipsed; and of the stars scattered over the symbolic firmament, all that are in the third of the Roman sky, are darkened also.

So closes this fourth vision. And then another angel, diverse from the seven trumpet angels, breaks upon the continuity of their succession. By his solemn and loud cry in mid-heaven of, “Woe, Woe, Woe, to the inhabitants of the earth, from the voices of the trumpet angels that have yet to sound,” he occupies the seer’s attention for a while, with a warning voice of judgments yet to come; and seems to intimate also a certain break, and perhaps change of character, between the judgments gone before, and those that were to follow.

Such, I conceive, may have been the manner in which the phenomena of the successive visions passed before the Evangelist: for I have stated nothing but what is consistent with, and (if we suppose the same to have been geographically represented before him) in no little measure implied in, the brief descriptions of the visions in the text. And what, let me ask, would be the natural, the almost necessary interpretation he would attach to them? Surely, considering the character of the symbolic figures, both in themselves, and as illustrated by their use in other prophetic Scriptures,[14] he would construe them as prefiguring the ravages of some terrible invaders from Northern Germany:— invaders who would desolate first the European continental provinces of the Western Empire, then its maritime provinces, islands, and fleets in the Mediterranean[15]— a fresh and dreadful scourge being super added, commencing on the Illyrian Praefecture; but soon to ravage the Western provinces watered by the Rhine also, and the Alpine regions, the local source of the European waters:[16]— followed, finally, by the extinction of the imperial dynasty of the West, and soon after of its subordinate rulers also.[17]— Such, I conceive, must have been his interpretation. It remains to see how the figurations were fulfilled in the progress of the Gothic, Vandal, Hunn, and Ostrogoth desolations. This was to be my second head.

II. The Historical Fulfillment.

In demonstrating this, need I detail at any length the history of the five great destroyers of the Western empire?— I mean of Alaric and Rhadagaisus, in the first instance; then of Genseric, Attila, Odoacer; the two earliest associated nearly as one, in the time and scene of their devastation under the first Trumpet?— The tale has been often repeated by expositors, as well as historians. So, after briefly noticing in Alaric’s opening career and acts, in the character just assigned him, what will be found well to answer to the introductory earthquake thundering and lightnings[18] that followed instantly on the casting of the altar-fire in vision on the Roman World,— I shall proceed to show, as succinctly as may be, in the further history of those barbarian invaders of the empire, the fulfillment, severally and separately, of each of the four Trumpet visions.

As to the introductory thunderings, lightnings, and earthquake, it will be remembered that the seventh Seal opening just before them answered in my view to the epoch of the death of Theodosius, Jan. 17, AD. 395. And, as thereupon the figured silence in the Apocalyptic firmament heaven, or stillness from the long threatened tempests, continued but for one half hour duration, and then the seven war trumpets against the Roman earth were given to the seven angels, and the altar fire cast upon it, with the lightnings, thunderings and earthquake in response, so “before the winter had ended,” says Gibbon, “the Gothic nation was in arms.”[19] The interval in fact was one rather of days than weeks. For it needed but the circulation of the news of his death to rouse the Goths to revolt, among the farms already sometime occupied by them according to treaty, in the Illyrian and Maesian Provinces: and, having strengthened themselves by fresh hosts of their countrymen from the forests on the other side of the Danube[20] forthwith they threatened war against the Roman empire.— Not however before there had been enacted in the empire, alike what might answer to the saints incense offering figured in the Apocalyptic temple, and to the implied Christ renouncing counter-worship of the men of the earth. For then was precisely the era to which our ecclesiastical sketch of the preceding chapter relates, the era of 395-396: when Augustine, just about entering on the Episcopate, was in doctrine and life setting forth Jesus as the propitiation and mediator, as well as life and light, of sinful men; and Vigilantius also (not to speak of other faithful ones) was preparing for his protestant stand against the saint-worship and other superstitions of the growing apostasy;— while Sulpitius, Paulinus, Jerome, Gregory Nyssen, Martin of Tours, and other such, were all approving and promoting those superstitions of the mass of the people in Roman Christendom, to the neglect and forsaking of Jesus.

It was in 395, as I said, after the pious Theodosius, just like King Josiah, had been taken away from the coming evil, that the empire was shaken, as by an earthquake, with this Gothic revolt. Then, in 396, the thunderings and lightnings of the Gothic war burst on the central and hitherto unraveled provinces of Thessaly, Greece, Epirus, and the Peloponnese, under the direction of Alaric:— A lightning storm this introductory to, as well as characteristic of, all that followed. The land trembled before the invading Goths in terror. “The deep and bloody traces of their march could be easily discovered,” we are told, “by travelers many years after wards.”[21]— It is observable that there had been portents of nature, both earthquakes, and eclipses, and a strange long continued darkness, just before Theodosius’ death,— portents renewed in the selfsame year 396 of the invasion of Greece now spoken of,— such as to cause general forebodings of evil being at hand. So alike Ambrose from Milan, and Jerome from Bethlehem, tell us;[22] and the chronicles of the time confirm their statements.[23] It was like nature’s own alarm,with man’s voices of alarm answering in response; as well as the furnishing in the natural world of the very portents that were here used symbolically, to prefigure the events and the epoch, in the Apocalyptic vision.

Then in history, as in prophecy, came a brief pause. The Trumpets of doom were to be sounded specially, not against the already detached Illyrian Praefecture, including Macedonia and Greece, but against the Western Empire, against Italy, and Rome. It was a pause in which Alaric had to prepare himself for the mighty task. “The trumpet angels prepared themselves to sound.” And see the wonderful manner in which this was facilitated. By the infatuation of the Eastern emperor Arcadius, Alaric was made Master General, after returning from the Greek invasion, of the Eastern Illyricum;[24] and so furnished with arms for their destruction from the Romans’ own armories. Four years he occupied himself in preparation for his great enterprise. Seated in authority in the center of that vast Praefecture, which since the days of Valens had been very much occupied by the Goths and other barbaric tribes, he there, “on the verge as it were of the two empires,”[25] had but to meditate, like an eagle of prey, on which of the separated halves he should fall of the devoted carcass; then to seize, and to devour. The Gothic chieftains at this point of time elevated him on a shield, and solemnly proclaimed him King of the Visigoths.[26] On their part, as well as otherwise, his preparation was complete.

1. Then at length the first Trumpet sounded. The object of doom marked out by it was Italy and Rome. Accordingly, as Alaric told an Italian hermit afterwards,[27] “he felt a secret and praeternatural impulse, which directed, and even compelled, his march to the gates of Rome.”— As his trumpet sounded and his march advanced, terrible omens and prognostication preceded him.[28] “The Christians however,” says Gibbon,[29] “still derived some comfort from the powerful intercession of the saints and martyrs.” So does he note again the very cause that had been hinted in the Apocalypse of the coming judgments. Thrice, in fulfillment of his destiny, Alaric descended from the Alps on the Italian plains marking his course each step, as the awe struck historians of the times tell us, in country and in town, with ravage, conflagration, and blood; till the gates of Rome itself were opened to the conqueror, and the Gothic fires blazed around the Capitol.[30]

In the mean time other destroyers, of a kindred race and origin, had extended their ravages to the transference provinces. Between Alaric’s first and second invasions of Italy, Rhadagaisus, from the far north of Germany, with a host of Vandals, Suevi, and Burgundians, burst, like a dark thunder cloud from the Baltic, as Gibbon graphically describes it[31] on the Rhaetian and Italian valleys. With slaughter, though with difficulty, they were repulsed by the Roman general from near Florence. But it was only to bend the course of the vast remnant westward; and overwhelm the provinces, till then flourishing and fertile, of Gaul and Spain. Blood and conflagration here marked each step of their track; just as that of Alaric in Greece and Italy. The burning of trees and herbage, as well as of cities, is pathetically particularized by the chronicles of the times. “The consuming flames of war,” says Gibbon,[32] “spread from the banks of the Rhine over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul… The scene of peace and plenty was suddenly changed into a desert; and the prospect of the smoking ruins could alone distinguish the solitude of nature from the desolation of man.” A similar description is given of the desolation of Spain.[33]— And the desolators entered never to retire. “This passage” of the Rhine, he adds, “by the Suevi, Vandals, Alani, and Burgundians, who never afterwards retreated, may be considered as the fall of the Roman Empire in the countries beyond the Alps. The barriers which had so long separated the savage and the civilized nations of the earth, were, from that fatal moment, leveled with the ground.”[34]

The era of Alaric and Rhadagaisus,— that is, of the first Trumpet,— is to be considered as chiefly embracing some ten or twelve years, from AD. 400 to about 410; though, as the ravages of the provinces were not then discontinued, we may perhaps consider the vision before us to embrace a period somewhat longer. In that latter year the Vandals had extended their conquests to the Straits of Gades:[35] and Alaric, who had accomplished his destiny, and reached in his desolating course the southernmost coast of Italy,— while meditating still further conquests in the islands and transmarine provinces,[36] which were intended however for another hand and another Trumpet,— was arrested suddenly by the hand of death. His royal sepulcher, we are told, adorned with the spoils and trophies of Rome, was built in the midst of the bed of the river Consentia in Bruttium; and the secret for ever concealed by the massacre of the prisoners employed in constructing it:— the last Italian blood that mingled with the fire and the hail, under the judgments of the first Trumpet.

2. To the Vandal Genseric was allotted, under the second Trumpet, the conquest of the maritime provinces of Africa, and the islands: all in short that belonged to the Western empire in the Mediterranean; and which Alaric (as just alluded to) was prevented attempting by death. It belonged, I say, to Genseric; “a name,” observes Gibbon, “which, in the destruction of the Roman Empire, has deserved an equal rank with the names of Alaric and Attila.”[37] It was in the year 429 that he entered on it. In the course of the 18 years preceding, no new invasion had broken on the Western empire. The desolation of Gaul and Spain, and other districts, was indeed, as observed just before, not discontinued: but it was rather by the wars of Goths against Goths, than of Goths against Romans. Italy, meanwhile, having been evacuated soon after Alaric’s death by the Goths under Astolphus, had partially recovered from its ravages: and Africa, the granary of Rome and Italy, had continued to flourish intact, as before. But now its time was come. Invited by Count Boniface, governor of the province, under the influence of temporary infatuation, Genseric, in the year above mentioned, transported thither his Vandals from under the high Gibraltar rock across the Africa sea: all prepared, like some burning volcanic mountain, upheaved and transported across the straits, for the work of destruction.[38]— Then, as under the former Trumpet, fire did indeed mingle with blood in the desolation of the unhappy province of Africa.[39]— In the second year of the invasion, AD. 430, the siege of Hippo was formed: and while it was advancing, (how can I omit noticing the event?) Augustine, its sainted Bishop, was gently released by death, and joined to the white robed company before the throne. This was on the 28th of August, AD. 430.[40] Then was Hippo taken, and burnt; and then in 439 Carthage. With the capture of which city resistance ended. The whole province was subjected to the Vandals, and finally severed from the western empire.— Thus a part of the prefigurations of the second Trumpet had been fulfilled.— But its ships, and the insular provinces of Sicily and Sardinia, still remained to the Western empire: of the destruction of which the prophecy seemed to speak also. For it said, “The third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of ships was destroyed.” Was this also fulfilled by Genseric? Mark what followed after the capture of Carthage. Finding himself shut in to the south by the desert, Genseric, we are told, cast his eyes to the sea, and determined to create a naval power. And then “the fleets (the Vandal fleets) that issued from the port of Carthage again claimed the empire of the Mediterranean.” Sicily was conquered by them, and Sardinia, and the other western isles;[41] all that was in the third part of the sea:— a division of it comprehending both that vast basin of the western Mediterranean included between the Straits of Gibraltar and Sicily, and the part which, expanding beyond, sweeps round the south east of Italy to form the deep gulf of the Adriatic;— the sea-third answering to the land-third of the western empire.— The coasts, moreover, of Spain, Gaul, and Italy, the latter as far up as the head of the Adriatic, were mercilessly ravaged by Genseric. when asked by his pilot what course to steer, “Leave the determination to the winds,” was his reply: “they will transport us to the guilty coast, whose inhabitants have provoked the divine justice.”[42] Twice, on occasions alike memorable, the Roman navies of the Western empire AD. 457, and of the Eastern, 468, were sent, after vast preparations, to destroy the Vandal power. But suddenly and most disastrously, in the harbors of Carthagena and Bona, when the eyes of the Romans were fixed on them with hopes raised to the highest, they were utterly destroyed;— in the latter case by fire-ships driven among them in the obscurity of night.[43] So that the remainder of the prediction was fulfilled also. The fire of the Vandal volcano might not exhaust itself, until not only what was habitable in the Western sea was destroyed, but “the third part of the ships” also;— those that constituted the Roman navy in the sea-third of the Western empire.

3. In the mean time, and long ere the extinction of the volcano, and death of the tyrant of the sea, Genseric (which was not indeed till the year 477), yet another plague was commissioned against the devoted empire; I mean “the scourge of God,” the king of the Huns, Attila. Alone of conquerors, ancient or modern, he united at this time under his sway the two mighty kingdoms of Germany and Scythia. For the Huns had advanced their course and their conquests, since the time when the Goths fled before them some 70 years earlier, in the days of Valens, to the furthest limits, West and North, of Germany. The kings of the Ostrogoth and Gepidae were among Attila’s subject princes; and a crowd of vulgar kings watched his nod. Superstitious awe concerning him added to his power. He was deemed something greater than human.

“The barbaric princes could not presume to gaze with steady eye on [what they deemed] his divine majesty.”[44] How much less his enemies! He was in their eyes like the baleful meteor that even then blazed in the heavens, boding ruin and war.[45] For the first eight years from his accession (which was in AD. 433) he had been occupied with other wars in Germany, Persia, Scythia. Then, descending on the Danube, he fixed the royal village near where it takes its great bend to the southward, not far from the modern Buda:[46] crossed it to attack the Eastern empire; and, after ravaging the provinces of Thrace and Maesia, and tracing the river course downwards in blood as far as the Euxine, retired not until the Eastern emperor (AD. 446) had purchased peace by surrendering to him a slip of territory south of the Danube, from Belgrade to Novae. “The Huns’’ says Gibbon,[47] “were acknowledged masters (of this part of the lower half) of the great river.”— But it is specially the river frontier of the same Western third of the empire to which the other Trumpets refer, that I suppose to be chiefly intended in the present. Accordingly, about AD. 450, in fulfillment of a treaty with Genseric, he moved against the Western provinces along the Danube: reached and crossed the Rhine at Basle; and thence, tracing the same great frontier stream of the West down to Belgium, made its valley one scene of desolation and woe; burning the cities, (of which Strasburg, Spires, Worms, Mentz, Andernach, Treves, Tongres, and Maestricht, are specially particularized), massacring the inhabitants, and laying the country waste:— until, at length, having left that valley, which had been marked out as one destined scene of his ravaging, and advanced farther into the interior, his course was arrested, and he was repulsed in the tremendous battle of Chalons.— And whither then, when thus forced to retrace his steps, did he direct them? Whither but to fall on another destined scene of ravage, “the European fountains of waters,” in the Alpine heights and Alpine valleys of Italy. Then Aquileia, Padua, Verona, Mantua, Milan, Pavia, and Turin, felt his vengeance.

“From the Alps to the Apennines,” says Sigonius, “all was flight, depopulation, slaughter, slavery, burning, and despair.” Many fled to the low and marshy islands at the mouth of the Adige, Po, and Brenta, as their only safe refuge. And he who has seen the fair Venice, may do well to remember that he has seen in it a memorial of the terrors and ravages of that scourge of God, the Hun Attila[48]— But what further of his course of devastation? Surely, with all Italy defenseless before him, one might have expected that, like his predecessor Alaric, he would have continued it on to Rome and the far coast of Bruttium. Instead of this, behold, an embassy from the Western emperor Valentinian, accompanied by the venerable Romish bishop Leo the First, was successful at this point in deprecating his wrath: and, having granted them peace, he passed the Alps, and retired; leaving bands only of Heruli and Ostrogoths in the Tyrolese country intermediate.— Wherefore a result, humanly speaking, so unlikely? The prediction had expressly marked the term of Attila’s desolating progress;—“the third of the rivers, and the fountains of waters.” Already Attila had made bitter, besides the surplus age of more Eastern scenes,[49] the river line of the upper Danube and Rhine, and the Alpine fountains of waters. Many had died, and still continued to die, that drank of the waters, through famine, disease, and pestilence. This being done, his course was to end. “Thus far thou shalt go, and no further.” Returned from Italy, he recrossed the Danube; reached the royal village between it and the Teiss; and there, the very next year, was suddenly cut off by apoplexy. This occurred AD. 453. So the meteor was extinct; the empire and power of the Huns broken. The woe of the third Trumpet had past away.

4. Thus was the final catastrophe preparing, by which the Western emperors and empire were to become extinct. The glory of Rome had long departed; its provinces one after another been rent from it; the territory still attached to it become like a desert; and its maritime possessions, and its fleets and commerce, been annihilated. Little remained to it but the vain titles and insignia of sovereignty. And now the time was come when these were also to be withdrawn. Some twenty years or more from the death of Attila, and much less from that of Genseric, (who, ere his death, had indeed visited and ravaged the eternal city, in one of his maritime marauding expeditions, and thus yet more prepared things for the coming consummation), about this time, I say, Odoacer, chief of the Heruli,— a barbarian remnant of the host of Attila, left on the Alpine frontiers of Italy,— interposed with his command that the name and the office of Roman Emperor of the West should be abolished. The authorities bowed in submission to him. The last phantom of an emperor,— one whose name, Romulus Augustulus, was singularly calculated to bring in contrast before the reflective mind the past glories of Rome and its present degradation,— abdicated: and the Senate sent away the imperial insignia to Constantinople; professing to the Emperor of the East that one Emperor was sufficient for the whole of the empire.— Thus of the Roman imperial sun[50] that third which appertained to the Western empire was eclipsed, and shone no more. I say that third of its orb which appertained to the western empire: for the Apocalyptic fraction is literally accurate. In the last arrangement between the two courts, the whole of the Illyrian third had been made over to the Eastern division.[51]

So in the West “the extinction of the empire” had taken place;[52] the night had fallen.— Notwithstanding this, however, it must be borne in mind that the authority of the Roman name had not yet entirely ceased. The Senate of Rome continued to assemble, as usual.[53] The Consuls were appointed yearly, one by the Eastern Emperor, one by Italy and Rome. Besides that Odoacer himself governed Italy under a title (that of Patrician) conferred on him by the Eastern Emperor.[54] And as regarded even the more distant Western provinces, the tie which had united them to the Roman Empire was not yet altogether severed. There was still a certain, though often faint, recognition of the supreme imperial authority.[55] The moon and the stars might seem still to shine on the West, with a dim reflected light. In the course of the events, however, which rapidly followed one on the other in the next half century, were also extinguished. Theodoric the Ostrogoth, on destroying the Heruli and their kingdom at Rome and Ravenna, ruled in Italy AD. 493-526, as an independent sovereign[56]— and, on Belasarius’ and Narses’ conquest of Italy from the Ostrogoths (a conquest preceded by wars and desolation in which Italy, and above all its seven hilled city, were for a time almost made desert),[57] the consulship was abrogated, the Roman senate dissolved.[58] Moreover, as regards the barbaric princes of the western provinces, their independence of the Roman imperial power became now more distinctly averred and understood.[59] After above a century and half of calamities unexampled almost, as Dr. Robertson most truly represents it,[60] in the history of nations, the statement of Jerome,— a statement couched under the very Apocalyptic figure of the text, but prematurely pronounced on the first taking of Rome by Alaric,— might be considered as at length accomplished,[61] “The world’s glorious sun has been extinguished;” and that too which our own Poet has expressed, still under the same beautifully appropriate Apocalyptic imagery, She saw her glories star by star expire:[62] till not even a single star remained, to glimmer on the vacant and dark night.

So ended the history of the Gothic period. So did every point figured in the first four Trumpet visions appear fulfilled in it.[63] And with it ends this division of our subject.— For a while the prophetic scene shifts: and we shall be called presently to look Eastward, to see the judgments of God there fulfilled. On returning West again afterwards, it will be to contemplate the Roman empire revived in its old capital under a new aspect, and as it were a new head. And then a history and a fate will be found attaching to it, according to the sure word of prophecy (in part fulfilled, in part still unfulfilled), the one more remarkable, the other more awful, than even that which we have just been tracing in the history of the fall of the Imperial Goth subverted Rome.

[1]Matt. iv. 8; ” The Devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world,” &c. See p. 99 supra.

[2]The Mediterranean was often spoken of by the Romans as their sea, “mare nostrum.” Hence, when the word sea was used by itself, this would be the meaning attached to the word by them.

[3]The higher third of the Danube indeed belonged to the Western division; but its whole lower stream to the Illyrian.

[4]Και ό πρωτος [αγγελος ] εσαλπισε και εγενετο χαλαζα και πυρ μεμιγμενα εν άιματι και εβληθη εις την γην και το τριτον της γης κατεκαη και το τριτον των δενδρων κατεκαη και πας χορτος χλωρος κατεκαη. Tregelles text, as before.

[5]On the cold of ancient Germany, sec Gibbon i. 316.

[6]Και ό δευτερος αγγελος εσαλπισέ και ώς ορος μεγα πυρι καιομενον εβληθν εις την οαλασσαν και εγενετο το τριτον της θαλασσης αιμα και απεθανε το τριτον των κιτσματων των εν τγ θαλασσγ τα εχοντα ψυχας και το τριτον των πλοιων διεφθαοησαν.

[7]The sea was a word used by the Romans to include the islands and maritime coasts. So Facciolati; ” Mare interdum est regio maritima et insiiLe maris; ” quoting Xopos in Con. 4; ” Ad mare missus est, ut Cypriis et Phaaiicibus naves longas impcraret; ” and Tacitus Hist. i. 2; “Plenum exsiliis mare.”—So in Scripture “the sea” is used for “the strength of the sea,” i. e. Tyre, Isaiah xxiii. 4.

[8]This is no exaggeration of the extent of volcanic action, seen in nature. Dion Cassius (Ixvi. 23) relates that in the eruption of Vesuvius, in which Pliny lost his life, the ashes reached Africa, Syria, and Egypt, and filled the air above Home. — Citssiodorus, describing an eruption of the same volcanic mountain in the time of Theodoric, says; “Per totam pene Italiam cognoscitur (uand ilia indignatio commovctur. Volat per mare magnum einis decoctus; et, terrenis nubibus excitatis, transmariniis quoque provincias pulvereis guttis compluit.” B. P. M. xi. 1157. In more modern times, during one eruption of Etna, an area of 150 miles in circumference is said to have been covered with a stratum of volcanic sand and ashes twelve feet deep. In the year 1783 a cunent of lava sixty miles long, and twelve broad, was formed by a volcano in Iceland. And in 1815, as Mr. Bakewell states, in the eruption of the volcano of Sumbawa the clouds of smoke and ashes darkened the sky for 300 miles round; and the sound of the explosions was heard in Sumatra, 970 miles distant. See Memoire sur les iles Ponces; and Bakewell’s Introduction to Geology, pp. 342, 343.

[9]κτισμα. Compare 1 Tim. iv. 4; παν κτισμα καλον and James i. 18;ώς απαρχη των αύτο κτισματων . Also, Apoc. v. 13;παν κτισμα ό εστιν εν τψ ουρανψ και εν τη γη και επι της θαλασσης ά αστι ηκουσα λεγοντας &c. In St. James and the Apoc. the word is evidently used of intelligent creatures. Mark in the latter the word λεγοντας in the masculine agreeing with παν κτισμα

[10]Και ό τριτος αγγελος εσαλπισέ και επεσεν εκ του ουρανου αστηρ μεγας και ομενος ώς λαυπας και επεσεν επι το τριτον των ποταμων και επι τας πηγας ύδατν και το ονομα του αστερος λεγεται ό Αψινθος και εγενετο το τριτον των ύδατων εις αψινθον και πολλοι των ανθρωπων απεθανον εκ των ύδατων ότι επικρανωησαν.— It is to be observed that the limiting epithet, a third part, applies to the rivers only, not to the fountains of waters.

[11]“A great star blazing like a torch.” This designates a meteor, as distinguished from one of the starry luminaries. So Virgil, ^n. ii. 694. de coelo lapsa per umbras Stella facem ducens multa cum luce cucurrit.

[12]Compare Jer. xxiii. 15; “I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall; ” i. c. in the afflictions of the Babylonish captivity. Also Lam. iii. 15, 19.—The metaphor is not uncommon. In Antar, the Arabic Romance, we find it applied, as here, to death. ” Death served them with a cup of absinth by my sword.” Hamilton’s Transl. iii. 129.

[13]Και ό τετυρτος αγγελος εσαλπισε και επληγη το τριτρν του ήλιου και το τριτον της σεληνης και το τριτον των αστερων ιρα σκοτισθμ το τριτον αυτων και ή ήμερα μη θανγ το αύτης και ή νυξ όμοιως.

[14]1st, the tempest.—So Is. xxviii. 2; “The Lord hath a mighty and strong one” which, as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.” This was said of Shalmanezer and the Assyrian invasion.—And again of Gog, Ezek. xxxviii. 9; ” Thou shalt ascend, and come like a storm: thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land: thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.”

[15]The volcano or burning mountain.—So Jeremiah li. 25; ” Behold I am against thee, destroying mountain, saith the Lord, which destroys all the earth. And I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.”—This was said of Babylon. It is compared, says Dr. A. Clarke, ” to a burning mountain; which, by vomiting continual streams of burning lava, inundates and destroys all towns, villages, fields, &c. in its vicinity. . . So had the Babylonish government set the nations on fire, deluging and destroying them by its troops: till at last exhausted, &c., it is extinguished; “—becomes an extinct volcano.

[16]The meteor., or star blazing as a lamp or torch.—With this we may compare what is said of the invading kings of Syria and Israel in Is. vii. 4; ” Fear not, neither be faint hearted, for the two tails of these smoking fire-brands; for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.”

[17]The eclipsed heavenly luminaries. See my p. 247 supra.

[18](Rev. 7:5)

[19]Gibb. V. 176.


[21]Gibb. V. 180.

[22]“Hoc nobis motus terrarum graves, hoc juges pluviae minabantur, et ultra solitum caligo tenebrosior denuntiabat quod clementissimus Iraperator Theodosius excessurus esset e terris. Ipsa igitur excessum ejus elementa maerebant.” So Ambrose, De Obit. Theodos. ad init. Jerome’s notice on the subject was when Vigilantius was with him, in 396. There was then an eclipse as well as earthquake: and Jerome says, ” Obscurato sole omnis mundus jam jamque venturum judicem formidaret.” Gilly’s Vigilantius, 304, 305.

[23]The Benedictine Editor of Ambrose notes on the former extract; ” Marcellinus in Chronico sue auctor est profligate Eugenio terram continuis motibus, a menseSeptembri ad Xovembrem usque, in quibusdam Europae regionibus quassatam fuisse, anno (AD 394) qui Theodosii mortem antcccssit.” Marcellinus also, I observe, notes in his Chronicle the earthquake and portents of 396; ” Terrne motus per dies pluriraos fuit, ca-lumque ardere visum est: ” i. e. in the year next after Theodosius’ death. See the B. P. M. ix. 619.

[24]So Claudian, Eutrop. ii. 213; Vastator Achivne Gentis, et Epirum nuper populatus inultam, Praesidct lllyrico.

[25]Gibbon v. 189.


[27]lb. 254.

[28]On this subject, says Gibbon, (ib. 192,) ” Claudian may seem prolix: but fear and superstition occupied as large a space in the minds of the Italians.” It is as a characteristic of the times that I too, here and elsewhere, notice the omens.

[29]Gibbon v. 193.

[30]“At their entrance through the Salarian gate, they fired the adjacent houses to guide their march, and to distract the attention of the citizens. The flames, which encountered no obstacle in the disorder of the night, consumed many private and public buildings: and the ruins of the palace of Sallust remained in the age of Justinian a stately monument of the Gothic conflagration.” Gibbon v. 317.

[31]Ib. 214.—The chronological intermingling of the invasions of Italy by Alaric and Ehadagaisus will appear from the following tabular sketch. AD. 396 Alaric’s invasion of Greece. 400—403 His first invasion of Italy. (Gibbon v. 190.) 406 Ehadagaisus with 200,000 Vandals, &c., from the Baltic, marching by way of the upper Danube, invades Italy.—On his being defeated and killed under the walls of Florence, the remains of his army retire from Italy, and cross the Rhine into France. 408 Alaric’s first siege of Rome. 409 Second siege. 410 Third siege and capture.—In the same year followed Alaric’s death.

[32]lb. 22.5.

[33]lb. 352.

[34]lb. V. 224.—Daubnz (p. 368) notices Claudian’s comparison ‘of Alaric and his Goths to a hail-atorm, (De Bel. Get. v. 173,) as in the Apocalypse: Grandhiis aut morbi [nimbi ] ritu, per devia rerum Pritcipites, per clausa ruunt. Schlepjel too (Philos. of Hist. ii. 54) uses the same Apocalyptic figure. To defend themselves from this people, [viz. the Goths,] the sons of Thcodosius knew no other expedient than to let loose on Italy these barbarians, and to divert and point the storm of invasion towards that quarter.

[35]Gibbon v. 352.

[36]lb. 329.

[37]Gibbon vi. 13.

[38]In a former Edition I referred to the volcanoes of Auvergne, which in their extinct state have become so celebrated among modern geologists, as having been in a state of active eruption during the time of this 2nd Trumpet, AD 458—460; the three Rogation Days, immediately before Ascension Day, and which still remain in our church ritual, having been instituted by Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne, on the occasion, with the view of deprecating God’s wrath.—The account I took from a letter of the contemporary writer Sidonius Apollinaris, and a Rogation Homily of Alcimus Avitus, the next Bishop of Vienne, still extant. See the B. P. M. vi. 1108, ix. 591. In Dr. Pye Smith’s Geology, however. Note k p. 407, it is observed that this story has been shown by Sir- C. Lyall to be altogether untrue; the eruption of the volcanoes in question having occurred untold ages ago; and Sidonius’ report being only a proof of his credulity.

[39]So Muller, Univ. History, ii. 110; (Hess’ transl. Paris, 1814;) ” Genseric wasted it all with fire and the sword.” And Gibbon vi. 181; Genseric determined to “reduce Mauritania to a desert. He burnt the villages, and poisoned the springs.”

[40]See p 306 supra.

[41]Victor Vitensis expressly says ‘that Genseric had Sicif, Sardinia, Corsica, Mnjorcn, Minorca; B. P. M. viii. 676. See too Gibbon, vi. 146 and 205, and Sisinondi, liomau History, i. 172, to much the same effect.

[42]Gibbon vi. 187

[43]Gibbon, vi. pp. 181, 203;

[44]lb. 44—46

[45]“Stella quae crinita dicitur per plurimum tempus ardens apparuit. Bleda et Attila fratres, multarumque gentium reges, lllyricum Thraciamque depopulant.” So Marcellinus’ Chronicon, on AD 444, and the first mention of Attila. B. P. M. ix. 523. Idatius (a learned Spanish bishop contemporary with Attila) in his Chronicle adds a notice of other meteoric portents; especially in fiery northern lights, like fiaahhiff spenrs, in the year of Attila’s invading Gaul: “signi osteusio quae mox ingeuti exitu perdocctur.” B. P. M. vii. 1235.

[46]The village of Attilii is still visited by visitors from Buda. Sec Travels in Austria, &c., by Rev. C. 15. Elliott, Vol. i. p. 61. “About four miles hence, (i. e. from Pest or the modern Buda,) on some high ground, is Alt Buda, or old Buda, known to the ancients under the name of Aqineum, where Attila held his court. Few or no vestiges are now to be seen of that savage conqueror’s abode.”

[47]Gibbon, vi. 19.

[48]For authorities see the Univ. Hist. xvi. 587. See too Muller’s Hist. ii. 115. Gibbon is not so particular and detailed in this part of history as usual.

[49]Some object this surplusage to my reference of the Trumpet to Attila. Would they object to St. Matthew’s application of Isaiah’s prophecy, ix. 1, 2, about the light oil Zabulon and Nepthali on account of a similar surplusage of light elsewhere from Christ’s ministry.

[50]It should be remembered by the reader that, “on the division of the empire into East and West, an ideal unity was scrupulously preserved.” Gib. x. 152. The imperial sun was one.—The same is indeed implied in the Senate’s address to the Eastern Emperor, on Odoacer’s mandate.

[51]See above, p. 363.

[52]The expression of Gibbon, vi. 226.

[53]For example we find it assembling: in 500 AD, to welcome Theodoric; in 536 sending deputies, in conjunction with those of the Pope, clergy, and people, to invite Belisarius to the deliverance of the city; in 546 temporarily broken up by Totilas banishment of it’s members on his capture of Rome; then restored, and at length in 552 finally abolished, as a body exercising political functions, by Narses. Gibbon, vii. 30, 223, 368—370, 377, 389.

[54]Gibb. vi. 227, 228.

[55]E. g. the Emperor of the East conferred on Clovis the title of Consul and Patrician.— But see on this subject my notice of it in Part iv. ch. iv. § 2, with the very illustrative Plate as to the use of the diadem on the early Gothic coinage.

[56]See Gibbon vii. 1—51. On the Lombard invasion of Italy, which followed soon after Belisarius’ and Narses’ conquests, AD. 568, see ibid. viii. 126, &c.

[57]See Gibbon, vii. 369, 370. Marcellinus (referred to by Gibbon) states in his Chronicon that after Totilas had taken, partly demolished, and then evacuated Rome, carrying off the senators with him, the city remained for forty days desolate; “quadraginta aut ampliu’s dies Roma fuit desolata, ut nemo ibi hominum nisi bestise morarentur.”— Then occurred Belisarius’ visit from Ostia; he having cut his way with 1000 horse through an interposing division of the Gothic army, ” to visit with pity and reverence (as Gibbon says) the vacant space of the Eternal City.” Of which visit Dr. Miley, the Roman Catholic Priest, in his ” Rome Pagan and Papal,” (i. 263 265, ii. 196,) has given a very picturesque description As being a very critical epoch in the history of Rome, introductorily to the establishment of the Popes as its rulers, in their assumed character of Vicars of Christ, I shall have to recur to it more particularly in my Part iv. ch. iv. § 1, ad fin.

[58]Gibb. vii. 152, 389.

[59]Gibb. vii. 152, 389.

[60]Charles V, pp. 11, 12: ” If a man were called on to fix upon a period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was the most calamitoas, he would without hesitation name that which elapsed from the death of Theodosius to the establishment of the Lombards in Italy.”

[61]“Clarissimum terrarum lumen extinct-um est,” Quoted Note 1, p. 393 infra.—In similar figure Eumenius, in his Panegyric to Con.stantius, c. 10, when speaking of the separation of the provinces from Home under Gallienus’ disastrous reign, characterizes it as the ” triste proinciarum d Ronuoul luce discidium.”

[62]Childe Harold, Canto iv. Stanza 80.

[63]Let me observe, in concluding, that the exposition of the four trumpet-visions here given resembles generally that of Whiston, Hichcno, and Dr. Keith: there being excepted my interpretation of the third part, of which mention has been made before: and the connexion of Attila with the river Rhine; a point almost overlooked by Whiston and Keith, though not by Bichcno.


One thought on “Chapter III The First Four Trumpet Visions

  1. Pingback: Reading through Revelation – Chapter 8:7-13 and a great star called Wormwood | Pilgrim’s Progress revisited - Christiana on the narrow way

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