What Did King Nebuchadnezzar See?
"You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it smote the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces; then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." (Daniel 2:31-35 RSV)
God Interprets The Vision
"This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand He has given, wherever they dwell, the sons of men, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, making you rule over them all - you are the head of gold."
"After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things; and like iron which crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with miry clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay."
"And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom [see The Return Of Jesus Christ] which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold."
"A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure." (Daniel 2:36-45 RSV)
The Actual Flow Of History
The head of gold is easy to understand - the Bible narrative itself clearly states (Daniel 2:36-38) that it represents the Babylonian kingdom (see Ancient Empires - Babylon) under King Nebuchadnezzar, who conquered Jerusalem and carried the Jews, including the prophet Daniel himself, off into captivity (see Why Babylon?).
What about the rest of it? This is not difficult - the facts of history are very clear.
After the Babylonian "head of gold" came the Persian empire. The Persians under their various kings, including Cyrus who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, swept away the Babylonian empire in 536 B.C. They are the "chest and arms of silver" (see Ancient Empires - Persia).
After about 2 centuries of dominance, the Persian empire was swallowed up by the Greeks under Alexander the Great. Many consider Alexander to be the greatest military commander of all time, taking vast areas from southern Europe, across the Middle East and deep into southern Asia, all while a relatively young man. He reportedly died in his early thirties after a night of partying. The Greeks became the "belly and thighs of bronze" (see Ancient Empires - Greece).
After the Greeks came the Romans, the "legs of iron." The Romans took the areas that the Greeks had, plus nearly all of the rest of Europe, including Britain. The Roman empire was of course dominant during the time of the New Testament (see Ancient Empires - Rome).
History records that the Roman empire "fell" in the fifth century after Christ, but Bible prophecy says that it would experience a number of revivals, which indeed it did as the so-called "Holy Roman Empire," and will one final time in the near future (see The Holy Roman Empire and Feet Of Iron And Clay and Birth Of A Superpower).
Fact Finder: Who will be the great end-time antichrist?
See The Antichrist