A bold new history of the rise of Christianity, showing how its radical followers ravaged vast swathes of classical culture, plunging the world into an era of dogma and intellectual darkness In Harran, the locals refused to convert. They were dismembered, their limbs hung along the town’s main street. In Alexandria, zealots pulled the elderly philosopher-mathematician Hypatia from her chariot and flayed her to death with shards of broken pottery. Not long before, their fellow Christians had invaded the city’s greatest temple and razed it—smashing its world-famous statues and destroying all that was left of Alexandria’s Great Library. Today, we refer to Christianity’s conquest of the West as a “triumph.” But this victory entailed an orgy of destruction in which Jesus’s followers attacked and suppressed classical culture, helping to pitch Western civilization into a thousand-year-long decline. Just one percent of Latin literature would survive the purge; countless antiquities, artworks, and ancient traditions were lost forever. As Catherine Nixey reveals, evidence of early Christians’ campaign of terror has been hiding in plain sight: in the palimpsests and shattered statues proudly displayed in churches and museums the world over. In The Darkening Age, Nixey resurrects this lost history, offering a wrenching account of the rise of Christianity and its terrible cost.
The Darkening Age is the largely unknown story of how a militant religion comprehensively and deliberately extinguished the teachings of the Classical world, ushering in centuries of unquestioning adherence to 'one true faith'. Despite the long-held notion that the early Christians were meek and mild, going to their martyr's deaths singing hymns of love and praise, the truth, as Catherine Nixey reveals, is very different. Far from being meek and mild, they were violent, ruthless and fundamentally intolerant. Unlike the polytheistic world, in which the addition of one new religion made no fundamental difference to the old ones, this new ideology stated not only that it was the way, the truth and the light but that, by extension, every single other way was wrong and had to be destroyed. From the 1st century to the 6th, those who didn't fall into step with its beliefs were pursued in every possible way: social, legal, financial and physical. Their altars were upturned and their temples demolished, their statues hacked to pieces and their priests killed. It was an annihilation. Authoritative, vividly written and utterly compelling, this is a remarkable debut from a brilliant young historian.
Author: Tim Whitmarsh
Release Date: 2016-10-18
"How new is atheism? Although adherents and opponents alike today present it as an invention of the European Enlightenment, when the forces of science and secularism broadly challenged those of faith, disbelief in the gods, in fact, originated in a far more remote past. In Battling the Gods, Tim Whitmarsh journeys into the ancient Mediterranean, a world almost unimaginably different from our own, to recover the stories and voices of those who first refused the divinities. Homer's epic poems of human striving, journeying, and passion were ancient Greece's only "sacred texts," but no ancient Greek thought twice about questioning or mocking his stories of the gods. Priests were functionaries rather than sources of moral or cosmological wisdom. The absence of centralized religious authority made for an extraordinary variety of perspectives on sacred matters, from the devotional to the atheos, or "godless." Whitmarsh explores this kaleidoscopic range of ideas about the gods, focusing on the colorful individuals who challenged their existence. Among these were some of the greatest ancient poets and philosophers and writers, as well as the less well known: Diagoras of Melos, perhaps the first self-professed atheist; Democritus, the first materialist; Socrates, executed for rejecting the gods of the Athenian state; Epicurus and his followers, who thought gods could not intervene in human affairs; the brilliantly mischievous satirist Lucian of Samosata. Before the revolutions of late antiquity, which saw the scriptural religions of Christianity and Islam enforced by imperial might, there were few constraints on belief. Everything changed, however, in the millennium between the appearance of the Homeric poems and Christianity's establishment as Rome's state religion in the fourth century AD. As successive Greco-Roman empires grew in size and complexity, and power was increasingly concentrated in central capitals, states sought to impose collective religious adherence, first to cults devoted to individual rulers, and ultimately to monotheism. In this new world, there was no room for outright disbelief: the label "atheist" was used now to demonize anyone who merely disagreed with the orthodoxy--and so it would remain for centuries."--Jacket.
Author: Robert C. Knapp
Publisher: Profile Books
Release Date: 2017-04-13
Exploring the origins of Christianity, this book looks at why it was that people first in Judea and then in the Roman and Greek Mediterranean world became susceptible to the new religion. Robert Knapp looks for answers in a wide-ranging exploration of religion and everyday life from 200 BC to the end of the first century. Survival, honour and wellbeing were the chief preoccupations of Jews and polytheists alike. In both cases, the author shows, people turned first to supernatural powers. According to need, season and place polytheists consulted and placated vast constellations of gods, while the Jews worshipped and contended with one almighty and jealous deity. Professor Knapp considers why any Jew or polytheist would voluntarily dispense with a well-tried way of dealing with the supernatural and trade it in for a new model. What was it about the new religion that led people to change beliefs they had held for millennia and which in turn, within four centuries of the birth of its messiah, led it to transform the western world? His conclusions are as convincing as they are sometimes surprising.
Author: Philip Freeman
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date: 2016-02-15
An exploration of the fascinating poetry, life, and world of Sappho, including a complete translation of all her poems. For more than twenty-five centuries, all that the world knew of the poems of Sappho—the first woman writer in literary history—were a few brief quotations preserved by ancient male authors. Yet those meager remains showed such power and genius that they captured the imagination of readers through the ages. But within the last century, dozens of new pieces of her poetry have been found written on crumbling papyrus or carved on broken pottery buried in the sands of Egypt. As recently as 2014, yet another discovery of a missing poem created a media stir around the world. The poems of Sappho reveal a remarkable woman who lived on the Greek island of Lesbos during the vibrant age of the birth of western science, art, and philosophy. Sappho was the daughter of an aristocratic family, a wife, a devoted mother, a lover of women, and one of the greatest writers of her own or any age. Nonetheless, although most people have heard of Sappho, the story of her lost poems and the lives of the ancient women they celebrate has never been told for a general audience. Searching for Sappho is the exciting tale of the rediscovery of Sappho’s poetry and of the woman and world they reveal.
Author: Kyle Harper
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Release Date: 2017-10-02
A sweeping new history of how climate change and disease helped bring down the Roman Empire Here is the monumental retelling of one of the most consequential chapters of human history: the fall of the Roman Empire. The Fate of Rome is the first book to examine the catastrophic role that climate change and infectious diseases played in the collapse of Rome’s power—a story of nature’s triumph over human ambition. Interweaving a grand historical narrative with cutting-edge climate science and genetic discoveries, Kyle Harper traces how the fate of Rome was decided not just by emperors, soldiers, and barbarians but also by volcanic eruptions, solar cycles, climate instability, and devastating viruses and bacteria. He takes readers from Rome’s pinnacle in the second century, when the empire seemed an invincible superpower, to its unraveling by the seventh century, when Rome was politically fragmented and materially depleted. Harper describes how the Romans were resilient in the face of enormous environmental stress, until the besieged empire could no longer withstand the combined challenges of a “little ice age” and recurrent outbreaks of bubonic plague. A poignant reflection on humanity’s intimate relationship with the environment, The Fate of Rome provides a sweeping account of how one of history’s greatest civilizations encountered and endured, yet ultimately succumbed to the cumulative burden of nature’s violence. The example of Rome is a timely reminder that climate change and germ evolution have shaped the world we inhabit—in ways that are surprising and profound.
Author: Edward J. Watts
Publisher: Univ of California Press
Release Date: 2015-02-06
The Final Pagan Generation recounts the fascinating story of the lives and fortunes of the last Romans born before the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Edward J. Watts traces their experiences of living through the fourth century’s dramatic religious and political changes, when heated confrontations saw the Christian establishment legislate against pagan practices as mobs attacked pagan holy sites and temples. The emperors who issued these laws, the imperial officials charged with implementing them, and the Christian perpetrators of religious violence were almost exclusively young men whose attitudes and actions contrasted markedly with those of the earlier generation, who shared neither their juniors’ interest in creating sharply defined religious identities nor their propensity for violent conflict. Watts examines why the "final pagan generation"—born to the old ways and the old world in which it seemed to everyone that religious practices would continue as they had for the past two thousand years—proved both unable to anticipate the changes that imperially sponsored Christianity produced and unwilling to resist them. A compelling and provocative read, suitable for the general reader as well as students and scholars of the ancient world.
Author: Bart D. Ehrman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 2018-02-13
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER From the bestselling authority on early Christianity, the story of how Christianity grew from a religion of twenty or so peasants in rural Galilee to the dominant religion in the West in less than four hundred years. Christianity didn’t have to become the dominant religion in the West. It easily could have remained a sect of Judaism fated to have the historical importance of the Sadducees or the Essenes. In The Triumph of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, a master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, shows how a religion whose first believers were twenty or so illiterate day laborers in a remote part of the empire became the official religion of Rome, converting some thirty million people in just four centuries. The Triumph of Christianity combines deep knowledge and meticulous research in an eye-opening, immensely readable narrative that upends the way we think about the single most important cultural transformation our world has ever seen—one that revolutionized art, music, literature, philosophy, ethics, economics, and law.
Author: Matthew Kneale
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Release Date: 2017-10-19
Daily Telegraph's Best History Books of 2017 Sunday Times' Best History Books of 2017 Nominated for the 2017 Pen Hessell-Tiltman A sweeping history of the city of Rome, seen through the eyes of its most significant sackings, from the Gauls to the Nazis and everything in between. No city on earth has preserved its past as Rome has. Visitors can cross bridges that were crossed by Cicero and Julius Caesar, explore temples visited by Roman emperors, and step into churches that have hardly changed since popes celebrated mass in them sixteen centuries ago. These architectural survivals are all the more remarkable considering the many disasters that have struck the city. Rome has been afflicted by earthquakes, floods, fires and plagues, but most of all it has been repeatedly ravaged by roving armies. From the Gauls to the Nazis, Matthew Kneale tells the stories behind the seven most important of these attacks and reveals, with fascinating insight, how they transformed the city - and not always for the worse. Using this entirely new approach to Rome's past he unveils how it became the city it is today. A meticulously researched, magical blend of travelogue, social and cultural history, Rome: A History in Seven Sackings is a celebration of the fierce courage, panache and vitality of the Roman people. Most of all, it is a passionate love letter to this incomparable city. 'A masterpiece of pacing and suspense' Sunday Times 'Fascinating... A delight' The Times 'Book of the Week'
Author: Theodore de Bruyn
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2018-01-25
Making Amulets Christian: Artefacts, Scribes, and Contexts examines Greek amulets with Christian elements from late antique Egypt in order to discern the processes whereby a customary practice—the writing of incantations on amulets—changed in an increasingly Christian context. It considers how the formulation of incantations and amulets changed as the Christian church became the prevailing religious institution in Egypt in the last centuries of the Roman empire. Theodore de Bruyn investigates what we can learn from incantations and amulets containing Christian elements about the cultural and social location of the people who wrote them. He shows how incantations and amulets were indebted to rituals or ritualizing behaviour of Christians. This study analyzes different types of amulets and the ways in which they incorporate Christian elements. By comparing the formulation and writing of individual amulets that are similar to one another, one can observe differences in the culture of the scribes of these materials. It argues for 'conditioned individuality' in the production of amulets. On the one hand, amulets manifest qualities that reflect the training and culture of the individual writer. On the other hand, amulets reveal that individual writers were shaped, whether consciously or inadvertently, by the resources they drew upon-by what is called 'tradition' in the field of religious studies.
Author: Philip Parker
Release Date: 2017-10-03
Discover the events that have shaped our world, from the dawn of prehistoric civilization to the digital age, brought to life with contemporary photographs, maps, paintings, and artifacts that place each event in a wider social and historical context. With entries on more than 350 of history's most important events, World History looks at turning points throughout the ages and the key thinkers, leaders, ideas, and inventions involved, to chart the story of humanity's journey. Boxes and feature spreads throughout the book introduce and explain technological advances, military campaigns, influencers, and more.
A short history of nearly everything classical. The foundations of the modern world were laid in Alexandria of Egypt at the turn of the first millennium. In this compulsively readable narrative, Justin Pollard and Howard Reid bring one of history's most fascinating and prolific cities to life, creating a treasure trove of our intellectual and cultural origins. Famous for its lighthouse, its library-the greatest in antiquity-and its fertile intellectual and spiritual life--it was here that Christianity and Islam came to prominence as world religions--Alexandria now takes its rightful place alongside Greece and Rome as a titan of the ancient world. Sparkling with fresh insights on science, philosophy, culture, and invention, this is an irresistible, eye- opening delight.
Author: Michael Gaddis
Publisher: Univ of California Press
Release Date: 2005-10-14
Focusing on the 4th and 5th centuries, Michael Gaddis explores how various groups employed the language of religious violence to construct their own identities, to undermine the legitimacy of their rivals, & to advance themselves in the competitive & high stakes process of Christianizing the Roman Empire.