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 “Searingly passionate…Nixey writes up a storm. Each sentence is rich, textured, evocative, felt…[A] ballista-bolt of a book.” —New York Times Book Review 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.
In The Darkening Age, Catherine Nixey tells the little-known – and deeply shocking – story of how a militant religion deliberately tried to extinguish the teachings of the Classical world, ushering in unquestioning adherence to the 'one true faith'. The Roman Empire had been generous in embracing and absorbing new creeds. But with the coming of Christianity, everything changed. This new faith, despite preaching peace, was violent, ruthless and intolerant. And once it became the religion of empire, its zealous adherents set about the destruction of the old gods. Their altars were upturned, their temples demolished and their statues hacked to pieces. Books, including great works of philosophy and science, were consigned to the pyre. It was an annihilation. A Book of the Year in the Daily Telegraph, the Spectator, the Observer, and BBC History Magazine A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice Winner of the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for Nonfiction
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: 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: Catherine M. Chin
Publisher: Univ of California Press
Release Date: 2016-10-31
Melania the Elder and her granddaughter Melania the Younger were major figures in early Christian history, using their wealth, status, and forceful personalities to shape the development of nearly every aspect of the religion we now know as Christianity. This volume examines their influence on late antique Christianity and provides an insightful portrait of their legacies in the modern world. Departing from the traditionally patriarchal view, Melania gives a poignant and sometimes surprising account of how the rise of Christian institutions in the Roman Empire shaped our understanding of women’s roles in the larger world.
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: 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: Dirk Rohmann
Publisher: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG
Release Date: 2016-07-25
The role of Christian institutions, writers and saints in the active suppression and destruction of books in Late Antiquity has received surprisingly little consideration. The author argues that texts and ideas from materialistic philosophical traditions were vulnerable to destruction, censorship or suppression through prohibition of the copying of manuscripts. This includes texts which were to become the basis for modern philosophy and science.
The experience of loneliness is as universal as hunger or thirst. Because it affects us more intimately, we are less inclined to speak of it. But who has not known its gnawing ache? The fear of loneliness causes anguish. It prompts reckless deeds. To this, every age has borne witness. No voice is more insidious than the one that whispers in our ear: 'You are irredeemably alone, no light will pierce your darkness.' The fundamental statement of Christianity is to convict that voice of lying. The Christian condition unfolds within the certainty that ultimate reality, the source of all that is, is a personal reality of communion, no metaphysical abstraction. Men and women, made 'in the image and likeness' of God, bear the mark of that original communion stamped on their being. When our souls and bodies cry out for Another, it is not a sign of sickness, but of health. A labour of potential joy is announced. We are reminded of what we have it in us to become. That our labour may be fruitful, Scripture repeatedly exhorts us to 'remember'. The remembrance enjoined is partly introspective and existential, partly historical, for the God who took flesh to redeem our loneliness leaves traces in history. This book examines six facets of Christian remembrance, complementing biblical exegesis with readings from literature, ancient and modern. It aims to be an essay in theology. At the same time, it proposes a grounded reflection on what it means to be a human being.
Author: Peter Brown
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Release Date: 2013-09-02
Jesus taught his followers that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Yet by the fall of Rome, the church was becoming rich beyond measure. Through the Eye of a Needle is a sweeping intellectual and social history of the vexing problem of wealth in Christianity in the waning days of the Roman Empire, written by the world's foremost scholar of late antiquity. Peter Brown examines the rise of the church through the lens of money and the challenges it posed to an institution that espoused the virtue of poverty and called avarice the root of all evil. Drawing on the writings of major Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, Brown examines the controversies and changing attitudes toward money caused by the influx of new wealth into church coffers, and describes the spectacular acts of divestment by rich donors and their growing influence in an empire beset with crisis. He shows how the use of wealth for the care of the poor competed with older forms of philanthropy deeply rooted in the Roman world, and sheds light on the ordinary people who gave away their money in hopes of treasure in heaven. Through the Eye of a Needle challenges the widely held notion that Christianity's growing wealth sapped Rome of its ability to resist the barbarian invasions, and offers a fresh perspective on the social history of the church in late antiquity.
Author: Gary Petty
Release Date: 2013-11
If Jesus' apostles walked the earth today, would they recognize Christianity? Plato's Shadow looks at some foundational teachings of the earliest Christians, exploring how Greek and Roman society later shaped their message. The early church used the Old Testament as Scripture and believed in Jesus as the prophesied Messiah. It also taught that baptism and laying on of hands are necessary for converts. Early Christians shunned the use of any images in their worship, observing the Ten Commandments as the foundation of Christian conduct. The forces of gnosticism and Hellenistic society reshaped these teachings. As a result, some of today's most cherished Christian teachings are remarkably different from what the early church taught. Today, millions of Christians are searching for a deeper understanding of God's purpose in their lives. The answers can be found in the teachings and customs of the earliest followers of Jesus Christ. Discover for yourself the importance of "primitive Christianity" through Plato's Shadow.
Author: Kyle Harper
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Release Date: 2013-06-01
The transformation of the Roman world from polytheistic to Christian is one of the most sweeping ideological changes of premodern history. At the center was sex. Kyle Harper examines how Christianity changed the ethics of sexual behavior from shame to sin, and shows how the roots of modern sexuality are grounded in an ancient religious revolution.
Author: Matthew Kneale
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 2018-05-15
"Kneale's account is a masterpiece of pacing and suspense. Characters from the city's history spring to life in his hands." —The Sunday Times (London) Novelist and historian Matthew Kneale, a longtime resident of Rome, tells the story of the Eternal City—from the early Roman Republic through the Renaissance and the Reformation to Mussolini and the German occupation in World War Two—through pivotal moments that defined its history. Rome, the Eternal City. It is a hugely popular tourist destination with a rich history, famed for such sites as the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s, and the Vatican. In no other city is history as present as it is in Rome. Today visitors can stand on bridges that Julius Caesar and Cicero crossed; walk around temples in the footsteps of emperors; visit churches from the earliest days of Christianity. This is all the more remarkable considering what the city has endured over the centuries. It has been ravaged by fires, floods, earthquakes, and—most of all—by roving armies. These have invaded repeatedly, from ancient times to as recently as 1943. Many times Romans have shrugged off catastrophe and remade their city anew. Matthew Kneale uses seven of these crisis moments to create a powerful and captivating account of Rome’s extraordinary history. He paints portraits of the city before each assault, describing what it looked like, felt like, smelled like and how Romans, both rich and poor, lived their everyday lives. He shows how the attacks transformed Rome—sometimes for the better. With drama and humor he brings to life the city of Augustus, of Michelangelo and Bernini, of Garibaldi and Mussolini, and of popes both saintly and very worldly. He shows how Rome became the chaotic and wondrous place it is today. Rome: A History in Seven Sackings offers a unique look at a truly remarkable city.