A review by andriiipopa
The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey


⚠ long review, contains superficial spoilers ⚠

I believe this book is absolutely an essential reading for most people who like to wonder about the past, about how things were before Christianity became the phenomenon that is known today.

As a former Christian and a self-proclaimed agnostic, I have to say that there were times while reading when I remembered the moments of my childhood. I clearly remember that, due to the things I was taught in school, I was truly afraid of the idea of a jealous god and his forever watchful eyes. I also remember reading about the Greek and Roman plethoras of gods and goddesses and asking myself "But what happened to them? Did people just forget about Zeus and all the others?"

I have to say I did not expect facing such a grim, vulgar and after all, maniacal image of Christianity as it is exposed by Catherine Nixey's work. Even though I had expected to read about Nero's persecutions and crimes or about the fall of Alexandria and the burning of books and destruction of temples, I can safely say that the loss of such many forms of art and culture is what pained me most.

As a man of letters, I have heard many times that the Middle Ages are thought to be the Dark Ages of human history. Up until reading this book, I was more or less disagreeing with the idea, in the sense that I had the chance of studying some beautiful texts and paintings from that period and I personally thought they were beautiful. However, after reading this book, I can safely say I am fully agreeing with the Dark Ages theory now, in the sense of the colossal decline of quality in education, arts and overall spiritual liberty of individuals.

The fact that almost 90% of what we could've had from Antiquity will be forever lost is an immense loss and I simply cannot help but wonder where we would have been today as a civilization if the Christians would have been a little bit more lenient with the non-Christian population.

However, when it comes to the social aspect of things, I was actually amazed at how... in the end, very little things have changed over the past two thousand years, in terms of religious beliefs and fanaticism. It will forever amaze me how far some people are willing to go in order to assert their beliefs and their god as the only universal truth there is out there. It will forever be beyond my comprehension how such atrocities (such as Hypatia's and many other intellectuals' murders) can be committed in the name of religion, of something that is meant to bring us peace and acceptance. I believe that actually, the rise of Christianity proves how paradoxical we are as rational beings, how we seem to know and be in complete command of so many things while in reality, we seem to be so far away from the truth we think we know.

Even though I was half-heartedly hoping (or at least expecting!) to read about the good things Christianity had done throughout our history as well, I believe the author is definitely right in the end. There are so many historians and theologians who simply brush over the Christian atrocities and instead focus on martyrs and the way Christians were persecuted for centuries upon centuries, that this book... doesn't really need to include any positives.

As Nixey herself claims in the beginning, "[...] the story of Christianity's good works in this period has been told again and again; such books proliferate in libraries and bookshops. The history and the sufferings of those whom Christianity defeated have not been. This book concentrates on them." Right from the beginning, we are told that it's going to be a rough reading and that it will not get any better towards the end. It is a violent, at times graphic and very straightforward reading, but it brings us a truth that needed to be uncovered and taken into account. The author does an absolutely fantastic job at this, and for this reason I have decided to give the book a 5-star rating.

To conclude, I do believe that, while this book might not be suited for everyone (as it includes mentions of murders, executions, incestuous relationships and other possibly triggering elements), it is a book worth reading by most of us. It is a harsh yet much needed truth, about the violent manner in which Christianity became what it is known as today.