Catherine Nixey


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Catherine Nixey is a journalist and a classicist. Her mother was a nun, her father was a monk, and she was brought up Catholic. She studied classics at Cambridge and taught the subject for several years before becoming a journalist on the arts desk at the Times (UK), where she still works. The Darkening Age, winner of a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award, is her first book. She lives in London.

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The Darkening Age: The Chri...

4.04 avg rating — 1,080 ratings — published 2017 — 19 editions
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“It wasn’t just the fact that Christians were ignorant about philosophical theories that annoyed Celsus; it was that Christians actually reveled in their ignorance.”
Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World

“It was the Church, they told me, that had kept alive the Latin and Greek of the classical world in the benighted Middle Ages, until it could be picked up again by the wider world in the Renaissance. On holidays, we would visit museums and libraries where the same point was made. As a young child, I looked at the glowing gold of the illuminated manuscripts and believed in a more metaphorical illumination in ages of intellectual darkness. And, in a way, my parents were right to believe this, for it is true. Monasteries did preserve a lot of classical knowledge. But it is far from the whole truth. In fact, this appealing narrative has almost entirely obscured an earlier, less glorious story. For before it preserved, the Church destroyed. In a spasm of destruction never seen before—and one that appalled many non-Christians watching it—during the fourth and fifth centuries, the Christian Church demolished, vandalized and melted down a simply staggering quantity of art. Classical statues were knocked from their plinths, defaced, defiled and torn limb from limb. Temples were razed to their foundations and mutilated. A temple widely considered to be the most magnificent in the entire empire was leveled. Many of the Parthenon sculptures were attacked, faces were mutilated, hands and limbs were hacked off, and gods were decapitated. Some of the finest statues on the whole building were almost certainly smashed off then ground into rubble that was then used to build churches. Books—which were often stored in temples—suffered terribly. The remains of the greatest library in the ancient world, a library that had once held perhaps 700,000 volumes, were destroyed in this way by Christians. It was over a millennium before any other library would even come close to its holdings. Works by censured philosophers were forbidden and bonfires blazed across the empire as outlawed books went up in flames.”
Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World

“One day in March AD 415, Hypatia set out from her home to go for her daily ride through the city. Suddenly, she found her way blocked by a “multitude of believers in God.”32 They ordered her to get down from her chariot. Knowing what had recently happened to her friend Orestes, she must have realized as she climbed down that her situation was a serious one. She cannot possibly have realized quite how serious. As soon as she stood on the street, the parabalani, under the guidance of a Church magistrate called Peter—“a perfect believer in all respects in Jesus Christ”33—surged round and seized “the pagan woman.” They then dragged Alexandria’s greatest living mathematician through the streets to a church. Once inside, they ripped the clothes from her body and, using broken pieces of pottery as blades, flayed her skin from her flesh. Some say that, while she still gasped for breath, they gouged out her eyes. Once she was dead, they tore her body into pieces and threw what was left of the “luminous child of reason” onto a pyre and burned her.34”
Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World

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