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
This book uncovers what was lost when Christianity won…. a delightful book about destruction and despair. Nixey combines the authority of a serious academic with the expressive style of a good journalist. She’s not afraid to throw in the odd joke amid sombre tales of desecration. With considerable courage, she challenges the wisdom of history and manages to prevail. Comfortable assumptions about Christian progress come tumbling down. (The Times)
Catherine Nixey has written a bold, dazzling and provocative book that challenges ideas about early Christianity and both how – and why – it spread so far and fast in its early days. Nixey is a witty and iconoclastic guide to a world that will be unfamiliar, surprising and troubling to many. (Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Road)
A searingly passionate book . . . Nixey writes up a storm. Each sentence is rich, textured, evocative, felt . . . Nixey delivers this ballista-bolt of a book with her eyes wide open and in an attempt to bring light as well as heat to the sad story of intellectual monoculture and religious intolerance (Bettany Hughes New York Times)
Superb (Richard Dawkins)
With passion, wit and thunderous eloquence, Nixey throws everything she has against the bishops, monks and Christian emperors of late antiquity ... ‘The Darkening Agerattles along at a tremendous pace, and Nixey brilliantly evokes all that was lost with the waning of the classical world. (Sunday Times)
A book for the 21st century ... Nixey has a great story to tell, and she tells it exceptionally well. As one would expect from a distinguished journalist, every page is full of well-turned phrases that leap from the page ... finely crafted, invigorating ... [The Darkening Age] succeeds brilliantly. (Tim Whitmarsh Guardian)
As Catherine Nixey points out in her vivid and important new book, the idea of the widespread persecution of Christians is a product of the Church’s marketing and recruitment techniques… Nixey is a funny, lively, readable guide through this dark world of religious oppression. She wisely insists at the start of her book that this account of cultural violence should not be read as an attack on those who are “impelled by their Christian faith to do many, many good things”. It is instead a reminder that “monotheism” (or, one could say, religion in general and Christianity in particular) can be used for “terrible ends”. (Emily Wilson New Statesman)
Clever, compelling ... Readers raised in the milky Anglican tradition will be surprised to learn of the savagery of the early saints and their sledgehammer-swinging followers ... exceptionally well written. (Thomas W. Hodgkinson Spectator)
Nixey has done an impressive job of illuminating an important aspect of late-antique Christianity. (Levi Roach Literary Review)
Engaging and erudite, Catherine Nixey's book offers both a compelling argument and a wonderful eye for vivid detail. It shines a searching spotlight on to some of the murkiest aspects of the early medieval mindset. A triumph. (Edith Hall, author of The Ancient Greeks: Ten Ways They Shaped the Modern World)