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.
About the Author
Catherine Nixey studied Classics at Cambridge and subsequently worked as a Classics teacher for several years, before becoming a journalist on the arts desk at The Times, where she still works. She has also written for the FT, the Economist's Intelligent Life magazine, and all the broadsheets. She lives in south-east London with her husband.
Sizzling, scintillating -- Books of the Year * Spectator * Pugnacious and energetically written * The Tablet * `With passion, wit and thunderous eloquence, Nixey throws everything she has against the bishops, monks and Christian emperors of late antiquity ... `The Darkening Age rattles along at a tremendous pace, and Nixey brilliantly evokes all that was lost with the waning of the classical world. * The Sunday Times * 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 * 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 * Nixey has done an impressive job of illuminating an
important aspect of late-antique Christianity. -- Levi Roach * Literary Review * 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. Spectator -- Thomas W. Hodgkinson * Spectator * 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 Captivating and compulsive, Catherine Nixey's debut challenges our whole understanding of Christianity's earliest years and the medieval society that followed. A remarkable fusion of captivating narrative and acute scholarly judgment, this book marks the debut of a formidable classicist and historian. -- Dan Jones, bestselling author of The Plantagenets Nixey's elegant and ferocious text paints a dark but riveting picture of life at the time of the 'triumph' of Christianity, reminding us not just of the realities of our own past, but also of the sad echoes of that past in our present. -- Dr Michael Scott A devastating book, written in vivid, yet playful prose. Catherine Nixey reveals a level of intolerance and anti-intellectualism which which echoes today's headlines but is centuries old. -- Anita Anand 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