Darkening Age, 11

As the epigraph of ‘How to Destroy a Demon’, chapter eight of The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, Catherine Nixey chose a passage from an hagiography of a so-called saint, The Life of Martin: ‘He completely demolished the temple belonging to the false religion and reduced all the altars and statues to dust’.
 

The pages of history might overlook this destruction, but stone is less forgetful. Go to Room 18 in the British Museum in London and you will find yourself in front of the Parthenon Marbles, taken from Greece by Lord Elgin in the nineteenth century.

The astonishingly lifelike statues are, today, in a sorry state: many are mutilated or missing limbs. This, it is often assumed, was the fault of Lord Elgin’s clumsy workmen or fighting during the Ottoman occupation. And indeed some of this was—but not all. Much was the work of zealous Christians who set about the temple with blunt instruments, attacking the ‘demonic’ gods, mutilating some of the finest statuary Greece had ever produced.

The East Pediment fared particularly badly. Hands, feet, even whole limbs have gone—almost certainly smashed off by Christians trying to incapacitate the demons within. The vast majority of the gods have been decapitated—again, almost certainly the work of Christians. The great central figures of the Pediment, that would have shown the birth of Athena, were the most sacred—and thus to the Christians the most demonic. They therefore suffered most: it is likely that they were pushed off the Pediment—and smashed on the ground below, their fragmented remains ground down and used for mortar for a Christian church.

The same tale is told by objects in museums and archaeological sites across the world. Near the Marbles in the same museum is a basalt bust of Germanicus. Two blows have hacked off his nose and a cross has been cut in his forehead. In Athens, a larger­than-life statue of Aphrodite has been disfigured by a crude cross carved on her brow; her eyes have been defaced and her nose is missing. In Cyrene, the eyes have been gouged out of a life-sized bust in a sanctuary of Demeter, and the nose removed; in Tuscany a slender statue of Bacchus has been decapitated.

In the Sparta Archaeological Museum, a colossal statue of the goddess Hera looks blindly out, her eyes disfigured by crosses. A beautiful statue of Apollo from Salamis has been castrated and then struck, hard, in the face, shearing off the god’s nose. Across his neck are scars indicating that Christians attempted to decapitate him but failed.

In Palmyra Museum there stood, at least until the city’s recent occupation by Islamic State, the mutilated and reconstructed figure of the once-great figure of Athena that had dominated a temple there. A huge dent in her once-handsome face was all that remained when her nose was smashed off. A recent book on the Christian destruction of statues focusing just on Egypt and the Near East runs to almost three hundred pages, dense with pictures of mutilation.

But while some evidence remains, much has gone entirely. The point of destruction is, after all, that it destroys. If effective, it more than merely defaces something. It obliterates all evidence that the object ever existed. We will never know quite how much was wiped out. Many statues were pulverized, shattered, scattered, burned and melted into absence. Tiny piles of charred ivory and gold are all that remain of some. Others were so well disposed of that they will probably not be found: they were thrown into rivers, sewers and wells, never to be seen again. The destruction of other sacred objects is, because of the nature of the object, all but impossible to detect.

The sacred groves of the old gods for example, those tranquil natural shrines like the one Pliny had so admired, were set about with axes and their ancient trees hacked down. Pictures, books, ribbons even, could be seen as the work of the devil and thus removed and destroyed. Certain sorts of musical instruments were censured and stopped: as one Christian preacher boasted; the Christians smashed the flutes of the ‘musicians of the demons’ to pieces. Some of the demolition, such as that of the temple of Serapis, was so terrible that several authors recorded it.

Other moments of vandalism were immortalized in glowing terms in Christian hagiographies. Though these are the exceptions. Far more violence was buried in silence.

9 Comments

  1. Hola Cesar. No sabia como comunicarme con vos asi que intentare por este medio. Tengo un canal de Youtube y queria invitarte a una charla, donde puedas exponer tus ideas. Gracias desde ya. Saludos.

    • Claro: me encantaría participar. Mándame una misiva a:

      cesartort (arroba) tutanota (punto) com

  2. As I read Catharine Nixey’s book, I find early Christian behavior far more appalling than I might have imagined. My first clue was found in the movie Agora, that portrays Christians and Jews in a most unflattering light while portraying “pagans” as victims of these religious zealots.

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1186830/?ref_=nv_sr_1

    The movie portrays how these religions suffocated the advance of scientific thought and study while elevating the slave class to that of rulers. The portrayal of St. Cyril is especially revealing in this regard, demonstrating how the Jews’ pretty words, like liberté, égalité, fraternité, sway so many in their beliefs. Nixey’s book however puts it in much clearer historical perspective.

    While the movie portrays the vitriolic enmity between Jews and Christians, it does not explain the reason for the hatred between the two. As an offshoot of Judaism, Christianity presented a conflicting power structure over the religious masses. Orthodox Jews rightly perceived traitorous Jewish “Christians” of stealing their religious thunder, taking the Jews means of religious control via the Temple and transferring it to the new “church,” soon taken over by the hated goyim.

    Of course few Christians are aware of this history as they are unaware they are participating in the very same form of cultural destruction, albeit from a different perspective.

    All this serves to reinforce the idea that, beginning with Judaism, all three Judaic based religions must be eradicated from the planet if mankind is to advance beyond a retarded state of forever lusting for power, wealth, greed, hatred and bloody warfare, that serves as the very basis of Judaic religion, culture and belief.

  3. A good source for early christian destruction of pagan sites is badnewsaboutchristianity.com. Lots of detail and photos. Old testament sources for destruction of pagan sites, much on christian attacks in Rome and Egypt and Greece which explains why many monuments outside of Christian areas are better preserved. What I learned from this site is the fact that so-called barbarians who pillaged and destroyed Rome and its monuments were actually Christians, carrying bibles as they did their work. These Ostrogoths and Vandals were Christian? Wow.

  4. Thanks for sharing this chechar, I had no idea the extent of hatred that the christians had for the classical world. This really seems like a hatred for the white race disguised in religious and political terms but at root this seems like an expression of racial hatred towards white europeans.

    • Indeed.

      By the way, have you read
      the masthead of this site?

      • I have not, I might print it out and take a look at it. I prefer reading PDF’s by kindle because some kindles have a softer screen than my computer, but I don’t have a kindle at the moment.

      • It explains why this destruction happened in the first place.


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