Darkening Age, 21

Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Story of Saint Paul: The Burning of the
Books at Ephesus
, designed ca. 1529, woven before 1546 (medium:
wool and silk, woven under the direction of Jan van der Vyst).

 

Editor’s note. Bold-typed emphasis in the last paragraph is mine. In chapter eleven of The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, Catherine Nixey wrote:

In Egypt, a fearsome monk and saint named Shenoute entered the house of a man suspected of being a pagan and removed all his books. The Christian habit of book-burning went on to enjoy a long history. A millennium later, the Italian preacher Savonarola wanted the works of the Latin love poets Catullus, Tibullus and Ovid to be banned while another preacher said that all of these ‘shameful books’ should be let go, because if you are Christians you are obliged to burn them’…

* * *

Before there had been competing philosophical schools, all equally valid, all equally arguable. Now, for the first time, there was right—and there was wrong. Now, there was what the Bible said—and there was everything else. And from now on any belief that was ‘wrong’ could, in the right circumstances, put you in grave danger.

As Dirk Rohmann has highlighted, Augustine said that works that opposed Christian doctrine had no place in Christian society and had scant time for much of Greek philosophy. The Greeks, Augustine said dismissively, ‘have no ground for boasting of their wisdom’. The Church’s authors were greater, and more ancient. John Chrysostom went far further. He described pagan philosophy as a madness, the mother of evils and a disease.

Classical literature was filled with the incorrect and demonic and it came under repeated and vicious attack from the Church Fathers. Atheism, science and philosophy were all targeted. The very idea that mankind could explain everything through science was, as Rohmann has shown, disparaged as folly. ‘Stay clear of all pagan books!’ the Apostolic Constitutions advised Christians bluntly. ‘For what do you have to do with such foreign discourses, or laws, or false prophets, which subvert the faith of the unstable?’ If you wish to read about history, it continued, ‘you have the Books of Kings; if philosophy and poetry, you have the Prophets, the Book of Job and the Proverbs, in which you will find greater depth of sagacity than in all of the pagan poets and philosophers because this is the voice of the Lord… Do therefore always stay clear of all such strange and diabolical books!’…

An accusation of ‘magic’ was frequently the prelude to a spate of burnings. In Beirut, at the turn of the sixth century, a bishop ordered Christians, in the company of civil servants, to examine the books of those suspected of this. Searches were made, books were seized from suspects and then brought to the centre of the city and placed in a pyre. A crowd was ordered to come and watch as the Christians lit this bonfire in front of the church of the Virgin Mary. The demonic deceptions and ‘barbarous and atheistic arrogance’ of these books were condemned as ‘everybody’ watched ‘the magic books and the demonic signs burn’. As with the destruction of temples, there was no shame in this…

What did the books burned on such occasions really contain? Doubtless some did contain ‘magic’—such practices were popular prior to Christianity and certainly didn’t disappear with its arrival. But they were not all. The list given in the life of St Simeon clearly refers to the destruction of books of Epicureanism, the philosophy that advocated the theory of atomism. ‘Paganism’ appears to have been a charge in itself—and while it could mean outlawed practices it could, at a stretch, refer to almost any antique text that contained the gods. Christians were rarely good chroniclers of what they burned.

Sometimes, clues to the texts remain. In Beirut, just before the bonfire of the books, pious Christians had gone to the house of a man suspected of owning books that were ‘hateful to God’. The Christians told him that they ‘wanted the salvation and recovery of his soul’; they wanted ‘liberation’. These Christians then entered his home, inspected his books and searched each room. Nothing was found—until the man was betrayed by his slave. Forbidden books were discovered in a secret compartment in a chair. The man whose house it was—clearly well aware of what such ‘liberation’ might involve—‘fell to the ground and begged us, in tears, not to hand him over to the law’. He was spared the law but forced to burn his books. As our chronicler Zachariah records with pleasure, ‘when the fire was lit he threw the books of magic into it with his own hands, and said that he thanked God who had granted him with his visit and liberated him from the slavery and error of demons’. One of the books removed from the house in Beirut is mentioned: it is very possible it was not magic but a history by a disapproved-of Egyptian historian.

Divination and prophecy were often used as pretexts to attack a city’s elite. One of the most infamous assaults on books and thinkers took place in Antioch. Here, at the end of the fourth century, an accusation of treasonous divination led to a full-scale purge that targeted the city’s intellectuals. By sheer chance, Ammianus Marcellinus, a non-Christian and one of the finest historians of the era, happened to be in the city; a wonderful piece of luck for later historians and wretched luck for the man himself, who was horrified. As Ammianus describes it,

the racks were set up, and leaden weights, cords, and scourges put in readiness. The air was filled with the appalling yells of savage voices mixed with the clanking of chains, as the torturers in the execution of their grim task shouted: ‘Hold, bind, tighten, more yet.’

A noble of ‘remarkable literary attainments’ was one of the first to be arrested and tortured; he was followed by a clutch of philosophers who were variously tortured, burned alive and beheaded. Educated men in the city who had considered themselves fortunate now, Damocles-like, realized the fragility of their fortune. Looking up, it was as if they saw ‘swords hung over their heads suspended by horse-hairs from the ceiling’.

And, once again, there was the burning of books as bonfires of volumes were used as post-hoc justification for the slaughter. Ammianus Marcellinus writes with distaste that

innumerable books and whole heaps of documents, which had been routed out from various houses, were piled up and burnt under the eyes of the judges. They were treated as forbidden texts to allay the indignation caused by the executions, though most of them were treatises on various liberal arts and on jurisprudence.

Many intellectuals started to pre-empt the persecutors and set light to their own books. The destruction was extensive and ‘throughout the eastern provinces whole libraries were burnt by their owners for fear of a similar fate; such was the terror which seized all hearts’. Ammianus wasn’t the only intellectual to be scared in these decades. The orator Libanius burned a huge number of his own works…

* * *

The Great Library of Alexandria might have attempted to collect books on every topic, but Christianity was going to be considerably more selective…

One surviving Byzantine manuscript of Ovid has been scarred by a series of ridiculous redactions—even the word ‘girl’ seems to have been considered too racy to remain. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Jesuits were still censoring and bowdlerizing their editions of the classics. Individual abbots, far from Umberto Eco’s avenging intellectual ideal, sometimes censored their own libraries. At some point in the fifteenth century, a note was left in a mutilated manuscript in Vienna. ‘At this point in the book,’ it records, ‘there were thirteen leaves containing works by the apostate Julian; the abbot of the monastery… read them and realised that they were dangerous, so he threw them into the sea.’

Much classical literature was preserved by Christians. Far more was not. To survive, manuscripts needed to be cared for, recopied. Classical ones were not. Medieval monks, at a time when parchment was expensive and classical learning held cheap, simply took pumice stones and scrubbed the last copies of classical works from the page. Rohmann has pointed out that there is even evidence to suggest that in some cases ‘whole groups of classical works were deliberately selected to be deleted and overwritten in around AD 700, often with texts authored by [the fathers of the Church or by] legal texts that criticised or banned pagan literature’. Pliny, Plautus, Cicero, Seneca, Virgil, Ovid, Lucan, Livy and many, many more: all were scrubbed away by the hands of believers…

The texts that suffer in this period are the texts of the wicked and sinful pagans. From the entirety of the sixth century only ‘scraps’ of two manuscripts by the satirical Roman poet Juvenal survive and mere ‘remnants’ of two others, one by the Elder and one by the Younger Pliny.

From the next century there survives nothing save a single fragment of the poet Lucan.

From the start of the next century: nothing at all.

Far from mourning the loss, Christians delighted in it. As John Chrysostom crowed, the writings ‘of the Greeks have all perished and are obliterated’. He warmed to the theme in another sermon: ‘Where is Plato? Nowhere! Where Paul? In the mouths of all!’

The fifth-century writer Theodoret of Cyrrhus observed the decline of Greek literature with similar enthusiasm. ‘Those elaborately decorated fables have been utterly banned,’ he gloated. ‘Who is today’s head of the Stoic heresy? Who is safeguarding the teachings of the Peripatetics?’ No one, evidently, for Theodoret concludes this homily with the observation that ‘the whole earth under the sun has been filled with sermons’.

Augustine contentedly observed the rapid decline of the atomist philosophy in the first century of Christian rule. By his time, he recorded, Epicurean and Stoic philosophy had been ‘suppressed’—the word is his. The opinions of such philosophers ‘have been so completely eradicated and suppressed… that if any school of error now emerged against the truth, that is, against the Church of Christ, it would not dare to step forth for battle if it were not covered under the Christian name’…

Much was preserved. Much, much more was destroyed. It has been estimated that less than ten per cent of all classical literature has survived into the modern era. For Latin, the figure is even worse: it is estimated that only one hundredth of all Latin literature remains. If this was ‘preservation’—as it is often claimed to be—then it was astonishingly incompetent. If it was censorship, it was brilliantly effective. The ebullient, argumentative classical world was, quite literally, being erased.

Darkening Age, 20

In chapter 10 of The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, Catherine Nixey wrote:
 
In Alexandria, Cyril conducted house searches to hunt out works by the loather pagan emperor Julian ‘the Apostate’…

This was a new literary world and a newly serious one. ‘The extent to which this new Christian story both displaced and substituted for all others is breathtaking,’ writes the modern academic Brent D. Shaw… And in the place of humour, came fear. Christian congregations found themselves rained on by oratorical fire and brimstone. For their own good, of course. As Chrysostom observed with pleasure: ‘in our churches we hear countless discourses on eternal punishment, on rivers of fire, on the venomous worm, on bonds that cannot be burst, on exterior darkness’…

Less than a hundred years after the first Christian emperor, the intellectual landscape was changing. In the third century, there had been twenty-eight public libraries in Rome and many private ones. By the end of the fourth they were, as the historian Ammianus Marcellinus observed with sorrow, ‘like tombs, permanently shut’…

As a law of AD 388 announced: ‘There shall be no opportunity for any man to go out to the public and to argue about religion or to discuss it or to give any counsel.’ If anyone with ‘damnable audacity’ attempted to then, the law announced with a threat no less ominous for being vague, ‘he shall be restrained with a due penalty and proper punishment’…

In Athens, some decades after Hypatia’s death, a resolutely pagan philosopher found himself exiled for a year…

What was not ‘of profit ‘ could easily fade from view. The shocking death of Hypatia ought to have merited a good deal of attention in the histories of the period. Instead it is treated lightly and obliquely, if at all. In history, as in life, no one in Alexandria was punished for her murder. There was a cover-up. Some writers were highly critical—even to fervent Christian eyes this was an appalling act.

But not all: as one Christian bishop later recorded with admiration, once the satanic woman had been destroyed, then all the people surrounded Cyril in acclamation for he had ‘destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city.’ The affected myopia of Christian historians could be magnificent: as the historian Ramsay MacMullen has put it, ‘Hostile writings and discarded views were not recopied or passed on, or they were actively suppressed.’

The Church acted as a great and, at times, fierce filter on all written material, the centuries of its control as ‘a differentially permeable membrane’ that ‘allowed the writings of Christianity to pass through but not of Christianity’s enemies.’

Christianity’s Criminal History, 112

Editor’s note: Here we see once again some passages on the historical Libanius: a central character in Gore Vidal’s Julian. What Deschner says here about Libanius is splendidly novelized by Vidal in the very final paragraph of his novel.

To contextualise these translations of Karlheinz Deschner’s encyclopaedic history of the Church in 10-volumes, Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums, read the abridged translation of Volume I.
 

The Western world darkens more and more

Culture was highly esteemed in the 4th and 5th centuries. It was one of the legacies of antiquity and enjoyed an ‘almost religious veneration’ (Dannenbauer). Still in the year 360 a law of the emperor Constantius could declare that education was the supreme virtue. And really many noble families of that time, Gallic and Roman, were consecrated to it and particularly in the bosom of the Senatorial proceedings.

But they were already simple custodians of the culture, to which they did not enrich. And everywhere there were circles and social forces of a very different kind, even in the highest positions. The Christian king Theodoric the Great was no longer able to write his own name on the documents: neither could most of the Christian princes. Theodoric wrote the four letters LEGI (‘I read it’) by means of an aureus mold expressly forged for him. The instruction of the Goth children was practically forbidden by him, since, as he seems to have said, he who trembled before the master’s blows would never know how to despise the cuts and rushes of the sword in battle.

In Gaul, apparently, where the school system had flourished from the beginning of the 2nd century until the end of the 4th century, public schools are disappearing over the course of the next century, no matter how much here and there, in Lyon, Vienne, Bordeaux and Clermont there still are schools of grammar and rhetoric in addition to, naturally, the private ones. But all the teachings, at least the literary, served exclusively for the collection of material for sermons and treatises, to deal with the Bible and for the consolidation of the faith. Scientific inquiry was already a thing of the past: it no longer counted or was appreciated. The knowledge of Greek, which for centuries was the requirement of every authentic culture, became a rarity. Even the Roman classics, such as Horace, Ovid and Catullus, were cited less and less.

Libanius, the champion of Hellenistic culture, the most famous professor of rhetoric of the century, complains about the aversion aroused by that profession. ‘They see’, he says, referring to his students, ‘that this cause is despised and thrown on the floor; that does not bring fame, power or wealth but a painful servitude under many lords, parents, mothers, pedagogues and other students, who put things upside down and believe that it is the teacher who needs them. When they see all this they avoid this depreciated profession like a boat the pitfalls’.

In the time of Augustine there are hardly any schools of philosophy in the West. Philosophy is frowned upon, it is a thing of the devil, the original father of all ‘heresy’, and it causes fear to the pious. Even in a centre of culture as important as Bordeaux philosophy is no longer taught. And even in the East, the largest and most important of the universities of the Roman Empire, that of Constantinople, has only one chair of philosophy out of a total of 31.

The knowledge of something that had existed for a long time was lost in almost all areas. The spiritual horizon became increasingly narrower. Ancient culture languished from Gaul to Africa, while in Italy it practically disappeared. The interest in natural science vanished. Also jurisprudence, at least in the West, suffers ‘havoc’, an ‘astonishing demolition’ (Wieacker).

The bishop Paulinus of Nola, who died in 431, never read a historian: a typical attitude of the moment. Whole eras fall in the oblivion, for example, the time of the Roman emperors. The only renowned historian in the late 4th century is Ammianus Marcellinus, a non-Christian. Entire synods forbid the bishops to read ‘pagan’ books. In short: scientific research ceases; experimental testing stops; people think increasingly with less autonomy.

A few decades later no doctor could heal Bishop Gregory de Tours, a man with a mind full of superstitions, but he could miraculously be healed through a drink of water with some dust taken from the tomb of St. Martin.

Only clerics will still read.

Apocalypse for whites • XXXI

by Evropa Soberana

The destruction of the Greco-Roman World – 1

(Fourth century)

After the Council of Nicaea, Christianity reaches a doctrinal uniformity that unifies the diverse factions, and acquires a legal administrative character, like a state within the State. Nicaea, incidentally, is a city in the province of Bithynia, Asia Minor (now Turkey). Constantine brings together 318 bishops, each elected by their community, to debate and establish a ‘Christian normalization’, in view of the many factions and discrepancies within the religion. The result is the so-called ‘Nicene creed’: the Christianity to preach.

By this time, the emperor needs a force of union for the melting pot of races that has been imposed in Rome. There were many ‘salvation cults’ with rites practiced in secret, mostly of the underground type of cults that always arise in times of decadence and degeneration.

There is the cult of Mithras (a cult of Iranian origin and military character, already corrupted by the masses, although during an ascending era it was popular in the Roman legions), and the cult of Cybele. The emperor chose Christianity for his empire, not because of its value as a religion, but because of its Semitic intolerance; its fanaticism—famous throughout the empire—, its centuries-old experience as a tool of intrigue, its intelligence networks and its equalizing, proselytising and globalising ethos make it the perfect ‘emergency religion’.

The other religions, lacking of intolerance, will not impose themselves by violence on reluctant people with that unifying effect of flock of sheep that Christianity will provide. And what the unwise Constantine needs is precisely a flock, not a combination of different people each with its own identity. Christianity, therefore, slightly prolongs the agony of the Roman Empire. People begin to convert to Christianity by snobbishness and climbing eagerness, to reach high positions: that is, to make a career.

After a thousand intrigues, conspiracies, factional fights, poisonings, manipulations and blackmail, the Edict of Milan gives Christianity the consideration of ‘respectable’ religion, giving it clearance. Its former creeping humility disappears and the most unpleasant Christian face arises: Christians immediately demand that the ‘idol-worshipers’ be prescribed the bestial punishments described in the Old Testament.

324
Throughout Italy, with the exception of Rome, the temples of Jupiter are closed. In Didyma, Asia Minor, the sanctuary of the Oracle of Apollo is sacked. Priests are sadistically tortured to death. Constantine expelled the Hellenists from Mount Athos (a mystical zone of classical Greece that later became an important Christian-Orthodox centre), destroying all the Hellenic temples in the area. In 324, Constantine, brainwashed by his mother Helena, ordered to destroy the temple of the god Asclepius in Cilicia, as well as numerous temples of the goddess Aphrodite in Jerusalem, Afak (Lebanon), Mamre, Phoenicia, Baalbek, and other places.

326
Constantine changes the capital of his empire to Byzantium, which he renames with the name Nuova Roma. This, together with the adoption of Christianity, means a radical change within the Roman Empire. From then on, the Roman focus of cultural attention changes from its origin in northern Europe and Greece, to Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine and North Africa (the Eastern Mediterranean, from which most of the inhabitants of the Empire now come): importing models of dark Semitic beauty unthinkable for the ancient Romans who, like the Greeks, had the Nordic beauty in high esteem as a sign of noble and divine origin.

330
Constantine steals statues and treasures from Greece to decorate Nuova Roma (later Constantinople), the new capital of his empire. At this same time, a bishop from Caesarea, Asia Minor, later known as St. Basil who is credited with grandiose phrases such as ‘I wept for my miserable life’, laid the foundations of what would later become the Orthodox Church.

337
On his deathbed, Emperor Constantine I is baptized a Christian, becoming the first Christian Roman emperor. The Judeo-Christian sycophants, wanting to make clear what example of emperor he was, will call him Constantine I ‘the Great’ and ‘Saint Constantine’.

341
Emperor Flavius Julius Constantius (reigned 337 to 361), another fanatical Christian, proclaims his intention to persecute ‘all fortune-tellers and pagans’. Thus, many Greek Hellenists are imprisoned, tortured and executed. Around this time, famous Christian leaders such as Marcus of Arethusa or Cyril of Heliopolis do their way, particularly demolishing temples, burning important writings and persecuting the Hellenists who, in some way, threaten the expansion of the incipient Church.

We cannot doubt that, at least in part, Christianity used its repugnance for Roman decadence to persecute any Greco-Roman cult, just as Islam today rejects the decline of Western Civilization. This was just the perfect excuse how Christianity justified its deeds and exterminated classical culture. That which Christianity systematically persecuted with shameful excuses, was something pure and aristocratic: luminous Hellenism, love of gnosis, art, philosophy, free debate and the natural sciences. It was Egyptian, Greek and Persian knowledge. What Christianity was doing with its persecution and extermination was literally erasing the traces of the gods.

346
Another great anti-Hellenistic persecution in Constantinople. The famous anti-Christian author and speaker Libanius[1] is accused of being a ‘magician’ and is banished. At this point, what was once the Roman Empire has gone crazy, chaotic and unrecognisable. The patriotic Romans must take their hands to their heads when they see how ignorant crowds snatch from their heirs all the harvest of the classic cultures, not only of Rome itself, but also of Egypt, Persia and Greece.

353-354
The Decree of Constantius establishes the death penalty for anyone who practices a religion with ‘idols’. Another decree, in 354, orders to close all the Greco-Roman temples. Many of them are assaulted by fanatical crowds, who torture and murder the priests, loot the treasures, burn the writings, destroy works of art that today would be considered sublime and destroy everything in general.

Most of the temples that fall in this era are desecrated, being converted into stables, brothels and gambling halls. The first lime factories are installed next to these closed temples, from which they extract their raw material—in such a way that a large part of classical sculpture and architecture is transformed into lime!

In this same year of 354, a new edict plainly orders destruction of all Greco-Roman temples and the extermination of all ‘idolaters’. The killings of the adepts of Greco-Roman culture, the demolitions of their temples, the destructions of statues and the fires of libraries throughout the empire follow each other.

This statue of Emperor Augustus—the first Roman emperor,
who was obviously pagan—was disfigured by the Christians,
who engraved a cross on the forehead.

Let us not make the mistake of blaming the Christianised Roman emperors. They were ridiculous and weak men, but they were in the hands of their educators. The instructors, who respond to the type of vampiric and parasitic priest so hated by Nietzsche, were the true leaders of the meticulous and massive destruction that was taking place.

The numerous bishops and saints to whom we have referred were ‘cosmopolitan’ men of Jewish education, many of whom had been born in Judea, or came from essentially Jewish areas. They were transformed Jews who, having come in contact with their enemies, studying them carefully and hatefully, knew how to destroy them.

They had a broad rabbinical education and knew in depth the teachings of classical culture, dominating the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syrian and Egyptian languages. Such characters, of an intelligence and a cunning as outstanding as their resentment, were convinced that they were building a new order, and that to do so it was necessary to erase a hundred percent every trace of any previous civilisation, and any thought that was not of Jewish origin. We must recognise that their psychological knowledge and their mastery of propaganda were of a very high level.

356
All the rituals of classical culture are placed outside the law and punished by death. A year later, all methods of divination, including astrology, are also proscribed.

359
In the very Jewish city of Scythopolis, (province of Syria, today corresponds to Beit She’an, in Israel), Christian leaders organise nothing more and nothing less than a concentration camp for the Hellenists detained throughout the empire. In this field those who profess classical beliefs, or who simply opposed the Church, are imprisoned, tortured and executed.

Over time, Scythopolis becomes a whole infrastructure of camps, dungeons, torture cells and execution rooms, where thousands of Hellenists would go. The most intense horrors of the time take place here. It was the gulag that the communism of the time used to suppress the dissidents.[2]
 
________________

[1] Note of the Editor: Libanius is a kind of hero in Gore Vidal’s historical novel, Julian.

[2] Note of the Editor: Unlike Karlheinz Deschner, who uses thousands of footnotes in his books about the criminal history of Christianity, Evropa Soberana does not reference most of what he writes. I guess his source for the Judaeo-Christian death camp in Scythopolis was Ammianus Marcellinus, but the Wikipedia article on Ammianus does not mention the camps because the wiki is run by Jews and philo-Semite whites.

Scholars of the 14 words really need to start building a library in Greek and Latin that includes the collection of the Loeb Classical Library to properly reference these historical tragedies so difficult to find without a proper bibliographical guide.

Julian, 1

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

 

Emperor Julian (Latin: Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus, 331/332 – 26 June 363) has been considered a hero of the resistance to Christianity. When in 2012 and 2013 I started to reproduce excerpts of Gore Vidal’s novel Julian I was typing directly from my book copy. Now that I have obtained the PDF I’ll be adding the complete text on Sundays. The following is a note that the author himself wrote for the first page of his novel in the early 1960s.

 

Robert Graves, when he came to publish his sequel to I, Claudius, remarked in a somewhat irritable preface that a good many reviewers seemed to think he had simply spun himself a novel from Suetonius’s gossip, which looked to them like a very easy thing to do. In Claudius the God, Graves struck back with a long bibliography, listing nearly every relevant text which has survived from the ancient world. Unfortunately, I have not read as much as all that. But to anticipate those who might think that one’s only source was the history of Ammianus Marcellinus (or even of Edward Gibbon), I have included at the end of the book a partial bibliography.

The Emperor Julian’s life is remarkably well documented. Three volumes of his letters and essays survive, while such acquaintances as Libanius and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus wrote vivid accounts of him. Though I have written a novel, not a history, I have tried to stay with the facts, only occasionally shifting things around. For instance, it is unlikely that Priscus joined Julian in Gaul, but it is useful to the narrative to have him there.

Julian has always been something of an underground hero in Europe. His attempt to stop Christianity and revive Hellenism exerts still a romantic appeal, and he crops up in odd places, particularly during the Renaissance and again in the nineteenth century. Two such unlikely authors as Lorenzo de’ Medici and Henilk Ibsen wrote plays about him. But aside from the unique adventure of Julian’s life, what continues to fascinate is the fourth century itself. During the fifty years between the accession of Julian’s uncle Constantine the Great and Julian’s death at thirty-two, Christianity was established. For better or worse, we are today very much the result of what they were then.

In naming cities, I give the modern rather than the ancient name (Milan, not Mediolanum), except when the original name is more familiar to us (Ephesus, not Selquk). Dates I put in our fashion, A.D. and B.C. Since Julian’s court was a military one, I have used our own army’s way of dating, i.e., 3 October 363. Currency is a tricky matter. No one is quite certain what the exact purchasing power of money was in the fourth century, but a gold solidus was probably worth about five dollars. Julian, Priscus and Libanius, the three narrators of this story, all wrote Greek. Their Latin was rather shaky, as they are quick to remind us, but they occasionally use Latin terms, much the way we do. For those readers who will search in vain for Julian’s famous last words, “Thou hast conquered, Galilean!”, he never said them. Theodoret must take credit for this fine rhetoric, composed a century after Julian’s death.

I should like to thank the American Academy at Rome and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens for letting me use their libraries.

G.V.

Published in: on May 28, 2017 at 10:42 pm  Comments (7)  
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Gibbon on Julian – 13

Edward-Gibbon

The History of the Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire

Chapter XXIII
Reign of Julian
Part III


In the midst of a rocky and barren country, the walls of Jerusalem enclosed the two mountains of Sion and Acra, within an oval figure of about three English miles. Towards the south, the upper town, and the fortress of David, were erected on the lofty ascent of Mount Sion: on the north side, the buildings of the lower town covered the spacious summit of Mount Acra; and a part of the hill, distinguished by the name of Moriah, and levelled by human industry, was crowned with the stately temple of the Jewish nation.

After the final destruction of the temple by the arms of Titus and Hadrian, a ploughshare was drawn over the consecrated ground, as a sign of perpetual interdiction. Sion was deserted; and the vacant space of the lower city was filled with the public and private edifices of the Ælian colony, which spread themselves over the adjacent hill of Calvary. The holy places were polluted with mountains of idolatry; and, either from design or accident, a chapel was dedicated to Venus, on the spot which had been sanctified by the death and resurrection of Christ.

Almost three hundred years after those stupendous events, the profane chapel of Venus was demolished by the order of Constantine; and the removal of the earth and stones revealed the holy sepulchre to the eyes of mankind. A magnificent church was erected on that mystic ground, by the first Christian emperor; and the effects of his pious munificence were extended to every spot which had been consecrated by the footstep of patriarchs, of prophets, and of the Son of God.

The passionate desire of contemplating the original monuments of their redemption attracted to Jerusalem a successive crowd of pilgrims, from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and the most distant countries of the East; and their piety was authorized by the example of the empress Helena, who appears to have united the credulity of age with the warm feelings of a recent conversion. Sages and heroes, who have visited the memorable scenes of ancient wisdom or glory, have confessed the inspiration of the genius of the place; and the Christian who knelt before the holy sepulchre, ascribed his lively faith, and his fervent devotion, to the more immediate influence of the Divine Spirit.

The zeal, perhaps the avarice, of the clergy of Jerusalem, cherished and multiplied these beneficial visits. They fixed, by unquestionable tradition, the scene of each memorable event. They exhibited the instruments which had been used in the passion of Christ; the nails and the lance that had pierced his hands, his feet, and his side; the crown of thorns that was planted on his head; the pillar at which he was scourged; and, above all, they showed the cross on which he suffered, and which was dug out of the earth in the reign of those princes, who inserted the symbol of Christianity in the banners of the Roman legions.

Such miracles as seemed necessary to account for its extraordinary preservation, and seasonable discovery, were gradually propagated without opposition. The custody of the true cross, which on Easter Sunday was solemnly exposed to the people, was intrusted to the bishop of Jerusalem; and he alone might gratify the curious devotion of the pilgrims, by the gift of small pieces, which they encased in gold orgems, and carried away in triumph to their respective countries.

But as this gainful branch of commerce must soon have been annihilated, it was found convenient to suppose, that the marvelous wood possessed a secret power of vegetation; and that its substance, though continually diminished, still remained entire and unimpaired. It might perhaps have been expected, that the influence of the place and the belief of a perpetual miracle, should have produced some salutary effects on the morals, as well as on the faith, of the people.

Yet the most respectable of the ecclesiastical writers have been obliged to confess, not only that the streets of Jerusalem were filled with the incessant tumult of business and pleasure, but that every species of vice–adultery, theft, idolatry, poisoning, murder–was familiar to the inhabitants of the holy city. The wealth and preeminence of the church of Jerusalem excited the ambition of Arian, as well as orthodox, candidates; and the virtues of Cyril, who, since his death, has been honored with the title of Saint, were displayed in the exercise, rather than in the acquisition, of his Episcopal dignity. The vain and ambitious mind of Julian might aspire to restore the ancient glory of the temple of Jerusalem.

As the Christians were firmly persuaded that a sentence of everlasting destruction had been pronounced against the whole fabric of the Mosaic law, the Imperial sophist would have converted the success of his undertaking into a specious argument against the faith of prophecy, and the truth of revelation. He was displeased with the spiritual worship of the synagogue; but he approved the institutions of Moses, who had not disdained to adopt many of therites and ceremonies of Egypt.

The local and national deity of the Jews was sincerely adored by a polytheist, who desired only to multiply the number of the gods; and such was the appetite of Julian for bloody sacrifice, that his emulation might be excited by the piety of Solomon, who had offered, at the feast of the dedication, twenty-two thousand oxen, and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep. These considerations might influence his designs; but the prospect of an immediate and important advantage would not suffer the impatient monarch to expect the remote and uncertain event of the Persian war.

He resolved to erect, without delay, on the commanding eminence of Moriah, a stately temple, which might eclipse the splendor of the church of the resurrection on the adjacent hill of Calvary; to establish an order of priests, whose interested zeal would detect the arts, and resist the ambition, of their Christian rivals; and to invite a numerous colony of Jews, whose stern fanaticism would be always prepared to second, and even to anticipate, the hostile measures of the Pagan government. Among the friends of the emperor (if the names of emperor, and of friend, are not incompatible) the first place was assigned, by Julian himself, to the virtuous and learned Alypius.

The humanity of Alypius was tempered by severe justice and manly fortitude; and while he exercised his abilities in the civil administration of Britain, he imitated, in his poetical compositions, the harmony and softness of the odes of Sappho. This minister, to whom Julian communicated, without reserve, his most careless levities, and his most serious counsels, received an extraordinary commission to restore, in its pristine beauty, the temple of Jerusalem; and the diligence of Alypius required and obtained the strenuous support of the governor of Palestine.

At the call of their great deliverer, the Jews, from all the provinces of the empire, assembled on the holy mountain of their fathers; and their insolent triumph alarmed and exasperated the Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem. The desire of rebuilding the temple has in every age been the ruling passion of the children of Isræl. In this propitious moment the men forgot their avarice, and the women their delicacy; spades and pickaxes of silver were provided by the vanity of the rich, and the rubbish was transported in mantles of silk and purple.

Every purse was opened in liberal contributions, every hand claimed a share in the pious labor, and the commands of a great monarch were executed by the enthusiasm of a whole people. Yet, on this occasion, the joint efforts of power and enthusiasm were unsuccessful; and the ground of the Jewish temple, which is now covered by a Mahomet a mosque, still continued to exhibit the same edifying spectacle of ruin and desolation. Perhaps the absence and death of the emperor, and the new maxims of a Christian reign, might explain the interruption of an arduous work, which was attempted only in the last six months of the life of Julian.

But the Christians entertained a natural and pious expectation, that, in this memorable contest, the honor of religion would be vindicated by some signal miracle. An earthquake, a whirlwind, and a fiery eruption, which overturned and scattered the new foundations of the temple, are attested, with some variations, by contemporary and respectable evidence. This public eventis described by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, in an epistle to the emperor Theodosius, which must provoke the severe animadversion of the Jews; by the eloquent Chrysostom, who might appeal to the memory of the elder part of his congregation at Antioch; and by Gregory Nazianzen, who published his account of the miracle before the expiration of the same year.

The last of these writers has boldly declared, that this preternatural event was not disputed by the infidels; and his assertion, strange as it may seem is confirmed by the unexceptionable testimony of Ammianus Marcellinus. The philosophic soldier, who loved the virtues, without adopting the prejudices, of his master, has recorded, in his judicious and candid history of his own times, the extraordinary obstacles which interrupted the restoration of the temple of Jerusalem.

“Whilst Alypius, assisted by the governor of the province, urged, with vigor and diligence, the execution of the work, horrible balls of fire breaking out near the foundations, with frequent and reiterated attacks, rendered the place, from time to time, inaccessible to the scorched and blasted workmen; and the victorious element continuing in this manner obstinately and resolutely bent, as it were, to drive them to a distance, the undertaking was abandoned.”

Such authority should satisfy a believing, and must astonish an incredulous, mind. Yet a philosopher may still require the original evidence of impartial and intelligent spectators. At this important crisis, any singular accident of nature would assume the appearance, and produce the effects of areal prodigy. This glorious deliverance would be speedily improved and magnified by the pious art of the clergy of Jerusalem, and the active credulity of the Christian world and, at the distance of twenty years, a Roman historian, care less of theological disputes, might adorn his work with the specious and splendid miracle.

Who We Are, 14

The following is my abridgement of chapter 14 of William Pierce’s history of the white race, Who We Are:

One of the Principal Indo-European Peoples Who Founded Europe
Celts Were Fierce Warriors, Master Craftsmen
Roman Conquest Drowned Celtic Europe in Blood

 

In the last few installments we have dealt with those Indo-European peoples which, after leaving their homeland north of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, between the Urals and the Dnieper, invaded regions of the world heavily populated by alien races. Some—the Aryans, Kassites, Mitanni, Hittites, Phrygians, and Philistines—went into the Middle East, conquered the natives, and then gradually sank down into them through racial mixing over the course of millennia.

Others—the Achaeans, Dorians and Latins—went southwest, into the Greek and Italian peninsulas, conquered the aboriginal Mediterraneans already there, and founded the great civilizations of Classical antiquity. Although the racial differences between them and the natives were not as great as for those who went into the Middle East, mixing took its toll of these Indo-Europeans as well, and they gradually lost their original racial character.

Four Indo-European Peoples. The Indo-Europeans who invaded [the north] of Europe were able to remain racially pure, to a much greater extent than their cousins who invaded the more southerly and easterly regions, even to the present day. They established, in effect, a new Indo-European heartland in northern Europe. We shall look at four great divisions of these Indo-European peoples: the Celts, Germans, Balts, and Slavs.

These divisions are distinguished one from another by language, geography, and time of appearance on the stage of world history, as well as by their subsequent fates. But one salient fact should be kept in mind throughout the individual treatments of the Celts, Germans, Balts, and Slavs which follow: they are all branches from the same trunk.

Originally, Celt, German, Balt, and Slav were indistinguishably Nordic. The Celts were the first group to make an impact on the Classical world, and so we will deal with them first. (The “C” may be pronounced either with an “s” sound, the result of French influence, or with a “k” sound. The latter was the original pronunciation.) The reason the Celts interacted with the Greeks and Romans before the other groups did is that their wanderings took them farthest south. The Roman conquest of southeastern Europe, Gaul, and Britain destroyed the greater part of Celtic culture, as well as doing an enormous amount of racial damage.

But the Celts themselves, as much as anyone else, were responsible for the decline of their racial fortunes. They settled in regions of Europe which, although not so heavily Mediterraneanized as Greece and Italy, were much more so than the German, Baltic, and Slavic areas. And, as has so often been the case with the Indo-Europeans, for the most part they did not force the indigenous populations out of the areas they conquered, but made subjects of them instead.

Thus, many people who think of themselves as “Celts” today are actually more Mediterranean than Celtic. And others, with Latin, Germanic, or Slavic names, are actually of nearly unmixed Celtic descent.

In this installment we will look at the origins of the Celts and at their interaction with the Romans.

The early Celts were not literate, and we are, therefore, dependent on Classical authors for much of what we know about Celtic mores, lifestyles, and behavior, as well as the physical appearance of the Celts themselves. The fourth-century Byzantine writer, Ammianus Marcellinus, drawing on reports from the first century B.C., tells us that the Celts (or Gauls, as the Romans called them) were fastidious, fair, and fierce:

The Gauls are all exceedingly careful of cleanliness and neatness, nor in all the country could any man or woman, however poor, be seen either dirty or ragged.

Nearly all are of a lofty stature, fair and of ruddy complexion: terrible from the sternness of their eyes, very quarrelsome, and of great pride and insolence. A whole troop of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Gaul if he called his wife to his assistance, who is usually very strong and with blue eyes.

All the Classical writers agree in their descriptions of the Celts as being tall, light-eyed, and with blond or red hair, which they wore long. Flowing, abundant mustaches seem to have been a Celtic national trait.

And the favorite national pastime seems to have been fighting. Born to the saddle and bred to arms, the Celts were a warlike race, always ready for a brawl. Excellent horsemen and swordsmen, they were heartily feared by all their enemies.

Perhaps we should not be surprised that these equestrian warriors invented chain-link armor and iron horseshoes and were the first to learn how to make seamless iron tires for wagons and war chariots. But the Celts were also the inventors of soap, which they introduced to the relatively unwashed Greeks and Romans. Their inventive genius also manifested itself in the numerous iron woodworking tools and agricultural implements which they developed. They did not build castles, as such, but depended instead on strategically located hilltops, fortified with earthworks and palisades, as places of retreat in wartime.

Gradually these hill forts, or oppida (as the Romans called them), gained permanent inhabitants and enough amenities so that they could be considered towns. They became the sites of regular fairs and festivals, and centers of trade as well as defense.

Celtic society, following the customary Indo-European pattern, was hierarchical. At the top was a fighting and hunting aristocracy, always purely Celtic. At the bottom were the small farmers, the servants, and the petty craftsmen. The racial composition of this class varied from purely Celtic to mostly Mediterranean, depending on the region.

Relations between the sexes were open and natural, and—in contrast to the norm for Mediterranean societies—Celtic women were allowed a great deal of freedom.

When the wife of Sulpicius Severus, a Romanized fourth-century historian, reproached the wife of a Celtic chieftain for the wanton ways of Celtic women, the Celtic woman replied: “We fulfill the demands of nature in a much better way than do you Roman women: for we consort openly with the best men, whereas you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest.” In fourth-century Rome, of course, virtually all the wealth was in the hands of “the vilest” men: Jews, Syrians, and other Oriental immigrants who dominated commerce and constituted the nouveaux riches.

The ancestors of the Celts brought the solar religion of their Indo-European homeland with them to the areas they invaded; three-armed and four-armed swastikas, as solar symbols, are an omnipresent element in Celtic art, as is the four-spoked sun wheel. One of the most widely revered Celtic gods, Lug (or Lugh), had many of the attributes of the Germanic Wotan, and one of his designations, Longhanded Lug, referred to his role as a solar deity, whose life-giving force reached everywhere.

By the time of the Roman conquest, however, many extraneous elements had become inseparably blended into Celtic religion. The druids practiced not only solar rites, but some rather dark and nasty ones of Mediterranean origin as well.

Many later writers have not been as careful as Caesar was and tend to lump all Celtic-speaking populations together as “Gauls,” while sharply distinguishing them from the Germans. As a matter of fact, there was a much greater affinity between the Celts and the Germans, despite the language difference, than there was between the truly Celtic elements among the Gauls and the racially different but Celtic-speaking Mediterranean and Celtiberian elements.

In the British Isles the racial effects of the fifth-century B.C. Celtic invasions varied. In some areas indigenous Nordic populations were reinforced, and in others indigenous Mediterranean or mixed populations diluted the fresh Nordic wave.

Brennus Sacks Rome. Around 400 B.C. Celts invaded northern Italy in strength, establishing a permanent presence in the Po valley, between the Alps and the Apennines. They pushed out the resident Etruscans and Ligurians, founded the city of Milan, and began exploring possibilities for further expansion south of the Apennines.

In 390 B.C. a Celtic army under their chieftain Brennus defeated the Roman army and occupied Rome. The Celts were not prepared to stay, however, and upon payment of an enormous ransom in gold by the Romans they withdrew again to northern Italy.

In the following centuries there were repeated clashes between adventurous Celts and the people of the Classical civilizations to the south. In the third century B.C. a Celtic army ravaged Macedonia and struck deep into Greece, while another group of Celts, the Galatae, invaded central Asia Minor. Three centuries later the latter were still in place; they were the Galatians of the New Testament.

[Roman revenge.] Celtic bands continued to whip Roman armies, even to the end of the second century B.C., but then Roman military organization and discipline turned the tide. The first century B.C. was a time of unmitigated disaster for the Celts. Caesar’s conquest of Gaul was savage and bloody, with whole tribes, including women and children, being slaughtered by the Romans.

By the autumn of 54 B.C, Caesar had subdued Gaul, having destroyed 800 towns and villages and killed or enslaved more than three million Celts. And behind his armies came a horde of Roman-Jewish merchants and speculators, to batten on what was left of Gallic trade, industry, and agriculture like a swarm of locusts. Hundreds of thousands of blond, blue-eyed Celtic girls were marched south in chains, to be pawed over by greasy, Semitic flesh-merchants in Rome’s slave markets before being shipped out to fill the bordellos of the Levant.

Vercingetorix. Then began one, last, heroic effort by the Celts of Gaul to throw off the yoke of Rome, thereby regaining their honor and their freedom, and—whether consciously or not—reestablishing the superiority of Nordic mankind over the mongrel races of the south. The ancestors of the Romans had themselves established this superiority in centuries past, but by Caesar’s time Rome had sunk irretrievably into the quagmire of miscegenation and had become the enemy of the race which founded it.

The rebellion began with an attack by Ambiorix, king of the Celtic tribe of the Eburones, on a Roman fortress on the middle Moselle. It spread rapidly throughout most of northern and central Gaul. The Celts used guerrilla tactics against the Romans, ruthlessly burning their own villages and fields to deny the enemy food and then ambushing his vulnerable supply columns.

For two bloody years the uprising went on. Caesar surpassed his former cruelty and savagery in trying to put it down. When Celtic prisoners were taken, the Romans tortured them hideously before killing them. When the rebel town of Avaricum fell to Caesar’s legions, he ordered the massacre of its 40,000 inhabitants.

Meanwhile, a new leader of the Gallic Celts had come to the fore. He was Vercingetorix, king of the Arverni, the tribe which gave its name to France’s Auvergne region. His own name meant, in the Celtic tongue, “warrior king,” and he was well named.

Vercingetorix came closer than anyone else had to uniting the Celts. He was a charismatic leader, and his successes against the Romans, particularly at Gergovia, the principal town of the Arverni, roused the hopes of other Celtic peoples. Tribe after tribe joined his rebel confederation, and for a while it seemed as if Caesar might be driven from Gaul.

But unity was still too new an experience for the Celts, nor could all their valor make up for their lack of the long experience of iron discipline which the Roman legionaries enjoyed. Too impetuous, too individualistic, too prone to rush headlong in pursuit of a temporary advantage instead of subjecting themselves always to the cooler-headed direction of their leaders, the Celts soon dissipated their chances of liberating Gaul.

Finally, in the summer of 52 B.C., Caesar’s legions penned up Vercingetorix and 80,000 of his followers in the walled town of, Alesia, on the upper Teaches of the Seine. Although an army of a quarter-million Celts, from 41 tribes, eventually came to relieve besieged Alesia, Caesar had had time to construct massive defenses for his army. While the encircled Alesians starved, the Celts outside the Roman lines wasted their strength in futile assaults on Caesar’s fortifications.

Savage End. In a valiant, self-sacrificing effort to save his people from being annihilated, Vercingetorix rode out of Alesia, on a late September day, and surrendered himself to Caesar. Caesar sent the Celtic king to Rome in chains, kept him in a dungeon for six years, and then, during the former’s triumphal procession of 46 B.C., had him publicly strangled and beheaded in the Forum, to the wild cheers of the city’s degraded, mongrel populace.

After the disaster at Alesia, the confederation Vercingetorix had put together crumbled, and Caesar had little trouble in extinguishing the last Celtic resistance in Gaul. He used his tried-and-true methods, which included chopping the hands off all the Celtic prisoners he took after one town, Uxellodunum, commanded by a loyal adjutant of Vercingetorix, surrendered to him.

Decadent Rome did not long enjoy dominion of the Celtic lands, however, because another Indo-European people, the Germans, soon replaced the Latins as the masters of Europe.

Published in: on December 30, 2012 at 5:49 pm  Comments Off on Who We Are, 14  
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