Christianity’s Criminal History, 101

 

Editors’ note:

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

 

The Christian Book Burning
and the Annihilation of Classical Culture

Where is the wise person? Where is the educated one? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

—St. Paul, I Corinthians 1:20

Charlatanism is initiated among you by the schoolteacher, and as you have divided the science into parts [sacred & profane], you have moved away from the only true one.

—Tatian

After Jesus Christ, all research is already pointless. If we believe, we no longer demand anything that goes beyond our faith.

—Tertullian

If you want to read historical narratives, there you have the Book of The Kings. If, on the contrary, you want to read the wise men and philosophers, you have the prophets… And if you long for the hymns, you also have the psalms of David.

—Apostolic Constitution (3rd Century)

Religion is, therefore, the central core of the entire educational process and must permeate all educational measures.

Lexicon for Catholic Life (1952)

 
Constantine ordered to burn the fifteen books of the work Against the Christians written by Porphyry, the most astute of the opponents of Christianity in the pre-Constantinian era: ‘The first state prohibition of books decreed in favour of the Church’ (Hamack). And his successors, Theodosius II and Valentinian III, condemned Porphyry’s work again to the bonfire, in 448. This happened after Eusebius of Caesarea had written twenty-five books against this work and the doctor of the Church Cyril nothing less than thirty.

Towards the end of the 4th century, during the reign of Emperor Valens, there was a great burning of books, accompanied by many executions. That Christian regent gave free rein to his fury for almost two years, behaving like ‘a wild beast’, torturing, strangulating, burning people alive, and beheading. The innumerable records allowed to find the traces of many books that were destroyed, especially in the field of law and the liberal arts. Entire libraries went to the fire in the East. Sometimes they were eliminated by their owners under the effect of panic.

On the occasion of the assaults on the temples, the Christians destroyed, especially in the East, not only the images of the gods but also the liturgical books and those of the oracles. The Catholic Emperor Jovian (363-364) had the Antioch library destroyed by fire: the same library installed there by his predecessor Julian the Apostate. Following the assault on the Serapis in 391, during which the sinister Patriarch Theophilus himself destroyed, axe in hand, the colossal statue of Serapis carved by the great Athenian artist Bryaxis, the library was consumed by flames.

After the library of the Museum of Alexandria, which already had 700,000 rolls, was consumed by a casual fire during the siege war by Cesar (48-47 BC), the fame of Alexandria as a city possessing the most numerous and precious bibliographic treasures only lasted thanks to the library of the Serapis, since the supposed intention of Antony to give Cleopatra, as compensation for the loss of the library of the museum, the entire library of Pergamum, with 200,000 rolls , does not seem to have come to fruition. The burning of libraries on the occasion of the assault on the temples was indeed something frequent, especially in the East.

It happened once again under the responsibility of Theophilus, following the destruction of an Egyptian sanctuary in Canopus and that of the Marneion of Gaza in 402.

At the beginning of the 5th century, Stilicho burned in the West—with great dismay on the part of the Roman aristocracy faithful to the religion of his elders—the books of the Sibyl, the immortal mother of the world, as Rutilius Claudius Namatianus complained. To him, the Christian sect seemed worse than the poison of Circe.

In the last decades of the 5th century, the libelli found there (‘these were an abomination in the eyes of God’—Rhetor Zacharias)—were burnt in Beirut before the church of St. Mary. The ecclesiastical writer Zacharias, who was then studying law in Beirut, played a leading role in this action supported by the bishop and state authorities. And in the year 562 Emperor Justinian, who had ‘pagan’ philosophers, rectors, jurists and physicians persecuted, ordered the burning of Greco-Roman images and books in the Kynegion of Constantinople, where the criminals were liquidated.

Apparently, already at the borderline of the Middle Ages, Pope Gregory I the Great, a fanatical enemy of everything classical, burned books in Rome. And this celebrity—the only one, together with Leo I, in gathering in his person the double distinction of Pope and Doctor of the Church—seems to have been the one who destroyed the books that are missing in the work of Titus Livy. It is not even implausible that it was he who ordered the demolition of the imperial library on the Palatine. In any case, the English scholastic John of Salisbury, bishop of Chartres, asserts that Pope Gregory intentionally destroyed manuscripts of classical authors of Roman libraries.

Everything indicates that many adepts of the Greco-Roman culture converted to Christianity had to prove to have really moved their convictions by burning their books in full view. Also, in some hagiographic narratives, both false and authentic, there is that commonplace of the burning of books as a symbol, so to speak, of a conversion story.

It was not always forced to go to the bonfire. Already in the first half of the 3rd century, Origen, very close in this regard to Pope Gregory, ‘desisted from teaching grammar as being worthless and contrary to sacred science and, calculating coldly and wisely, he sold all his works of the ancients authors with whom he had occupied until then in order not to need help from others for the sustenance of his life’ (Eusebius).

There is hardly anything left of the scientific critique of Christianity on the part of adherents to classical culture. The emperor and the Church took care of it. Even many Christian responses to it disappeared! (probably because there was still too much ‘pagan poison’ on its pages). But it was the classical culture itself on which the time came for its disappearance under the Roman Empire.
 

The annihilation of the Greco-Roman world

The last emperor of classical antiquity, the great Julian, certainly favoured the adherents of the old culture, but simultaneously tolerated the Christians: ‘It is, by the gods, my will that the Galileans not be killed, that they are not beaten unjustly or suffer any other type of injustice. I declare, however, that the worshipers of the gods will have a clear preference in front of them. For the madness of the Galileans was about to overthrow everything, while the veneration of the gods saved us all. That is why we have to honour the gods and the people and communities that venerate them’.

After Julian’s death, to whom the orator Libanius felt united by faith and friendship, Libanius complains deeply, moved by the triumph of Christianity and by its barbarous attacks on the old religion.

Oh! What a great sorrow took hold not only of the land of the Achaeans, but of the entire empire… The honours of which the good ones participated have disappeared; the friendship of the wicked and unbridled enjoys great prestige. Laws, repressive of evil, have already been repealed or are about to be. Those that remain are barely fulfilled in practice.

Full of bitterness, Libanius continues to address his co-religionists:

That faith, which until now was the object of mockery and that fought against you so fierce and untiring, has proved to be the strongest. It has extinguished the sacred fire, the joy of sacrifices, has ordered to savagely neat [its adversaries] and demolish the altars. It has locked the shrines and temples, if not destroyed them or turned them into brothels after declaring them impious. It has abrogated any activity with your faith…

In that final assault on the Greco-Roman world, the Christian emperors were mostly and for a long time less aggressive than the Christian Church. Under Jovian (363-364), the first successor of Julian, Hellenism does not seem to have suffered major damage except the closure and demolition of some temples. Also the successors of Jovian, Valentinian I and Valens, during whose government appears for the first time the term pagani referring the faithful of the old polytheism, maintained an attitude of relative tolerance toward them.

The Catholic Valentinian with plenty of reasons, because his interest was in the army and needed inner peace, tried to avoid religious conflicts. He still covered the high positions of the government almost evenly, even with a slight predominance of the believers in the gods.

Under Valens, nevertheless, the high Christian officials already constituted a majority before the Hellenes. Yet he fought the Catholics, even using the help of the Hellenes for reasons, of course, purely opportunistic.

Although the emperor Gratian, for continuing the rather liberal religious policy of his father Valentinian I, had promised tolerance to almost all the confessions of the empire by an edict promulgated in 378, in practice soon followed an opposite behaviour, for he was strongly influenced by the bishop of Milan, Ambrose.

Under Valentinian II, brother of Gratian, things really turned around and the relationship between high Christian officials and the adherents of the old culture was again balanced and the army chiefs, two polytheists, played a decisive role in the court. Even in Rome two other Hellenes of great prestige, Praetextatus and Symmachus, exerted the charges of praetorian and urban prefect respectively.

Gradually, however, Valentinian, as his brother once did, fell under the disastrous influence of the resident bishop of Milan, Ambrose. Something similar to what would happen later with Theodosius I. Ambrose lived according to his motto: ‘For the “gods of the heathen are but devils” as the Holy Scripture says; therefore, anyone who is a soldier of this true God must not give proof of tolerance and condescension, but of zeal for faith and religion’.

And indeed, the powerful Theodosius ruled during the last years of his term, at least as far as religious policy was concerned, strictly following Ambrose’s wishes. First, the rites of non-Christians were definitively banned at the beginning of 391. Later the temples and sanctuaries of Serapis in Alexandria were closed, which soon would be destroyed. In 393 the Olympic games were prohibited. The infant emperors of the 5th century [1] were puppets in the hands of the Church. That is why the court also committed itself more and more intensely in the struggle against classical culture, a struggle that the Church had already vehemently fuelled in the 4th century and that led gradually to the systematic extermination of the old faith.

The best-known bishops took part in this extermination, which intensified after the Council of Constantinople (381), with Rome and the East, especially Egypt, as the most notorious battlefields of the conflict between the Hellenes and the Christians.
 
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[1] Deschner is referring to emperors Arcadius, Theodosius II and Honorius whose reigns will be described in other translations of his books.

Kriminalgeschichte, 56

Below, an abridged translation from the first volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (Criminal History of Christianity). For a comprehensive text that explains the absolute need to destroy Judeo-Christianity, see here. In a nutshell, any white person who worships the god of the Jews is, ultimately, ethnosuicidal.

 
The Ambrosian policy: archetype for the Church to the present

The same as Athanasius, Ambrose (in his post of 374-397)—according to Augustine’s testimony, ‘the best and most renowned bishop of Milan’—was not so much a theologian as a politician of the Church: equally inflexible and intolerant, although not so direct; more versed and ductile and acquainted with power since birth. His methods, more than those of Athanasius, remain to date an example for ecclesiastical politics.[1]

The agents of the saint are among the highest officials of the Empire. He acts skilfully from the background and prefers to let be that the ‘community’ does things, which he fanaticised with so much virtuosity that even the military proclamations directed against it fail.

Son of the prefect of Gaul, Ambrose was born about 333 or 339 in Trier. Orphaned at an early age he grew up, with two brothers, under the tutelage of Roman aristocrats. Having studied rhetoric and law he was appointed, around 370, administrator (consularis Liguriae et Aemiliae) in Milan. On December 7, 374 he would be consecrated bishop, barely eight days after his baptism and without even having the Christian knowledge of an educated layman.

Milan (Mediolanum), founded by the Gauls and a remarkable knot of communications, especially with important roads that lead to the alpine passes, was in the 4th century the capital of Italy and increasingly the imperial residence. Valentinian II sought to stay there as long as possible; Gratian still more, and Theodosius I remained there from 388 to 391, and also after his victory over Eugene (394).

Roman columns in front of basilica di San Lorenzo
in what remains of Mediolanum, the ancient Milan.

Sometimes Bishop Ambrose saw the sovereigns daily. Since when Valentinian II was proclaimed Augustus (375) he was barely five years old, his tutor and half-brother Gratian had just turned sixteen and the Spanish Theodosius was at least a very determined Catholic, the illustrious disciple of Jesus could handle perfectly their majesties. Valentinian I died a few years after Ambrose’s inauguration. His son Gratian (375-383), of just sixteen years of age, succeeded him on the throne.

The emperor, blond, beautiful and athletic had no interest in politics. ‘I have never learned what it means to govern and be governed’ (Eunapius). He was a passionate runner, javelin thrower, fighter, rider, but what he liked most was killing animals. Neglecting the affairs of state, every day he killed countless of them, with an almost ‘supernatural’ ability, even lions, with a single arrow. In any case, he also prayed every day and was ‘pious and clean of hearing’, as Ambrose affirmed so that he would soon deliver biting hints: ‘His virtues would have been complete had he also learned the art of politics’ (Epit. de Caesaribus).[2]

However, this art was practiced by Ambrose for him. Not only did he personally guide the young sovereign, effectively since 378: he also influenced his government measures. At that time the sovereign had promulgated, by an edict, precisely tolerance towards all confessions, except a few extremist sects. However, Ambrose, who four years before was still unbaptized, hastened to write a statement, De fide ad Gratianum Augustum, which he quickly understood.

And as soon as Gratian himself arrived at the end of July 379 in Milan, neutral as he was from the point of view of religious policy, he annulled on August 3, after an interview with Ambrose, the edict of tolerance promulgated the year before. He decided then that only would be considered ‘Catholic’ what his father and he in numerous decrees had ordered eternal, but that ‘all heresies’ should ‘be muted for eternity’. He thus prohibited the religious services of the other confessions. Year after year, except for 380, he issued anti-heretic decrees, ordering the confiscation of meeting places, houses and churches; he dictated exiles and, as a fairly new means of religious oppression, repealed the right to make wills. He was also the first of the Christian emperors who got rid of the title of Pontifex Maximus (that the Roman monarchs used since Augustus), or rather, he refused to accept it, although the year is still the subject of discussions. The military under Sapor was ordered to ‘expel from religious facilities the Arian blasphemy as if they were wild animals and return them to the true shepherds and flocks of God’ (Theodoret). Tolerance towards paganism, which was common among his predecessors, also soon disappeared. In fact, his father still allowed the reparation of damaged temples, making the government pay the expenses. In 381, Gratian moved to northern Italy. In 382 he attacked the pagan cult of Rome, most probably advised by Ambrose; although sanitation of the State coffers may also have played an important role. He also persecuted the Marcionists and, like his father, the Manichaeans and the Donatists: whose communities in Rome had been dissolved without further ado, at the request of Pope Siricius (383-399), with state aid.[3]

Valentinian II (375-392), much younger still, had a remarkable influence on the saint. He habitually used him against the Senate of Rome, mostly pagan, and against the entire Council of the Crown. And the last Westerner on the throne of the East, the independent Theodosius (379-395), dictated in almost every year of his government laws against pagans or ‘heretics’. However, according to Father Stratmann, he was more tolerant than the bishop of the court, who encouraged him to take stricter measures on all sides against the pagans, the ‘heretics’, the Jews, and the extreme enemies of the Empire. The reason: ‘It is no longer our old life that we continue to live but the life of Christ, the life of maximum innocence, the life of divine simplicity, the life of all virtues’ (Ambrose).[4]

The way in which Ambrose lived the life of Christ, the life of maximum innocence, of divine simplicity and of all the virtues, manifests itself in multiple ways—for example, in his behaviour against the Goths. We will deal with them because the Goths played a very important role in the history of Europe, especially between the 5th and 6th centuries. The sources are better in this case than in the other tribes of eastern Germans, and richer is the historiography on them.[5]
 
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Note of the translator: The footnotes still lack the general bibliography, which will be ready as I finish the abridgement of this first volume.

[1] August. conf. 5,13.

[2] Eunap. Excerpt. de Sent. 48. Auson. Grat. Act 64 f. Ammian. 27,6,15; 31,10,18 f. Soz. 7,25,11. Vict. Epit. de Caesaribus 47,5 f. Seeck, Untergang V 165. Dudden I 217 f.

[3] Ammian 30,9,5. Theodor. e.h. 4.24.2 f; 5.2; 5.21.3 f. Socr. 5.2; Cod. Theod. 13,1,11; 16.5.4 f. Cod. Just. 1,5,2. Soz. 7,1,3. Ambros. ep. 1 f; 7 f. Auson. Grat. Act. 14.63. Epistula Gratiani imperat. (CSEL 79.3 f). Zos. 4,36,5. Rauschen 47.49 f. RAC II 1228 f. Kraft, Kirchenväter Lexikon 27. Seeck, Regesten 252. The same, Untergang V 104 f, 137. Sesan 60 f. Stein, Vom römischen 304 f. Heering I 60 f. Dudden I 191 f. V. Campenhausen, Ambrosius 15, 36, 40 f. Alföldi, A Festival. According to this author, Gratian abandoned the title of Pontifex Maximus at the beginning of 379, p. 36. Kornemann, Römische Geschichte II 420. Ensslin, Die Religionspolitik 8 f. Lorenz 38. Diesner, Kirche und Staat 23. Maier, Verwandlung 53. Hornus 168 f. Widmann 59. Grasmück 131 f, 151 f. Lippold, Theodosius 16, 34 f. Kupisch I 91. Schneider, Liebesgebot 46. Aland, Von Jesus bis Justinian 224. Heinzberger 12, 227 Notes 37; here the corresponding bibliography. Thraede 95. Grant, Christen 177. – Chronology, as so often happens, is still subject to controversy. G. Gottlieb, who is not followed here, in his work of opposition to chair in Heidelberg fixed for the writing of the first part of ‘de fide’ not the 378 (or 379), that is, not as was done until the date immediately before (or shortly after) the battle of Adrianople, but a year later. Cf. G. Gottlieb, Ambrosius von Mailand und Kaiser Gratian, Zusammenfassung 83 f. G. discusses even any influence of Ambrose on Gratian’s legislation on matters of the Church and faith, 51 f, or at least explains that such influence ‘cannot be seen anywhere’ (87). Cf. in this regard also Gottlieb, Gratianus RAC VII 718 f, especially 723 f.

[4] Ambros. Über die Flucht vor der Welt 44. Heilmann, Texte II 396. Stein, Vom römischen 296 F. Stratmann III 76. V. Campenhausen, Ambrosius 166. Bloch 197. Aland, Von Jesus bis Justinian 225. Rubin I 27 speaks precisely of the ‘submission’ of Theodosius to Ambrose.

[5] Cf. recently Strzelczyck 1 f.