the center of the Christian Dark Ages stood the Bible. This
fabricated compendium of garbled history, borrowed
mythology, genocidal conflict and pious platitudes
was elevated as the font of all wisdom, even as the
bonfires set by Christian zealots reduced the science
of a millennium to ash.
In the new Christian tyranny
all scientific thought which contradicted the Bible
was suppressed. If rationality and observation contradicted
the "revealed Word of God" then
it was rationality and the observer who were in error.
the Christian, it is enough to believe that the
cause of all things, whether in heaven or on earth,
whether visible or invisible, is nothing other
than the goodness of the Creator."
Augustine (Enchiridion 3.9)
St Paul himself had instructed his acolytes to "avoid
profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called." (1 Timothy 6.20). In the new Christian commonwealth free thought itself was under seige.
the early 340s a fanatic, Firmicus Maternus,
wrote to the emperors Constantius and Constans ('De
Errore'). He was one of the first Christians to urge
for which he promised the 'reward from God.' The
monarchs needed little encouragement – persecution began
immediately, with pagan sacrifice made a capital offence
sons of Constantine trod in the footsteps of their
father, with more zeal, and with less discretion ...
every indulgence was shown to the illegal behaviour
of the Christians; every doubt was explained to the
disadvantage of Paganism; and the demolition of the
temples was celebrated as one of the auspicious events
of the reign of Constans and Constantius."
during the brief reign of the pagan emperor Julian,
the Temple of Apollo at Daphne (Antioch) had been burned
down by Christian arsonists. His successor, the sadistic
tax and other privileges to the Church,
rescinded by Julian, and waged a particularly vicious
the dead emperor's supporters (in vain, attempting
a coup under Julian's cousin Procopius). In Italy,
chose this moment to seize the immense wealth of the
Temple of Vesta, protector goddess of the city of Rome.
a generation, the wildest dreams of Firmicus were fulfilled
with the institution
of the theocratic
of Theodosius and
the subsequent murder of scientists, the destruction
of libraries, and eliminated and silencing
heretics we pronounce mad and foolish ... these are
to be visited first by the divine vengeance, and secondly
by the stroke of our own authority, which we have received
in accordance with the will of Heaven."
spoke Theodosius in 380 (Norwich, p118).
new and darker culture emerged. In 397, at the
4th Church Council of Carthage, the synod drew up
a list of approved books of the
canon and at the same time instituted a prohibition on anyone,
pagan literature. Non-Christian
teachers, army officers, public employees and judges
were dismissed from office. Early in the 5th century
John Chrysostom (erstwhile patriarch in Constantinople)
recorded with delight:
as for the writings of the Greeks, they are all put
out and vanished"
– On John, Homily
2, Trinity, Sophists, Philosophers, 5.
goes on to describe Pythagoras as a sorcerer and barbarian!
half a century, imperial edicts required the burning
of non-Christian books. Many libraries of
antiquity had been attached to temples, academies,
and public baths
suffered in the general attack by Christians
on these vulgar pagan edifices. Plato's
Academy, and the last of the pagan schools, were closed
by Justinian in 529.
contrast to the assault upon science and paganism,
imperial patronage and wealth from the elite
into a plethora
of new churches, monasteries and nunneries – glorifying
God and securing for their patrons 'a place in heaven.' Starved of funds, as well as legality, scientific
research inevitably withered and died.
of Scientific Method
of the pagans' and
secular public education
were thus marginalised and eliminated. Lamented Ammianus
Marcellinus, Rome's last great historian (who died in 395):
"Those few mansions which
were once celebrated for the serious cultivation
of liberal studies, now
are filled with ridiculous amusements of torpid indolence
... The libraries, like tombs, are closed forever."
those bright and privileged enough to seek education,
career opportunities now lay exclusively within
the hierarchy of the church
and a Christianised
state bureaucracy. With the active cooperation of the imperial
court the Church had grasped complete control
over education and, having done so, restricted
rhetoric and grammar remained on the syllabus but
knowledge which did not serve the purposes of the Church
Mathematics, with its historic link to the 'demonic' philosophy of the Pythagoreans,
was especially suspect:
good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and
all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already
exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant
with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine
man in the bonds of Hell."
– St. Augustine,
De Genesi ad Litteram, Book II, xviii, 37.
writers – Homer (in whose work Christians saw allegories),
and Aristotle (philosophies which 'anticipated' Christianity'),
and some poetic and rhetorical works (Juvenal,
Ovid and Horace) useful as teaching aids – were
most were destroyed.
was Christian hostility to general learning and
that access to scripture
itself was forbidden to any lay-person who might still be literate.
Preoccupied with ceremonial and holy pageants, within
a few generations most members of the priesthood could
own Bible. Ritual had replaced reading, iconography had
method – empirical observation of the natural
world, the testing of hypotheses and revision of assumptions – had
no role in an age in which eternal truth had been made
known to man by the revealed Word of God.
Natural World Demonized
this harsh and solemn world of Christ the rich variety of public
entertainments of an earlier age were replaced by a meagre diet
of pious ceremonials in which the Christian
monarch and his retinue appeared ever-grander, ever more remote
from mere mortals. (The emperor Hadrian had once been accosted
by an old woman and chided for ignoring her petition; he read
monarchs could only be approached by courtiers, forced to prostrate
themselves and kiss the hem of the imperial garments.)
frequent public holidays – more than half
the year during the empire's golden age – disappeared
with the gods they honoured. The pagan festivals
had not only provided
time but had brought nature and the seasons
the Christian monarchy 'Nature' was now
as the domain of evil spirits,
not a realm worthy of respect and exploration. Joyful public
holidays were replaced by solemn
commemorations of biblical events.
and their Christian successors held the peculiar notion
that the Earth was tainted and somehow nasty, while the
heavens were perfect and divine. The fundamental idea that
the Earth is a planet, that we are citizens of the Universe,
was rejected and forgotten."
Carl Sagan (Cosmos, p188)
popular nature gods of a millennium became the 'demons' of
the Christians, infesting streams, forests, mountains and animals – and
of course the temples and shrines of the pagans.
Christians, if anything, feared the old gods more than the pagans,
particularly as they preferred a diabolic rather than
a natural explanation for mishaps and disasters. Far from exposing the
old gods as merely wood and stone (the fate of Serapis in
Alexandria, for example), most Christians of the 4th and 5th
centuries invested the pagan deities with a new, and sinister,
power. Instead of contempt,
old gods could make the world safe for Christians.
a plague of malevolent spirits was added the chastising
hand of the Lord himself. Unlike the humanoid and capricious
old gods of Greece or Rome – in the main, getting on with their
own bawdy lives – the 'true God' of the Christians was
pervasively interventionist, knowing every human thought, 'looking
into men's hearts,' and able to suspend natural law at will.
course of nature could be anything that God chooses it to be; human
'knowledge' of natural
causes could be overturned simply by God's decision to do things
otherwise. In this brave New World
Order, divine caprice and cosmic lawlessness
had triumphed and rationality
had died. All that remained was to glorify God and await his
goat was one of the very first animals to be
domesticated. A resilient and productive animal,
the goat was readily associated with good fortune
and fertility and in many cultures given supernatural
form as a half-human deity – Pan to
the Greeks, Sylvanus to the
Romans, Cernunnos to the Celts.
With time, this god came to represent all of
Nature. Soldiers even invoked his power to
induce 'pan'ic' in the enemy.
goat-herd or shepherd the god dwelt in natural
settings, such as woods and valleys, less often
in temples (one exception was Banyas in
Palestine). Roaming free, the goat-man protector
of animals amused himself by playing his pipes,
dancing, and the amorous pursuit of the Fauns and Nymphs.
and lusty – behaviour emulated at the
festival of the Lupercalia – The
Horned One was anathema to the Christians.
The author of Matthew leaves us in
no doubt as to the fate in store for "goats":
the Son of man shall come in his glory
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate
them one from another, as a shepherd divideth
his sheep from the goats:
he shall set the sheep on his right hand,
but the goats on the left. Then
shall the King say unto them on his right
hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit
the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation
of the world:
shall he say also unto
them on the left hand,
Depart from me, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his
from the docile sheep of Christ, in the 5th
century, the goat-god Pan was
to contribute his horns, hooves and lustfulness
to the increasingly demonic creation of the
Christians. Their 'Devil' conflated a number
of entities, including Lucifer ('light
bearer'), a Romano- Etruscan version of the
sun god; and Satan, an Old
Testament 'testing spirit' used for God's dirty
work. The plethora of Pan/ Priapus/ Dionysus
effigies – complete with impressive erections
and found throughout the ancient world – gave
visual form to the nemesis of the Christians.
the western empire of Rome disintegrated and
the eastern empire sank into theological navel-gazing,
an energetic and ambitious cleric in Rome,
Leo I, moved to assert his authority among
the ruins of Italy, Gaul and Spain. Assuming
the ancient title Pontifex Maximus (an
imperial title which 'Christian piety' led
Emperor Gratian to refuse sixty years earlier!)
Leo resurrected the notion of the 'supremacy'
of the bishop of Rome, a claim first mooted
by the notorious Damasus.
the disinterested emperor, the weak-minded
young Valentinian III, Leo obtained a rescript
giving him jurisdiction over 'all the western
provinces' (now mostly in the hands of barbarians).
The would-be 'boss of bosses' moved his agents
into Arles, Vienne, Milan, Illyricum and north
west Spain, where they confronted independent-minded
local bishops and heretics on all sides – Pelagians,
Manichaeans, Priscillians, Arians. Again Leo
prevailed on the emperor, who compliantly revived
penal legislation against heretics – in
other words, judicial torture and murder.
renewed legitimacy and terror Leo stamped his
authority on the western Church (notably, over
his rival Hilary of Arles). Leo installed his
own henchmen and imposed a standardised liturgical
year, a uniform dogma, and subservience to
447 a Council of Toledo considered the issue
of demonic power. The Lord's arch-enemy, it
" ... a
large black monstrous apparition with horns
on his head, cloven hoofs ... with an immense
phallus and sulphurous smell."
was demonised one of humanity's oldest, and
more joyful, gods.
Pan comforting a friend
spirit – or Diabolic?
Cernunnos - Celtic version of Pan
from Reality: Theology the Source of all 'Wisdom'
As early as
221 AD the Bishop of Emmaus (in Palestine), Sextus Julius Africanus discovered
that he could write a Christian 'history' by a close reading of
scripture. His "Chronographiai" used
the Bible to begin human history with creation in
the year 5499 BC.
His framework was used in the next century
by another, more notable fantasist, Eusebius, who
'We shall introduce
into this history in general only those events which may
be useful first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity.'
– Ecclesiastical History (Vol. 8,
was history reduced to ecclesiastical propaganda and
the Bible used to 'prove' its own veracity. In
all subsequent histories (Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, etc)
theology was the guide. For example, the Lux Ex
Light Comes from the East') doctrine emerged which
said that all civilization
originated in the "fertile river valleys" of
the Middle East, the scene of the supposed Biblical
This belief was
largely unchallenged until the middle of the 20th Century, when scientific
radiocarbon dating and other methods established that some of the oldest
great structures had in fact been built in northern Europe – megaliths
predating the Middle Eastern civilizations by perhaps thousands of years.
takes a Detour
or by neglect ancient understanding of world geography
went into free fall with the emergence of the Christian theocracy.
Ptolemy's 1st century "Geographica" – a
handbook for Roman mariners (which not
only promoted a spherical earth, but detailed the grid system of
latitude and longitude still used today)
– was lost to the west for well over a thousand years, as
was the 2nd century "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea," which
hints at knowledge of southeast Asia and China. In its place,
scribes developed theological
maps which detailed such unlikely places as Heaven and
Hell, and filled in the gaps with "terra incognito" and
"here be dragons". Empiricism was unnecessary. Records
the Christian God established under state protection as
the source of all wisdom, and the highlighting of miracles
as a sign of God's favour, scientific and mathematical research
– C. Freeman, The Closing of the Western Mind, xvii.
Light from the East: Ex
as the light comes from the east and flashes
to the west, so also will the coming of the Son
of man be." –
Christian 'mapmakers' introduced the term 'Holy
Land.' Most had never visited the region and
relied solely upon scripture (and their pious imagination)
to fabricate detail. Jerusalem became the 'centre
of the world.'
imitating Art: The Pilgrim of Bordeaux
as the Bordeaux Pilgrim was visiting the Holy
Land it was being transformed to accord with
the text which he – and everyone else – was
using as a guide book.
describes no basilica on Mount Sion, but by the
mid-4th century there was a church there, where
the feast of Pentecost was celebrated. By the
5th century, the site had become the setting
for the Last Supper and the institution of the
– S. Coleman, J. Elsner, Pilgrimage,
Mapping the stars: What
Did it matter?
the stars was not an idle leisure activity.
lifeblood of Alexandria – as of other cities – was trade,
particularly the export of grain and papyrus to the rest of the
Mediterranean, and developments in astronomy allowed sailors
to do away with the consultation of "oracles" and priests
and be able to risk year-round navigation out of sight of the
early as 300 BC Aristarchus had
argued for a heliocentric theory, a sun-centred universe,
though many thinkers continued to support an earlier Aristotelian
system which had the Earth at the centre of several 'spheres' – despite
various observed 'anomalies' in the movement of the planets.
years after Aristarchus, Ptolemy worked
out a system of 'epicycles' to explain away the irregularities
and maintain the geocentric, Aristotelian view. The Christians
seized upon this Ptolemaic system with relish and their thinking
never moved beyond that point.
the following centuries, mariners were forced, once more, to
rely on "oracles" and the ship's Bible. Hazards of
the sea consumed unfortunate sailors and, with so many cities
in headlong decline, maritime trade
by church, it was the rediscovery of the heliocentric theory
by Copernicus which
got Galileo into trouble in the 1600s.
forgotten for 1000 years
Samos (569 - 475 BC) combined science and religion
in equal measure. He travelled to both Egypt and
Babylon. He is the father of number theory and
recognised, among other things, that the Earth was
a sphere. Pythagoras and his inner
circle of followers (the mathematikoi) held
that, fundamentally, reality is mathematical in nature,
with each number having its own 'personality.'
- 265BC) of Alexandria brought together the work
of several predecessors. The 13 books of The
Elements became the primary source of geometric
reasoning for two thousand years. Euclid's
other works included Optics (on perspective)
and The Book of Fallacies (which sounds delightful
but is lost).
Proclus Diadochus (died 485), one
of the last great philosophers of Plato's Academy
at Athens, wrote a commentary on Euclid's Elements which
today is our principal source of early Greek geometry.
- 230 BC) applied Alexandrian trigonometry to estimate
the distances and sizes of
the sun and moon,
and also postulated a heliocentric universe.
Syracuse (287 - 212 BC) is credited with the discovery
BC), the third librarian of Alexandria, calculated
the circumference of the earth to
within 1% accuracy, based on the measured distance
from Aswan to Alexandria and the fraction of the
whole arc determined by differing shadow-lengths
at noon in those two locations. He deduced that the
length of the year should
be 365 1/4 days and put forward
the idea of adding a "leap day" every four
years. He cataloged 44 constellations and 475
also suggested that the seas were connected,
that Africa might be circumnavigated, and that "India
could be reached by sailing westward from Spain."
Perga (262 -190 BC), in his famous book Conics, introduced
terms which are familiar to us today, such as parabola,
ellipse, hyperbola and polyhedron. In
another work On the Burning Mirror he described
the focal properties of a parabolic mirror.
When it came to planetary theory, Apollonius developed systems
of eccentric and epicyclical motion to explain
the apparent motion of the planets across the sky.
mere theoretician, Apollonius developed the hemicyclium,
a sundial which has the hour lines drawn on the surface
of a conic section giving greater accuracy.
- 120 BC) of Bithynia, during the reign of Ptolemy
VII, discovered and measured the precession of
the equinoxes, the size and trajectory
of the sun, and the moon's path. He charted
constellations and speculated that stars might
have both births and deaths. He
is credited with inventing longitude and latitude,
importing the 360° circular system from
Babylonia, and calculating the length of
a year within six minutes accuracy.
Ptolemaeus) 87 -150 AD worked
out mathematically his elegant system of epicycles
to support the geocentric, Aristotelian view, and
wrote a treatise on astrology, both of which were
to become the medieval paradigm.
In the New World Order – God's
Nova (nr Naples). Look
out for awe-inspiring works.
Bishop of Hippo, "tested" a priest accused
of sexual scandal (nothing new there) by sending him to the shrine of St
Felix of Nola "a holy place, where the more
awe-inspiring works of God might more readily make evil
manifest." (Augustine, Letter 78,3)
seems that "during the persecutions" St Felix
had escaped arrest by the intervention of a spider that
conveniently weaved her web over the hole in which he
K.D. White, Greek & Roman Technology (Thames & Hudson,
Trevor Williams, The Triumph of Invention (Macdonald Orbis, 1987)
Thomas Crump, A Brief History of Science (Robinson, 2001)
John Gribbin, Science, A History (Penguin, 2003)
J. Dyson, History of Great Invention (Constable, 2001)
Joan Evans (Ed.), The Flowering of the Middle Ages (Thames & Hudson,
Lisa Rosner(Ed.), Chronology of Science (Helicon, 1999)
F. G. Bratton, A History of the Bible (Robert Hale 1961)
R. McKitterick, The Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 2001)
Michael Wood, In Search of the Dark Ages (BBC, 1987)
Frank Delaney, A Walk in the Dark Ages (Fontana, 1990)
you really think it all began with a sanctimonious
Jewish wonder-worker, strolling about 1st century
Palestine? Prepare to be enlightened.
holding to the idea that some sort of holy man
lies behind the legend? Better check out...
Godman – Gestation
of a Superhero
closer look at the glib assertion that the Jesus
story "got off the ground quickly and spread
What DID the
Early Christians Believe?
currents fed the Jesus myth, like streams and
tributaries joining to form a major river.
the legend – The
Syncretic Heritage of Christianity
of the mythology of Christianity is a rehash
of an older and even more transparent fabrication – Judaism.
Story – The
Way of the Rabbi
ingenuity and cunning is matched by mankind's
equally monumental credulity and wishful thinking.
organisation, authority and membership preceded
rather than followed the justifying doctrine.
As the organisation and its needs changed so
has the ‘Testament of God’ adapted
Dogma – The
Word in all its Savage Glory
religious policeman to grandee of the church,
from beast fighter in Ephesus to beheading in
Rome, Paul's story has more holes than a swiss
Paul the Apostle – Dead
in the water?
by ambitious Christian clerics, a cancer of superstition,
fear and brutality was imposed across Europe.
of Darkness – The
Criminal History of the Christian
Christian Heaven may have been a vain folly but
the Christian Hell has been real enough.
on Earth – A
Brutal Superstition Spreads Across
to the status of State religion the Christian
Church reigned over the destruction of civilization.
As the centuries passed religious barbarism grew
ever more vicious.
of the World – The
Terrible Cost of "Christendom"
For two millennia
Christianity's anti-sexual, puritanical doctrines
have inflicted untold damage on the mental, emotional
and physical lives of countless millions of people.
hung-up Christians – Loved-up
a Jewish father (stern patriarch) and a Christian
mother (obsession with guilt and heaven) it is
not surprising that Islam grew up a bit of a
Desert Storm – 'Christendom'
Reaps a Whirlwind
help us. The richest, most powerful nation in
history has a psychotic infatuation with Jay-a-sus
The Christianizing of