Chronicle 24. THE TRIUMPH OF CRETINISM
“We don’t need no thought control!”
“THIS WAS NO TIME FOR A PHILOSOPHER to be philosophical. ‘The tyrant’, as the philosophers put it, was in charge… Houses were entered and searched for books and objects deemed unacceptable. If any were found they would be… burned in triumphant bonfires in town squares… Anyone who made sacrifices to the old gods could, the law said, be executed. Across the empire, ancient… temples had been attacked, their roofs stripped, their treasures melted down, their statues smashed. To ensure that their rules were kept, the government started to employ spies… and informers to report back on what went on in the streets… and behind closed doors in private homes.
“The consequences of deviation from the rules could be severe and philosophy had become a dangerous pursuit. [A scholar] had been arrested and tortured to make him reveal the names of other philosophers… A fellow… had been flayed alive. Another had been beaten before a judge until the blood flowed down his back. The savage ‘tyrant’ was Christianity… the Christians were ‘the vultures’.”
Revealing, overwhelming evidence in Catherine Nixey’s breathtaking book, The Darkening Age / The Christian Destruction of the Classical World. It’s high time we “tear down the wall” of this Christian Iron Curtain:
“When modern histories describe this period… they tend to call it the ‘triumph of Christianity’.(a) It is worth remembering, however, the original Roman meaning of the word ‘triumph’. A true Roman triumph wasn’t merely about the victory of the winner. It was about the total and utter subjugation of the loser. In a true Roman triumph the losing side was paraded through the capital while the winning side looked on at an enemy whose soldiers had been slain, whose possessions had been despoiled and whose leaders had been humiliated. A triumph was not merely a ‘victory’. It was an annihilation.” And it wasn’t very far from a pillory, I should add.
That was exactly what the Christian leaders were after: “that all superstition of pagans and heathens should be annihilated is what God wants, God commands, God proclaims”, declared “Saint” Augustine to his congregation in Carthage – obviously, after he had a meeting with the… “Most Merciful” God himself!
“Christian observers would look on the tolerance of their non-Christian neighbours with astonishment. Augustine marveled at the fact that the pagans were able to worship many different gods without discord while the Christians, who worshipped just the one, splintered into countless warring factions… Despite that, he was not willing to extend such tolerance himself. It was, he concluded, the duty of a Christian to convert heretics – by force, if necessary… For those who wish to be intolerant, monotheism provides very powerful weapons. There was ample biblical justification for the persecution of non-believers. The Bible… is very clear on the matter of idolatry… And what precisely did God advise as a punishment for idolatry? Deuteronomy was clear: a person indulging in this should be stoned to death. And if an entire city fell into such sin? Again, the answer was clear: ‘destruction is decreed’.”(!)
ROMAN EMPERORS RULED ALEXANDRIA through a Roman Governor, or Prefect, with civil personnel which consisted mainly of Hellenes. This had worked well, until the moment that Constantine inaugurated a “Christian Monarchy”. Then a second hierarchy of officials appeared, in conflict with the old one. The “unorthodox” thought became a crime, and this second (continuously burgeoning) Church hierarchy, headed by a bishop, policed popular sentiments. This duopoly was an explosive mixture: the prefect derived his power from the emperor, of course; but the bishop considered he derived it from God – thus he was out of control. The conflict was sure to come if the bishop was an ambitious and fanatical person, such as Cyril, having opposite him an educated and urbane prefect, called Orestes. It was a clash between the tolerance of classic antiquity and the vulgar intolerance of the “New World Order” of Christianism. Moreover, it was unavoidable, as the atmosphere, mainly in Alexandria, had been explosive for some time.
● “The parabalani in Alexandria”, explains Nixey, “have been described as a ‘terrorist charity’ – a strange oxymoron… These men did, at times, good deeds but they also sowed fear. ‘Terror’ is the word used in Roman legal documents about them… The city had a new bishop, Cyril… the zealot Theophilus’s nephew. And, true to family form, he was a thug. Even Christians had reservations about this ambitious and brutal man: he was, as one council of bishops put it, ‘a monster’” – but “a monster” that could at any time deploy the parabalani, or his reserve army, several bands of fanatic, black-shirt monks. Soon, violence reigned.
The circumcellions were another extreme North African terrorist gang, based mainly in Carthage. Initially concerned with remedying social wrongs, they became linked with the Donatists, condemned property and slavery, advocated free love, canceling debt, and freeing slaves. But gradually, says Nixey, they “became notorious not only for their suicides but for their vicious attacks on those who didn’t share their particular Christian beliefs. [Their] ‘holy’ violence alarmed even the Church”, for they targeted not only the festivals of the old gods (a favourite target), but also priests, who were tortured and horribly killed as “traitors”. “Augustine called [their methods] ‘a new and unspeakable kind of violence’… and others might have been shocked by such acts – but the Church was reaping what had been sown. A few decades earlier, as… Brent D. Shaw has pointed out, Christian preachers had been glad of the circumcellions’ violence and cultivated it: in the attacks against the temples such freelance destroyers had been eminently useful and were drafted in to do the strong-arm work of pulling these buildings down… ‘Where there is terror, there is salvation… Oh, merciful savagery!’, said Augustine” – in tempore non suspecto. It was inconceivable that such gloating oxymora could turn into boomerangs! Such was the era’s “atmosphere”…
● 415. The Great Terror in Alexandria culminated with the brutal murder of the astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher, Hypatia, “a most beautiful, most vertuous, most learned, and every way accomplish’d Lady; who was torn to pieces by the Clergy of Alexandria, to gratify the pride, emulation, and cruelty of their Archbishop, commonly, but undeservedly, stiled St. Cyril”, as the philosopher John Toland said. The astronomer Carl Sagan linked Hypatia’s death with the demise of the Alexandrian Library. The assassination, symbolizing the end of Alexandria as a centre of wisdom and scholarship, was instigated by Theophilus’ nephew and successor, Cyril, the so-called “Pillar of Faith”, proclaimed as a “Doctor of the Church”, and canonized as… “Saint” – of all Christian denominations! Who are, indeed, the ones that err deplorably? All the Christian Churches in the world, or those who described him as a “thug”, “monster”, or as a “proud Pharaoh”, as the emperor Theodosius II called him?
Cyril began his reign the way he meant to go on: by persecuting his opponents. He eyed enviously the wealth of the Novatians, an established Christian sect of puritans. Edward Gibbon described them as “the most innocent and harmless of sectaries.” But they weren’t going to support him, and they had already joined his opponents. So, one of Cyril’s first acts was to close their churches and seize their sacred vessels and ornaments. He next, says Nixey, targeted the Jews:(b)
“A Christian attempt to regulate the dancing and theatrical displays – apparently much enjoyed by the city’s Jewish population – started a complicated chain of reprisals that climaxed in a Jewish attack on some Christians. Some were killed – and Cyril was provided with the pretext he needed. Mustering together a mob of the parabalani, as well as some of the merely brutal and enthusiastic, he ‘marched… to the synagogues, took possession of them, purified them and converted them into churches’. ‘Purified’ in such texts is often a euphemism for stole, self-righteously. The Christians then completed their work by purifying the Jewish ‘assassins’ of their possessions: stripping them of all they owned… they turned them out of the city into the desert.”
“Without any legal sentence, without any royal mandate, the patriarch, at the dawn of day, led a seditious multitude to the attack of the synagogues. Unarmed, unprepared, the Jews were incapable of resistance; their houses of prayer were levelled with the ground, and the episcopal warrior, after rewarding his troops with the plunder of their goods, expelled from the city the remnant of the unbelieving nation,” noted Gibbon.
“Orestes,” recounts Nixey, “looked on in horror… Ostensibly the most powerful man in the city, he was nonetheless unable to stop the uprising: a mere governor’s retinue was no match for 800 marauding, muscular parabalani. And the numbers of Cyril’s militia swelled. Around 500 monks descended from their sacks and caves in the nearby hills, determined to fight for their bishop. Unwashed, uneducated, unbending in their faith, they were, as even the Christian writer Socrates [of Constantinople, or Scholasticus] admits, men of ‘a very fiery disposition’. One day, they surrounded Orestes and began to insult him, accusing him of being a ‘pagan idolater’… One of the monks threw a rock and struck Orestes on his head. The wound started pouring with blood. Most of his guards… scattered… Orestes was left almost entirely alone.”
Orestes escaped. The order was probably “Terrify him!”, not “Kill him!” Some passers-by also intervened. The governor appealed to Theodosius II, the child emperor, and his guardian sister, Pulcheria – a pietistic “Christian virgin”, who was waging her own campaign for Christ, by turning the imperial palace into a monastery. Later on she was also “sanctified”! The appeal was in vain. The monk, named Ammonius, was executed for the attack, Cyril immediately hailed him as a “martyr”, but the Alexandrian Christians were in turn appalled: the execution took place for the attempted murder of the prefect, not for the culprit’s faith. Several people intervened, and Cyril, a master in manoeuvres and behind-the- scenes schemes, was obliged to bring the matter to a close – for the time being. But now a blood sacrifice was required to appease the henchman of Christ…
Hypatia, the daughter of Theon, the astronomer, rose to become the supreme figure of the Alexandrian School of Philosophy, which was second only to the Athenian School. Her fame attracted students (including Christian theologians) from across the Mediterranean. She was also very much respected by Orestes, who quite often consulted her. Cyril was incensed that Hypatia’s reputation and talents were giving the cause of Hellenism a “dangerous prestige”, and thereby preventing the “progress of the Faith”. The bishop had no scruples to liken the relationship of Hypatia and Orestes to that of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. “If she could,” he ventured, “she would set up an Egyptian Empire”! As he inveighed against the “harlot” from his pulpit, more fanatics swarmed in from the desert in response to his call.
“by a fierce and bigoted zeal, whose ringleader was a reader [a minor cleric] named Peter”, testified Socrates Scholasticus. They “waylaid [Hypatia] returning home and, dragging her from her carriage, they took her to the church called Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her with ostraca [potsherds]. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them”…(c) “No one in Alexandria was punished for her murder. There was a cover up”, adds Catherine Nixey.
● Hypatia’s brutal murder sent shockwaves throughout the empire. Cyril, whom everyone saw as the culprit, had done something unprecedented, even with the standards of the era, targeting a prominent intellectual woman, and was now in great danger. Alarmed at Cyril’s conduct, the council of bishops of Alexandria sent an embassy to Constantinople, and an investigation was soon launched to determine his role in the murder. In the autumn of 416, emperors Theodosius and Honorius issued an edict, removing the parabalani from the bishop’s power and placing them instead under Orestes’ authority. Cyril probably only managed to escape some heavy punishment by bribing imperial advisers. The restrictions on the parabalani (limiting their numbers, and forbidding them to attend “public spectacles”, or enter “the municipal council or a courtroom”) show that they were found equally guilty. However, Cyril proved he was a master of intrigues: in two years, the parabalani were again placed under his control, and after a while, he had come to dominate the Alexandrian council. There was nothing to block his way anymore while heading for… “sainthood”!(d)
Sometimes history is not written by the winners. Cyril’s propaganda may have worked for centuries. The rumours for Hypatia’s defamation (“she was devoted at all times to magic, astrolabes and instruments of music, and she beguiled many people through her Satanic wiles”) echo in the writings of the 7th-century Coptic bishop, John of Nikiû. In the Middle Ages, Hypatia was co-opted as a symbol of Christian virtue, or her death was equated with that of Christian martyrs. The last advocate to speak out “in Defence of Saint Cyril and the Alexandrian Clergy” was perhaps Thomas Lewis in 1721. Since then, more and more books and works of art turn against Cyril and extol Hypatia. In 1853, Charles Kingsley romanticized her in his novel, Hypatia, as “the last of the Hellenes”. She was honoured as an astronomer, as well, in 1884, when a main belt asteroid and a lunar crater were named after her. “Unfortunately for Cyril et al”, said Abby Norman, “by killing Hypatia, they immortalized her. Indeed, had they left Hypatia alone, her work and name would likely have been lost to history. In death, she is as she was in life: unwilling to be silenced, ever-tenacious in her curiosity and wonder.”
● Regarding the Caesareum, where the hideous assassination took place, it was not an ordinary church, but “Saint” Cyril’s headquarters! And, needless to say, it was not a church, but an ancient temple that was “sanctified” at the turn of the 4th century, when Christians set about appropriating the property of all other religions to wipe out all their traces throughout the world. The Caesareum was conceived by Cleopatra as a dedication to Marc Antony. It was finished by the man that “finished” them, Octavian-Augustus, who, after wiping out all traces of Marc Antony, not only inside the temple but throughout Alexandria, dedicated it to… himself!
● 420s. There was soon more trouble in Carthage, says Nixey, taking us to the other North African “hot spot”. “The one-mile-long temple of the Roman goddess Caelestis and all nearby sanctuaries were leveled… Fights could ensue during destruction and, in the process, Christians were sometimes killed [as well] – not necessarily a bad thing to some Christian minds”…
● 429. A widespread persecution of Hellenes, who were considered as demon followers, was accompanied by the plunder of the Parthenon. Athena’s temple survived for nearly one thousand years, until Theodosius II decreed in 435 that all ancient temples throughout the empire be closed. In the last decade of the 6th century, it was converted into a church of Virgin Mary. Thus the Parthenon, disguised as “Parthenos” (“Virgin”), became the fourth most important Christian pilgrimage destination in the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople, Ephesus, and Thessalonica.
● “Even the Acropolis had not escaped”, remarks Nixey: “The colossal statue of Athena, one of the most famous works of art in the empire, was torn down from where she had stood guard for almost a thousand years, and shipped off to Constantinople… Many of the Parthenon sculptures were attacked. Faces were mutilated, hands and limbs were hacked off and gods were decapitated.”
“Go to Room 18 in the British Museum”, she challenges. “You will find yourself in front of the Parthenon Marbles,(e) taken from Greece by Lord Elgin in the 19th century. The astonishingly lifelike statues are, today, in a sorry state: many are mutilated or missing limbs. This, it is often assumed, was the fault of Elgin’s clumsy workmen or fighting during the Ottoman occupation… But much was the work of zealous Christians who set about the temple with blunt instruments, attacking ‘demonic’ gods, mutilating some of the finest statuary Greece had ever produced… The East Pediment fared particularly badly. The vast majority of the gods have been decapitated… They were pushed off… and smashed on the ground below, their fragmented remains ground down and used for mortar for a Christian church.”
“Today, histories of this period, if they mention such destruction at all, hesitate to condemn it outright. The 1965 edition of The Penguin Dictionary of Saints records with little more than amused indulgence that Martin of Tours ‘was not averse to the forcible destruction of heathen shrines’. In modern histories those carrying out and encouraging the attacks are rarely described as violent, or vicious, or thuggish: they are merely ‘zealous’, or ‘pious’, or ‘enthusiastic’ or, at worst, ‘over-zealous’. As… John Pollini puts it: ‘modern scholarship, influenced by a Judeo-Christian cultural bias’, has frequently overlooked or downplayed such attacks and even at times ‘sought to present Christian desecration in a positive light’.”
● In 457, politics bowed to religion, when Leo I became the first emperor to be crowned by the patriarch of Constantinople. In 491, the empire’s submission to Christianism became complete, when Anastasius I was obliged to sign a written declaration of orthodoxy before his coronation.
● Etrusca Disciplina, the Etruscan books of cult and divination, untouched by all ancient cultures, were collected and burned by the Christians in the 5th century, almost a millennium after the Etruscans had ceased to exist as a tribe…
● 529. This year, which is often cited as the end of Antiquity, Justinian decided to shut down the Platonic Academy that had been revived in 410 as a centre for Neoplatonism and mysticism. The old Academy was probably destroyed by the Roman dictator, Sulla, in 86 BCE. The faculty members, wrote the Hellene poet and historian Agathias, looked for protection under the Sassanid king Khosrow (Khosrau) I (531-579), known to Hellenes and Romans as Chosroes, in his capital at Ctesiphon, carrying with them precious scrolls of literature, philosophy, and science. After his exile, Simplicius of Cilicia (perhaps some others, too) may have gone to Harran (Carrhae or Hellenopolis), near Edessa, in Upper Mesopotamia, founding an Academy-in-exile. This school should have survived until the 9th century, facilitating a revival of the Neoplatonic tradition in Baghdad, with the foundation of the House of Wisdom in 832. Two of the major centres of learning in the intervening period (from 5th to 8th centuries) were the School of Nisibis (Nusaybin, close to Harran) in Asia Minor, under Persian rule at the time, and the Academy of Gundishapur, founded by Khosrau. The Austrian philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner commented that the culture of Gondishapur (also home of a Library and a Medical school-hospital) was a premature efflorescence which was undermined and destroyed by the Islamic troops in the 7th century (Parallel Lives of monotheistic religions).
All this eastward “brain drain” started in 489, when emperor Zeno decreed the closure of the Nestorian Christian theological and scientific centre in Edessa. Its scholars were then transferred and absorbed into the School of Nisibis. There, in collaboration with those Hellenistic philosophers, who were banished from the Academy of Athens, carried out important research in medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and other sciences. The Academy of Gondeshapur became known for medicine and learning. Khosrau gave refuge to various Grecian philosophers and Syriac-speaking Nestorian Christians fleeing religious persecution by the Byzantines, and commissioned them to translate Hellenic and Syriac texts (on medicine, astronomy, philosophy, and other useful crafts) into Pahlavi (Middle Persian). Gloomy conclusion: the “barbarians” were being Hellenized, while the Hellenes were being barbarized!
● The Codex Justinianus was completed in 529, i.e. the year the emperor closed down the Neoplatonic Academy as anti-Christian. It may have been Theodosius who initiated the adoption of laws and the signing of decrees against Hellenism but the one who sparked persecutions of gentiles on a massive scale was none but Justinian with the codification and reform of the law. As he was convinced that the unity of the empire presupposed the unity of faith, it appeared to him obvious that this faith could only be the “orthodox”. Those of a different faith were subjected to persecution, which imperial legislation had effected from the time of Constantius and would now vigorously continue. The Corpus Juris Civilis contained two statutes that decreed the total eradication of Hellenism even in civic, private life, which were zealously enforced. Contemporary sources (John Malalas, Theophanes of Byzantium, John of Ephesus) tell of severe persecutions, even against many high officials, experiencing strict Inquisition, exile and threat of capital punishment, with executions carried out even in the emperor’s very presence: some by burning, others by drowning. The alternative, the only way out for anyone to escape, was Christianization. Thus these Byzantine Crusades had no end. In Asia Minor alone, John of Ephesus reported to have converted 70,000 gentiles. Other peoples under Byzantine rule were also Christianized. The worship of Amun in Libya was abolished; so were the remnants of the worship of Isis in Egypt.(f) The state suppression of Hellenism made all non-Christians a public threat. The word Hellene was no longer an insult, but a deadly accusation. With this legal arsenal on hand, which was supplemented by new provisions, the emperors, in complete accord with the Church, continued the Genocide of the Hellenes…
● When legal loopholes were detected, or if something escaped the attention of the ever-vigilant bishops, Christian “commoners” took action: in the mid-530s they started burning or cutting forests in Hellas because they were… dwellings of demons! Blind fanaticism destroyed the oak forests of Zeus, the fir forests of Artemis and Pan, the olive groves of Athena. The results were devastating since all this deforestation caused the drying up of rivers and springs and the total disruption of the country’s ecosystem…
● “A series of legal hammer blows fell”, says Nixey of the Codex: “anyone who offered sacrifice would be executed. Anyone who worshipped statues would be executed. The laws went further. This was no longer mere prohibition of other religious practices. It was the active enforcement of Christianity on every single pagan in the empire… Everyone now had to become Christian… Those who refused would be stripped of all their property… lose their civil rights, be left in penury and ‘in addition’… they would be ‘subject to the proper punishment’… and then would be exiled. The ‘insane error’ of paganism was to be wiped out from the face of the earth… It was this law that led… Edward Gibbon to declare that the entirety of the barbarian invasions had been less damaging to Athenian philosophy than Christianity was… It was from this moment, said later historians, that a Dark Age began to descend upon Europe.”
“Centuries later, Al Mas’udi, an Arab traveller, would visit a town on the edge of Europe and reflect on what had happened in the Roman Empire. ‘During the early days of the empire of the Rum’, he wrote… ‘the sciences were honoured and enjoyed universal respect. From an already solid and grandiose foundation, they were raised to greater heights every day, until the Christian religion made its appearance among the Rum: this was a fatal blow to the edifice of learning; its traces disappeared and its pathways were effaced’.”
● The first millennium of Christianism went on and concluded this way – there is no need to repeat ourselves. You can see how shattered is in fact the “unbroken continuity” of ancient Hellenic and Byzantine civilizations, having as a “malignant appendix” that inarticulate fascist bark: “Hellas of Greek Christians”!(g)
THE CRUSADES, after the East-West Schism, were conducted under the sanction of the “Holy See”. Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade in 1095, with the declared goal of restoring Christian access to the Jerusalem area. There followed six major Crusades against Muslim territories in the Orient, and many minor ones, as part of a 200-year struggle for the control of the “Holy Land” that finally failed. After the fall of the last Christian stronghold in 1291, the Vatican mounted no further coherent response in the East. Similar papal-blessed military campaigns against “pagans”, “heretics”, and “excommunicated” people, undertaken in the Occident for various economic, political, or religious reasons, were the Albigensian Crusade, the Aragonese Crusade, the Northern Crusades, and the Iberian Reconquista. The “burning of books and heretics or infidels”, of course, was in the agenda of all Crusades. The Crusaders’ conduct was shocking not only to modern sensibilities but to European contemporaries, as well, for the Crusaders pillaged the lands they passed through; there was also at least one case of cannibalism in the Levant! In the Rhineland, the First Crusade resulted in the slaughter of 8,000 Jews in the first of Europe’s pogroms. It also led to the massacre of at least 70,000 citizens in the fall of Jerusalem. The nobles carved up the territory that they had gained rather than return it to the Byzantines, as they had vowed to do. Even worse, the Fourth Crusade resulted in the conquest and sacking of Constantinople, and the partition of the Byzantine Empire.
● 1193. Nalanda, an ancient centre of higher learning with a great library in the Indian Bihar, was sacked by Turkic Muslim invaders from southern Afghanistan. The university was so vast that it is reported to have burned for three months after the invaders set it on fire…
● 1258. The House of Wisdom in Abbasid-era Baghdad was a library, translation institute and research centre. The scholars, mainly Persians or Greeks, translated all available Hellenic texts – scientific, philosophic, and many more. A great part of ancient Hellenic literature survived and became known in Europe thanks to these translations into Arabic. The House and all other libraries in the city were destroyed by the Mongol ruler Hulagu. The waters of the Tigris ran black for six months with ink from the enormous quantities of books flung into the river…
● 1452. Pope Nicholas V may have tried to revive the spirit of the old Crusades in the East, one year before the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, as his nephew, Loucás Notarás, was the Byzantine Megas Doux (Grand Duke). However, European attention was already focused on the more promising opportunities opening up in the West. So, Nicholas’ papal bull, renewed repeatedly by future pontiffs, granted Portugal (and later Spain, of course) “full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms… and other property… and reduce their persons into perpetual slavery.” Effectively, these “geographically unlimited” bulls extended the Crusades’ legacy all over the world justifying European colonialism and, by all means, “ushered in the West African slave trade”. This trade was about to take off with the transport of African slaves to America, and the popes would go on “granting permissions” and “issuing bulls” – as they were no fools – to guarantee their booty share!
● 15th century. Arabic Muslim books were burned wholesale by Catholic Spain. About 5,000 Arabic poetic manuscripts were consumed by flames in the public square at Granada, in 1499, on the orders of the Archbishop of Toledo. At the same time, a number of Hebrew Bibles and other Jewish books were burned at the behest of the Spanish Inquisition.
● The Aztec emperor Itzcoatl (1427-28 to 1440) had all historical codices burned – on the grounds that it was “not wise that all the people should know”! Thus the way was paved for the development of a state-sanctioned “history” and mythos – but also for the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés in 1521.(h) This signaled a new era of genocides and holocausts committed by Christians holding the cross in one hand and the sword in the other. The new crusaders and slave traders, together with the inquisitors, had new challenges to face, new frontiers to cross, new “books to burn and infidels to bury” in the “New World”, under the sanction and arbitration of the good, old “Holy See” – with profit in mind, as always!
● In conclusion, a fleeting glimpse at the “future”: Abelard, in the 12th century, was made to burn his Theologia himself. Later, he was judged as a heretic, since, among other things, he praised the pagan philosophers of classical antiquity. He was excommunicated by the pope, who ordered him to be perpetually silent, confined in a monastery, and his books to be burned. His pupil and colleague, Arnold of Brescia, refused to abjure his beliefs after a synod, where they were condemned, and went on to lead the Commune of Rome against the Vatican, but he was finally executed. The Church ordered the burning of all his writings, which was carried out so thoroughly than none of them survives! By the end of the 15th century, Savonarola ordered all the works of Ovid and also Boccaccio’s Decameron to be burned. In the 16th century, Servetus was burned in Geneva at the order of the city council, dominated by Calvin, because a remark he made in his translation of Ptolemy’s Geographia was considered heretic! Angelo Carletti’s theological work so infuriated Martin Luther that he had it publicly burned. In the 17th century, Luther’s German translation of the Bible was burned in parts of Germany controlled by the Catholics. In the 18th century, Voltaire’s works were burned several times in pre-revolutionary France. In 1821, Heinrich Heine, in his play, Almansor, referring to the burning of the Quran by the Spanish Inquisition, wrote: “Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.” It is the episode we’ve used as a starting point in these additional Chronicles, with the “burning of books and burying of scholars” in China. It goes without saying that “triumphal bonfires”, as “God-blessed work”, in a way, never stopped…(i)
Christianism, Slavery and Slave Trade
THE SLAVERY CONVENTION (to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery), an initiative of the League of Nations in 1926, was followed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, explicitly banning slavery. The Christian Church? Too little, too late. Only in 1965, the Second Vatican Council declared without qualification that slavery was an “infamy” that dishonoured the Creator and was a poison in society. And what about the Orthodox Church?
The Bible (Old and New Testament) endorses slavery. Its prohibitions refer to all other matters but human enslavement (see previous Chronicle). In the Old Testament, God (i.e. the man who speaks in his name) not only approves the practice, but also lays down rules for buyers and sellers (Exodus) – as there was no… Ministry of Commerce at that time! And not only that: men are at liberty to sell even… their own daughters (Exodus)! The New Testament instructs slaves to accept their position with humility (Paul’s Ephesians), and also to please their masters in everything [?!] (Titus, cf. Colossians). But in case the slave owners are Christians, the slaves are commanded to serve them better than other masters, “so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed” [!] (Timothy). Jesus himself mentioned slavery more than once, but never with the slightest hint of criticism of it. He even glorified the master-slave relationship as a model of the relationship between God and humankind (Matthew). “Saint” Augustine’s view that slavery was ordained by God as a punishment for sin was endorsed by the Church. “Slavery among men is natural,” asserted another “saint”, Thomas Aquinas, “for some are naturally slaves according to the Philosopher” (Aristotle). In 362 a Church Council at Gangra, in Asia Minor, excommunicated anyone who encouraged a slave to despise his master, or to withdraw from his service. This would in time be incorporated into Church Law, where it would remain until the 20th century.
The Third Lateran Council in 1179 imposed slavery on anyone who opposed the papacy. The citizens of Venice were condemned to slavery three times: in 1309, 1482, and 1506. The same thing would happen to the whole of England in 1508. Soon the Church would become the largest slave owner in the Roman Empire.(j) The popes and bishops owned slaves. Pope Innocent VIII accepted the gifts of large numbers of slaves from the royal couple of Spain: the exceptionally devout Isabella sent him numerous slaves from Málaga, in 1487. Ferdinand, the next year, so as not to lag behind, sent him 100 Black Moorish slaves, whom he then distributed to various cardinals and “nobles”. The Spanish Inquisition consisted of fanatics in everything – even in the enslavement of human beings. One single inquisitor, the notorious Torquemada, had 97,371 people condemned to slavery! In 1493 (the year after Columbus “discovered” the Americas), pope Alexander VI made explicit the rights of Catholics there. He authorized the king of Spain to enslave non-Christians of the Americas at war with Catholic powers – or, in other words, anyone who resisted the invasion and seizure of his land. Pope Paul III confirmed in 1548 that all Christian men and all members of the clergy had the right to own slaves. Papal galleys went on slave-hunting expeditions along the coast of Africa! “Sir” John Hawkins, the most notorious, but very “pious”, English slave trader named his slave ships Angel, Jesus and Grace of God…
Until the discovery of America, the slaves were mainly prisoners of war, debtors, or victims of religious persecution. However, black African enslavement did not result from wars, financial indebtedness, or religious prejudice. The reason was the need for labour in the Americas, after the failed effort to enslave the Native Americans. West Africans had agricultural knowledge and skills. They also had a relative immunity against malaria adapted from centuries of living in the tropics that the European indentured servants did not. These were the reasons for the African Holocaust. The brutal system of slavery and the subjugation of millions of people had to be justified with an ideology. After Christianism, this ideology was racism. Racists declared (also very “piously”) that the “white race” had been “chosen” to rule the earth “in God’s name”.
THESE EXTRA “CHRONICLES WITHIN THE CRONICLES”, I remind you, had Ábdera of Andalusia as a starting point, during the revival of an ancient Periplus of Iberia in Chronicle 22. We then voyaged to Ábdera of Thrace and met its most celebrated citizen, Democritus. Plato’s antipathy towards the atomic philosopher and his call to his students to destroy any Democritean work they could find, combined with the fact that no such work has survived, were more than a challenge for a “Periplus in the Archipelagos”, sailing in seas the “Big Brothers” erased helter-skelter from the maps. Oceans of abuses are hidden there. I’ve just gleaned some information on the initial period (until the time the first caravels crossed the Atlantic), limiting myself to cases of intentional crimes that came to my attention. A study in depth – I’m sure – would reveal the Prince of Darkness himself…
What conclusions can we draw? A “naïve” person would expect to find the first traces of the idea of human rights in religions, especially the monotheistic ones, which should uphold the “sanctity of human existence”. In fact, the history of human rights finds such traces in some legal codes of antiquity (Mesopotamia, Persia, India, Hellas, Rome), not in the Bible, skipping Judaism and Christianism. The reason is that those who cared about such rights were the philosophers and not the prophets (with the exception of Muhammad due to special conditions). The kings who wanted to conquer the world, the priests who wanted to conquer the mind, infringed as a rule on human rights. I guess that if the Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of religion had been adopted and observed since the dawn of the Common Era (AD), the only monotheists in the world nowadays might have been the Jews…
Arsons of Libraries
BOOKS ARE DEADLY ENEMIES OF “BIG BROTHERS”. ARSONS OF LIBRARIES are a form of cultural genocide or cleansing, a purge:
● Xianyang Palace and State Archives (China, 206 BCE): the palace was burned during Xiang Yu’s rebellion, triggered by the “burning of books and burying of scholars”.
● Library of Alexandria (Egypt, 48 BCE, 272 CE, etc.): by Julius Caesar, Aurelian, et al: multiple arsons by multiple perpetrators – but not intentional arsonists…
● Library of Antioch (Syria, 364): by Jovian, because Julian the “Apostate” had heavily stocked it with plenty of new… “apostate” volumes!
● Library of the Serapeum, with what was left from the Library of Alexandria (Egypt, 391): the building was systematically looted, burned, and razed to the ground, by Theophilus, on orders by Theodosius.
● Library of Córdoba (Andalusia, 976): by Almanzor, the de facto ruler of Al-Andalus, and religious scholars; in a surge of “ultra-orthodoxy”, they burned books of “ancient science”.
● Library of Ray (Tehran, Iran, 1029): by Mahmud of Ghazna, because its books were deemed as “heretical”.
● Library of Avicenna (Isfahan, Iran, 1034): by Mas’ud of Ghazna, conquering the city.
● Library of Tripoli (Lebanon, 1109): by Baldwin’s Crusaders and mercenaries, looting and burning part of the city.
● Library of Ghazna (Afghanistan, 1151): by Ala al-Din Husayn, sacking and burning the city for seven days, destroying libraries and palaces.
● Library of Nishapur (Iran, 1154): by Oghuz Turks, who sacked and burned libraries, destroying partially the city.
● Nalanda (India, 1193): by Bakhtiyar Khalji, who sacked the University complex, the most renowned foundation of Buddhist knowledge at the time. The destruction is a milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India.
● Imperial Library of Constantinople (Byzantine Empire, 1204): by Crusaders (Franks and Venetians) who destroyed it, burning and selling its books.
● Library of Alamut Castle (Iran, 1256): by Mongols, who captured the castle and destroyed the library.
● House of Wisdom (Baghdad, Iraq, 1258): also by Mongols during the city’s siege.
● Libraries of Constantinople (Byzantine Empire, 1453): by Ottoman Turks, after the second fall of the city, when hundreds of thousands of manuscripts were removed, destroyed, or sold from the libraries.
● Madrasah Library (Granada, Andalusia, 1499): by Cardinal Cisneros, ransacking it and ordering its books be burned in a central square.
● Bibliotheca Corviniana (Buda, Hungary, 1526): by Ottoman Turks after the Battle of Mohács.
● Monastic libraries (England, 1530s): by Henry VIII, when they were destroyed or dispersed, following the dissolution of the monasteries.
● Cornish Colleges (Cornwall, England, 1548): by Henry’s successor, Edward VI. The smashing and looting of the colleges at Glasney and Crantock brought an end to the scholarship which had helped to sustain the Cornish language and cultural identity.
● Maya codices (Yucatán, Mexico, 1562): there was no Itzcoatl among the Maya with the “bright” idea to burn their codices. The arsonist was found in the face of bishop and conquistador Diego de Landa, a cruel, fanatical priest, as described by historians, who led a violent campaign against “idolatry”, burning almost all Mayan manuscripts (useful in deciphering Mayan script, knowledge of Maya religion and civilization, or the history of the American continent), saying: “We found a large number of books in these characters [hieroglyphs] and, as they contained nothing in which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they [the Mayas] regretted to an amazing degree, and which caused them much affliction.” Only three extant codices are widely considered unquestionably authentic.
The Arsons of Libraries Chronicle stops here. Not because there were no more arsons. The list, unfortunately, is too incomplete and never-ending. But this was our time frame: until the time the first caravels started crossing the Atlantic. And instead of transporting products and goods, or ideas, as well, they used to carry murderers, spoils, and slaves…
As regards these two Chronicles, The Genocide of the Hellenes and The Triumph of Cretinism, they are dedicated to that kid, with his questions, on the beach of Theotokos, at the Sepias cape, in southeastern Pelion, asking: “Why, dad, have they built the chapel on ancient ruins?”
Why then? Because, in a way, the Genocide of the Hellenes never stopped… Shall we be able some day to estimate the hecatombs of the victims?
Demographic Decline of the Hellenes also due to the Genocide
IN 500 BCE, c. 100 million people lived in Asia, Europe and Africa. The Hellenes around the Aegean numbered 3 million in the 5th century. In the 4th century, adding the colonists, as well, they approached 8-10 million. This means they represented 5-10% of the total – without counting those who were Hellenized during the Hellenistic period. Now, all Greeks, plus expatriates, reach 16 million, while the world’s population has risen dramatically to 7.7 billion. This, of course, means they represent just a very small percentage of only 0.21%.
Next Chronicle 25. “CARTHAGO DELENDA EST!” ● Colonization ● Tartessos: the Apple of Discord ● Impact of Persian Expansion ● Phoenicians and Punics ● Tartessos and Carthage Ruined ● Macedonia and Rome