Using the mutilation of faces, arms and genitals on the Parthenon’s decoration as one of her many, thunderingly memorable case studies, Nixey makes the fundamental point that while we lionize Christian culture for preserving works of learning, sponsoring exquisite art and adhering to an ethos of 'love thy neighbor,' the early church was in fact a master of anti-intellectualism, iconoclasm and mortal prejudice. This is a searingly passionate book ... Nixey writes up a storm. Each sentence is rich, textured, evocative, felt ... Nixey delivers this ballista-bolt of a book with her eyes wide open and in an attempt to bring light as well as heat to the sad story of intellectual monoculture and religious intolerance.
If you have wondered why so many classical statues are missing heads, arms, noses and genitalia, now you know ... The Darkening Age is a delightful book about destruction and despair. Nixey combines the authority of a serious academic with the expressive style of a good journalist. She’s not afraid to throw in the odd joke amid sombre tales of desecration. With considerable courage, she challenges the wisdom of history and manages to prevail. Comfortable assumptions about Christian progress come tumbling down.
Nixey has a great story to tell, and she tells it exceptionally well. As one would expect from a distinguished journalist, every page is full of well-turned phrases that leap from the page. She has an expert eye for arresting details, and brings characters and scenarios to life without disguising anything of the strangeness of the world she describes. Most of all, she navigates through these tricky waters with courage and skill. Writing critically about Christian history is doubly difficult: not only are the ancient sources complex, scattered and disputed, but also there are legions of modern readers waiting to pounce on the tiniest perceived error, infelicity or offense ... a finely crafted, invigorating polemic against the resilient popular myth that presents the Christianization of Rome as the triumph of a kinder, gentler politics. On those terms, it succeeds brilliantly.