Vandalizing the Parthenon temple in Athens has been a tenacious tradition. Most famously, Lord Elgin appropriated the “Elgin marbles” in 1801-5. But that was hardly the first example. In the Byzantine era, when the temple had been turned into a church, two bishops — Marinos and Theodosios — carved their names on its monumental columns. The Ottomans used the Parthenon as a gunpowder magazine, hence its pockmarked masonry — the result of an attack by Venetian forces in the 17th century. Now Catherine Nixey, a classics teacher turned writer and journalist, takes us back to earlier desecrations, the destruction of the premier artworks of antiquity by Christian zealots (from the Greek zelos — ardor, eager rivalry) in what she calls “The Darkening Age.”
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 is transparent about the particularity of her motivation. The daughter of an ex-nun and an ex-monk, she spent her childhood filled with respect for the wonders of postpagan Christian culture. But as a student of classics she found the scales — as it were — falling from her eyes. She wears her righteous fury on her sleeve. This is scholarship as polemic.
To read full review / post => https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/08/books/review/catherine-nixey-darkening-age.html