Darkening Age, 20

In chapter 10 of The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, Catherine Nixey wrote:

In Alexandria, Cyril conducted house searches to hunt out works by the loather pagan emperor Julian ‘the Apostate’…

This was a new literary world and a newly serious one. ‘The extent to which this new Christian story both displaced and substituted for all others is breathtaking,’ writes the modern academic Brent D. Shaw… And in the place of humour, came fear. Christian congregations found themselves rained on by oratorical fire and brimstone. For their own good, of course. As Chrysostom observed with pleasure: ‘in our churches we hear countless discourses on eternal punishment, on rivers of fire, on the venomous worm, on bonds that cannot be burst, on exterior darkness’…

Less than a hundred years after the first Christian emperor, the intellectual landscape was changing. In the third century, there had been twenty-eight public libraries in Rome and many private ones. By the end of the fourth they were, as the historian Ammianus Marcellinus observed with sorrow, ‘like tombs, permanently shut’…

As a law of AD 388 announced: ‘There shall be no opportunity for any man to go out to the public and to argue about religion or to discuss it or to give any counsel.’ If anyone with ‘damnable audacity’ attempted to then, the law announced with a threat no less ominous for being vague, ‘he shall be restrained with a due penalty and proper punishment’…

In Athens, some decades after Hypatia’s death, a resolutely pagan philosopher found himself exiled for a year…

What was not ‘of profit ‘ could easily fade from view. The shocking death of Hypatia ought to have merited a good deal of attention in the histories of the period. Instead it is treated lightly and obliquely, if at all. In history, as in life, no one in Alexandria was punished for her murder. There was a cover-up. Some writers were highly critical—even to fervent Christian eyes this was an appalling act.

But not all: as one Christian bishop later recorded with admiration, once the satanic woman had been destroyed, then all the people surrounded Cyril in acclamation for he had ‘destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city.’ The affected myopia of Christian historians could be magnificent: as the historian Ramsay MacMullen has put it, ‘Hostile writings and discarded views were not recopied or passed on, or they were actively suppressed.’

The Church acted as a great and, at times, fierce filter on all written material, the centuries of its control as ‘a differentially permeable membrane’ that ‘allowed the writings of Christianity to pass through but not of Christianity’s enemies.’