Chapter five is entitled “The Destruction of the Past.” This chapter is closely related to the themes of chapter four and follows almost seamlessly. Specifically though, Hart addresses the myth that after the fall of Rome it was the West’s contact with Islamic culture that reintroduce to the West the “remnants of classical Greece and Rome” which had been preserved under Islam. The truth, rather, is that Islam was the “beneficiary of Eastern Christendom[s]” preservation of classical works and then the West benefited from contact with both, especially after the fall of Constantinople. The scarcity of those works in the West before the fall of the Eastern Empire had nothing to do with a “rejection” of classical works by the Church but everything to do with the fall of Rome and the vagaries of history.
Again, the story goes something like this: After Constantine and then Rome’s fall, the Church regularly burned/destroyed pagan writings as a rule and wiped out such writings and works in the West thereby leading Europe into a “Dark Age” of “obscurantism, stagnation, and terror.” In response to all this, Hart writes:
Talk of medieval Christian civilization being “quick to burn” the writings of ancient pagans, moreover, is tantamount to a confession of an almost total ignorance of that civilization. In fact, not only did medieval Christians not burn pagan texts, the literary remains of ancient Rome were hoarded and jealously guarded in monastic libraries even as the Western Roman world was disintegrating…and for centuries, there were monasteries throughout Western Europe, from the Mediterranean to Britain, that housed thousands of collections containing the writings of Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Pliny, Horace, Statius, Persius, Lucan, Suetonius, Seneca, Martial, Apuleius, Juvenal, Terence, and so forth, as well as such portions of Plato, Aristotle, and the Greek church fathers as were available in Latin.
The fact that both pagan and Christian works were lost after the fall of Rome is true, but it had more to do with the contingencies of history, the fall of an empire, war, riots, fire, mistake, mishap, inattention, and a thousand other effects and causes than it did due to some concerted malevolent human scheme or forethought.
However, if one wanted to talk about the intentional destruction of books and writings, one need look no further than the pagan and Roman emperor Diocletian, who when finding works objectionable, “demonstrated great delight in the combustion of [those] books…” Oh, but that’s right, he was a pagan so let’s overlook that and keep our attention focused on those terrible Christians.
Hart sums up this chapter thus,
Slovenly scholarship is a sin, perhaps, but bad scholars might almost be forgiven for believing what they have always been told: that Christianity rejected classical civilization, even sought to destroy it root and branch, and thus inaugurated the Dark Ages. In truth, there is no intelligible sense in which the rise of Christianity can be held responsible for the decline of late Roman culture, some supposed triumph of dogma over reason, or the retardation of science.
How interesting: the radical atheist/secularist who prattles on and on about the need for evidence and facts refuses, it would appear, to ever let any “evidence” from history confuse their second and third hand prejudices supported only by bad scholarship and the gullibility of narrow minds.