Monday, March 15, 2010

Judicial Use of Torture: Did Medieval Europe Learn It From Islam?

by John J. O’Neill (full article)

In my newly-published book, Holy Warriors: Islam and the Demise of Classical Civilization, I argue at length that a great majority of the things commonly regarded as “Medieval” were in fact introduced to Europe from Islam, and that it was Islam, and not the Huns, Vandals and Goths, which terminated Classical Civilization, the rational and humane civilization of Greece and Rome. This civilization survived in Europe and in North Africa and the Near East until the seventh century, at which point it was destroyed by the Muslim conquests.

In point of fact, Islam’s influence upon Europe was much greater than is commonly imagined, but that influence was entirely negative. Not only did the Muslims terminate Classical Civilization, but in time they dragged Europe, on many levels, down to a more barbarous level of culture. It was from the Muslims, for example, that Christian Europeans got the idea of “Holy War,” a concept that would have been unthinkable in earlier centuries. And from Islam too, the institution of slavery, as well as the slave trade, received a new and powerful impetus.

Contrary to the beliefs of some modern anti-Christian writers, Christianity brought an immediate and dramatic improvement in the living conditions of slaves, the poor, and the oppressed, in the Roman Empire. In Holy Warriors, I show how the Church, in the early centuries, bit by bit made the holding of slaves morally indefensible and eventually helped bring about the entire institution’s abolishment. And just as Christianity worked inexorably to alleviate the condition of slaves, so its influence revolutionized the penal code and led to more humane treatment of prisoners. The first step was taken by Constantine, who, out of respect for Christ, abolished the barbaric punishment of crucifixion. Constantine also attempted (unsuccessfully) to abolish gladiator contests, though these barbaric entertainments were in fact finally outlawed less than a century later, after a monk named Telemachus was killed by spectators whilst separating two gladiators in a Roman arena.

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