The Forge of Christendom: The End of the World and the Epic Rise of the West
by Tom Holland
Published in 2008
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
The Forge of Christendom is a book that covers the tumultuous period surrounding the year 1000. An ancient Christian prophecy had predicted that the world would end 1000 years after the life of Jesus. Many Christians during the early Middle Ages took this prediction literally, and imagined that the world would end exactly on the year 1000.
Making these predictions more poignant were several details which seemed to materialize: a Roman emperor would return, and fight the forces of Gog and Magog. Several men had claimed to restore the Roman Empire, such as Charlemagne or King Otto I. Christendom had numerous enemies, which were variously identified as Gog and Magog: Pagan Hungarian horse archers, Saracen Muslim pirates, or Viking raiders.
Time, and time again, prominent Christian scholars made predictions that the end of the world was near. Inevitably, these ecclesiastical figures found that their predictions fell flat.
I didn’t read this book at the right time - I thought that this book would primarily cover the conversion to Christianity from Paganism, but instead it covers the year 1000 AD. I should have waited to read this book after I had finished books about the period preceding it.
That being said, I had a hard time contextualizing a lot of the historical events, because I wasn’t very familiar with the period, and hadn’t eased into it.
I might have appreciated the book a lot more if I had contextualized it better.
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