The Last Apocalypse

7 12 2010

By James Reston, Jr.

In The Last Apocalypse, James Reston, Jr wrote about the world at the turn of the millennium, that is, the turn to 1000 A.D.  This was a time of great transformation in much of the world, causing many Europeans to fear that the world was soon coming to an end.  Viking marauders were ransacking coastal Europe from the Shetland Islands to Ireland, England and the northern coast of France.

At this same time, Al Mansor  began, in his vanity, to bring about the death of Islam on the Iberian Peninsula.  Islam had been a great civilizing force, promoting education in the sciences, algebra and chemistry as well as encouraging literacy among the masses.  Before Al Mansor began investing all power of the Caliphate in himself, there was peace among the Christian, Jewish and Islamic communities. The ward that Al Mansor waged to make himself appear powerful brought distrust upon his rule and weakness to the Caliphate in general. He desecrated places and humiliated people  he conquered, resulting in the wrath of Rome which became set on destroying him and Islam.  With the death of Al Mansor, followed by the rule of his son, Islam weakened then withered away in Spain along with the civilization that accompanied it.

Christianity faces its own apocalyptic tendencies as popes ranged from weed to evil. Reston writes that the papal authority’s “dignity and authority was at its lowest point since St. Peter first sat on the papal throne.”  Many saw this corruption of he Church as fulfillment of Biblical prophesies  making ready for the Antichrist, the precursor of the end of days. This combined with many other “signs” lead many to view as eminent the Apocalypse of St. John 13.5.  Nations were at war all over the known world along with the great famine which begun in 970 A.D becoming desparate by the year 1000 A.D.

All these things brought a feeling of great pessimism  to people all over the European continent.

James Reston, Jr. covers these topics with intelligence and understanding, showing no prejudice in the way he deals with the events of the years leading up to the last millennium.

This is a book that is well worth reading for any history buff, student of religion and/or culture and anyone who needs to be reminded that history of the world is  often cyclical and that, as  a civilization, we humans we tend not to learn from our past mistakes

The Last Apocalypse, James Reston, Jr., published by Doubleday, 1998.

 

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