Euxinic ocean conditions accompanied significant events in Earth history, including several Phanerozoic biotic crises. By critically examining modern and ancient euxinic environments and the range of hypotheses for these sulfidic episodes, we elucidate the primary factors that influenced the generation of euxinia. We conclude that periods of global warmth promoted anoxia because of reduced solubility of oxygen, not because of ocean stagnation. Anoxia led to phosphate release from sediments, and continental configurations with expansive nutrient-trapping regions focused nutrient recycling and increased regional nutrient buildup. This great nutrient supply would have fueled high biological productivity and oxygen demand, enhancing oxygen depletion and sulfide buildup via sulfate reduction. As long as warm conditions prevailed, these positive feedbacks sustained euxinic conditions. In rare, extreme cases, euxinia led to biotic crises, a hypothesis best supported by evidence from the end-Permian mass extinction.