Friday, June 04, 2010

Hypatia in the Agora


There is a new film out called Agora, about Hypatia who was killed in AD 391. According to the film it was the Christian that did it, well, actually it was a Christian mob who killed her but Alejandro Amenábar’s film also says that it was part of a deliberate Christian anti-intellectual movement of the fourth century. Not only did we ghastly Christians kill that beautiful young maiden but so vile were we, we also burnt down the Great Library of Alexandria, which ushered in the Dark Ages.
Well of course its actually not quite true, more of a fabrication of Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It is more nasty Church stuff!
Read David B Hart on the subject.
Beautiful Hypatia was 60ish
The library had long dissapeared probably during the time of Julius Caesar
etc., etc....

15 comments:

Augustine said...

It still looks like a pretty decent film if I'm honest, and St Cyril isn't the easiest man to admire!

Doc Hannon said...

Your readers might be interested in the most recent number of CHRISTVS REGNAT the journal of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association in Ireland.

http://catholicheritage.blogspot.com/2010/06/christvs-regnat-june-2010.html

It can be downloaded here:

http://stores.lulu.com/catholicheritage

It would be extremely kind if you would post about our journal and link to or blogroll or follow our blog.

God bless you!

berenike said...

Tim O'Neill has written two lengthy and immensely readable posts on the subject. And for argument purposes, he's more useful than First Things, cos he's godless.

berenike said...

(It's worth first reading Tim's first post on the subject, to which he links at the beginning of his recent one.)

Andrew said...

I've watched the film on DVD. St Cyril is cast as some kind of scheming monster versus the open minded Hypatia... not a good portrayal of Christians at all. Technically, it's pretty decent though.

Independent said...

Do not expect serious or accurate history from contemporary film makers. They are interesting in propagating particular myths which fit the preoccupations of the secular elite to which they belong. They are not really interested in hard fact.

Sonia said...

Mob minds on the warpath (in that instance Parabolan monks - Hypatia's murder is a terrible event. Ironically the account of it was recorded for posterity by Christian historian Socrates Scholasticus (5th c.). 100 years exactly before Hypatia's murder the pagans murdered a Christian Alexandrian scholar named Catherine. The fortunes of Alexandria and the Museum were sealed in 640 when the Arabs decided it was time they had there go.

Sonia said...

It's also anti-historical (not to mention disingenuous) to blame any posited 'dark age' on a mob of mindless Parabolans - the point being that what they did to Hypatia was profoundly and particularly unchristian - where as what the Alexandrian pagans did to the scholar Catherine in 315 was in no way profoundly or particularly unpagan.

flj52452 said...

I felt the movie was more of an indictment of all fanaticism, not just that particular age, but Amenabar did distort a lot of history in service to his art. If you want to know about Hypatia, there is a very readable biography called Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska (Harvard University Press, 1995.) I've also posted a series of essays on the events and characters in the movie at my blog - not a review of the movie - just the "reel" vs "real" history behind the film.

Physiocrat said...

Parabolan monks? Aren't they a conic section, defined by the formula y=ax^2+bx+c?

Sonia said...

Apparently 'Parabolans' was the name given to a group of fanatical monk of the Church of St. Cyril - this is ancient Alexandria - none were arrested due to 'lack of evidence' after which Cyril declared Hypatia was alive and well and living out her years in Athens!

Sonia said...

P. S. Maybe their disagreement with Hyptia was theological but formulaic - she apparently wrote a treatise called 'On the Conics of Appolonius'. Something to think about.

Sonia said...

p.s.s. My Hypatian musings are informed by the 1986 book by Dr Magaret Alic (a research scientist - molecular biology) called 'Hypatia's Heritage'. Hypatia's contribution is spoken of in particular in the third chapter 'From Alexandrians to Arabs' (great title). The coining of the rabid monks as Parabolans is given no footnote and is not elucidated other than that they were referred to as 'Parabolans'.

Robin Ward said...

Charles Kingsley wrote a wonderfully mad novel about Hypatia with that title which takes just the sort of line the film does: it also includes an episcopal ostrich hunt. Queen Victoria enjoyed it but found it a bit racy. Newman incidentally thought S Cyril's sanctity could not be demonstrated from the facts of his life now preserved to history.

Sonia said...

Have been reading a book called 'Galileo goes to Jail and other Myths about Science and Religion'. It is a collection of essays by scholars of the history of science. In one essay by David Lindberg he addresses the Hypatian story, the traditional interpretation of which is 'pure mythology'. He draws on a recent biography by Maria Dzielska to dispell the myth. Hypatia's murder was political - the struggle for power between Orestes and Cyril culminated in Hypatia's death (she was a friend and supporter of Orestes who was himself a Christian). He states clearly that her death had nothing to do with science, and after her murder Alexandrain science and mathematics continued to prosper - her death issued no 'dark age'. Get this title though that he quotes from an 18th century Enlightenment pamphlet by John Toland: Hypatia; or the History of a Most Beautiful, Most Virtuous, Most Learned and in Every Way Accomplished Lady; Who was torn to peices by the Clergy of Alexandria, to Gratify the Pride, Emulation, and Cruelty of the Archbishop, Commonly but Undeservedly Titled St. Cyril (1720). The title sort of makes the reading of the pamphlet redundant I'd say.