Agora

Agora

A movie about Hypatia

 

Agora is a new movie about the pagan philosopher and martyr Hypatia, who was murdered by a mob of Christians in the latter days of the Roman Empire. Hypatia is sometimes taken as a martyr of science and thus a hero for atheists, but in reality she was a deeply religious person. Specifically, she was a Neoplatonist, which was a powerful late pagan philosophical and mystical movement. None of her writings have survived, but she was universally considered to be an important philosopher.

The city of Alexandria in Roman Egypt was a hotbed of rival religions, mystical sects and philosophical schools. Gnosticism was born there, as was Neoplatonism, and Christianity absorbed a lot from both movements. However, all of Alexandria's rival religious factions were violently antagonistic to each other, and the struggle for spiritual supremacy was often mixed up with local political rivalries. Hypatia, as an influential figure in the pagan community, was in it up to her neck.

 

At some point she made too many enemies, and they managed to get the mob riled up against her. The result was her murder, the most famous example of pagan martyrdom in the ancient world. Apparently the Church has been complaining about the movie because it portrays Christians as a bloodthirsty mob of intolerant fanatics. Such a sweeping generalization would not be fair, but the facts are the facts. Hypatia was in fact murdered by a fanatical mob and they were in fact Christians. Hypatia's story deserves to be told.