Friday, February 27, 2009

Awaiting a Movie about Hypatia

Hypatia of Alexandria, born c. 355 (?) and murdered by a Christian mob in 415, was a Neoplatonic philosopher and mathematician—math and philosophy were more intertwined then than they are today.

Her life and death are part of the plot of Agora, a forthcoming movie directed by Alejandro Amenábar. You can see a trailer here (thanks to Jason Pitzl-Waters for the tip).

Her killers were fired up by one Cyril, a bishop of Alexandria and now a saint of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Hypatia, after all, was not a Christian, was upper-class, was an intellectual, and worst of all, was a female intellectual.

(Patriarch issues fatwa, followers riot and kill -- the usual pattern.)

In the movie, a slave falls in love with Hypatia. Not very likely: one of the old stories told about her is that when one of her students was attracted to her, she threw a used menstrual rag in his face. It was a philosophical lesson--that he should love eternal beauty, not the beauty of the flesh.

Hypatia of Alexandria is supposed to be a good reconstructed biography. For a shorter discussion of sources about her life, go here.

I want to see Agora but I am also a little afraid to see it. It might push too many buttons. Sometimes I think the fourth century CE is still with us in the cultural-religious conflicts we see around us.

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Anonymous Aron said...

Absolutely. To me the UU church shooting seemed like something straight out of the late 4th century, yet that was the act of a lone man. I shudder to imagine a mob of rabid Dominionists.
I wonder what Christian attitudes toward the film will be.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Well, I think the 4th Century (and earlier) is certainly still with us, and that is part of the reason I am looking forward to the film. I'm not looking to fuel the fires of intolerance between Christians and Pagans, so I'm more pleased than not that they've included the (presumably sympathetic) character of the Christian-convert slave.

But I'm allmighty tired of the limited Christian understanding of history that reads "Pagan" as "one who feeds Christians to lions" and "Christian" as "Never harmed anyone in all of history."

I'd love to have Christians do a little wrestling with the shadow side of their history for a change, and perhaps see it from another point of view. I don't want to rub anybody's nose in anything--I just want to open up a little elbow room in the dialog.

3:40 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I get the idea from the trailer that this 'love' s the unrequited type, maybe even as a catalyst for the mob? I could buy that as a plot-mover.

8:54 PM  

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