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3060Re: [neoplatonism] Agora: the movie about Hypatia

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  • Goya
    Feb 11, 2010
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      > MC wrote:
      >>  It's even less clear why Pedro Almodovar appears in this post: he
      >>  had, as far as I know, nothing to do with this film.
      > Okay, I made an easy mistake between two Spanish directors whose last
      > names begin with "A".  It seems to me if the situation were reversed and
      > you made the error, I'd would be pleased to have the opportunity to
      > overlook it, especially inasmuch as it matters little for the main point
      > -- and certainly not use it as a reason for sarcasm.

      M.C. It matters to the following extent: when you confuse directors'
      names, or when you misspell Gibbon's name, as you do below, it suggests,
      at least to me, that you may not be as familiar with the subject-matter as
      one might have wished. In other words, that you have not done your

      > <snip>
      > Example:  when they make shoot-em-up movies where Islamic characters are
      > the
      > bad guys, does that reinforce stereotypes?  What about cowboy movies where
      > Native Americans are the villains? 

      M.C. Your analogies are interesting, but I find them inept, for at least
      these two reasons:

      1. In order for a stereotype to be perpetuated, it must first *exist*. Now
      is it really true that movies are full of depictions of Christians,
      ancient or modern, as ignorant, intolerant and violent? I don't believe it
      is: I can think only of Buñuel's Simon del Desierto, a film made on a
      shoestring budget in Mexico, which can hardly be said to constitute a

      2. Your example of Islamic characters is particularly interesting. In
      fact, Muslim directors have not shied away for portraying Islamic
      fundamentalists in a very negative light indeed: one thinks of the work of
      the great Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, and his depiction of
      Avicenna's struggles against narrow-minded clerics (Destiny/al-massir,
      1997). They made such films not to denigrate Islam, nor to perpetuate
      stereotypes, but to call attention to what, in their view, represented a
      danger to and a betrayal of Islamic ideals : fundamentalism, intolerance,
      and extremism.

      Now I don't know whether Almenabar is Christian or not. But he is a
      representative of a still largely-Christian culture, which, it seems to
      me, is perfectly justified in asking questions about the episodes of
      intolerance which have occasionally besmirched Christianity's past (in the
      view of all but its most rabid apologists)

      >> But perhaps the director - Amenabar, not Almodovar - is wrong: perhaps
      >> the mob
      >> who pulled Hypatia from her carriage, stripped her naked, tore the flesh
      >> from her bones with seashells...
      > Or perhaps Gibbons was wrong.

      M.C. Ah yes. So much for that, then: the whole Hypatia story is simply a
      legend made up by Gibbon.

      This might almost be a credible possibility - if Gibbon were our only
      source. But of course he's not: we have ancient information from the Suda,
      Photius, Philostorgius, Damascius, Malalas, etc. Gibbon himself based his
      account primarily on the Ecclesiastical History by the 5th-century
      Christian Socrates of Constantinople (7, 15): Here's a translation
      (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/26017.htm) :

      There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the
      philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as
      to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to
      the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of
      philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive
      her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner,
      which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she
      not unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates.
      Neither did she feel abashed in coming to an assembly of men. For all men
      on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.
      Yet even she fell a victim to the political jealousy which at that time
      prevailed. For as she had frequent interviews with Orestes, it was
      calumniously reported among the Christian populace, that it was she who
      prevented Orestes from being reconciled to the bishop. Some of them
      therefore, hurried away by a fierce and bigoted zeal, whose ringleader was
      a reader named Peter, waylaid her returning home, and dragging her from
      her carriage, they took her to the church called Cæsareum, where they
      completely stripped her, and then murdered her with tiles. After tearing
      her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron,
      and there burnt them. This affair brought not the least opprobrium, not
      only upon Cyril, but also upon the whole Alexandrian church. *And surely
      nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity than the allowance
      of massacres, fights, and transactions of that sort*. This happened in the
      month of March during Lent, in the fourth year of Cyril's episcopate,
      under the tenth consulate of Honorius, and the sixth of Theodosius.

      M.C. I couldn't agree more with the phrase I have placed within asterisks
      γὰρ παντελῶς
      φρονούντων τὰ
      Χριστοῦ φόνοι
      καὶ μάχαι καὶ
      τὰ τούτοις
      παραπλήσια) and it is
      also a pretty good summary of what Amenabar's film is about. One wishes
      current protesters would imitate the frankness and objectivity of Socrates

      P.S. Yes, I know Socrates and all the other ancient witnesses may have
      made the whole thing up, although their motives are impossible to imagine
      (they were almost all Christian!). For that matter, perhaps the Aeneid was
      in fact a fake written by a medieval monk....

      Michael Chase
      CNRS UPR 76
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