3060Re: [neoplatonism] Agora: the movie about Hypatia
- Feb 11, 2010
> MC wrote:M.C. It matters to the following extent: when you confuse directors'
>> 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.
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>M.C. Your analogies are interesting, but I find them inept, for at least
> Example: when they make shoot-em-up movies where Islamic characters are
> bad guys, does that reinforce stereotypes? What about cowboy movies where
> Native Americans are the villains?
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,
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)
>M.C. Ah yes. So much for that, then: the whole Hypatia story is simply a
>> 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.
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
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
καὶ μάχαι καὶ
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....
CNRS UPR 76
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