Agora! (Classical history lovers must see this film)

Last night my roommates and I watched Agora, after seeing the Series Premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead (also an amazing show; highly recommended) but Agora is a heart-breaking and maddening story about a philosopher/astronomer/mathemetician in 5th Century AD Egypt, Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) who is ultimately executed by Christians as a witch.  She discovers that rather than being a series of “circles within circles” as Ptolemy predicted, the motion of the objects in the Solar System can be explained by using an ellipse instead.  Unfortuantely, this revelation is at odds with the Bible and after burning the library at Alexandria (pricks!) the Christians turn their wrath towards Hypatia’s “goddless” and “evil” ideas and they stone her to death.  Based on real events!  Hypatia was a real person and was murdered by a mob of Christians in 415AD for being a witch.  To think that if stupid Christians hadn’t murdered her, we’d have known about the Earth’s trajectory around the Sun 1200 years before we did!!  Assholes! (edit: After reading Faith’s blog Historian’s Notebook, specifically her post on the factual accuracy of Agora, I’ve learned that while she was an “avid astronomer and built instruments like the astrolabe”, it’s unlikely that she worked on heliocentric theory.  Another thing I realized as I watched the film a second time was that the “library” wasn’t the GREAT library of Alexandria, it was a library in the Temple of Serapis which was most likely a “daughter” library.  I still think Christians are assholes though. 😉


5 thoughts on “Agora! (Classical history lovers must see this film)

  1. Hi Joel! I ran across your blog because I have a Google Alert on Hypatia. I saw Agora when it first came out in NYC and loved Weisz’ performance as Hypatia. It’s a beautifully shot film with an important modern theme of tolerance. However, Amenabar distorts some history and science in service to his art (the Library didn’t end that way and it’s very unlikely that Hypatia worked on heliocentric theory), but that’s what artists do. For people who want to know more about the historical Hypatia, I highly recommend a very readable biography Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska (Harvard University Press, 1995). I also have a series of posts on the historical events and characters in the film at my blog – not a movie review, just a “reel vs. real” discussion.

    • Thanks Faith! I guess I should’ve done some background research other than wikipedia and the film itself before my post. 😉 I’m very interested in Classical history! I took Classics in University. I’m heading to your blog now, and I’m very excited about reading the “reel vs. real” posts! Thanks for visiting my blog!

      • You’re welcome, Joel. Thanks for linking to my posts! The book on Hypatia I mentioned in my former post was written by a Polish classics scholar and translated into English. And I do agree that classical history lovers should see the film!

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