Sunday, May 30, 2010

Agora and Hypatia

After what feels like an eternity the Alejandro Amenábar film “Agora”, based on the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, is finally seeing a limited release in American theaters this weekend. Rachel Weisz, who won my undying affection in the role of Evelyn Carnahan the plucky librarian in The Mummy, plays the role of Hypatia.

Agora has had a difficult time of being shown in the U.S. as The Wild Hunt Blog details here.

Hypatia is my hero. It feels fitting to me that she would come to America for our Memorial Day celebration, as this is the holiday when we honor our fallen heroes. Hellenics take stock in hero worship, and in my heart there is no hero of myth, legend, or history that shines quite like Hypatia.

Hypatia was a scholar, a teacher, a Neoplatonist philosopher, and, yes, a librarian. Her brutal death at the hands of an angry Christian mob marks the end of Classical antiquity.

My response to the horror of Hypatia's martyrdom is as close as I have ever felt to the feeling certain Christians attribute to meditation on the Passion of Christ. Hypatia has her own stations of the cross...

There she rides on her chariot, proud to be an independent educated woman in a time of increasing oppression and superstition. Now the mob interrupts her congress. They pull her down. Her robes are torn from her body. Her head smashes against the stone street rock. They beat her. They tear at her flesh with shards of oyster shells. They burn the ragged remains of her broken corpse. Who does she cry out for? In all of her studies concerning the goodness and richness of humanity did she ever fear that fate held such a cruel end for her by the hands of her own kind? Does her heart weep for their ignorance?

My heart weeps. Hypatia was murdered as a sign to all women who dared to live proudly, who longed for wisdom and freedom. She was battered as if she herself were a pagan goddess, brought low by this dark and fearful new religion.

This memorial day I encourage you to find and honor your own heroes, ancient, modern, or mythical. Tell their stories, adorn their altars, pour to them offerings. Honor the place within you that cries out for peace.


  1. You certainly seem to have bought into the myth of Hypatia as a martyr for science/paganism/women etc. Unfortuantely this is a distortion of what the evidence actually tells us. See for details.

  2. And you seem to be very certain of yourself and your opinions. I wonder what brings you to my blog other than to snark?

  3. I share your sentiments about Hypatia (and Rachel Weisz, for that matter), so I've been waiting very impatiently for a US release. I think we need to arrange to meet up for a viewing when it finally makes it to our area. What a trailer!

    And why oh why can't my temple have bronze uraei and repousse goddess-figures on the doors? :D

  4. Sister you have a way with words. I feel that a recurrence is on the brink once again. This movie could not have come at a better time.