Last night I watched Amendabar’s Agora, a film about the philosopher Hypatia and the Alexandrian power struggles with the local bishop, St. Cyril.  As to be expected, the film doles out a healthy does of anachronism. We’re lead to believe that real issue had to do with tolerant pagans becoming assailed by religious Christian fundamentalist instead of, say, the the volitale political situation of Alexandria or the extreme disparity of wealth and poverty – to say nothing of the previous reign of Julian.  Still, it was cool to see the ancient world on the big screen.  In fact, seeing the violent mobs wreaking havoc throughout the city reminded me that doctrine was not borne out of academic debate, but of hard-lined political volatility.

At the end of the film, I immediately ran to my book shelf and read David Bentley Hart’s summary on Alexandrian riots and the burning of the library, another key element of the film:

“I doubt we would much like any of these people.  Not to be glib, but it was a very different age, one in which blood flowed fairly copiously in the streets and almost everyone believed that supernatural forces were constantly at work in nature and beyond it.  As for the failure of many of the Christians of the time to transcend their circumstances, it is enough to observe that it is easier to baptize a culture than to change it, and the general culture of the time and the specific culture of Egypt were habitually brutal to a degree sometimes difficult to comprehend.  Still, for all the persecutions each side visited upon the other, the two peoples – for the better part of four centuries, throughout the empire – generally lived together, conducted business with one another, studied together, even attended one another’s festivals, and left one another’s shrines, fanes, and basilicas unmolested” (44)

~ Atheist Delusions.

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