Historical Movie Review: Agora
“Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.” Hypatia of Alexandria
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, Agora was Spain’s highest grossing film in 2009, earning more than 10.3 million dollars within a week of its release date (“Agora”). The film received a 4 out of 5 star rating, and is a historical drama film depicting the final years of Hypatia, who was a remarkable philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. Hypatia strived to answer the questions about the solar system, specifically about heliocentrism. Yet, surrounded by unrested tension between the pagans and Christians, Hypatia was stripped of her freedom to teach, and struggled to save the knowledge of classical antiquity from destruction. Although Agora tells a stellar and captivating story about a brilliant woman living in religious turmoil, and causing her to make a choice to either embrace her love for science and philosophy, or to hide her passion to keep her life. The film is not historically competent in the means of its own historical interpretation of significant events, important individuals, and choice of clothing.
To summarize the plot of Agora, the movie takes place in the late 3rd century in Alexandria, Egypt. It starts in a Platonic school, where it introduces the main characters: Hypatia of Alexandria, Davus (Hypatia’s slave), and two of Hypatia’s students and future leaders, Orestes and Synesius. Although Alexandria seems at peace, a religious-based issue arises. There is a dispute between the Pagans and Christians over which of their god(s) is real. As this dispute escalates, the two parties persecute each other resulting in a riot. In turn, the Christians outnumber the Pagans and the Pagans start to lose the fight leading them to take refuge in the Library of the Serapeum while the Christians wait outside causing a siege. Yet, the siege ends when a representative of the Roman Emperor announces that the pagans are to be pardoned but by the same token, the Christians are able to enter the library and do whatever they please. As the Pagans panic, they try to save as many documents and relics as they can from the library but not much are saved. The Christians then destroy the library as the Pagans flee to safety. The movie then fast forwards in 3 years’ time after the destruction of the library, it reveals that Orestes has converted to Christianity, and is now the prefect of Alexandria. In addition, the movie introduces a new character, St. Cyril, the leader of the Christians in Alexandria. However, St. Cyril sees Hypatia as a powerful negative influence over Orestes decisions, and decides to stage a public ceremony to coerce Orestes into disrespecting Hypatia. Luckily, Synesius, now the Bishop of Alexandria, comes as a religious authority to protect Hypatia, but he can only aid Hypatia if she accepts Christianity as her faith but Hypatia refuses as she accepts science and philosophy over Christianity. Matters escalate as St.Cyril influences his fellow followers of Christ to believe that Hypatia is a witch. For that reason, a mob of Christians capture Hypatia and plan to kill Hypatia by fatally torturing her alive. Fortunately, Hypatia’s loyal former Christian slave, Davus, encourages the mob to stone Hypatia instead. As the mob finds stones to stone Hypatia with, Davus suffocates Hypatia to death to help her avoid a painful death. The movie finally ends as the mob stone Hypatia’s lifeless body.
When depicting significant events in 319CE-415CE, the film’s historical interpretations are not entirely correct. One event that is shown in the movie is the destruction of the Serapeum. In the film, the pagans decide to ambush the Christians to corrupt their rising influence. Unfortunately for the pagans, t the Christians outnumbers them leading the pagans to retreat and take refuge in the Library of the Serapeum, causing a siege. However, the siege ends when a messenger...
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