This poster says that one woman changed history.

Truth is, it’s the filmmakers who changed history.

Earlier, I posted a link to some strong words about the new movie called Agora.

Here are more cautionary words, showing the distortion of historical details in the film, distortions that portray the storytellers’ prejudice :

Sherry Weddell:

The destruction of the Library of Alexandria was 1) probably the result of an accident rather than a plot 2) done by pagans, not Christians and 3) occurred 40 years before Jesus was born and 418 years before Hypatia was born. The part of the Library’s collection that survived Julius Caesar was kept in a branch library in a pagan temple in Alexandria but had almost certainly vanished before that building was destroyed in 391 AD, 24 years before Hypatia was killed and 21 years before Cyril became Bishop of Alexandria.

The destruction of the Library of Alexandria had nothing to do with Hypatia or Christianity or Cyril of Alexandria. This is an anti-Christian 18th century urban legend.

Hypatia’s death was horrific and unjust but Cyril of Alexandria probably had nothing to do with it. Her death was probably the result of a political dispute between Christians (not between pagans and Christians) and had nothing to do with a Christian hatred of philosophy and learning or the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.


The hopeful thing is that Americans are generally averse to “historical films”, so it’s unlikely it will do well at the box office. Historical films used to do well, but with the dumbification of mass culture over the past 50 years, audiences increasingly prefer to *feel* as though they are intellectually superior without actually have to go to the trouble of learning anything that challenges their dimestore knowledge of the past. The fact that the Da Vinci Code is taken as gospel is all you need to know. Fifty years ago, a mass audience could watch Lawrence of Arabia, or an adaptation of a Dickens novel and follow it. These days, the only way you can make a film about characters from the past is to inject characters with thoroughly postmodern ideas and attitudes into the past and then have them stand around and pronounce on how stupid our ancestors were. We have almost completely lost our capacity to engage cultures and ideas that are not post-modern suburban American. When the environment around us changes (by economic turmoils or war or some other trouble) we will be as helpless to adapt as a rare orchid in a drought.

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