Thursday, April 3, 2014


A few years ago a Spanish production company made an English language film about Hypatia, The Agora. I just got the DVD, haven’t really had a chance to watch the whole film yet. Oddly enough, while it was released in the US, it wasn’t widely distributed in this country. Can’t imagine why.  Apparently it has been on cable. I stumbled across on Amazon looking for something else. Naturally.

Is the film totally factual? Probably not. Even documentaries don’t give you all the facts. Was the film wrong in showing “Saint” Cyril ordering her death? Who knows. If he didn’t he wouldn’t have been the first leader, religious or political, who didn’t know only because he didn’t ask. Remember Reagan and Iran Contra?

A century before Cyril the followers of Athanasius and Arius both used the mob. Athanasius won and became a saint. Arius managed to survive at least. What we do know is that there were three factions in Alexandria. Probably four really. The fourth would be all the folks who kept their heads down hoping they wouldn’t get caught in the next round of violence.

The pagan population was declining. Alexandria had the largest Jewish population in the Empire. The Christian faction was increasing. None of the three jibbed at calling out their supporters to take to the streets. The Christians just happened to be the last ones standing when the dust finally settled And Alexandria wasn’t unique. Constantinople had it’s share of violence, only this was “Christian” against “Christian.” I guess the reasons don’t really matter hundreds of years later except to shake our heads and go “you were willing to kill your neighbors over this!”

Which brings us to Hypatia. One reviewer was probably right. If Cyril had believed she was in the way it probably wouldn’t have mattered if she was a Christian or a pagan. She’d have been just as dead and probably just as brutally. Most of the reviewers blamed the politics that put Cyril and the Roman prefect at an impasse. And I haven’t figured out all those threads. Yet. And I may not spend that much time puzzling over it.

She was a respected teacher and philosopher. She had influence within the city because of her work, especially in the pagan community. She was a woman confronting the rise of a sect of the church that basically relegated women to the home or the nunnery. And they used the mob to do the dirty work.

Now, where have we seen the mob in action over the past few years? How about the followers of the Greal RL? Or the Beck Bots? Or the Palinites? Geez, how about the Tea Party? Or radical Islamists who are willing to kill women who dare to want to teach or learn? And don’t forget the latest mob action. When World Vison announced last week that they were going to hire gays who were in a faithful marriage it took less than forty eight hours to rally the troops and force World Vision to back down. I guess I should be thankful that we only had to face “cracked” computers instead of burned buildings and bodies in the streets. But, I’m not.

The faces and weapons may change but it might as well be three thousand years ago. And we wonder why bullying and mob violence continue. It's worked so well for us in the past, hasn't it?

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