“If two things are equal to a third thing, they are all equal to each other.”
–Euclid’s First Rule
First of all, I have to say – see this film. Far too few people know the story of Hypatia, the woman portrayed in it, whose death marked the downfall of Classical antiquity philosophizing.
The underlying core of Agora is conflict – conflict between Christianity and Judaism and the pagan religions of Roman Egypt, conflict between right and wrong, and conflict between philosophy and love.
Agora is based off of true events. It is the story of the latter end of the life of Hypatia, an Alexandrian philosopher. It did a remarkable job in portraying the factual events of her life: both a mathematician and a philosopher, she lived in the city of Alexandria in the end of the 4th century/beginning of the 5th century CE.
She taught as the head of the Platonist school and took in any pupil as a student, from pagans to Christians, and taught to them works from philosophers such as Plato, Plotinus, and Aristotle. One such student was Synesius, the later bishop of Cyrene. Her works – none of which have survived intact – included such things as treatises on mathematics and the workings of the heavenly bodies.
Apparently, as was shown all too well in the film, Hypatia was at the center of the conflict between Orestes, the Prefect of Alexandria, and Cyril, the Christian Patriarch. This caused her to become a hated figure by the Christians of Alexandria and would lead to her violent death – far worse than that portrayed in the film – at the hands of a mob in March of 415 CE.
At the end of the film, something that her character – portrayed by Rachel Weisz – said towards the beginning stuck with me as something that rings painfully true today, as something that many people would do well to remember: “More things unite us than divide us – whatever may be going on in the streets, we are brothers. We are brothers.”