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Like many historical films, Agora delves into the final days of the Roman Empire. At first, one would think that the film is a typical plot, but the film draws on the ensuing war between superstition, science and religion. The character Hypatia, the stunning mathematician, who continues the family business as the “collector” of the knowledge of the world. Her character is fascinating as she is a mathematician, a scientist, teacher and astronomer despite the society’s lack of expectations of women in these fields. Despite the challenges that Hypatia faces, one cannot help but admire the struggles that she faces to save the knowledge that have been passed on from the ancients even as she attempts to maintain a neutral religious role with her students. Hence, this film is perhaps the most ideal choice to assess the story of Rome as it makes the readers to want to appreciate the ways in which the modern artists have used the historical knowledge of Rome’s culture and traditions and have integrated these into the modern society. Which creates a solid, slow-moving balance that departs from the heavy reliance on fighting and romance and instead focused on the attacks on the religions of the Jews, Christians and Pagans. History shows that Hypatia is not the typical Roman woman of the time as her role is one that becomes intertwined with the intense political and religious disputes. She was attacked by Cyril’s supporters and was stoned to death because it was believed that she is blocking the reconciliation between Orestes and Cyril of Aexandria. As some religions would look into different studies while others don’t necessarily believe in them which most of them time they would be offended by.
One could argue that her eventual death at the hands of a mob of angry Christians was not in vain as she died as the ancient world’s most highly-educated woman. The attitudes of the Roman society is clear in the movie as the known turbulence between the Christians and the Pagans had been replaced and was now in Cyril’s control. But, the religious violence had not changed. In an effort to express their anger with the opposing religion most of them would practice Damnatio Memoriea, which was their way of dishonouring the opposing religion’s Gods or beliefs. Buildings would get destroyed, statues are broken down to pieces mostly in an effort to attack the memory of what is being adestroyed. Such rich history would make Rome and the Romans the ideal choice for modern artists who wish to draw comparisons to the culture and practices of Ancient Rome to that of the modern society. The reality of the film is that no one can truly protect another from the fanatic movements of an individual.
Still, Agora gets the atmosphere of the Roman society accurate as the cruelty of Cyril reflects the modern ideologies of the cruelties that plagued the ancient society of Rome and that which continues in the modern society. Additionally, the cruelty to Hypatia is real as despite her best efforts, she is threatened from every side. Of note, director Amenabar incorporates almost every named historical character which adds to the Roman vibes and attitudes. Most characters, can be accounted for in history which leads to the conclusion that the writer and director made the effort to be historically accurate in the film. The concept that knowledge and education is the pathway to an educated society is clear in the film as Hypatia starts her role teaching at the Serapeum. This temple is significant to the Egyptian God, Serapis and this is further intertwined with the enormous Great Library.
On reviewing the film, it is clear that knowledge is important to the society as Hypatia teaches while investigating the motions of the Moon, stars, Sun and planets. Astrology continues to be an important element of the modern world despite the contrasting opinions of the Christians. In addition, astrology and science continue to shape the beliefs of many individuals. The early Roman studies of the heliocentric model of the solar system have led to the changes in the assertions that the Earth is flat and this is symbolic to the way modern thinkers view the world. Of interest, the reflection of the Ancient society is most pronounced in the physical representations of the buildings and in particular, that of the Roman architecture. Grand amphitheatres are shown in the movie, which is often when shown conforms to architectural styles of the Romans.
Another important architectural element that was shown and emphasized was the Oculus, which is a circular opening at the top of the dome. This adds to the reality that film creates the ideal teaching, learning tool as one is easily swept to ancient times. These items would have added more significance to the history lessons that the film teaches. Still, the story of a woman as an intellectual and one who discovers new ideas is commendable as most historical films tend to gloss over the important contributions of women to history.
Agora, sheds light on the Roman society of ancient times and forces the viewers to assess the role of women and education to the society. Roman architecture was accurately portrayed and further adds to the atmosphere of the Roman society. It is easy to envision the religious and political turmoil as history alludes to these factors. Agora reflects perseverance and strength in a society that reflected male dominance and religious dominance. Nonetheless, the film creates the framework for one to understand the role of women in the society as the viewers see from an early point that Agora rejects the love of her two students and focus on imparting knowledge which was of paramount importance to improving knowledge.
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