The movie Agora takes place in Alexandria during a time of political conflict between Christians and pagans in 4th century Rome and centers around Hypatia a woman scientists and philosopher. Hypatia has dedicated her life to science and at the beginning of the movie she teaches at the Platonic school. She studies mainly philosophy, astronomy, and mathematics, and makes discoveries about the way the earth and planets move around the sun. Her hypotheses about the earth moving around the sun in an elliptic orbit were far beyond her time.
She is respected in “pagan” society by her male peers and students, while Christians find her work heretical. Even her father respects her work as a teacher and scientist by refusing to set her up for marriage because he knows that it would break her heart if she had to quit teaching and be a wife. In the movie, we see how science is more important to Hypatia than love, as she refuses romantic advances from both Orestes and Davus.
She has chosen to dedicate her life to science and her studies, and eventually gives up her life for science, which is admirable to say the least.
This movie illustrates the conflicts between faith and science that existed in 4th century Rome and still exist today to a much lesser degree. In the movie, the Christians, led by Cyril, were trying to gain political power and destroyed anyone who stood in their way including Jews and pagans. The pagans are open and accepting of the fact that Hypatia was a woman and a scientist and were open to her scientific contributions but the Christians refused to accept her teachings and the fact that she would not convert to Christianity. They rejected her, saying asking questions about the way the world works was questioning God and they even labeled her as a witch, murdering her at the end of the movie. As a Christian, this was hard to watch and the conflicts between faith and science that still exist today are disheartening.
As Orestes states, “there is more that unites us than divides us,” which is true and Christians of all people, should be the most understanding of this statement and be the most accepting of all kinds of people, according to Jesus’ teaching. There will always be conflicting ideas between scientists and theologists, but we are united as one people and need to have an open mind about these issues and be willing to listen to all sides of an argument. Science and faith should be able to coexist peacefully and even build off of each other. The Christian’s treatment of Hypatia as a woman was also very different than the pagan’s treatment of her.
The pagans respected her regardless of her sex but the Christian’s showed no respect for her and labeled her as a pagan whore and witch. In many conservative Christian sects today, women are still not allowed to hold administrative positions in churches and are expected to sit quietly behind their husbands, while in the field of science, women can make important contributions that are respected by both their male and female peers. The bridge between faith and science has come a long way since Hypatia’s time, but there is still a long way to go, hopefully more bridges will continue to be built and the fact that both science and faith can and should unite us, not divide us, will be realized.