On Wednesday, P.Z Myers will discuss a movie about the Classical mathematician and philosopher Hypatia. I do not know a lot about this woman, although her wikipedia entry seems pretty reasonable. She looks like a fascinating figure; a female scholar who led the neo-Platonist school in Alexandria in the opening years of the fifth century. I hope that, if nothing else, a popular movie will inspire her works and life to be more widely studied. [Is she widely studied already? I’ve never studied the Greek-speaking half of the late empire; the earliest I know about is Justinian.]
I do have some concerns about the movie, as an historian. It appears to be set in A.D 391, and appears to incorporate the destruction of the Library of Alexandra. This, despite the fact that the great Library burned before the birth of Christ. It seems that the movie’s producers are conflating Hypatia’s death with the closing of the pagan temples in 391 AD. This was commanded by the Emperor Theodosius, the first emperor to make Christianity the only state religion- a significant event (although it occured in 380), and one can understand why the writers would wish to fold it into their story. Yet Hypatia died in 415 AD, and did not even become a leader of her school until 400. She is being murdered over two decades early!
I also all but guarantee that there will be some pointless love subplot in opposition to the fact that Hypatia is agreed by the ancient sources to have refused advances and perished a virgin. I will never understand why moviemakers feel the need to add such things to stories which already possess great emotional depth. Maybe I will be wrong. One can hope.
On the other hand, I hope the manner of her death is toned down. Re-creating a mob of monks flaying her with pottery shards before dismembering her corpse and setting it aflame would be torture porn at its very worst.
EDIT: Armarium Magnum, the author of which appears to be a fellow Australian medievalist, has written a thorough post detailing the historical and philosophical flaws of the movie- as well as telling us where they did the right thing. It is well worth a read.