In the late Roman Empire most people were poor. The state was in the hands of a hugely wealthy elite who called all the shots. The logic for a religion was inevitable. The only source of converts was to appeal to people in poverty. The only source of cash was the government. The winning formula turned out to be highly centralised Christianity. This combined stuff that would appeal to the broke who stood to inherit the Earth if sufficiently meek while guaranteeing that that which was due to Caesar would actually be rendered unto Caesar. Anything that convenient had to be true. It was also worth wiping out any competition. So we ended up with Christian monoculture.
“The ruin of Paganism, in the age of Theodosius, is perhaps the only example of the total extirpation of any ancient and popular superstition; and may therefore deserve to be considered as a singular event in the history of the human mind.”
|The Goddess Cybele praised by Julian the Apostate (thanks to Wikipedia for the image)|
The author of the Hymn to Cybele, Roman emperor Julian the Apostate is a one off in history. He was the nephew of Constantine, the man that introduced Christianity to the empire. But he spent most of his adult life trying to convert it back again. He was born a Christian and died a pagan. He was a philosopher by inclination. He could easily have been remembered as a leading exponent of Neoplatonism, but proved to be a great warrior when forced to become one. Above all, he was full of surprises.
With almost no cinema distribution and with the sales of the DVD virtually non-existent, Agora will probably vanish almost without a trace, not unlike its main character. The life of an historical figure few have heard of seems not to be a commercial proposition even when it gets generally good reviews on film buff blogs. But there have been some heated debates online. Although any film where religion is a key part of the plot could upset someone somewhere, most of the discussion I have seen has been about how accurate a portrayal it was. The historical background is one thing, but the question I find most interesting is what Hypatia actually did or didn’t do. Where does Hypatia fit in the history of science?