Agora (movie)

Agora is a philosophical peplum Hispano – Maltese directed by Alejandro Amenábar and released in 2009 1 . Its theme is the conflict between science and religion and the setting for Alexandria in Roman times . The scenario takes up real life events of the life of Hypatia of Alexandria , the prefect Oreste and the patriarch Cyrille , while raising thehistorical fiction .

Agora portrays the total dedication of the philosopher Hypatia ( Rachel Weisz ) to the quest for knowledge, and the inner conflict of two men around her: her slave Davus ( Max Minghella ) and her pupil Oreste ( Oscar Isaac ). Everyone is cornered between his love for this woman considered inaccessible and the growing fanaticism of the surrounding society.

The film was shown out of competition at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival , and was released in Spain on October 9, 2009. Agora has received seven Goya Awards in Spain, including the Goya Award for Best Original Screenplay . He was also awarded at the Hamptons International Film Festival .


In the iv th century AD, at a time when Christianity is growing in importance, Hypatia of Alexandria ( Rachel Weisz ) is a philosopher agnostic committed to the advancement of knowledge. Daughter of Théon ( Michael Lonsdale ), guardian of the Library , she directs the Platonic school of Alexandria in the Serapeum which adjoins it.

She teaches the theories of Euclid , and attempts to deepen the geocentric model of Ptolemy to determine the exact laws that govern the universe. The Egyptian slave Davus ( Max Minghella ) is at his service and assists him in his classes. Secretly in love with Hypatia, Davus makes a model of Ptolemy’s system to impress him. But his condition as a slave makes him inaccessible to Hypatia, and makes him sensitive to the influence of the Christian preacher Ammonius (Ashraf Barhom), following which he converted to Christianity.

Hypatia is among his pupils the pagan Oreste ( Oscar Isaac ) and the Christian Synésios ( Rupert Evans ), from well-to-do families and promised high positions. Official pretender of Hypatia, Oreste declares her passion in public, but she refuses to be subordinated to a man, preferring to devote herself to study. Little by little, the Christians of Alexandria gain in power, and skirmishes erupt between pagans and Christians. Worried by a rise to extremes, Hypatia wants to convince his students that their common membership in philosophy must prevail over the religious camp to which everyone belongs.

Years later, paganism was defeated by Christians, including Davus, now a free man. Oreste converted and became Prefect of Alexandria. Hypatie, whose agnosticism is tolerated, continues his work.

Tensions arise between Christians and the Jewish minority, which then demands protection from the imperial authority, represented by Oreste. Although Orestes converted to Christianity, the teaching he received from Hypatia and his attachment to it kept him from endorsing intolerance against the Jews. But its legitimacy is fragile in the face of the religious authority embodied by the patriarch Cyril (Sami Samir) and against Synésios who became bishop, who criticize the influence of Hypatia on him …


As Hypatia prepares to make a major breakthrough in the understanding of the cosmos (by rehabilitating Aristarchus ‘ heliocentric model and intuition of the elliptical orbit of planets), the political situation takes a dramatic turn.

The philosopher is arrested and Oreste, who refuses to betray her but can not politically oppose his arrest without losing the little legitimacy that remains, abandons him to his fate. In the Serapeum, Davus decides to give a less cruel death to Hypatia, suffocating her, before the crowd stone her.

Technical sheet

  • Original title: Agora
  • Director: Alejandro Amenábar
  • Scenario: Alejandro Amenábar , Mateo Gil
  • Music: Dario Marianelli
  • Direction of Photography: Xavi Giménez
  • Editing: Nacho Ruiz Capillas
  • Sets: Guy Hendrix Dyas
  • Costumes: Gabriella Pescucci
  • Country of origin: Spain , Malta
  • Filming language: English
  • Filming outside Malta : Delimara, Fort Ricasoli of Kalkara , Marsaxlokk , Mdina and Valletta
  • Producers: Alejandro Amenábar , Álvaro Augustín, Fernando Bovaira
  • Production Companies: Mod Producciones (Spain), Himenóptero (Spain), Telecinco Cinema (Spain), Canal + España, Cinebiss (Malta)
  • Distribution Company: Mars Distribution (France)
  • Format: Color by DeLuxe – 35 mm – 2.35: 1 (Scope) – Dolby Digital SDDS DTS
  • Genre: Peplum , historical film
  • Duration: 126 minutes
  • Release dates:
    •  France :( Cannes Festival ); (national release)
    •  Spain :


  • Rachel Weisz (VF: Françoise Cadol ) : Hypatie
  • Max Minghella (VF: Damien Ferrette ) : Davus
  • Oscar Isaac (VF: Jean-Pierre Michael ) : Oreste , prefect of Alexandria
  • Ashraf Barhom (Yann Pichon) : Ammonius
  • Michael Lonsdale (VF: himself) : Theon , father of Hypatia, director of the library museum of Alexandria
  • Rupert Evans (VF: Raphael Anciaux) : Synesius , pupil and friend of Hypatia, who became bishop of Ptolemais in Cyrenaica
  • Richard Durden (VF: Philippe Catoire ) : Olympius
  • Sami Samir (VF: Boris Rehlinger ) : Cyril , Patriarch of Alexandria , nephew and successor of Theophilus
  • Manuel Cauchi (VF: Marc Cassot ) : Theophilus , Patriarch of Alexandria
  • Homayoun Ershadi (VF: Gabriel Doze ) : Aspasius, the old slave
  • Charles Thake (VF: Jean-Claude Sachot ) : Hesychios the grammarian
  • Omar Mostafa (VF: Renaud Marx ) : Isidorus
  • Oshri Cohen : Medorus, Christian assistant of Théon
  • Harry Borg : the prefect Evagrius
  • Yousef “Joe” Sweid : Peter, fanatical Christian leader


This section may contain unpublished work or unverified statements  (March 2015) . You can help by adding references or deleting unpublished content.

Differences between sources and scenario

Seductive by its aesthetics, the quality of the actors and the staging, the film can be seen as a praise of philosophical research and intellectual curiosity [ref. necessary] . And as a denunciation of the intolerance of monotheistic religions or revolutionary ideologies: the scenes of riot and devastation that accompany the revolution of Christianity in Alexandria are perfectly transferable to many more recent events [ref. necessary] . Based on a true story, the scholarly life and the tragic death of the astronomer Hypatia, the film takes a lot of liberties with the historical truth.

  • Of the writings of Hypatia nothing remains, nor of its possible discoveries: the fact that it defended the heliocentrism that Aristarchus of Samos had theorized six centuries ago constitutes a pure hypothesis of the scriptwriter, that no writing confirms, does not invalidate or simply suggest.
  • Hypatia was slaughtered in a much more cruel way than the film shows. The story of his death can be found in the seventh book of the History of the Church written by Socrates the Scolastic 2 . John of Nikiû the vii th century AD. AD writes 3 : “And they (the Christians led by Peter the Reader) tore her clothes and dragged her into the streets of the city until she died. ” The film does not say that lynching remained a stain on the conscience of the Church, as Christian theologians have written at that time 4 .
  • Solidarity with his milieu, the Alexandrian pagan or Christian elite, Hypatia was the victim of a popular riot. There is no reason to believe that her assassins reproached her for being a woman of science (other women of science continued to teach in Alexandria later). The most likely explanation for this tragedy is more of a class struggle problem [ref. necessary] .
  • The Serapeum was destroyed in 391, but it is not certain whether it is by Christians or by Roman soldiers. As for the Library of Alexandria , it had been largely destroyed centuries earlier in the Roman civil wars, and we know that at the time of the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (M. 395), she did not already existed more. Ammianus visited the site of the Bibliotheque and reports that only ruins remained. His story is one of the major arguments invalidating the myth of a final destruction at the time of the Muslim conquests (this myth has been analyzed in detail and identified as apocryphal by Professor Butler, University of Oxford,
  • The film could be interpreted as anti-Christian although it is not. Indeed, the director makes part of them (The Parabolanis) violent monsters, dressed in black, bloodthirsty, lacking free will, but we also see Christians doing charity (it’s also for this reason the slave Davus decides to join them). The film thus presents two facets of Christianity, a fundamentalist part and a quieter part.
  • The Greek encyclopedia the Suda , (end of th century ) does not mention the Davus slave.
  • At the beginning of the film, Oreste appears as a pupil in love with Hypatia. It says the Souda (Greek encyclopedia published at the end of the ix th century AD. ) Is “one of the listeners of his readings informed him that he wanted her. She cures this condition not by the music, as it was said by ignorance, but by throwing a linen stained with his menstrual blood before him, thus showing him his impure origin, and saying to him: ‘You love this, young man and he does not there is nothing beautiful about it ‘”. As for Socrates the Scolastic he declares for himself: “that she had a special friendship with Orestes” 4. Nothing proves, therefore, that he was his pupil, still less his lover. It is for the needs of his film that Alejandro Amenábar makes Oreste a pupil in love with Hypatia.
  • The film presents Théon , Hypatia’s father , as an anti-Christian character, who would punish his slaves for their Christian faith (the film shows him at 9:15), while Souda does not mention anything like it.

Similarities between sources and scenario

  • In the movie Agora , we notice that Hypatia teaches in the Platonic school of Alexandria. Socrates the scholastic confirms this in “Ecclesiastical History”, Book VII, Chapter 15: “There was in Alexandria a woman named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who […] taught in the school of Plato and Plotinus” 2 .
  • In this same film the character of Cyril is presented as the bishop of Alexandria who had killed Hypatia. Socrates the Scolastic wrote in “Ecclesiastical History” 2 : “This was not without undermining the image of Cyril of Alexandria and the Church of Alexandria (the author speaks of the death of Hypatia); for it was utterly awkward for those who claimed to have Christ that murders, fights and the like were condoned by the Patriarch (Bishop Cyril). “
  • In Alejandro Amenábar’s feature film , the character of Synesius of Cyrene, who is fond of Hypatia and later becomes bishop of Ptolemais (Cyrenaica), is indeed represented in accordance with the writings of Socrates the Scolastic in book 7 of Ecclesiastical History. “He admired unboundedly the one who guided him on the paths of knowledge, and after that he retained affectionate feelings for him.It was his commitment as a philosopher who tried to push back again and again farther the limits of the intellectual unknown, which he paid homage and praised throughout his life. ” (“he” means here Synésios.) Subsequently it was possible for us to find traces of epistolary exchanges between Synésios and Hypatia .

See also

On other Wikimedia projects:

  • Agora (film) , on Wikiquote

External links

  • (in) Agora [ archive ] on the Internet Movie Database
  • Agora [ archive ] on Allociné

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Presented out of competition at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival .
  2. ↑ a , b and c Socrates the Scolastic , Ecclesiastical History , VII, 15 [1]  [ archive ] .
  3. ↑ John of Nikiû, trans. year. : Chronicle , 84, 87-103 ( online version  [ archive ] ) [2]  [ archive ] .
  4. ↑ a and b  [ archive ]

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