One of my favorite historians is Edward Gibbon. I have made my way through his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire several times. I find his style entertaining, his wit dry, and his scholarship, for his time, adequate. Unfortunately Gibbon was also an anti-Catholic bigot, in part a reaction to a brief conversion to the Faith as a teen-ager, which exposed him to considerable paternal displeasure. His bigotry is on full display whenever he treats of the Church, but usually he does not distort the facts. That was not the case in his account of the female philosopher Hypatia, and the fate she met in Egypt in 391 AD. That account, usually in distorted form, is a staple of anti-Catholic and atheist websites. Now Hypatia is the heroine of a Catholic bashing movie Agora. The English trailer of the movie is at the top of this post. David Hart has a superb post at First Things correcting Gibbon and the movie.
The occasion of my misery is the release of Alejandro Amenábar’s film Agora, which purports to be a historical account of the murder of the female philosopher Hypatia by a Christian mob in the early fifth century, of the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria, and (more generally) of an alleged conflict that raged in the ancient world between Greek science and Christian faith. I have not actually seen the movie, and have no intention of doing so (I would say you couldn’t pay me to watch it, but that’s not, strictly speaking, true). All I know about it is what I have read in an article by Larry Rohter in the New York Times. But that is enough to put my teeth on edge.
The following is a column written by Tom Hoffman of the American Thinker.
The culture war begun in the sixties has, in large part, been won by the left. Nowhere is this clearer than in the feminization of men. The virtues of manhood which had been extolled and celebrated throughout the middle ages right up to the 1950s have been completely expunged from academia and pop culture. The baby boom generation was the last to be taught the values of rugged individualism, risk-taking, courage, bravery, loyalty, and reverence for tradition. John Wayne epitomized the rugged individual who was committed to fighting “the bad guy,” but he was only one of a whole host of competing figures cut out of the same cloth. What happened?
Today, the Boy Scouts are fighting the last battle in a lost cause. Any man who stands up to the “women’s movement” is completely marginalized as a sexist and homophobe. These names have become just as stigmatizing as “racist” used to be. It is no wonder that women now are the majority of college graduates and are increasing their role in every institution from private enterprise to public service, including the military. Is this a healthy trend? The answer is clearly “no.”
Edward Gibbon chronicles the increasing femininity of the Roman Empire in his six-volume work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He catalogues the progressive decadence that rendered the once-proud republic into spoils for barbarian hordes. The consuls in the early republic, who were warrior-generals adhering to a strict code of honor, gradually gave way to the backroom emperors who were no more than brazen criminals and thugs. It is the same script in all noble human enterprise: The fabric which bred success is torn apart by the complacency of the successful. When warfare is demonized as violence and negotiation is raised to an art, the end is near. Today, we are there.