Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


Alexandria is also a city of trhe mind. An idea. I couldn't describe the buildings or take you on a tour of the streets, but I can tell you what it feels like. There's a library there, you know. They've got copies of every book ever. 

All of Aristophanes, all of Stesichorus, all of Sappho- shelf upon shelf upon shelf- only you can't actually get close enough to read them...

It's not exactly clear what happened.  The records are fragmentary- contradictory. There was a fire. Riots. Things like that. The early Christians- some of them- may have been to blame. Archbishop Cyril for instance.

Bettany Hughes was in the existing city of Alexandria last night. It looks like Cairo. I've been to Cairo and didn't care for it. Parts of the old city exist underground. Tombs. We went into a tomb where Egyptian and Greek culture are all mixed up and Anubis is shown wearing the breastplate and short skirt of a Roman soldier. Hughes talked a lot about Hypatia.

Hypatia is important to me too. I borrowed her name for a character who used to live in my head and act like the big sister I never had. She turns up in several of my poems.

Hughes' documentary was illustrated with some rather wonderful film clips recreating the ancient city. It turns out they come from a 2009 film called Agora-  directed by Pedro Amenabar- and starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia. Michel Lonsdale is it too, playing her old dad, the director of the Musaeum. How nice to know he's still alive. The film has been shown in Spain, but not anywhere else very much. There have been moves to get it banned in Italy for being mean about Archbishop Cyril and his gang.

Of course I want to see it.

I'll find it hard, though- emotionally wrenching  What happened to Hypatia was horrible. I was tensing up as Bettany Hughes came to the point where she had to narrate that bit. Watching it on screen will not be pleasant. I hope they cut away.

On a happier note, they've built a new library in modern Alexandria to rival the first. They have a super-computer there that regularly, every couple of days, records and stores the entirety of the world-wide web. Isn't that fabulous? 

Et in Alexandria ego.
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