[Dave Birch] So I watched the movie Agora on a plane, and it really annoyed me. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it’s set in 4th century Alexandria and it’s about Hypatia, She was a famous philosopher, murdered by a Christian mob. In the movie she is a pagan, although no-one knows whether this is true or not and she may even have been Christian herself.

The Christian monks stripped her naked and dragged her through the streets to the newly Christianised Caesareum church, where she was brutally killed. Some reports suggest she was flayed with ostraca (pot shards) and set ablaze while still alive, though other accounts suggest those actions happened after her death:

[From Hypatia – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Whew! Those Christians, huh? Anyway, I was curious about the story, and a cursory google reveals that it contains numerous errors (such as the fact that one of the key characters, a bishop, actually died two years before the events depicted). One comment on a movie site I saw pointed out that Hypatia was an older woman when these events took place and that she should have been played by Hellen Mirren instead of Rachel Weiss.

I suppose the movie did at least get me to go and find out more about her and the central battle between the religious (Bishop Cyril) and secular (Prefect Orestes) with, as usual, the Jews caught in the middle (although to be fair, the Bishop appeared to hate other Christians as much as he hated the Jews).

Orestes and Cyril soon came into conflict over Cyril’s hard-line actions against smaller Christian factions like the Novatians and his violence against Alexandria’s large Jewish community.

[From Agora, a Film on the Life of Philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria | Heritage Key]

This bit appear to be true: Psycho Cyril really did start a pogrom against the Jews, driving them out of Alexandria in 415 (Jews were an eighth of the population of Egypt at the time and Alexandria had the largest community) and he also killed Orestes.

In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes

Identity — A Story

[Dave Birch] Here’s a story about identity, just to show you how identity infrastructure works in the “real world” and how we aren’t wise to use what is alarmingly known as common sense in order to import this infrastructure across the virtual world boundary into our online future.

My son and I were out in the car one evening and we decided that since we had the lounge to ourselves that evening that we’d watch a movie together. Normally, we either buying movies through Apple TV, rummage around in the badly organised pile of DVDs in the living room, or go on Pirate Bay if we can’t find what we want through the preceding two mechanisms. But since we were out and about, we thought we go to Blockbuster. They were having a special offer whereby you could rent three DVDs for £10 for the weekend, so we decided to take advantage of it. After having spent the obligatory half an hour wandering aimlessly around the store and arguing about every single potential movie choice, we settled land on DVDs. When we got to the counter I realised that I’d forgotten my wallet but luckily we scraped up £10 between us in cash.

The actual Blockbuster video card that I was given when I opened the account, something like 15 or 20 years ago, has been long lost. For the last several years, on the odd occasion when we ventured in for a DVD, I’ve just given my surname and address and then paid using a credit card in that same name. This has served as adequate identification infrastructure for tens, if not hundreds, of visits. But this time I didn’t have my wallet, so when a guy asked me for my card and told him that I didn’t know where it was, he then asked for a credit card in the usual fashion and I told him that we didn’t have one of those either. So he said we couldn’t rent the DVDs. I was a bit annoyed because I couldn’t be bothered to drive all the way home, so I was just going to give up. But then the guy said have you got anything in the car that could be identification, like an insurer’s document or something, or even a letter addressed to you from someone official? I frankly doubted that I did, my son grasped at the straw and we went back to the car. Just as I’d imagined, there were no identification documents of any kind. They’re in the back of the car were half a dozen copies of the Digital Identity Reader 2010, the indispensable volume for all concerned with the topic of identity.

Over my son’s protestations, I went back into the shop with a copy of my book. I showed it to the guy and said “there you go, that’s me”. “Hold on”, he said, “have you got something with a picture on it, or is there a picture of you in the book?” I was forced to admit I didn’t, and there wasn’t. But son to the rescue with his raised-on-the-inter-web sensibilities. He held out an iPhone, and said “just googled him”. Fortunately under that search term, under Google images, the third picture along was me. We had our DVDs.

In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes