Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Philammon may never have left the little colony of monks three hundred miles above Alexandria had he not strayed into an ancient temple in search of kindling. There, on the temple walls, he sees paintings of a life unknown to him in his monastic retreat, and he longs to visit the greater outside world. That very day, against the advice of the abbot and Aufugus, a monk whom he highly respects, he starts out in a small boat and travels down the river toward Alexandria.
In that splendid city at the mouth of the Nile lives Hypatia, the beautiful philosopher and teacher, one of the last to champion the ancient Greek gods. As she sits with her books one day, she is visited by the Roman prefect, Orestes, with the news that Pelagia, a beautiful courtesan who is Hypatia’s rival for the hearts and souls of men, has left the city. Pelagia transferred her affections to Amal, a Goth chieftain, and joined him on a trip up the Nile in search of Asgard, home of the old Gothic gods.
Cyril, the patriarch of Alexandria, reports to Orestes that the Jews of the city are about to rise and slaughter the Christians, but Orestes chooses to ignore the matter and let events take their course. Hypatia, who also has reason to oppose the Christian patriarch, suggests that Cyril make his charges before the Roman tribunal, which would, of course, postpone action against the Jews.
On his way to the palace, Orestes meets a wealthy young Jew, Raphael Aben-Ezra....
(The entire section is 1796 words.)
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