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A Tribute to a True Saint of the human Race





One day on the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, in the year 415 or 416, a mob of Christian zealots led by Peter the Lector accosted a woman’s carriage and dragged her from it and into a church, where they stripped her and beat her to death with roofing tiles. They then tore her body apart and burned it. Who was this woman and what was her crime? Hypatia was one of the last great thinkers of ancient Alexandria and one of the first women to study and teach mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. Though she is remembered more for her violent death, her dramatic life is a fascinating lens through which we may view the plight of science in an era of religious and sectarian conflict.

Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C., the city of Alexandria quickly grew into a center of culture and learning for the ancient world. At its heart was the museum, a type of university, whose collection of more than a half-million scrolls was housed in the library of Alexandria.

Alexandria underwent a slow decline beginning in 48 B.C., when Julius Caesar conquered the city for Rome and accidentally burned down the library. (It was then rebuilt.) By 364, when the Roman Empire split and Alexandria became part of the eastern half, the city was beset by fighting among Christians, Jews and pagans. Further civil wars destroyed much of the library’s contents. The last remnants likely disappeared, along with the museum, in 391, when the archbishop Theophilus acted on orders from the Roman emperor to destroy all pagan temples. Theophilus tore down the temple of Serapis, which may have housed the last scrolls, and built a church on the site.

The last known member of the museum was the mathematician and astronomer Theon—Hypatia’s father.

Some of Theon’s writing has survived. His commentary (a copy of a classical work that incorporates explanatory notes) on Euclid’s Elements was the only known version of that cardinal work on geometry until the 19th century. But little is known about his and Hypatia’s family life. Even Hypatia’s date of birth is contested—scholars long held that she was born in 370 but modern historians believe 350 to be more likely. The identity of her mother is a complete mystery, and Hypatia may have had a brother, Epiphanius, though he may have been only Theon’s favorite pupil.

Theon taught mathematics and astronomy to his daughter, and she collaborated on some of his commentaries. It is thought that Book III of Theon’s version of Ptolemy’s Almagest—the treatise that established the Earth-centric model for the universe that wouldn’t be overturned until the time of Copernicus and Galileo—was actually the work of Hypatia.

She was a mathematician and astronomer in her own right, writing commentaries of her own and teaching a succession of students from her home. Letters from one of these students, Synesius, indicate that these lessons included how to design an astrolabe, a kind of portable astronomical calculator that would be used until the 19th century.

Beyond her father’s areas of expertise, Hypatia established herself as a philosopher in what is now known as the Neoplatonic school, a belief system in which everything emanates from the One. (Her student Synesius would become a bishop in the Christian church and incorporate Neoplatonic principles into the doctrine of the Trinity.) Her public lectures were popular and drew crowds. “Donning [the robe of a scholar], the lady made appearances around the center of the city, expounding in public to those willing to listen on Plato or Aristotle,” the philosopher Damascius wrote after her death.

Hypatia never married and likely led a celibate life, which possibly was in keeping with Plato’s ideas on the abolition of the family system. The Suda lexicon, a 10th-century encyclopedia of the Mediterranean world, describes her as being “exceedingly beautiful and fair of form. . . in speech articulate and logical, in her actions prudent and public-spirited, and the rest of the city gave her suitable welcome and accorded her special respect.”

Her admirers included Alexandria’s governor, Orestes. Her association with him would eventually lead to her death.

Theophilus, the archbishop who destroyed the last of Alexandria’s great Library, was succeeded in 412 by his nephew, Cyril, who continued his uncle’s tradition of hostilities toward other faiths. (One of his first actions was to close and plunder the churches belonging to the Novatian Christian sect.)

With Cyril the head of the main religious body of the city and Orestes in charge of the civil government, a fight began over who controlled Alexandria. Orestes was a Christian, but he did not want to cede power to the church. The struggle for power reached its peak following a massacre of Christians by Jewish extremists, when Cyril led a crowd that expelled all Jews from the city and looted their homes and temples. Orestes protested to the Roman government in Constantinople. When Orestes refused Cyril’s attempts at reconciliation, Cyril’s monks tried unsuccessfully to assassinate him.

Hypatia, however, was an easier target. She was a pagan who publicly spoke about a non-Christian philosophy, Neoplatonism, and she was less likely to be protected by guards than the now-prepared Orestes. A rumor spread that she was preventing Orestes and Cyril from settling their differences. From there, Peter the Lector and his mob took action and Hypatia met her tragic end.

Cyril’s role in Hypatia’s death has never been clear. “Those whose affiliations lead them to venerate his memory exonerate him; anticlericals and their ilk delight in condemning the man,” Michael Deakin wrote in his 2007 book Hypatia of Alexandria.

Meanwhile, Hypatia has become a symbol for feminists, a martyr to pagans and atheists and a character in fiction. Voltaire used her to condemn the church and religion. The English clergyman Charles Kingsley made her the subject of a mid-Victorian romance. And she is the heroine, played by Rachel Weisz, in the Spanish movie Agora, which will be released later this year in the United States. The film tells the fictional story of Hypatia as she struggles to save the library from Christian zealots.

Neither paganism nor scholarship died in Alexandria with Hypatia, but they certainly took a blow. “Almost alone, virtually the last academic, she stood for intellectual values, for rigorous mathematics, ascetic Neoplatonism, the crucial role of the mind, and the voice of temperance and moderation in civic life,” Deakin wrote. She may have been a victim of religious fanaticism, but Hypatia remains an inspiration even in modern times.

Read more:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hypatia (Ὑπατία)
Full name Hypatia (Ὑπατία)
Born 370 AD
Died 415 AD
Era Ancient philosophy
Region Ancient Greece
School Platonism
Main interests Mathematics, astronomy

Hypatia (Greek: Ὑπατία, Hypatía, pronounced /haɪˈpeɪʃə/ in English; born between AD 350 and 370; died March 415) was a Greek[2][3][4]scholar from Alexandria, Egypt,[5][6] considered the first notable woman in mathematics, who also taught philosophy and astronomy.[7] She lived in Roman Egypt, and was killed by a Christian mob who falsely blamed her for religious turmoil.[8] Some suggest that her murder marked the end of what is traditionally known as Classical antiquity,[9][10] although others such as Christian Wildberg observe that Hellenistic philosophy continued to flourish until the age of Justinian in the sixth century.[11]

A Neoplatonist philosopher, she belonged to the mathematical tradition of the Academy of Athens represented by Eudoxus of Cnidus;[12] she followed the school of the 3rd century thinker Plotinus, discouraging empirical enquiry and encouraging logical and mathematical studies.[13] The name Hypatia derives from the adjective ὑπάτη, the feminine form of ὕπατος (upatos), meaning "highest, uppermost, supremest".[14][15]




Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, who was her teacher and the last known mathematician associated with the Museum of Alexandria.[16] She traveled to both Athens and Italy to study,[17] before becoming head of the Platonist school at Alexandria in approximately 400.[18] According to the 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia the Suda, she worked as teacher of philosophy, teaching the works of Plato and Aristotle.[19] It is believed that there were both Christians[20] and foreigners[13] among her students.

Although Hypatia was herself a pagan, she was respected by a number of Christians, and later held up by Christian authors as a symbol of virtue.[13] The Suda controversially[21] declared her "the wife of Isidore the Philosopher"[19] but agreed she had remained a virgin.[22] Hypatia rebuffed a suitor by showing him her menstrual rags, claiming they demonstrated that there was "nothing beautiful" about carnal desires.[19]

Hypatia maintained correspondence with her former pupil Synesius of Cyrene, who in AD 410 became bishop of Ptolemais.[23] Together with the references by Damascius, these are the only writings with descriptions or information from her pupils that survive.[24] The contemporary Christian historiographer Socrates Scholasticus described her in his Ecclesiastical History:

There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner, which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.[13]


Many of the works commonly attributed to Hypatia are believed to have been collaborative works with her father, Theon Alexandricus; this kind of authorial uncertainty being typical for the situation of feminine philosophy in Antiquity.[25]

A partial list of specific accomplishments:

Her contributions to science are reputed to include the charting of celestial bodies[7] and the invention of the hydrometer,[29] used to determine the relative density and gravity of liquids.

Her pupil Synesius, bishop of Cyrene, wrote a letter defending her as the inventor of the astrolabe, although earlier astrolabes predate Hypatia's model by at least a century - and her father had gained fame for his treatise on the subject.[30]


Believed to have been the reason for the strained relationship between the Imperial Prefect Orestes and the Patriarch Cyril, Hypatia attracted the ire of a Christian population eager to see the two reconciled. One day in March AD 415,[31] during the season of Lent, her chariot was waylaid on her route home by a Christian mob, possibly Nitrian monks[31] led by a man identified only as Peter, who is thought to be Peter the Reader, Cyril's assistant. 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:

Socrates Scholasticus (5th-century) John of Nikiû (7th-century)

Yet even she fell a victim to the political jealousy which at that time prevailed. For as she had frequent interviews with Orestes, it was calumniously reported among the Christian populace, that it was she who prevented Orestes from being reconciled to the bishop. Some of them therefore, hurried away by a fierce and bigoted zeal, whose ringleader was a reader named Peter, waylaid her returning home, and dragging her from her carriage, they took her to the church called Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her by scraping her skin off with tiles and bits of shell. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them.

And in those days there appeared in Alexandria a female philosopher, a pagan named Hypatia, and she was devoted at all times to magic, astrolabes and instruments of music, and she beguiled many people through Satanic wiles...A multitude of believers in God arose under the guidance of Peter the magistrate...and they proceeded to seek for the pagan woman who had beguiled the people of the city and the prefect through her enchantments. And when they learnt the place where she was, they proceeded to her and found her...they dragged her along till they brought her to the great church, named Caesareum. Now this was in the days of the fast. And they tore off her clothing and dragged her...through the streets of the city till she died. And they carried her to a place named Cinaron, and they burned her body with fire.

 Antiquity to the Age of Reason

Shortly after her death, a forged letter attacking Christianity was published under her name.[32] According to Bryan J. Whitfield, the pagan historian Damascius was "anxious to exploit the scandal of Hypatia's death",[33] and laid the blame squarely on the Christians and Bishop Cyril. His account was incorporated in the Suda and so became widely known. However, Damascius is the only ancient source to say that Cyril was responsible.[34]

In the 14th century, historian Nicephorus Gregoras described Eudokia Makrembolitissa as a "second Hypatia".[24]

In the early 18th century, the deist scholar John Toland used her death as the basis for an anti-Catholic tract entitled Hypatia: Or the history of a most beautiful, most vertuous, most learned, and every way accomplish’d lady; who was torn to pieces by the clergy of Alexandria, to gratify the pride, emulation, and cruelty of their archbishop, commonly but undeservedly stil’d St. Cyril.[35] This led to a counter-claim being published by Thomas Lewis in 1721 entitled The History Of Hypatia, A most Impudent School-Mistress of Alexandria.[36]

Eventually, her story began to be infused with Christian details, as it was first substituted for the missing history of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.[37][38]

 Nineteenth century

In the nineteenth century, interest in the "literary legend of Hypatia" began to rise.[24] Diodata Saluzzo Roero's 1827 Ipazia ovvero delle Filosofie suggested that Cyril had actually converted Hypatia to Christianity, and that she had been killed by a "treacherous" priest. In 1843, German authors Soldan and Heppe argued in their highly influential History of the Witchcraft Trials that Hypatia may have been, in effect, the first famous "witch" punished under Christian authority (see Witch-hunt).[39] In his 1847 Hypatie and 1857 Hypatie et Cyrille, French poet Charles-Marie-René Leconte de Lisle portrayed Hypatia as the epitome of "vulnerable truth and beauty".[40] Charles Kingsley's 1853 novel Hypatia - or New Foes with an Old Face, which portrayed the scholar as a "helpless, pretentious, and erotic heroine",[41] recounted her conversion by a Jewish-Christian named Raphael Aben-Ezra after supposedly becoming disillusioned with Orestes.

In 1867, the early photographer Julia Margaret Cameron created a portrait of the scholar as a young woman.[42]

Twentieth century

References to Hypatia appear in other fiction. Some authors mention her in passing, such as Marcel Proust, who dropped her name in the last sentence of "Madame Swann at Home," the first section of Within a Budding Grove. Some characters are named after her, such as Hypatia Cade, a precocious child and main character in the science fiction novel The Ship Who Searched by Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey. Rinne Groff's 2000 play The Five Hysterical Girls Theorem features a character named Hypatia who lives silently, in fear that she will suffer the fate of her namesake. Hypatia is the name of a 'shipmind' (ship computer) in The Boy Who Would Live Forever, a novel in Frederick Pohl's Heechee series. Umberto Eco's novel Baudolino sees the protagonist meet a secluded society of satyr-like creatures who all take their name and philosophy from Hypatia.

A fictional version of the historic character appears in several works and indeed series, such as the Heirs of Alexandria series written by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer, which includes fictitious references to Hypatia's conversion to Christianity and subsequent correspondence with John Chrysostom and Augustine of Hippo; the Corto Maltese adventure Fable of Venice, by characteristic superposition of anachronistic elements, sees Hypatia preside over an intellectual salon in pre-Fascist Italy; and as a recurring character in Mark London Williams' juvenile fiction Danger Boy. She also appears, briefly, as one of the kidnapped scientists and philosophers in the Doctor Who episode Time and the Rani.

American astronomer Carl Sagan, in Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, discussed Hypatia and gave a detailed speculative description of her death, linking it with the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, and declaring her, without corroboration, its last librarian. A more scholarly historical study of her, Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska (translated into English by F. Lyra, published by Harvard University Press), was named by Choice Magazine as an "Outstanding Academic Book of 1995, Philosophy Category".

She has been claimed by second wave feminism, most prominently as Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, published since 1986 by Indiana University Press. Judy Chicago's large-scale The Dinner Party awards her a place-setting, and other artistic works draw on or are based on Hypatia.

The last two centuries have seen Hypatia's name honored in the sciences, especially astronomy. 238 Hypatia, a main belt asteroid discovered in 1884, was named for her. The lunar crater Hypatia was named after the philosopher, in addition to craters named for her father Theon and for Cyril. The 180 km Rimae Hypatia is located north of the crater, one degree south of the equator, along the Mare Tranquillitatis.[43]

By the end of the twentieth century Hypatia's name was applied to projects ranging in scope from an Adobe typeface (Hypatia Sans Pro),[44] to a cooperative community house in Madison, Wisconsin. A genus of moth also bears her name.

Twenty-first century

Her life continues to be fictionalised by authors in many countries and languages. Two recent examples are Ipazia, scienziata alessandrina by Adriano Petta (translated from the Italian in 2004 as Hypatia: Scientist of Alexandria), and Hypatia y la eternidad by Ramon Galí, a fanciful alternate history, in Spanish (2009).[45]. The 2008 novel Azazīl, by Egyptian Muslim author Dr. Yūsuf Zaydan, tells the story of the religious conflict of that time through the eyes of a monk, including a substantial section on Hypatia.[46] Zaydan's book has been criticized by Christians in Egypt.[47] Two examples in English are Remembering Hypatia: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Brian Trent[48], and Flow Down Like Silver, Hypatia of Alexandria by Ki Longfellow, which was published in September 2009 as the second in a trilogy of the divine feminine, the first being The Secret Magdalene.[49]

More factually, Hypatia of Alexandria: Mathematician and Martyr (2007) is a brief (113 page) biography by Michael Deakin, with a focus on her mathematical research.

Her life is portrayed in the Malayalam novel 'Francis Ittikkora'(2009) authored by TD Ramakrishnan.

In the 2009 movie Agora, by Alejandro Amenábar, Hypatia is depicted by Rachel Weisz.



The Fathers of Ignorance and destructive evil

the beginning of the dark ages


"It is Our will that all the peoples who are ruled by the administration of Our Clemency shall practice that religion which the divine Peter the Apostle transmitted to the Romans....The rest, whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative" (CTh. XVI.1.2).

                                                                                                                                                                                Emperor Theodosius


The Greatest Criminals and mass murders of Civilization

Theophilus of Alexandria, (died 412) was Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt from 385 to 412. He is regarded as a saint by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

He was a Coptic Pope at a time of conflict between the newly dominant Christians and the pagan establishment in Alexandria, each supported by a segment of the Alexandrian populace.

In 391, Theophilus (according to Rufinus and Sozomen) discovered a hidden pagan temple. He and his followers mockingly displayed the pagan artifacts to the public which offended the pagans enough to provoke an attack on the Christians. The Christian faction counter-attacked, forcing the pagans to retreat to the Serapeum. A letter was sent by the emperor that Theophilus should grant the offending pagans pardon, but destroy the temple; according to Socrates Scholasticus, a contemporary of his, the latter aspect (the destruction of the temple) was added as a result of heavy solicitation for it by Theophilus.

Scholasticus goes on to state that :

Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost ... he caused the Mithraeum to be cleaned out... Then he destroyed the Serapeum... and he had the phalli of Priapus carried through the midst of the forum. ... the heathen temples... were therefore razed to the ground, and the images of their gods molten into pots and other convenient utensils for the use of the Alexandrian church[1]

The destruction of the Serapeum was seen by many ancient and modern authors as representative of the triumph of Christianity over other religions. When the philosopher Hypatia was lynched by an Alexandrian mob, they acclaimed Theophilus's nephew and successor Cyril as "the new Theophilus, for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city".[2]

Theophilus turned on the followers of Origen after having supported them for a time. He was accompanied by his nephew Cyril to Constantinople in 403 and there presided at the "Synod of the Oak" that deposed John Chrysostom.

Theophilus is portrayed in Flow Down Like Silver, Hypatia of Alexandria[1] by Ki Longfellow, a novel published in 2009.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376 - 444) was the Pope of Alexandria from 412 to 444. He came to power when the city was at its height of influence and power within the Roman Empire. Cyril wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological controversies of the later 4th and 5th centuries. He was a central figure in the First Council of Ephesus in 431, which led to the deposition of Nestorius as Patriarch of Constantinople.

Cyril is counted among the Church Fathers and the Doctors of the Church, and his reputation within the Christian world has resulted in his titles Pillar of Faith and Seal of all the Fathers, but Theodosius II, the Roman Emperor, condemned him for behaving like a proud pharaoh, and the Nestorian bishops at the Council of Ephesus declared him a heretic, labelling him as a "monster, born and educated for the destruction of the church".[1]

Cyril is controversial because of his involvement in the expulsion of Novatians and Jews from Alexandria and the murder of the pagan philosopher Hypatia. Historians disagree over the extent of his responsibility for these events.

The Roman Catholic Church did not commemorate Saint Cyril in the Tridentine Calendar: it added his feast only in 1882, assigning to it the date of 9 February, the date on which it is still observed by those who use calendars later than 1882 but prior to the 1969 revision, which assigned to it the date of 27 June, considered to be the day of the saint's death, as celebrated by the Coptic Church.[2] The same date has been chosen for the Lutheran calendar. The Eastern Orthodox Church and Byzantine Catholic Church celebrate his feast day on 9 June and also, together with Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria, on 18 January.

Conflicts with Pagans during the reign of Theodosius I

Proscription of Paganism

For the first part of his rule, Theodosius seems to have ignored the semi-official standing of the Christian bishops; in fact he had voiced his support for the preservation of temples or pagan statues as useful public buildings. In his early reign, Theodosius was fairly tolerant of the pagans, for he needed the support of the influential pagan ruling class. However he would in time stamp out the last vestiges of paganism with great severity.[12] His first attempt to inhibit paganism was in 381 when he reiterated Constantine's ban on sacrifice. In 384 he prohibited haruspicy on pain of death, and unlike earlier anti-pagan prohibitions, he made non-enforcement of the law, by Magistrates, into a crime itself.

In 388 he sent a prefect to Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor with the aim of breaking up pagan associations and the destruction of their temples. The Serapeum at Alexandria was destroyed during this campaign.[13] In a series of decrees called the "Theodosian decrees" he progressively declared that those Pagan feasts that had not yet been rendered Christian ones were now to be workdays (in 389). In 391, he reiterated the ban of blood sacrifice and decreed "no one is to go to the sanctuaries, walk through the temples, or raise his eyes to statues created by the labor of man"[14] (decree "Nemo se hostiis polluat", Codex Theodosianus xvi.10.10). The temples that were thus closed could be declared "abandoned", as Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria immediately noted in applying for permission to demolish a site and cover it with a Christian church, an act that must have received general sanction, for mithraea forming crypts of churches, and temples forming the foundations of 5th century churches appear throughout the former Roman Empire. Theodosius participated in actions by Christians against major Pagan sites: the destruction of the gigantic Serapeum of Alexandria by soldiers and local Christian citizens in 392, according to the Christian sources authorized by Theodosius (extirpium malum), needs to be seen against a complicated background of less spectacular violence in the city: Eusebius mentions street-fighting in Alexandria between Christians and non-Christians as early as 249, and non-Christians had participated in the struggles for and against Athanasius in 341 and 356. "In 363 they killed Bishop George for repeated acts of pointed outrage, insult, and pillage of the most sacred treasures of the city."[15]

By decree in 391, Theodosius ended the subsidies that had still trickled to some remnants of Greco-Roman civic Paganism too. The eternal fire in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum was extinguished, and the Vestal Virgins were disbanded. Taking the auspices and practicing witchcraft were to be punished. Pagan members of the Senate in Rome appealed to him to restore the Altar of Victory in the Senate House; he refused. After the last Olympic Games in 393, it is believed that Theodosius cancelled the games although there is no proof of that in the official records of the Roman Empire, and the reckoning of dates by Olympiads soon came to an end. Now Theodosius portrayed himself on his coins holding the labarum.

The apparent change of policy that resulted in the "Theodosian decrees" has often been credited to the increased influence of Ambrose, bishop of Milan. It is worth noting that in 390 Ambrose had excommunicated Theodosius, who had recently given orders which resulted in the massacre of 7,000 inhabitants of Thessalonica[16], in response to the assassination of his military governor stationed in the city, and that Theodosius performed several months of public penance. The specifics of the decrees were superficially limited in scope, specific measures in response to various petitions from Christians throughout his administration[citation needed].

Some modern historians question the consequences of the laws against pagans.[17]


Theodosius died, after battling the vascular disease oedema, in Milan on 17 January 395. Ambrose organized and managed Theodosius's lying in state in Milan. Ambrose delivered a panegyric titled De Obitu Theodosii[18] before Stilicho and Honorius in which Ambrose detailed the suppression of heresy and paganism by Theodosius. Theodosius was finally died in Constantinople on 8 November 395.[19]


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