Hypatia of Alexandria

As the historian Deakin writes, “The most detailed accounts we have of Hypatia‘s life are the records of her death. We learn more about her death from the primary sources than we do about any other aspect of her life” (49). She was murdered in 415 CE by a Christian mob who attacked her on the streets of Alexandria. The primary sources, even those Christian writers who were hostile to her and claimed she was a witch, portray her as a woman who was widely known for her generosity, love of learning, and expertise in teaching in the subjects of Neo-Platonism, mathematics, science, and philosophy in general.

Hypatia was a close friend of the pagan prefect Orestes and was blamed by Cyril, the Christian Archbishop of Alexandria, for keeping Orestes from accepting the ‘true faith’. She was also seen as a ‘stumbling block’ to those who would have accepted the ‘truth’ of Christianity were it not for her charisma, charm, and excellence in making difficult mathematical and philosophical concepts understandable to her students; concepts which contradicted the teachings of the relatively new church. Alexandria was a great seat of learning in the early days of Christianity but, as the faith grew in adherents and power, steadily became divided by fighting among religious factions. It is by no means an exaggeration to state that Alexandria was destroyed as a centre of culture and learning by religious intolerance and Hypatia has come to symbolize this tragedy to the extent that her death has been cited as the end of the classical world.

Source: Hypatia of Alexandria – Ancient History Encyclopedia

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