"In the starry expanse that has no dwellings: forces of the universe, interior virtues, harmonious union of earth and heaven that delights the mind and the ear and the eye, that offers an attainable ideal to all wise men and a visible splendor to the beauty of the soul."
(From a dramatic work by Leconte de Lisle, 1857)
Alexandria was founded on fresh ground by the enigmatic warrior-king Alexander, who drew three continents together through military conquest, political skill and personal will. Perhaps it was prophetic that his tomb was located at Alexandria and not in Macedonia, for the rapid disintegration of his empire and the persistence of its fragments together testify to the power and incompleteness of his vision. Ironically, his Greek kinsmen in Athens, smarting from having to serve a barbarian king, created a black portrait of his ambition and folly, even while those of Egyptian and Persian blood recalled his courage, generosity, fair-mindedness and love of humanity in the legends of Iskander. Alexandria was destined to be the focus of the triumphs and tragedies of the late classical world, a microcosm of the intense striving of the human soul amidst the titanic forces of cyclic history. Alexandria housed the world's greatest library and the Museum. The Pharos, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, lit the way into her harbours. Cleopatra, like the Ptolemies before her, made Alexandria her capital, enchanting those around her and continuing to fascinate for over twenty centuries. Alexandria became the crossroads of the world, drawing together the cultures, religions and philosophies of Greece and Rome, Palestine and Persia, Africa and Arabia, and laying the groundwork for new levels of tolerance and animosity. One can learn much about human nature by contemplating the history of this unique city, struggling to be a cosmopolis in a world of increasing chaos.
By the end of the first century, the elements that would form the pivot upon which subsequent Western history would turn were all present in Alexandria. Apollonius of Tyana had taught there and reformed the priestly activities of Egyptian, Greek and Roman religion. There Philo Judaeus had reinterpreted Mosaic philosophy and the religion of the Torah in the light of his profound metaphysical mysticism. Buddhist monks had preached the message of Shakyamuni within its gates, and the Gospel According to John was probably written in the city. Though the great library had been ravaged by fire when Julius Caesar first entered Alexandria, it remained the centre of Mediterranean scholarship, and the Museum associated with it emerged as an international university that supported scientific experimentation and mathematical philosophy. Ammonius Saccas entered this arena of brilliant intellectual activity and diverse spiritual loyalties to offer a philosophical basis for human solidarity within a context of individual freedom and collective growth. His Eclectic Philosophy, which he named Theosophia, pointed to the universal unity of all religions and philosophies, taught the method of analogy and correspondence, and used the Pythagorean-Platonic method to urge disciples towards higher truths through self-devised and self-induced efforts. Ammonius stood outside the Museum as a true philosophical revolutionary, drawing his disciples from those who found their traditional education lacking in spiritual vitality. His closest disciples were not encouraged to remain in Alexandria to found a school or establish a lineage. Rather, they journeyed abroad to transmit his method and translate it into the philosophies and religions of the Roman imperium. Plotinus founded a centre in Rome that would eventually reinvigorate the Athenian Academy through Proclus, whose teachers, Plutarch and Syrianus, followed the doctrines of Iamblichus as he had learnt them from Porphyry and he from Plotinus. Origen brought the analogical method and secret doctrines of Ammonius into the Christian community just as it was institutionalizing itself as the church of Rome. Longinus brought the spirit of his work into politics, government and diplomacy. Thus Ammonius left a numinous impression rather than a crystallized institution, and that mark made itself felt with increasing force in the Museum. It eventually sponsored the Alexandrian Academy which became an independent school under Theon and his daughter, Hypatia.
If Ammonius represented that to which the Western world should have remained true, Hypatia represented the moment of choice when many would either heed the Eclectic Philosophy or slide towards spiritual ignorance and moral disintegration. Hypatia was born around A.D. 370 in Alexandria. Her father, Theon, held a post at the Museum where he taught mathematics, astronomy and theoretical physics. He personally observed the solar eclipses of 364 and 378 and composed works on astronomy and natural science, including a commentary on the first eleven books of Ptolemy's Almagest. His interest in mathematics and astronomy was intimately connected with his study of the writings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus. Although nothing of Theon's writings survive, he was for many years respected for his breadth of learning and mental sharpness. Theon raised Hypatia by himself and was the chief source of her early education which centered around mathematics and astronomy. In the neo-Platonic school established by Ammonius, this rigorous discipline embraced Euclid's geometry as well as the symbolic meanings and occult powers of the seven sacred planets and the significance of the zodiac. Hypatia probably had first-hand knowledge of the Enneads of Plotinus and the theurgic doctrines of Iamblichus, and her understanding of Aristotle was unmatched in her time. Suidas seems to have thought that Hypatia travelled to Athens for part of her studies, but since she would have been about thirty years of age when Plutarch, the first neo-Platonic successor, took the chair of the Athenian Academy, it is more likely that she mastered the teachings in Alexandria under Theon and others in the Museum.
From the first, Hypatia manifested an exceptionally keen intelligence, outshining her co-disciples Mantuclas and Halmas, grasping the Pythagorean mathematics supporting Platonic philosophy. At the same time, she applied that understanding to ethics and lived in a manner which reflected her total self-confidence and lack of pretence. Having grown up and studied among men, she was at ease in any company. Yet in the spirit of Apollonius, she chose to remain chaste and unmarried for the duration of her life, though many men fell in love with her on sight. All ancient writers agree that as a woman she was beautiful beyond comparison, as if the gods had replicated a fragment of the Golden Age by making her countenance commensurate with her soul. Thus, at a time when women were discouraged from being independent and prevented from assuming public roles, no one objected when Hypatia was offered the chair of the Alexandrian Academy.
Hypatia gave Alexandrian neo-Platonic philosophy its most brilliant hour. Though she drew to herself devoted disciples – Herculianus, Troilus, Hesychius, Olympius, Euoptius, Synesius and his brother – she followed the lead of Ammonius in not establishing a permanent school centered around herself. Synesius worshipped her, and she warmly supported and counselled him even after he became bishop of Pentapolis. She concentrated her attention on public teaching and exercised an extraordinary influence upon the cultured populace of Alexandria. Amongst close associates and students she used a variety of means to direct their attention to philosophy. Youthful students were drawn to her because of her charm, grace and beauty. Rather than reject them for their mixed motives, she practised therapeutic methods reminiscent of Pythagoras and Apollonius. She calmed one student's emotional fervour by playing music that permanently cleared his mind. She shocked another who idolized her physical beauty by suddenly showing him her own soiled undergarments and pointing to the illusive nature of the physical plane. Yet she cast no one out, but sought to heal the soul and nurture the aspirations of all who came to her.
Hypatia's general lectures attracted large numbers of people who were inspired by her eloquence and mastery of dialectic. Admired for her wisdom as well as her counsel, she became a friend and confidant of Orestes, Augustal prefect of Alexandria. Born into the ancient religion of Greece, he had been baptized a Christian, and as prefect deployed his considerable political skills in an unsuccessful attempt to establish harmony in Alexandria by containing the temporal ambitions of the church. Hypatia's interest in society and politics, as well as her intimate connections with centres of power in Alexandria and her uncompromising Platonic and Iamblichian teachings, drew the wrath and viciousness of the church hierarchy upon her. Though counsellor to governors and magistrates, Hypatia was not a political figure in the narrow meaning of the phrase: she applied the Platonic dialectic to society and science alike. Even while struggling to preserve the wisdom of the Academy, she retained her interest in science and engineering. Towards the end of her tragic life, she sent Synesius detailed instructions for the construction of an astrolabe and a hydroscope.
The forces of history were strong in Alexandria, which had become a theatre of war for the soul of humanity. When the emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire, he unleashed forces beyond his own reckoning. While this shift of imperial allegiance gave political and financial support to the growing church, in other circumstances it would not have led to cold-hearted dogmatism and ruthless persecution. Asoka, upon becoming the Buddhist emperor of India, had proclaimed a policy of universal religious toleration. But Rome could not exercise that option. In legend and in belief embedded deeply in the Roman psyche, Rome had been built upon the direction of the gods. The emperor was pontifex maximus, protector of the Vestal Virgins who guarded the altar of Vesta, goddess of the hearth, in the centre of Rome. Rome was powerful because the gods protected it, and therefore the state cult could not be divorced from national loyalty. Once when the Altar of Victory had been removed from the heart of the senate chambers, the senators dropped all the business of the beleaguered Western empire to plead for its return. When permanently removed by order of the Byzantine emperor on the wishes of Ambrose, senators, including philosophical atheists, travelled to Constantinople to beg, weeping, for its reinstallation on the grounds that by abandoning the gods, the gods would abandon Rome to the forces of chaos. In addition to the traditional assimilation of political loyalty to the state cult, making any form of non-Christian religious commitment treasonous, the church based its institutional consolidation upon particular attitudes towards the concept of divine revelation, the literal interpretation of scripture and loyalty to the hierarchy of bishops. Thus disagreement with the lines laid down by the Roman bishop or the Byzantine emperor, who retained the title pontifex maximus, was declared heresy and attacked mercilessly.
On February 28, 380, when Hypatia was a child, the emperor Theodosius I issued an edict affirming the homoiousian doctrine that God is three persons in one (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as the official doctrine of the church and the empire. This marked the beginning of unremitting dogmatism and the total severance of man from Christ. Jesus could no longer be considered an exemplary human being divinely inspired, but was declared to be God incarnate, and this compelled the severance of the church from any connection with the ancient Wisdom embodied in the lineage of Teachers of Humanity. By November, the followers of Anus, who believed that Jesus, born as a man, was elevated to total participation in Deity, were expelled from the churches and monasteries of Constantinople. Gregory of Nanzianzus was made bishop, and in 381 the Council of Constantinople declared absolute war on heresy by forbidding all non-Roman church services. Edicts were issued on May 4 and 20, 383, declaring that anyone who reverted to 'heathenism' forfeited all rights to inheritance and the control of his own wealth and property. If his next of kin were not Christian, his wealth reverted to the state. Throughout the Roman Empire, bishops whose characters were an embarrassment even to Christian writers of the time used these edicts to destroy temples, plunder sacred land and launch bloody attacks upon the non-Christian populace. Reports of serious trouble poured into Constantinople from Antioch, Petra, Gaza, Heliopolis and Areopolis, but no attempt was made to ameliorate conditions in the empire.
Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, seized upon the imperial laws as a means to bring together fanatical desert monks and a motley collection of thugs whose religious convictions were dubious, and implemented his exhortations to hate and destroy all things pagan. In 391 Theophilus plundered a Dionysian initiation temple and paraded its sacred objects in the streets of Alexandria. An outraged citizenry threw sticks and stones at the perpetrators of this sacrilege and then barricaded themselves in the great temple of Serapis, the Serapeum. The Christians attacked the temple and destroyed its shrines, converting the buildings into a church. While magistrates were expected by the emperor to maintain civil order, the imperial government did nothing to defend non-Christian life and property, and the bishops exercised increasing temporal control. Between 407 and 415 the emperor Arcadius issued edicts ordering the secularization of all temple objects, the exile of non-Christian priests and the dissolution of all pagan societies.
When Theophilus died on October 15, 412, his nephew Cyril assumed the office of bishop of Alexandria. He was already a notorious power-seeker who showed his uncle's unscrupulousness and none of his virtues. Not content with straightforward attack, he sought to create strife among those he hated. Once when Orestes was holding a public meeting, Cyril persuaded Hierax, a vindictive persecutor of the Jews in Alexandria, to denounce the prefect as an enemy of the empire. The Jews present recognized Hierax and shouted for his arrest. Orestes detained him under law, but Cyril called the leaders of the Jewish community together, blamed them for the arrest of this 'good Christian' and threatened reprisals. Angered, the Jews slipped into the city at night and shouted that the church of Alexandria was on fire. As Christians rushed unarmed to put out the fire, the Jews pounced upon them and gave them a beating. The next day Cyril led a large mob of Christians to the synagogue, drove the Jews out of the city and plundered their buildings. Orestes was furious at this shocking seizure of civil authority and sent a vigorous protest to Constantinople. Cyril dispatched a select deputation to apologize to the emperor and made peaceful gestures to Orestes, but the prefect told friends that he feared Cyril more as a false friend than as an open enemy, and the emperor, as usual, did nothing. Even later, when Orestes was attacked and beaten by a cohort of Christians, Constantinople remained silent.
Only the dullest minds could fail to see in Hypatia the flaming torch of truth and gentle virtue in this darkness of smouldering emotion. Cyril recognized her superior moral power and knew that she alone represented a real barrier to his ambitions. Partly to get at Orestes and partly because his own life and deeds looked shabby when compared with hers, Cyril agitated publicly against her. The explanations of her horrible death vary with the author, but all agree on the circumstances. Hesychius wrote that she was killed because of her knowledge of astronomy, and another early historian said that she died for her superior wisdom. Since the ruthless policies of the bishops were based upon a dogmatic view of history, Hypatia's knowledge was indeed threatening. She knew that the church, with its growing collection of saints, rituals and relics, drew many of them from the most superstitious elements of the pagan peasantry and uneducated classes. The church rejected the philosophy that could explain and cleanse the Mariolatry stolen from Isis and the astrolatry pilfered from Egypto-Babylonian astronomy. Hypatia frightened Cyril because she knew that the Christian claim to exclusiveness in doctrine was a lie, uniqueness in revelation was a pretence, and its regenerative power was an inversion of ancient magic.
Suidas reported that Damascius recounted the specific circumstances of her death. Cyril knew that Hypatia, restricted to giving public lectures on Aristotle and mathematics, met in private with small groups of disciples to study the teachings of Pythagoras and Plato, Ammonius and Plotinus. One afternoon in 415 he came to Hypatia's house and, finding several officers of the guards and prominent patricians gathered around the door, enquired as to the reason. They told him that Hypatia was conducting a philosophical meeting, and Cyril became extremely angry. Then and there he decided that she should die. According to the fifth century historian Socrates, when Hypatia was returning from a ride, a Christian mob attacked her chariot and pulled her from it. Without losing her calm or uttering a word, she was dragged into the Caesarion Church, stripped naked at the altar, and flayed and battered to death with pieces of broken pottery. Her bones were scraped clean with oyster shells and the flesh was burnt to ashes. Thus Hypatia was killed for her nobility, and the light went out of Alexandria. Synesius, her devoted disciple and bishop of Pentapolis, had maintained a lively correspondence with her until the end, and the fact that he died in the same year led more than one ancient author to suspect that his death was the response of a broken heart to the news of her assassination.
With the murder of Hypatia, Alexandria had thrown away the chance for a world built upon human solidarity and universal brotherhood, choosing instead a path of strife that continues to the present day. Plutarch, the successor in Athens, sent Hierocles to Alexandria to occupy the chair of the Academy. Though noble and sincere, he was not an original thinker, and he tried to compromise with Cyril by Christianizing the Platonic Agathon and the Plotinian One, but even he was flogged in public for his philosophical views. After him Hermeias (a student of Syrianus) and later Ammonius (a disciple of Proclus) guided the school towards the study of Aristotle. Olympiodorus held out for the Platonic philosophy, but when he died sometime after 565 the school passed into Christian hands under the Aristotelian commentators Elias and David. Their successor Stephanus moved in 610 to Constantinople to assume the headship of the new Imperial Academy. Though only a shadow of its past glory, the Alexandrian Academy still continued to house neo-Platonic philosophers until the capture of the city by Islamic Arabs in A.D. 641. H.P.Blavatsky remarked that the Academy's drift away from Hypatia's teaching towards the scholastic philosophy of Aristotle and the intense war on heresy within the church sowed the seeds that sprang up as the religion of Muhammad to terrorize the Christian world with its own tactics, standing as a mirror mocking the unity and benevolence of 'the universal church' built on the blood and bones of those who dared to disagree with it.
The death of Hypatia was the end of an age, but her legend and the ideals she represented could not be extinguished. Even in medieval Byzantium she became the model of the well-educated woman, and since the Renaissance she has been celebrated in poems and novels, the shining reminder that each human being is called upon to live a life consecrated to the Divine within. Hypatia remains a theophanous light in the dim halls of the human odyssey, scattered fragments of which are recorded in the chronicles of history.
Excerpted from "War Against the Pagans," in Secret History of the Witches
... The Roman state gave free rein to Christian extremists who destroyed pagan shrines and images, or who committed violence against pagan leaders. They attacked people at pagan services and destroyed their temples. Arson was a favorite tactic. From the late 300s on, monks stand out as the primary aggressors in the battle to suppress pagans in the east. Even Christian documents describe them as violent and crime-prone, beating people they considered sinful, stirring up sectarian strife. [MacMullen, 171-2] The pagan Eunapius remarked that these monks looked like men but lived like pigs, "and openly did and allowed countless unspeakable crimes." [Eunapius, 423] He added bitterly, “For among them, every man is given the power of a tyrant who has a black robe and is prepared to behave badly in public.” [Hollland-Smith, 170] Some were not above murder.
One target of the fanatical monk was Hypatia, an astronomer, mathematician and philosopher of international reputation. Socrates Scholasticus wrote that "she far surpassed all the philosophers of her time,” and was greatly respected for her “extraordinary dignity and virtue.” [Ecclesiastical History] Hypatia's house was an important intellectual center in a city distinguished for its learning. Damasius described how she "used to put on her philosopher's cloak and walk through the middle of town" to give public lectures on philosophy. [Life of Isidore, in the Suda]
Admired by all Alexandria, Hypatia was one of the most politically powerful figures in the city. She was one of the few women who attended civic assemblies. Magistrates came to her for advice, including her close friend, the prefect Orestes. [Damasius, Socrates Scholasticus] In the midst of severe religious polarization, Hypatia was an influential force for tolerance and moderation. She accepted students, who came to her "from everywhere," without regard to religion.
Hypatia was a Neoplatonist. Some have claimed that she does not really qualify as a pagan, only as a rationalist philosopher. But this description is inaccurate and misleading. First, the meaning of "philosopher" had changed considerably by late antiquity, encompassing even Christian ascetics. [MacMullen, 205 fn 24] Second, such a narrow definition of paganism fails to recognize, as its enemies did, that it constituted a much broader spectrum than temple rites and theurgy. The sacred books of the Neoplatonists were pagan—Orpheus, Homer, the Chaldean Oracles—and they embraced “the esoteric doctrines of the mysteries.” [Cumont, 202] Third, Neoplatonist philosophers were persecuted as pagans, and identified as such in the struggle over the temples. They joined and even led in the pagan defense of the Serapium in Alexandria.
One of these leaders, Antoninus, had been initiated by his mother, Sosipatra of Pergamum, a Neoplatonist philosopher and mystic seeress. Antoninus "foretold to all his followers that after his death the temple would cease to be, and even the great and holy temples of Serapis would pass into formless darkness and be transformed, and that a fabulous and unseemly gloom would hold sway over the fairest things on earth." The Serapium was razed in 391, the year after Antoninus died. [Eunapius, 416-7] ...
Hypatia's father Theon was an astronomer and mathematician who was devoted to divination and astrology and the pagan mysteries. He wrote commentaries on the books of Orpheus and Hermes Trismegistus and poems to the planets as forces of Moira (destiny). Nothing indicates that Hypatia departed from her home culture. The Chaldean Oracles and Pythagorean numerological mysticism figured in her teachings, as the letters of Synesius indicate. Like her father, she saw astronomy as the highest science, opening up knowledge of the divine.
The surviving fragments of Hypatia's teachings indicate a mystical orientation. Glimpses of her spiritual views survived in the letters of her disciples, which speak of "the eye buried within us," a "divine guide." As the soul journeys toward divinity, this "hidden spark which loves to conceal itself" grows into a flame of knowing. Hypatia's philosophy was concerned with the "mystery of being," contemplation of Reality, rising to elevated states of consciousness, and "union with the divine," the One. [Dzielska, 54-5, 48-50]
Her disciples certainly regarded her in the light of a spiritual leader. Synesius of Cyrene called her "the most holy and revered philosopher," "a blessed lady," and "divine spirit." Though a Christian, he refers to "her oracular utterances" and writes that she was "beloved by the gods." [Dzielska, 47-8, 36] She spoke out against dogmatism and superstition: “To rule by fettering the mind through fear of punishment in another world, is just as base as to use force.” [Partnow, 24] Unquestionably, Hypatia's teaching represented a challenge to church doctrine. The apparent destruction of her philosophical books underlines the point. Her mathematical works survived and were popular into the next century.
Damasius wrote that “The whole city rightly loved her and worshipped her in a remarkable way...” Her popularity galled Cyril, the new bishop of Alexandria, who “was so struck with envy that he immediately began plotting her murder...” [Damasius, op. cit.] The bishop's enmity was also fueled by political motives: the politics of religious intolerance and domination.
When Cyril became bishop in 412, he began pushing to extend his power into the civic sphere. His enforcers were the parabalanoi, strongmen who had been the shock troops of bishop Theophilus' war on pagans and Jews. Bishop Cyril persecuted heterodox Christian groups, closing their churches and expelling them from the city. He spread rumors of a Jewish conspiracy to murder Christians and instigated a brawl between Jews and Christians at a theater. The Jews protested that the bishop's agents had provoked the fight. The prefect Orestes (himself a Christian) heard out their grievances and arrested one of the bishop's allies. In 414, armed conflict broke out between Cyril's supporters and the embattled Jews. It ended with the looting and seizure of synagogues, and the bishop expelling the ancient Jewish community from Alexandria.
Many Christians in the city sided with Orestes and put pressure on Cyril to desist. Instead, he escalated the conflict, calling in hundreds of monks from the desert. They mobbed Orestes in the streets, calling him a "sacrificer" and "Hellene”—in other words, a pagan. [Chuvin, 87-9] The monks hurled stones, wounding him in the head. The prefect's bodyguards fled, but a crowd of bystanders jumped in to save his life.
Accusations of Witchcraft
Realizing that he was losing on public relations, the bishop changed tactics. Now he attempted to turn the people against Hypatia as a powerful woman by accusing her of harmful sorcery. A later church chronicler, John of Nikiu, explained that "she beguiled many people through satanic wiles." It was Hypatia's “witchcraft” that kept the prefect Orestes away from church and made him corrupt the faith of other Christians. Further, she was involved in divination and astrology, "devoted at all times to magic, astrolabes and instruments of music." [John of Nikiu, Chronicle 84. 87-103, Online: a href="http://cosmopolis.com/alexandria/hypatia-bio-john.html%3E">http://cosmopolis.com/alexandria/hypatia-bio-john.html>;; 7-20-01]
In March of 415, Peter the church lector led a mob in attacking Hypatia as she rode through the city in her chariot. Socrates Scholasticus wrote that "rash cockbrains" dragged her into the Caesarion church, stripped her naked, and tore into her body with pot-shards, cutting her to pieces. Then they hauled her dismembered body to Cinaron and burned it on a pyre. [Alic, 45-6] John Malalas accords with Socrate's statement that the mob burned Hypatia's remains. Hesychius' account agrees that the mob tore Hypatia to pieces, but simply says that "her body [was] shamefully treated and parts of it scattered all over the city." [Dzielskaielska, 93]
In John of Nikiu's version, men came for “the pagan woman who had beguiled the people of the city and the prefect through her enchantments.” They found her sitting in a chair and dragged her through the streets until she was dead, then burned her body.[Chronicle, 84.87-103] After Hypatia's assassination, Orestes disappeared (fled? assassinated?). Cyril prevailed, and his parabalanoi were never punished for killing Hypatia. The bishop covered up her murder, insisting that she had moved to Athens.
No one was fooled. Our nearest contemporary sources agree that the bishop was behind the witch-rumors and the killing, and that his men carried them out. Public opinion may be measured by the fact that Christian city officials continued appealing to imperial officials to curb the parabalanoi, to bring them under secular control and restrict them from public places. They were only partially successful, since the imperial court itself was in the midst of a crackdown on pagans. As for Cyril, whom John of Nikiu credits with destroying "the last remnants of idolatry in the city," he was later declared a saint. [Dzielskaielska, 97-8, 104. 94]
Hypatia was not targeted only as a pagan. Other pagans—men—continued to be active at the university of Alexandria for decades after her death. It is clear that Hypatia's femaleness made her a special target, vulnerable to the accusation of witchcraft. Her courage in opposing the escalating anti-Jewish violence and her moral stance against religious repression were factors as well. In defending the assault on the philosophical tradition of tolerance, Hypatia had everything to lose, yet she acted boldly.
Later in the century, her male counterparts also came under attack. By the mid-400s, pagan professors were being sentenced to death in Syria. Some time after 480, an Alexandrian Christian society called the Zealots hounded the pagan prefect and his secretary from office and into exile. The Zealots capped their triumph with the burning of "idols." Two of them moved on to Beirut, where they incited further hunts of leading pagans. They formed a group to collect denunciations, using informers, and brought names and accusations to the bishop. This worthy held joint hearings with city officials, which led to more bonfires and the exile of pagans. [MacMullen, 26, 194 fn95]
The cultural repression used to Christianize the Roman empire was unprecedented anywhere up to that time, in extent, duration and geographic scale.
"Revered Hypatia, ornament of learning, stainless star of wise teaching, when I see thee and thy discourse I worship thee, looking on the starry house of the Virgin [Virgo]; for thy business is in heaven."
Palladas, Greek Anthology (XI.400)
Of the little that is known about Hypatia, the following account by Socrates Scholasticus, which was written about AD 450, is the best and most substantial.
"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 infrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in coming to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more. 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 with tiles [oyster shells]. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them. This affair brought not the least opprobrium, not only upon Cyril, but also upon the whole Alexandrian church. And surely nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity than the allowance of massacres, fights, and transactions of that sort. This happened in the month of March during Lent, in the fourth year of Cyril's episcopate, under the tenth consulate of Honorius, and the sixth of Theodosius [AD 415]."
Ecclesiastical History (VII.15)
In AD 412, Cyril, the nephew of Theophilus, succeeded him as Bishop of Alexandria, the populace of which, says Socrates (VII.13), "is more delighted with tumult than any other people: and if at any time it should find a pretext, breaks forth into the most intolerable excesses; for it never ceases from its turbulence without bloodshed." Indeed, "For from that time the bishopric of Alexandria went beyond the limits of its sacerdotal functions, and assumed the administration of secular matters" (Socrates, VII.7). Shortly before, Orestes, the new imperial prefect of Egypt, had arrived, and both men became embroiled in a struggle for political power as Orestes resisted this ecclesiastical encroachment upon his civil jurisdiction. Cyril immediately began closing the churches of Novatian, who as a claimant to the papacy had been excommunicated, and appropriated their sacred vessels. There also were riots between Christians and Jews and, after a brawl in the theater, the prefect had one of the bishop's followers arrested and tortured. When Christians were killed in a subsequent attack, Cyril led a mob against the synagogues. The Jews were expelled from Alexandria and their homes and temples looted. The prefect objected to this forced expulsion and, rebuffing any attempt at reconciliation, was himself assaulted by monks "of a very fiery disposition" who had come into the city in support of the patriarch. The assailant was captured and tortured to death, and, although Cyril treated the death as a martyrdom, he was obliged to forgo the matter.
A different perspective of Hypatia's death is conveyed by John, Bishop of Nikiu, whose account complements that of Socrates. He blames Hypatia for the prefect's recalcitrance and believes the rumors that were spread.
"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. And the governor of the city [Orestes] honoured her exceedingly; for she had beguiled him through her magic. And he ceased attending church as had been his custom....And he not only did this, but he drew many believers to her, and he himself received the unbelievers at his house."
The Chronicle (LXXXIV.87-88)
It was after these events, relates John, that Hypatia was sought out by the mob and killed by religious zealots ("torn to pieces," says Philostorgius, by the Homoousian party, that is, those who accepted the Nicene creed and believed that the Son of God was consubstantial with God the Father).
Hypatia had learned mathematics and astronomy from her father, Theon, the last member of the Museum at Alexandria. Indeed, says Philostorgius, she "was so well educated in mathematics by her father, that she far surpassed her teacher, and especially in astronomy, and taught many others the mathematical sciences" (VIII.9). Not satisfied only with mathematics, the Suda, a tenth-century Byzantine encyclopedia that preserves a lost account of Damascius (the last scholarch of the Academy in Athens), relates that she also "embraced the rest of philosophy with diligence. Putting on the philosopher’s cloak although a woman and advancing through the middle of the city, she explained publicly to those who wished to hear either Plato or Aristotle or any other of the philosophers."
She is thought to have collaborated with Theon on both the Almagest of Ptolemy and the Elements of Euclid, which became the standard edition of that text, and to have written commentaries, herself, on the Arithmetica of Diophantus and the Conics of Apollonius, as well as "the astronomical canon" (probably Book III of the Almagest that established a geocentric model of the universe). Editing works on geometry, algebra, and astronomy, the abstract nature of numbers and their properties no doubt appealed to her as a Neoplatonist, in which everything was believed to harmoniously emanate from the One. Such a woman would have occasion to meet with the magistrates of the city, a familiarity that no doubt would be offensive to her enemies.
Her most adoring pupil was Synesius of Cyrene, who incorporated the principles of Neoplatonism into the doctrine of the Trinity and in AD 409 became a bishop in the church, consecrated by Theophilus himself (who also had blessed his marriage). He addressed seven letters to Hypatia and refers to her in several more. She is "my most revered teacher" (Letter to Paeonius) and the one "who legitimately presides over the mysteries of philosophy" (Ep.137). In a letter written two years before her death (and just before his own), he says "I account you as the only good thing that remains inviolate, along with virtue. You always have power, and long may you have it and make a good use of that power" (Ep.81). Indeed, the last poignant letters of Synesius were to his "august Mistress," reproaching her for not writing (Ep.10) and, on his deathbed, calling her "mother, sister, teacher, and withal benefactress, and whatsoever is honoured in name and deed" (Ep.16). Hypatia had taught Synesius how to design an astrolabe, and he requested a hydrometer from her, a device to measure the specific gravity of liquids (Ep.15).
The Suda describes her as just, chaste, beautiful, and
"as articulate and eloquent in speaking as she was prudent and civil in her deeds. The whole city rightly loved her and worshiped her in a remarkable way, but the rulers of the city from the first envied her....Thus it happened one day that Cyril, bishop of the opposition sect was passing by Hypatia's house, and he saw a great crowd of people and horses in front of her door. Some were arriving, some departing, and others standing around. When he asked why there was a crowd there and what all the fuss was about, he was told by her followers that it was the house of Hypatia the philosopher and she was about to greet them. When Cyril learned this he was so struck with envy that he immediately began plotting her murder and the most heinous form of murder at that. For when Hypatia emerged from her house, in her accustomed manner, a throng of merciless and ferocious men who feared neither divine punishment nor human revenge attacked and cut her down, thus committing an outrageous and disgraceful deed against their fatherland....The memory of these events is still vivid among the Alexandrians."
A philosopher, which is how Synesius repeatedly addresses her, Hypatia may have studied with the Neoplatonist Antoninus, who had prophesied the destruction of the Serapeum shortly before his own death. Theophilus did destroy the temple and when Cyril succeeded his uncle as patriarch, he needed his own triumph over paganism. In Hypatia, he found it. John of Nikiu relates (LXXXIV.101-103) that the philosopher was stripped and dragged through the streets until she died; then her body was burned. "And all the people surrounded the patriarch Cyril and named him 'the new Theophilus'; for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city."
For Gibbon, however, "the murder of Hypatia has imprinted an indelible stain on the character and religion of Cyril of Alexandria" (Decline and Fall, XLVII).
The poignant figure above, her mournful eyes gazing directly at the viewer, is not Hypatia, of course, for whom there is no contemporary representation, but a Greco-Roman "Fayum portrait" from Hawara in Egypt. The elegant but melancholy woman, whose portrait may have been painted because she was sick and dying, wears a necklace of emerald crystals, which complements the purple of her dress, and pearl earrings. The hair styles of imperial Rome were imitated by the fashionable aristocracy in the provinces, especially the women, and provide a means of dating the portrait, which is from the time of Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161), when the use of highlighting was most masterful. In this case, the hair characteristically is parted in the middle and pulled back in a bun worn high on the head. Costume and jewelry, which can be compared to similar pieces with a known chronology, also indicate the date.
References: A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series II (Vol II: Socrates Scholasticus) (1890) edited by by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; "The Life of Hypatia from the Suda" translated by Jeremiah Reedy, in Alexander 2: A Journal of Cosmology, Philosophy, Myth, and Culture (1993) edited by David Fideler; The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu (1916) translated by R. H. Charles; The Letters of Synesius of Cyrene (1926) translated by Augustine FitzGerald; Epitome of the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, Compiled by Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople (1855) translated by Edward Walford; Edward Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1995) edited by David Womersley (Penguin Classics); The Greek Anthology (1917) translated by W. R. Paton (Loeb Classical Library).
"Hypatia and Her Mathematics" (1994) by Michael A. B. Deakin, The American Mathematical Monthly, 101, 234-243; Hypatia of Alexandria (1995) by Maria Dzielska; Barbarians and Politics at the Court of Arcadius (1993) by Alan Cameron and Jacqueline Long; The Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt (1995) by Euphrosyne Doxiadis; Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt (1997) by Susan Walker and Morris Bierbrier.
Hypatia of Alexandria was a woman of grace and eloquence, of beauty and wisdom. She was born before her time, and she died before her time.
Regarded as the first woman astronomer, Hypatia was also an accomplished mathematician, an inventor, and a philosopher of Plato and Aristotle, She lived during the late 4th, early 5th centuries--a time of great change.
Born in Alexandria, the exact year of Hypatia's birth is disputed. In the book by Maria Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, the strongest argument is made for 355 A.D. as the year of her birth. In Charles Kingsley's 1928 historical novel of the same name, she was born in 390 A.D. Most sources, however, favor 370 A.D.
Hypatia was raised by her father, Theon. There is little mentioned of her mother in any of the surviving records that document Hypatia's life.
Theon was a mathematician, a philosopher, and a noted astronomer and astrologer. According to the 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia, The Suda, he was also the last director of the university, the famed Museum of Alexandria. His accomplishments in his career were many, but they paled in the light of his biggest accomplishment, his beautiful daughter.
Theon educated Hypatia, teaching her mathematics, science, literature, philosophy, and the arts. In addition, Theon had her participate in a daily routine of vigorous exercise with him. Legend has it that he was determined that his daughter develop into the "perfect human being."
Hypatia never married, choosing instead to pursue her scholarly endeavors. She was an esteemed citizen of Alexandria, loved by its populace and respected by its officials. All listened intently when Hypatia spoke. Her beauty, grace, and eloquence were as mesmerizing as her wisdom and philosophies.
Though Hypatia was a pagan, her philosophy was Transcendentalism, and she belonged to pure reason. In Elbert Hubbard's book written in 1928, Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great, Hypatia supposedly said of her religion, "Neoplatonism is a progressive philosophy, and does not expect to state final conditions to men whose minds are finite. Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond."
Hypatia was loved and admired by her students. Much of what is known about her is the result of surviving letters written by her most famous student, Synesius of Cyrene, who was to become the wealthy and powerful Bishop of Ptolemais. In a letter to an old schoolmate he wrote of Hypatia, "You and I, we ourselves both saw and heard the true and real teacher of the mysteries of philosophy."
Synesius stayed in contact with Hypatia after leaving Alexandria and often sought her expert counsel. He would ask for her critique on poems he had written, as well as her designs for astronomical instruments, such as the astrolabe and the planesphere.
Hypatia is the earliest woman scientist whose life is well documented. She wrote many books on mathematics, such as the 13 volumes of Commentary on the Arithmetica of Diophantus, the "father of algebra." And she wrote about her favorite science, astronomy. She wrote The Astronomical Canon, as well as edited the third book of her father's, Commentary on the Almagest of Ptolomy.
But Hypatia's love for astronomy was to be her doom.
Hypatia was respected by many officials of her great city. One such man, Orestes, the Prefect of Alexandria, was her friend and often sought her counsel on administrative affairs. Many sources state that he too was pagan, though there are references he was baptized Christian.
The other key player in Hypatia's demise is the Patriarch Cyril, the Bishop of St. Mark. He was installed as bishop in October of 412. It was his mission and his quest to bring Christianity to Alexandria, to rid the city of pagans and Jews. He fought his battle for Christian purity by moving against groups that did not follow his beliefs. Cyril was a power-hungry man, who was later canonized by the Catholic Church.
One Saturday, Orestes was talking at a theater about the politics of the city. There were many Jews and Christians present, and they detested each other. There was one Christian in particular, Hierax, a loyal supporter of Cyril, that caused an uproar in the crowd. It was thought he was there to spy on Orestes. Orestes stopped his speech and ordered Hierax brought to him. He then had Hierax tortured in full view of the crowd.
When Cyril heard of this, he was furious. Calling the Jewish leaders together, he warned that there was trouble in the air.
The Jewish leaders, in turn, planned their own retribution, an ambush. On the agreed upon night, the Jews ran through the city yelling, "The Church of Alexander is on fire!" All the Christians that came to save their church were slaughtered by the Jews.
Cyril's fury reached new heights, the resolve of his mission reinforced. He had every Jew to be found thrown out of the city and turned their synagogues into churches. He also enlisted the aid of the desert Monks of Nitria.
On one eventful day, some 50 monks came upon Orestes. One of them, Ammonius, threw a rock and hit him on the head. Ammonius was arrested, brought before Orestes, and tortured until he died.
At this point, Cyril made efforts to reconcile his differences with Orestes, but the prefect would have nothing to do with it. Cyril then turned his attention to Hypatia, blaming her for Orestes's refusal to reconcile.
Hypatia's denunciation is reported by Socrates Scholasticus. He says, "men 'of the Christian population' started to spread a slanderous rumor that Hypatia was the lion in the path to a reconciliation between the bishop and the prefect. It was astronomy that sealed her fate--understood, of course, as astrology alloyed with black magic and divination."
On a spring day in March 415, Hypatia was riding serenely in her carriage, a picture of grace and wisdom in her philosophical robes. It was a day of Lent, a grave day for Hypatia.
Following the lead of Peter, a reader for the church, the Monks of Nitria pulled Hypatia from her seat and dragged her through the city to Caesarium, the Church of Caesar. There, they stripped her naked, and beat her with broken pieces of pottery and scraped the skin from her body. Even though she was now dead, they were not yet finished. They tore her body, limb from limb, and took it to a place outside the city called Kinaron. There, they burned the remains of this noble lady upon a great pyre.
No person was ever punished for this brutal murder. But humankind paid dearly. The end of ancient science is symbolized by Hypatia's death. Although the decline had been in progress for several centuries, for the next one thousand years after Hypatia there was only chaos and barbarism. These were the Dark Ages.
Hypatia was an extraordinary woman for her time. It has been said that she is the most famous of all women scientists until Madam Marie Curie, and that she was the Ralph Waldo Emerson of her day. Where would we be today had her science and philosophies been allowed to survive and flourish?
|Hypatia, by Charles Kingsley. Hurst & Company, 1928.|
|Hypatia of Alexandria, by Maria Dzielska, translated by F. Lyra. Harvard University Press, 1995.|
|Hypatia's Heritage, by Margaret Alic. Beacon Press, 1986.|
|Medieval Portraits from East and West, by Eleanor Shipley Duckett. University of Michigan Press, 1972.|
|100 Women, by Gail Meyer Rolka. Bluewood Books, 1994.|
Hypatia, Ancient Alexandria’s Great Female Scholar
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.
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 (her) Satanic wiles. And the governor of the city honored her exceedingly; for she had beguiled him through her magic. And he ceased attending church as had been his custom. But he went once under circumstances of danger. And he not only did this, but he drew many believers to her, and he himself received the unbelievers at his house. And on a certain day when they were making merry over a theatrical exhibition connected with dancers, the governor of the city published (an edict) regarding the public exhibitions in the city of Alexandria: and all the inhabitants of the city had assembled there (in the theater). Now Cyril, who had been appointed patriarch after Theophilus, was eager to gain exact intelligence regarding this edict. And there was a man named Hierax, a Christian possessing understanding and intelligence who used to mock the pagans but was a devoted adherent of the illustrious Father the patriarch and was obedient to his monitions. He was also well versed in the Christian faith. (Now this man attended the theater to learn the nature of this edict.) But when the Jews saw him in the theater they cried out and said: "This man has not come with any good purpose, but only to provoke an uproar." And Orestes the prefect was displeased with the children of the holy church, and Hierax was seized and subjected to punishment publicly in the theater, although he was wholly guiltless. And Cyril was wroth with the governor of the city for so doing, and likewise for his putting to death an illustrious monk of the convent of Pernodj  named Ammonius, and other monks (also). And when the chief magistrate  of the city heard this, he sent word to the Jews as follows: "Cease your hostilities against the Christians." But they refused to hearken to what they heard; for they gloried in the support of the prefect who was with them, and so they added outrage to outrage and plotted a massacre through a treacherous device. And they posted beside them at night in all the streets of the city certain men, while others cried out and said: "The church of the apostolic Athanasius is on fire: come to its succour, all ye Christians." And the Christians on hearing their cry came fourth quite ignorant of the treachery of the Jews. And when the Christians came forth, the Jews arose and wickedly massacred the Christians and shed the blood of many, guiltless though they were. And in the morning, when the surviving Christians heard of the wicked deed which the Jews had wrought, they betook themselves to the patriarch. And the Christians mustered all together and went and marched in wrath to the synagogues of the Jews and took possession of them, and purified them and converted them into churches. And one of them they named after the name of St. George. And as for the Jewish assassins they expelled them from the city, and pillaged all their possessions and drove them forth wholly despoiled, and Orestes the prefect was unable to render them any help. And thereafter a multitude of believers in God arose under the guidance of Peter the magistrate -- now this Peter was a perfect believer in all respects in Jesus Christ -- 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 seated on a (lofty) chair; and having made her descend they dragged her along till they brought her to the great church, named Caesarion. Now this was in the days of the fast. And they tore off her clothing and dragged her [till they brought 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. And all the people surrounded the patriarch Cyril and named him "the new Theophilus"; for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city.
1. The Coptic word for the desert of Nitria.
2. This is apparently wrong. It should be "Cyril."
Some quotes by Hypatia:
"Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond."
"All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final."
"Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all."
"Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fancies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them. In fact, men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth --- often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you cannot get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable."
BOOKS ON HYPATIA
Manly Palmer Hall, J. Augustus Knapp (illustrator), The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Philosophical Research Society, 1999 (buy paperback) (254 p.)
According to Karen Blackwell, this book was "planned and issued in the interval between the termination of World War I and the Great Depression of 1929" and "mentions Hypatia and tells of how her memory was perhaps perpetuated in the hagiolatry of the Roman Catholic Church in the person of St. Catherine of Alexandria" on p. 197-198.