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Hypatia of Alexandria

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  Quote Sidney Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Hypatia of Alexandria
    Posted: 09-Mar-2012 at 12:49
Hypatia (died March 415) was born and educated in Alexandria. She was the daughter of Theon, a philosopher of Alexandria, and was herself devoted to mathematics and philosophy. She lived under the Emperor Arcadius (reigned 395- 408), and wrote a work called The Astronomical Canon and commentaries on Diophantus, and on The Conics of Apollonius.
She succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, and used to discuss philosophy in public, in the streets and marketplaces, and people would come from afar to hear her. In addition to her teaching she was a good citizen, and on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue was much admired. She was just, chaste and remained a virgin, but was so beautiful and shapely that one of her students fell in love with her and was unable to control himself; openly showing her a sign of his infatuation. She gathered rags that had been stained during her period and showed them to him and said, "This is what you love, young man, and it isn't beautiful!" He was so affected by shame and amazement at the ugly sight that he experienced a change of heart and went away.
She had frequent interviews with Orestes, the city governor, but the Christians in the populace believed she prevented him from being friendly towards Cyril the bishop (bishop of Alexandria 412-444), and that his support for her teaching caused him and many others to refuse to accept Christianity.
One day, Cyril was passing Hypatia's house and saw a great crowd of people and horses in front of her door. Cyril asked what all the fuss was about, and was told that Hypatia was about to appear. Struck with envy, he began plotting her murder. When Hypatia was travelling in the city, a throng of merciless and ferocious men, led by Peter, a reader in the church, attacked her and dragged her to the church called Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her with roof tiles. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them. This happened during Lent, in the fourth year of Cyril's episcopate, under the tenth consulate of Honorius, and the sixth of Theodosius. All the Christians praised the patriarch Cyril as "the new Theophilus"; for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city. The Emperor was angry and would have avenged her had not his officials been bribed.



Couldn't find any decent images of Hypatia, so here's a woman teaching geometry in c.1312, Paris.

Edited by Sidney - 09-Mar-2012 at 12:52
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Mar-2012 at 13:53
Hypatia is one of my favorite historical figures, thank, you, Sydney, for opening a thread on her.
many of her works are believed to be written in collaboration with her father, /I don't know if this is due to the fact that she was a woman, and the Ancient Greeks didn't have a positive eye on female philosophers/, or is based of truth. In any case, those are some of her worrks:

"...Hypatia also authored a treatise On the Conics of Apollonius in eight books.
Apollonius of Perga was a third-century-bc Alexandrian geometer, the originator of
epicycles and deferents to explain the irregular orbits of the planets. Hypatia's text was
a popularisation of his work. Like her Greek ancestors, Hypatia was fascinated by conic
sections (the geometric gures formed when a plane is passed through a cone). After her
death, conic sections were neglected until the beginning of the seventeenth century when
scientists realised that many natural phenomena, such as orbitals, were best described by
the curves formed by conic sections...."

http://physics.ucsc.edu/~drip/7B/hypatia.pdf

We don't have much info on her, the Byzantinian Suda - here is the full article the Suda have on her- http://www.stoa.org/sol-bin/search.pl?db=REAL&search_method=QUERY&login=guest&enlogin=guest&user_list=LIST&page_num=1&searchstr=Hypatia&field=hw_eng&num_per_page=100  presents he more like a wise woman that as the philosopher she was, and mentions that she was married, which was not true, she never married. John of Nikiu includes her in his Chronicle http://cosmopolis.com/alexandria/hypatia-bio-john.html   but villifies her as satanist:

"...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...."

It's possible that the Christian saint St. Catherine was modeled on the life and death of Hypatia.

This portrait had been assossiated with Hypatia, but it was painted in 160-170 AD, about 2 centuries before she was born.

http://www.quotecollection.com/author-images/hypatia-of-alexandria-1.jpg

Edited by Don Quixote - 09-Mar-2012 at 13:59
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Mar-2012 at 13:55
I would have loved to see this one on rate historical figures, even though there's so little left of her work. Still she should be considered an inspiration.
What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.
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  Quote Ollios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Mar-2012 at 15:18


Good movie, it is fiction but the woman is Hypatia
Ellerin Kabe'si var,
Benim Kabem İnsandır
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Mar-2012 at 15:45
Yes, I liked to movie also - Rachel Welsh did a great impersonation of Hypatia, IMHO. Her end in the movie was more merciful that the reality of how she died. We have 2 accounts of her death:
1. By Socrates Scholasticus in his "Ecclesiasical History, 4:15:
"...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 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. 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. ..."
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/hypatia.asp

And by John of Nikiu, in his "Chronicles" -  I posted the link in my previous post here:
"... 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...." http://cosmopolis.com/alexandria/hypatia-bio-john.html

It always amazes me how a doctrine of love can be and is used very successfully for committing and justifying deeds of hate.

Edited by Don Quixote - 09-Mar-2012 at 15:55
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  Quote Sidney Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Mar-2012 at 20:08
The Caesareum, where Hypatia was killed, was originally a temple dedicated by Cleopatra VII of Egypt in honour of Mark Anthony. Some traditions say that this is where Cleopatra committed suicide in 30 BC. It was then rededicated by Caesar Augustus to himself. In the 4th Century it became the main church of Alexandria, but fell into ruins in the 10th Century.
The temple stood near the shore at the centre of the harbour, and was a lavish building with banqueting halls, libraries, porticoes, parks and courts. In front of it Caesar Augustus erected two red granite obelisks in 12 BC, originally dedicated by Tuthmosis III at Heliopolis c.1450 BC, and bearing inscriptions added by Ramses II, two hundred years later, to commemorate his military victories.
These obelisks stayed in place long after the Caesareum fell into ruin, and became nicknamed ‘Cleopatra's Needles’. In 1819 the ruler of Egypt presented one of them to the United Kingdom in gratitude for British naval victories against the French. But it wasn’t until 1877 that the money was found to transport the obelisk to London, where it stands today on the Thames Embankment. The other obelisk was a gift to the United States, made in 1877, and stands today in Central Park, New York.
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  Quote Louise C Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2012 at 01:34
In Daughters of time, 2000 Notable Women, Antiquity to 1800, Vivian Gould writes:
 
The daughter of the renowned philosopher Theon, Hypatia of Alexandria was the most famous philosopher of her time.  She was highly esteemed by ancient writers who say that as a mathematician she surpassed her father's talent, and that she eclipsed her father not only in mathematics but, above all, in astronomy.  We know from many contemporary reports that Hypatia taught philosophy, mathematics and astronomy to private students, and possibly taught mathematics and astronomy in the public arenas of Alexandria.  Reprotedly she was paid by the city of Alexandria for her lectures; possibly she succeeded hr father as head of the Alexandrian Neoplatonists.  Snyesius, later bishop of Ptolemais, is her best known student.  Seven letters from Synesius to Hypatia are extant, as well as four other letters which mention her.  The letters of Sinesius clearly indicate that she hade scientific instruments, and she is usually credited with the invention of an astrolabe.  Scholars in our own time are attempting to recover Hypatia's work from obscurity and reevaluating her contributions to the growth of astronomy and mathematics.  these scholars have concluded that her influence on these sciences is much more than previously thought.  Some of her work has been thoroughly incorporated into the work of her father and others.  However, Hypatia used a 'trademakr' mathematics, a unique formual based ont he sexagesimal system to check mathematical theorems and calculations, it is now possible to seperat her contributions from the work of others.
 
Most discussion of Hypatia say that she was murdered by a Christian mob for her Pagan beliefs.  But Hypatia taught both Christians and Pagans.  Many of her Christian students were appointed to high positions in the Church in areas outside Alexandria.  Because of the high political position of her students and her own great moral authority and intellect, Hypatia was extremely powerful politically.  She supported Orestes, the Roman Prelate of Egypt (who was a Christian) against the political faction of Cyril, the Christian Patriarch of Alexandria.  Orestes and especially Hypatia were Cyril's most powerful opponents in his quest for control of Alexandria.  The recent work of historian Maria Dzielska demonstrates that Hypatia was murdered by Cyril's private guards, although it is unproven if this was by Cyril's direct order.  In any case, her death had nothing to do with any anti-pagan policy pursued by Cyril at this time.


Edited by Louise C - 17-Mar-2012 at 01:49
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2012 at 05:11
I doubt very much that the death of a famous female philosopher, whose social role was so strikingly different by the Christian morality as asserted by Cyril etc, was purely accidental. The anti-pagan policies of the Christian leaders at the time in Egypt was most clear, mobs were going into Egyptian pagan sanctuaries and destroying everything in them. To say that the death of such an important female figure, herself being pagan, is not a result of anti-pagan policy that was most evident then, seems like a very measly justification.

What was done, was done - the victimizing in a most sadistic way of a helpless female by a group of religious fanatics cannot possibly be excused, particularly when the said fanatics were supposed to uphold the moral values of a religion whose first and last word is "love". That Cyril may have not given the order of killing her is immaterial - the mood he created and justified against non-Christians enabled the said mod of fanatics to commit this gruesome murder - this is as good as giving the order for this himself. This is not the first, nor the last example og savage cruelty by Christians to anyone who doesn't  exactly agree with their particular credo - Christianity throughout it's history created more martyrs that it gave. Which is only to show that if humans excell in something it's the abuse of their fellow human, religion or no religion.
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  Quote Sidney Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2012 at 09:31
While I agree with your appraisal of Cyril, his anti-'anyone who disagrees with me' attitude, and his role in the murder of Hypatia, I question the sentiment that it was just Christian bigotry vs Pagan liberality.

I think it was more a case of secular vs religion; Orestes, the civil prefect of Alexandria, vs Cyril, the Bishop - two officials fighting for power, and a philosopher got caught in the middle. Cyril was encroaching on Orestes' sphere of influence. Orestes opposed Cyril and called on Hypatia to get more support from the Alexandrian populace. Hypatia was killed by Cyril's followers in order to weaken Orestes.

It was motivated by Christians behaving in an unchristian manner, but Hypatia wasn't killed because she was a pagan, or because she was an educated woman. She was killed because she had local influence, but lacked state protection.

I wondered on your label of Hypatia as being a "helpless female". Where were her servants or students when she was attacked? Orestes himself had recently had his life threatened - didn't any one think Hyptia might be in danger? If she was so influencial in Alexandria, why didn't any one try to stop the mob? Why didn't Hypatia herself realise she might be in danger? (Its always easy to ask these questions after the event, but hindsight tends to do that. Presumably no one believed things would get so out of hand - maybe even Cyril himself).
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2012 at 13:00
Yes, there was a strong political element in the whole story - but this was Cyrils motive, not the motive of the sadistic mob that killed Hypatia - they were acting from pure fanaticism, IMHO.
I don't think Hypatia realized she was in danger because she was on good terms with pagans and Christians alike, had Christian students, Christians respected her. No one stopped the mob because when in a mob people start behaving in a different way - the so called "mob psychology phenomena" - hate is infectious, and causes fear, so whoever liked her hid, whoever was indifferent because hateful under the peer pressure of the mob. I had seen a peaceful demonstration turn into a violent one only because of the inflaming words of one person - mob psychology would do that. This is my view on it anyway.

I mentioned in my earlier post that it wasn't her paganism per se, but her position, a educated and influential female, in the time when the christian morality was selling it's preferred role of women -timid, silent, self-effacing, married, male-dominated - she was nothing like that at all. Can now budding Christianity that jut came on it's own allow such a figure around? That's why she was villified as a which and a whore - the typical Christian villification, which shows fear of giving free choice to people, even more to women. If she was a man, she most probably wouldn't be killed, not would she be called the above, simply because of the double standard that Christianity, /against the teachings of Jesus, I must say/ instilled for centuries pretty much everywhere it went. If Jesus really exists in some divine form and shape and all those centuries was watching all the unspeakable cruelties that were done in his name, I suppose he would be mighty sad for humanity.


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  Quote Sidney Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2012 at 13:17
Strange how history works. If she were a man, she probably wouldn't have been remembered at all (few remember Hierax and Ammonius, also casualties of this power struggle; even Cyril and Orestes are less well known than Hypatia).
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2012 at 13:48
True, her gender became her tragedy and her glory in the same time, because of he unusual role she played, I suppose. There are few female Greek philosophers, the Greeks were quite sexist, so no wonder Christianity was sexist - it was conceived by a sexist Judaism and the sexist Greek philosophy was poured into it by the Early Father of the church - so the egalitarian, equally-gendered position Jesus himself seems to have favored was lost.

In any case, I don't know what is worse - to be martyred and enter history as a controversial figure, or to be lost for posterity. The ultimate irony woyuld be it really St. Catherine was modeled of her - this would mean that the very idea that killed her adopted her as one of their own.
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