Hypatia, by English Pre-Raphaelite Painter Charles William Mitchell (1854-1903)
Primary Sources for the Life of Hypatia
The facts concerning Hypatia of Alexandria (ca. 370-415 A.D.) depend upon a very small collection of primary documents. Any source, whether it be an Internet site, book or article, that goes beyond the information contained within these primary documents, is either fiction or speculation and should be clearly labeled as such. These documents were all originally written in patristic Greek; they have all been translated into English but some translations may not be easy to locate. My source for the following information is an online article entitled: The Primary Sources for the Life and Work of Hypatia of Alexandria, by Professor Michael A. B. Deakin, Mathematics Department, Monash University, Clayton, Australia.
These primary sources are as follows:
1) An entry in the Suda Lexicon (Suidas - 10th century A.D.);
2) A passage in the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus;
3) An excerpt from The Chronicle of John, Coptic Bishop of Nikiu;
4) Six letters by Hypatia's pupil, Synesius of Cyrene;
5) Four miscellaneous short extracts from other works:
(a) The inscription at the beginning of Book III of Theon's Commentary on Ptolemy's Almagest.
(b) A brief reference in an ecclesiastical history by Philostorgius.
(c) Another brief reference in the Chronicle of John Malalas.
(d) A further brief reference in the Chronographia of Theophanes.
The most important primary source is the Suda. It is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. The Suda is written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many of which are drawn from ancient sources that have since been lost. The word "Suda" is probably from the Byzantine Greek word souda, meaning "fortress" or "stronghold," with the alternate name, Suidas, stemming from an error made by Eustathius, who mistook the title for the proper name of the author. The work is somewhere between a grammatical dictionary and an encyclopedia in the modern sense. As a dictionary, it explains the source, derivation, and meaning of words according to the philological knowledge of the era. This part of the work is not especially important. It is the articles on literary history that are valuable. These entries, such as the one for Hypatia, supply details and quotations from authors whose works are otherwise lost.
Because of its importance, I reproduce the English translation of the entire entry for Hypatia below. It is primarily upon this slender reed that the legend of Hypatia is based:
The daughter of
geometer, the Alexandrian philosopher, she was herself a philosopher and
well-known to many. [She was] the wife of Isidore the philosopher. She
flourished in the reign of Arcadius.
She wrote a commentary on Diophantos, the
Concerning Hypatia the philosopher, proof that the Alexandrians [were] rebellious. She was born and raised and educated in Alexandria. Having a nobler nature than her father’s, she was not satisfied with his mathematical instruction, but 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. In addition to her teaching, attaining the height of practical virtue, becoming just and prudent, she remained a virgin. She was so very beautiful and attractive that one of those who attended her lectures fell in love with her. He was not able to contain his desire, but he informed her of his condition. Ignorant reports say that Hypatia relieved him of his disease by music; but truth proclaims that music failed to have any effect. She brought some of her female rags and threw them before him, showing him the signs of her unclean origin, and said, “You love this, O youth, and there is nothing beautiful about it.” His soul was turned away by shame and surprise at the unpleasant sight, and he was brought to his right mind. Such was Hypatia, both skillful and eloquent in words and prudent and civil in deeds. The rest of the city loved and honored her exceptionally, and those who were appointed at each time as rulers of the city at first attended her lectures, as also it used to happen at Athens. For if the reality had perished, yet the name of philosophy still seemed magnificent and admirable to those who held the highest offices in the community. So then once it happened that Cyril who was bishop of the opposing faction, passing by the house of Hypatia, saw that there was a great pushing and shoving against the doors, "of men and horses together," some approaching, some departing, and some standing by. When he asked what crowd this was and what the tumult at the house was, he heard from those who followed that the philosopher Hypatia was now speaking and that it was her house. When he learned this, his soul was bitten with envy, so that he immediately plotted her death, a most unholy of all deaths. For as she came out as usual many close-packed ferocious men, truly despicable, fearing neither the eye of the gods nor the vengeance of men, killed the philosopher, inflicting this very great pollution and shame on their homeland. And the emperor would have been angry at this, if Aidesios had not been bribed. He remitted the penalty for the murders, but drew this on himself and his family, and his offspring paid the price.
The memory of these [events] still preserved among the Alexandrians considerably reduced the honor and zeal of the Alexandrians for Isidore: and although such a threat was impending, nevertheless each strove to keep company with him frequently and to hear the words which came from his wise mouth. As many as excelled in rhetorical or poetic pursuits also welcomed regular association with the philosopher. For even if he was ill-trained in such matters, yet through his philosophical acumen he contributed to these men some greater diligence in their own skills. For he discussed everything with precision and he criticized more judiciously than others the speeches and poems presented. Therefore also in the performance of some literary show he praised sparingly what was presented. His praise was very modest, nevertheless timely and appropriate. Hence all the audience, so to speak, used his judgment as a guide for who spoke better or worse. I know three critics of my time who are able to judge what is said [both with] and without meter. The same man’s judgment is recognized for both poems and prose compositions. But I judge the same man to be a creator of both only if equal practice is devoted to both and equal eagerness. I do not say that Isidore was one of these, but was even far inferior to the three. The judges [were] Agapios, Severianus, Nomos. Nomos [is] a contemporary of ours.
Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus
An English translation of the pertinent extract from the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus, Book VII, Chapter 15, is given below. The author, Socrates Scholasticus was a 5th century Byzantine historian. His Ecclesiastical History (in Greek, 7 volumes) continues the work of Eusebius for the period from A.D. 305 to 439. The work is unusual for its objectivity, dependence on original primary sources (e.g., acts of councils, the chronicle of Constantinople, letters of kings and bishops), and impartial descriptions of heresies. For a Christian writer of the time, his account of the death of Hypatia is very objectively written.
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 going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more. Yet even she fell 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.
The Chronicle of John, Coptic Bishop of Nikiu
An English translation of the pertinent extract from The Chronicle of John, Coptic Bishop of Nikiu is given below. Please note that Bishop John tries to justify the brutal murder of Hypatia to the maximum extent possible.
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 Nitria, 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 succor, 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.
Modern European Commentaries Concerning Hypatia of Alexandria
After the Suda, there appears to have been little or no mention of Hypatia by Western writers until the 18th century. Presumably, in Western Europe, the all powerful Roman Catholic Church effectively suppressed any further notice of that most unfortunate woman. It was not until the power of the Papacy had been broken and a more liberal, secular environment established that Western writers were again able to draw attention to this remarkable lady. My next remarks are based upon my perusal of the modern, scholarly biography of Hypatia by María Dzielska entitled: Hypatia of Alexandría (published 1995). Dzielska is a professor of History at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. Her 167 page book is an exhaustive review of all the primary materials. Her account of Hypatia is very balanced and fair with respect to both the Christian and Pagan viewpoints. In fact, I would have liked her to have been a bit more Pro-Pagan in her assessment!
I offer the following quotation from the beginning of her most excellent work (see pages 1-4):
Hypatia first appeared in European literature in the 18th century. In the era of skepticism known historically as the Enlightenment, several writers used her as an instrument of religious and philosophical polemic.
In 1720 John Toland in youth a zealous Protestant published a long historical essay titled: Hypatia or the History of a Most Beautiful, Most Virtuous, Most Learned and in Every Way Most Accomplished Lady; Who Was Torn to Pieces by the Clergy of Alexandria, to Gratify the Pride, Emulation and Cruelty of the Archbishop, Commonly but Undeservedly Titled St. Cyril. Though basing his account of Hypatia on sources such as the 10th century Suda, Toland begins by asserting that the male part of humanity has forever been disgraced by the murder of “the incarnation of beauty and wisdom”; men must always “be ashamed, that any could be found among them of so brutal and savage a disposition as, far from being struck with admiration at so much beauty, innocence and knowledge, to stain their barbarous hands with her blood, and their impious souls with the indelible character of sacrilegious murderers.” Toland focuses on the Alexandrian clergy, headed by the Patriarch Cyril: “A Bishop, a Patriarch, nay a Saint, was the contriver of so horrid a deed, and his clergy the executioner of his implacable fury.” …
… for the most part Toland's work enjoyed a favorable reception among the Enlightenment elite. Voltaire exploited the figure of Hypatia to express his repugnance for the church and revealed religion. In a style not unlike Toland's, he writes … Hypatia's death was “a bestial murder perpetrated by Cyril's tonsured hounds, with a fanatical gang at their heels.” She was murdered, Voltaire asserts, because she believed in the Hellenic gods, the laws of rational Nature, and the capacities of the human mind free of imposed dogmas. …
Influenced by Enlightenment ideas, neo-Hellenism, and Voltaire's literary and philosophical style, Edward Gibbon elaborated the legend of Hypatia, In the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire he identifies Cyril as the perpetrator of all conflicts in Alexandria at the beginning of the fifth century, including the murder of Hypatia. … Like Toland and Voltaire, Gibbon retells Damascius' story about Cyril's burning envy of Hypatia, who was “in the bloom of beauty and in the maturity of wisdom,” … This representation of “the Alexandrian crime” perfectly fitted Gibbon's theory that the rise of Christianity was the crucial cause of the fall of that ancient civilization. ...
John Toland's account is too long to be included here. However, in the following paragraphs, I am able provide appropriate quotations from several writers of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries concerning Hypatia.
1) Voltaire (1694-1778) - French Writer and Philosopher:
I will suppose that Madame Dacier had been the finest woman in Paris; and that in the quarrel on the comparative meritsof the ancients and moderns, the Carmelites pretended that the poem of the Magdalen, written by a Carmelite, was infinitely superior to Homer, and that it was an atrocious impiety to prefer the “Iliad” to the verses of a monk. I will take the additional liberty of supposing that the archbishop of Paris took the part of the Carmelites against the governor of the city, a partisan of the beautiful Madame Dacier, and that he excited the Carmelites to massacre this fine woman in the church of Notre Dame, and to drag her, naked and bloody, to the Place Maubert — would not everybody say that the archbishop of Paris had done a very wicked action, for which he ought to do penance?
This is precisely the history of Hypatia. She taught Homer and Plato, in Alexandria, in the time of Theodosius II. St.Cyril incensed the Christian populace against her, as it is related by Damasius and Suidas, and clearly proved by the most learned men of the age, such as Bruker, La Croze, and Basnage, as is very judiciously exposed in the great “Dictionnaire Encyclopédique,” in the article on “Éclectisme.”
A man whose intentions are no doubt very good, has printed two volumes against this article of the “Encyclopædia.” Two volumes against two pages, my friends, are too much. I have told you a hundred times you multiply being without necessity.Two lines against two volumes would be quite sufficient; but write not even these two lines.
I am content with remarking, that St. Cyril was a man of parts; that he suffered his zeal to carry him too far; that when we strip beautiful women, it is not to massacre them; that St. Cyril, no doubt, asked pardon of God for this abominable action; and that I pray the father of mercies to have pity on his soul. He wrote the two volumes against “Éclectisme,” also inspires me with infinite commiseration.
2) Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) - English Historian:
The zeal of Cyril exposed him to the penalties of the Julian law; but in a feeble government and a superstitious age, he was secure of impunity, and even of praise. [The praefect of Egypt] Orestes complained; but his just complaints were too quickly forgotten by the ministers of Theodosius, and too deeply remembered by a priest who affected to pardon, and continued to hate, the praefect ... [Cyril] soon prompted, or accepted, the sacrifice of a virgin, who professed the religion of the Greeks, and cultivated the friendship of Orestes. Hypatia, the daughter of Theon the mathematician, was initiated in her father's studies; her learned comments have elucidated the geometry of Apollonius and Diophantus, and she publicly taught, both at Athens and Alexandria, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. In the bloom of beauty, and in the maturity of wisdom, the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples; the persons most illustrious for their rank or merit were impatient to visit the female philosopher; and Cyril beheld, with a jealous eye, the gorgeous train of horses and slaves who crowded the door of her academy. A rumor was spread among the Christians, that the daughter of Theon was the only obstacle to the reconciliation of the praefect and the archbishop; and that obstacle was speedily removed. On a fatal day, in the holy season of Lent, Hypatia was torn from her chariot, stripped naked, dragged to the church, and inhumanly butchered by the hands of Peter the reader, and a troop of savage and merciless fanatics: her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames. The just progress of inquiry and punishment was stopped by seasonable gifts; but the murder of Hypatia has imprinted an indelible stain on the character and religion of Cyril of Alexandria.
-- Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
3) Mary Hays (1759-1843) - English Novelist and Feminist:
Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, who, distinguished for his astronomical knowledge, presided over the celebrated academy of Alexandria in Egypt, towards the latter end of the fourth century. Hypatia, who early manifested extraordinary capacity and acuteness of mind, was educated by her father in all the learning of the times, and initiated into the abstruse sciences; while to a profound erudition, she added all the graces, charms, and accomplishments of her sex. Her endowments, and progress in every branch of learning and knowledge, is established by the concurrent testimony of a crowd of contemporary writers, both civil and ecclesiastical, by whom she is said to have surpassed her father in astronomical skill, and to have excelled in general learning the philosophers of her time. Synesius, Socrates, Philostorgius, Damascius, Nicephorus, Gregoras, Callistus, Photius, Suidas, Hesychius, and Illustris, have, with others, spoken of the extraordinary learning and genius of Hypatia. By Socrates, an ecclesiastical historian, and consequently an unsuspected witness, she is expressly said to have outstripped in learning all the philosophers of her age, " and those of every other age." This testimony is corroborated by Nicephorus, also an ecclesiastical writer. By Philostorgius it is likewise affirmed, that she surpassed her father in astronomical knowledge: Suidas also mentions, with high commendation, two books written by Hypatia, one on the astronomical canon of Diophantus, the other on the com of Appollonius. By him it is likewise averred, that she not only excelled her father in astronomy, but that she likewise understood all the other parts of philosophy.
Her illustrious qualities and singular talents recommended her, on the death of her father, as his successor in the Platonic or Alexandrian school, in which a woman filled, with honor, the chair that had been occupied by Hamonius, Hierocles, and the most eminent scholars of the age; and this at a period when Alexandria and other parts of the Roman empire, abounded with learned men. " In this situation," says Socrates, " she explained to her hearers the several sciences comprehended under the general name of philosophy; while disciples from all parts flocked to her lectures." It is said by Suidas, that she explained and illustrated to her auditors, with equal perspicuity and precision, the various tenets of every philosophical sect; each of which, he adds, had previously been considered as a sufficient province to exercise the diligence of any one man consummate in letters. The numerous disciples of Hypatia, who was emphatically termed the Philosopher, were united to each other, and to their fair preceptress, in the strictest bonds of friendship and benevolence: they styled themselves companions or fellows, as was customary at Athens, and other seminaries of learning.
Among them may be mentioned Synesius, a native of Cyrene in Africa, on the borders of Egypt, to which having travelled, as to the fountain-head of science, he enrolled himself among the disciples of Hypatia, in the Alexandrian school, where he made a rapid progress in every branch of learning and philosophy. The great talents and universal knowledge of Synesius were celebrated by the writers of his age, particularly by Nicephorus,Gregorus, patriarch of Constantinople, by Suidas, Protius, and others. Synesius,afterwards consecrated bishop of Ptolemais, bore, on various occasions, a grateful testimony to the learning and virtues of Hypatia. " Salute," says he, in a letter to his brother Euoptius, " the most honoured and the most beloved of God, the philosopher, and that happy fellowship which enjoys the blessings of her divine voice." In another letter he speaks of Egyptus, " who sucked in the seeds of wisdom from Hypatia." Also, in writing to Olympius, he thus expresses himself: " I suppose these letters will be delivered by Peter, which he will receive from that sacred hand. I send them from PaitapoHs, te our common instructress, and she will entrust them with whom she thinks fit, which I am sure will be to one that is well known to her." In a letter addressed to Hypatia, he desires her to direct a hydroscope*, such as he describes, to be made and purchased for him. A celebrated silver astrolabe, presented by him to Peonius, a man excelling both in philosophy and arms, he declares to have been perfected by the directions of Hypatia. He also, in along epistle, sent to his preceptress with two books, informs her of his reasons for having written them: the one was a mystical treatise on dreams, the other an ingenious apology for learning: on the latter he entreats the judgment of Hypatia, being resolved not to publish it but with her approbation. He likewise, tells her, that she is the first among the Greeks, or rather the heathens, to whom he has communicated these productions. " To complete," says he, " the sacred number three, I shall add to these an account of the astrolabe presented to Peonius."
To the respect and gratitude of her disciples, and to the praise of learning and talents, Hypatia added the esteem of the public: the purity of her manners, and the dignified propriety of her conduct, commanded general reverence and regard. She was consulted by the magistrates in all cases of difficulty and importance, and her decisions uniformly observed. She frequented the societies of men, and lived in the midst of their schools and assemblies, with an unblemished reputation: the luster of her talents and attainments was softened by the unassuming simplicity of her manners; and the fascinations of her personal attractions chastened by the purity of her conduct. Modest but not timid, firm without arrogance or hardness, she received unembarrassed the honors and distinctions paid to her singular endowments. She was visited, admired, and caressed, by the governors, the nobles, and magistrates, by the learned, the ingenious, and the curious. Her extraordinary attainments, amiable qualities, and personal beauty, procured her the addresses of the most eminent men of the age, who sought her in marriage: by some, it is said, that she became the wife of the philosopher Isidorus, but the truth of this report appears uncertain: it is affirmed by Suidas that she died unmarried. The austerity of her manners, among her disciples, suppressed in their birth those emotions to which her beauty gave rise, and preserved her from the insinuations of gallantry, or the solicitations of passion. A true professor of the Platonic-school held wisdom and virtue only to be beautiful, and the conquest of the passions the only meritorious fortitude: that corporeal symmetry and loveliness were but a faint transcript of the divine charm of mental excellence, was their favorite principle. By the refinements of her precepts, and the severity of her behavior, the fair academician silenced the presumptuous wishes of those among her scholars, who had not yet become adepts in the sublime doctrines of the founder of their sect.
While Hypatia thus flourished the brightest ornament of the schools, Orestes, under the emperor Theodosius, governed Alexandria, of which Cyril was bishop or patriarch. Orestes, whom his rank and education had qualified to judge of the admirable qualities of Hypatia, treated her with distinguished respect and attention; visiting her frequently, and delighting in her conversation. Cyril, who cherished against Orestes an inveterate hatred and jealousy, observed this intercourse with a malignant eye: he had been elevated to the patriarchal throne by sedition and tumult, in opposition to Timothy, an archdeacon of but little reputation; was of a turbulent, ambitious, and intolerant temper; and had, by his usurpations on the civil authority, and prying scrutiny into the actions of the governor, incurred his suspicion and dislike.
A sedition had been excited against Orestes by Hierax, a pedagogue, or school-master, an implicit disciple and partisan of Cyril, by whom he was encouraged and protected. Hierax afterwards appearing at the theatre, when the governor was present, the Jews accused him as a disturber of the public peace, and a sower of mischief. Cyril, in revenge, banished the Jews from the city, where from the time of Alexander they had, to the great advantage of the state, lived undisturbed in opulence and prosperity. Orestes, incensed at the temerity of Cyril, and at the injury which the city was likely to sustain, laid the affair before the emperor. Cyril, conscious of the unpopularity of his conduct, the citizens taking part with the governor, began to be alarmed, and made overtures towards a compromise and reconciliation. Orestes, aware of his character, received his advances with coldness ; the enmity became more inveterate, and, in its consequences, prepared the way for a fatal catastrophe, of which Hypatia was the destined victim.
Certain monks, residing in the Nitrian mountains, among which they possessed numerous monasteries, flocked to the city, where, encountering the governor in his chariot, they reviled and abused him, using in their rage, among other epithets of reproach, those of sacrificer and heathen. Orestes, not doubting to whose agency he was indebted for this public outrage, cried out that he was a Christian, and had been baptized by Atticus at Constantinople.' Regardless of this attestation, the monks continued to insult him, while Ammonius, one of the most furious hurled at him a stone, which wounding him on the head, covered him with blood. The guards, with a few exceptions, terrified at this violence, deserted their master, lest they should share his fate, and concealed themselves in the crowd. The citizens of Alexandria, with more loyalty and courage, rose in defense of their governor, and, having seized Ammonius, put his companions to flight. The ring-leader, being dragged before Orestes, was, in conformity to the laws, sentenced to expire on the rack. The party of the governor, and that of the patriarch, laid before the empire, on this occasion, their several complaints; while the latter, having received the body of Ammonius, deposited it in one of the churches, with a panegyric on his courage and sufferings in the cause of truth; and, changing his name to Thaumasius, he ordered him to be considered as a martyr. The more moderate among the Christians, convinced that Ammonius had but suffered his deserts, justly disapproved of the zeal of their patriarch, who, Orestes having escaped his vengeance, still thirsted for a victim.
The favor of Hypatia with the governor, who took a pleasure in testifying his respect for her talents, rendered her obnoxious to the rage and bigotry of his enemies, who accused her of obstructing an accommodation between the civil and ecclesiastical powers. A conspiracy, headed by Peter, a lecturer, and a furious zealot, was therefore formed against her. Laying in wait for her, they seized her on returning from a visit, dragged her from her chair, and, having hurried her to a church called Caesars, barbarously stripped her, and murdered her with tiles, when, tearing her body in pieces, they consumed it to ashes in a place called Cinaron. This violation of the laws of humanity, and horrible mockery of religion, was committed during the time of a solemn fast, and is attested by contemporary historians; * who add, that Cyril, a pretender to letters, and emulous of farn^e, was jealous of the talents and reputation of Hypatia, whose destruction he had solemnly vowed.
In the life of Isidorus, by Photius, it is related, that the patriarch, passing by the residence of the female philosopher, and observing an extraordinary concourse of persons who thronged her doors, some appearing to be entering, and others coming from the house, inquired into the cause of this crowd* and was informed in reply, that this was the habitation of the philosophical Hypatia, to whom the people flocked to testify their respect. The priest, seized with a pang of envy too poignant to be concealed, from that moment meditated her destruction.
The emperor, when informed of the tragic fate of this incomparable woman, manifested great concern, and threatened the assassins with the just recompense of their crime; but, at the entreaties of his friends, whom Edesius had corrupted, was induced to suffer them to escape, by which means, it is added, he drew vengeance on himself and his family.
The murder of Hypatia, whose name posterity has consecrated, was perpetrated in the fourth year of the episcopate of Cyril (Honorius being the tenth, and Theodosius the sixth time, consuls), during Lent, in the month of March, in the year 415.
Source: John Toland's Life of Hypatia—Biographium Focmineum, &c.
-- Mary Hays, Female Biography or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Woman of All Ages and Countries, Alphabetically Arranged, Volume II (Philadelphia: 1807), Pages 438-443.
4) Charles Kingsley (1819-1875):
The culmination of all this confusion we see in Proclus. The unfortunate Hypatia, who is the most important personage between him and Iamblichus, has left no writings to our times; we can only judge of her doctrine by that of her instructors and her pupils. Proclus was taught by the men who had heard her lecture; and the golden chain of the Platonic succession descended from her to him. His throne, however, was at Athens, not at Alexandria. After the murder of the maiden philosopher, Neoplatonism prudently retired to Greece.
-- Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), Alexandria and her Schools
5) THEOSOPHY Magazine, Vol. 25, No. 5, March, 1937:
With the destruction of the Mystery Schools and the Serapion [in Alexandria] two of the most serious obstacles in the path of the Christian Church were removed. But there still remained the third, and by far the most important obstacle -- the Neoplatonic School. The "honor" of destroying this School belongs to Cyril, the nephew of Theophilus, who in 412 had succeeded him in his high position of Bishop of Alexandria. Cyril is remembered in Christian history for having promoted the Virgin Mary from the Mother of Jesus to the Mother of God! He also introduced the image of Isis into the Christian Church under the name of Mary. These "Black Virgins" may still be seen in the Cathedral of Moulins, in the Chapel of the Virgin at Loretto, in the Church of St. Stephen at Genoa and in the Church of St. Francis at Pisa.
Cyril celebrated his rise to power by a series of oppressions, directed first against the Novitians and then against the Jews. Although the Jews had been welcomed in Alexandria since the very founding of the city, Cyril led a seditious multitude in an attack against their synagogues. Unarmed and unprepared, the Jews were incapable of resistance. Their houses of prayer were leveled to the ground, all their goods plundered, and themselves driven from the city.
Cyril has come down in Christian history as one of the "Saints" of the Church, despite the well known fact that he was tried for stealing the gold and silver Church vessels and spending the money gained from their sale. But petty thievery has not earned for the name of Cyril of Alexandria its dark immortality in the annals of religious history. His real crime was much more serious -- the crime of murder, deliberately perpetrated against one of the noblest characters in history: Hypatia, the last of the Neoplatonists.
Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, a celebrated philosopher and mathematician, the author of a commentary on Euclid, in which his daughter is said to have assisted him. An only child, she showed deep interest in philosophy and mathematics from her early youth. Her father instructed her in these subjects with care and diligence, and she soon became one of his most brilliant pupils. Her writings, according to Suidas, included commentaries on the Arithmetica of Diophantus of Alexandria, on the Conics of Apollonius of Perga, and on the Arithmetical Canon of Ptolemy, all of which are now lost.
While Hypatia was living in Athens she came in contact with the Neoplatonic Schools which had been founded by Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus, and identified herself with the Neoplatonic Movement. Later, when she took up her residence in Alexandria, she began to hold lectures and classes in the famous Museum, where her eloquence and profound wisdom, her youth and extraordinary beauty soon attracted great crowds of students and admirers. She was admitted into the intimate circles of the great Alexandrian families, and numbered among her friends two of the most powerful men of the day: Orestes, the Prefect of Alexandria, and Synesius, the Bishop of Cyrene.
The Neoplatonic School reached its greatest heights in the days that immediately preceded its destruction. Hypatia brought Egypt nearer to an understanding of its ancient Mysteries than it had been for thousands of years. Her knowledge of Theurgy restored the practical value of the Mysteries and completed the work commenced by Iamblichus over a hundred years before. Following in the footsteps of Plotinus and Porphyry, she demonstrated the possibility of the union of the individual Self with the SELF of all. Continuing the work of Ammonius Saccas, she showed the similarity between all religions and the identity of their source.
The precarious foundations of Christian dogma were still more exposed when the Neoplatonic School began to adopt the inductive method of reasoning sponsored by Aristotle. Of all things on earth, logic and the reasonable explanation of things were most hateful to the new religion of mystery. When Hypatia explored the metaphysical allegories from which Christianity had borrowed its dogmas, and openly analyzed them in public meetings, she used a weapon which the Christians could meet only with violence. If her School had been allowed to continue the whole fraud perpetrated by the Church would have been laid bare. The light of Neoplatonism was shining much too brightly upon the patchwork of Christianity.
So, on an afternoon during Lent in the year 414 [Julian Calendar = 415 A.D. in the modern Gregorian Calendar], a crowd of Cyril's monks led by Peter the Reader collected in front of the Museum, where Hypatia was just finishing one of her classes. Her chariot drew up to the door, and Hypatia appeared. A dark wave of monks, murder in their hearts, rushed out from their ambuscade, surged around Hypatia's chariot and forced her to descend. They stripped her naked and dragged her into a nearby Church of God, pulling her body through the cool, dim shadows, lit by flickering candles and perfumed with incense, up the chancel steps to the very altar itself. Shaking herself free from her tormentors, she rose for one moment to her full height, snow-white against the dark horde of monks surrounding her. Her lips opened to speak, but no word came from them. For in that moment Peter the Reader struck her down, and the dark mass closed over her quivering flesh. Then they dragged her dead body into the streets, scraped the flesh from the bones with oyster shells, making a bonfire of what remained.
Thus Hypatia perished, and with her death the great Neoplatonic School came to an end. Some of the philosophers removed to Athens, but their School was closed by order of the Emperor Justinian. With the departure of the last seven philosophers of the great Neoplatonic Movement -- Hermias, Priscianus, Diogenes, Eulalius, Damaskias [Damascius], Simplicius and Isidorus, who fled to the Far East to escape the persecution of Justinian -- the reign of wisdom closed.
-- THEOSOPHY, Vol. 25, No. 5, March, 1937