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Hypatia was considered one of the greatest philosophers and academics in ancient Alexandria, but you’ve likely never heard of her. An OG of her time, Hypatiastudied - and later taught - mathematics, astronomy and philosophy, making her one of the first females to be semi-recognized in history.
Her father, Theon, was a mathematician and gave zero F’s about cultural norms. He insisted that his daughter be educated, so he tutored her in a variety of subjects.
In addition to being a bad-ass mathematician and astronomer, Hypatia also established herself as a philosopher. She delivered public lectures and is credited by some historians with contributing to - if not authoring - several important academic works, as well as designing the astrolabe (a fancy astronomical calculator that was used until the 19th century). Only a few records exist depicting Hypatia’s life and accomplishments. In fact, more is known about her tragic death than her life.
Living in Alexandria during this time was probably exciting, albeit chaotic, as the city faced political and religious upheaval. Throughout the years, Alexandria had attracted the greatest minds in science, mathematics and philosophy. Butthe city underwent a slow decline when it was conquered by Julius Caesar in 48 B.C. Three groups - Christians, Jews, and Pagans - coexisted in the city, but their differences led to power struggles, quarrels and the destruction of important sites.
As Alexandria came under the rule of Cyril, things reached a tipping point. Reportedly, Cyril was jealous of Hypatia’s popularity and claimed she was the reason his buddy Orestes, a prefect, would not accept “the true faith”, i.e. Christianity. Hypatia became the target of Cyril’s outrage and was labeled a witch by Christian zealots, who later targeted and brutally murdered her in public.
Records detailing her death say her carriage was overtaken by a mob, likely led by Peter the Lector. They dragged Hypatia from her carriage and into a church where they stripped her and beat her to death with roofing tiles (seems a bit much, gents).
Today, Hypatia’s legacy is that of a badass feminist icon. If you’re of the film-buff variety, check out the movie Agora, which depicts her life and untimely death.
Hypatia, Ancient Alexandria's Great Female Scholar
Image by Medium