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Hypatia was a woman who lived in Alexandria (in northern Egypt) during a time when the Romans still controlled that territory. The date of her birth is uncertain, but everyone agrees that she died in 415 CE. The name Hypatia is a Greek name and her father, Theon, also has a Greek name. Her father was a philosopher and a geometer and Hypatia herself also became very skilled in mathematics and the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. She is said to have written at least two multi-volume works on mathematics, although very little of these writings survives to our present day.
Hypatia became so famous that crowds thronged at her house to see her and her her teachings. Unfortunately, this drew the attention of certain local authorities, especially Cyril, a Christian bishop, who took offense at the attention that this "pagan" woman was drawing. The envious Cyril brought about Hypatia's assassination.
Hypatia's contribution has more to do with inspiration than any theory or principle that she has passed along to subsequent generations. Hypatia lived in a world where women seldom had the sort of education that she had and, even if they did, they did not instruct men.
Second, Hypatia also provides an important example of how Christians could be as oppressive and harsh as pagans often have the reputation for being. So eager was the Christian Cyril to have "pagan" teaching eliminated from Alexandria that he had a single woman murdered. Ironically, the chief assassin was a person named Peter. According to Socrates Scholasticus, her killers
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. (unknown translator)
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