Edward Gibbon (essay date 1788)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople" in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, John Murray, 1872, pp. 14-5.

[In the following excerpt from a work originally published in 1788, Gibbon fixes the responsibility for Hypatia's death on Cyril of Alexandria, charging that the bishop used her as a scapegoat to resolve a breach between church and state.]

Hypatia, the daughter of Theon the mathematician,25 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...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Elbert Hubbard (essay date 1908)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hypatia" in The Complete Writings of Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Shop, 1908, pp. 51-79.

[In the essay below, Hubbard offers an elaborate account of Hypatia's life and thought, stressing her independent mind and spirit as well as her indebtedness to Plato and Plotinus. Throughout, Hubbard uses details of her biography to express his personal antipathy to formal systems of religion.]

The father of Hypatia was Theon, a noted mathematician and astronomer of Alexandria.

He would have been regarded as a very great man had he not been cast into the shadow by his daughter. Let male parents beware! At that time, astronomy and astrology were one....

(The entire section is 5072 words.)

John A. Zahm [pseudonym of H. J. Mozens] (essay date 1913)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Women in Mathematics" in Woman in Science, University of Notre Dame, 1913, pp. 136-41.

[In the following excerpt from an essay describing the earliest female mathematicians, Zahm outlines what is known of Hypatia's life and works.]

"All abstract speculations, all knowledge which is dry, however useful it may be, must be abandoned to the laborious and solid mind of man.… For this reason women will never learn geometry."

In these words Immanuel Kant, more than a century ago, gave expression to an opinion that had obtained since the earliest times respecting the incapacity of the female mind for abstract science, and notably for mathematics....

(The entire section is 1721 words.)

J. M. Rist (essay date 1965)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hypatia," Phoenix, Vol. XIX, No. 3, Autumn, 1965, pp. 214-25.

[In the excerpt below, Rist focuses on Hypatia's philosophical position, but he also attempts to separate the legends surrounding her from the accounts given in Socrates's Ecclesiastical History and the Suda. She was more closely aligned with traditional Platonism than with advanced Neoplatonism, he asserts, and her achievements in the field of philosophy have been inflated because of the circumstances of her death.]

Presumably for English-speaking readers the trouble began with Gibbon,1 who knew the tragic end of Hypatia, daughter of Theon, and used his knowledge, as had...

(The entire section is 5252 words.)

Lynn M. Osen (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hypatia 370-415" in Women in Mathematics, The MIT Press, 1974, pp. 21-32.

[In the following excerpt, Osen presents an overview of Hypatia's life, emphasizing her skill in mathematics.]

During the pre-Christian era, the philosophical schools of Plato and Pythagoras served to create a favorable social climate in which at least some women could pursue an academic career. Because the emphasis on and love of mathematics was so strong in these schools, this tradition persisted long after the Christian era began.

Athenaeus, a Greek writer (ca. A.D. 200), in his Deipnosophistoe, mentions a number of women who were superior mathematicians, but...

(The entire section is 2592 words.)

Margaret Alic (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hypatia of Alexandria" in Hypatia's Heritage, The Women's Press, 1986, pp. 35-49.

[In the following excerpt, Alic summarizes Hypatia's career within the context of the political and intellectual climate of early-fifth-century Alexandria.]

She was a person who divided society into two parts: those who regarded her as an oracle of light, and those who looked upon her as an emissary of darkness. (Elbert Hubbard, p. 280)

A slight scientific renaissance occurred in fourth-century Alexandria, illuminated by the most famous of all women scientists until Marie Curie. For fifteen centuries Hypatia was...

(The entire section is 1941 words.)

Ursule Molinaro (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Christian Martyr in Reverse," Hypatia, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring, 1989, pp. 6-8.

[In the prose poem reprinted below, Molinaro recreates the life and death of Hypatia from the perspective of a feminist poet and novelist.]

The torture killing of the noted philosopher Hypatia by a mob of Christians in Alexandria in 415 A.D. marks the end of a time when women were still appreciated for the brain under their hair.

The screams of a 45-year-old Greek philosopher being dismembered1 by early-5th-century Christians, in their early-5th-century church of Caesareum, in Alexandria, center of early-5th-century civilization, reverberated...

(The entire section is 1089 words.)

Maria Dzielska (essay date 1995)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Literary Legend of Hypatia" in Hypatia of Alexandria, Harvard University Press, 1995, pp. 1-26.

[Below, Dzielska surveys the confusion of fact and fiction that constitutes Hypatia's posthumous fame, evaluating the literary works of European and North American writers from the mid-eighteenth century to 1989, as well as the ancient sources that gave rise to that literary tradition. Dzielska points out that over the centuries, Hypatia's legendary story has been used to support a diverse range of viewpoints and ideologies.]

The Modern Tradition

Long before the first scholarly attempts to reconstruct an accurate image of...

(The entire section is 9619 words.)

Mary Ellen Waithe (essay date 1996)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Finding Bits and Pieces of Hypatia" in Hypatia's Daughters, Indiana University Press, 1996, pp. 1-26.

[Here, Waithe focuses on Hypatia's accomplishments as a scholar and educator, emphasizing in particular her application of philosophic analysis and methodology to the exposition of mathematics and astronomy. Waithe also examines the texts of possible early editions or prototypes of Hypatia's writings that appear in the work of later authors.]

When Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy was founded in 1983 and the decision was made to name it after a famous ancient woman philosopher, the received wisdom was that none of Hypatia's writings...

(The entire section is 4883 words.)