When thinking of Ancient history, many famous rulers and scholars, like Aristotle and Julius Caesar, come to mind. But what about one of the ancient world’s most Famous Female Scholars, Hypatia of Alexandria?
Hypatia was a remarkable scholar, teacher, and philosopher in ancient history. She died a tragic and brutal death but will always be remembered for her brilliant mind and devotion to teaching in times of conflict.
Hypatia was born around 355 in Alexandria, Egypt, which was a center of culture in the ancient world. She was the daughter of Theon, who was an extremely accomplished Greek mathematician and astronomer.
It’s believed that Hypatia was educated by her father and was an only child. As she grew up, she ended up learning even more than her father did and especially excelled in math and philosophy.
Hypatia began teaching students from home and eventually took on a teaching role at the Neoplatonic school, which was similar to a modern-day university. She drew crowds with public lectures and was famous for reshaping math instruments, writing textbooks, and making more efficient methods for division.
Hypatia was considered pagan, and her school brought in people of various faiths and beliefs, which was remarkable, as Alexandria was in a period of religious turmoil. At one point, she was known as Alexandria’s most prominent scholar.
She was also seen as a political advisor. When there was a feud between the Roman governor Orestes, a Christian who didn’t want to give all power to the church, and the local archbishop Cyril, Orestes sought her advice because she was considered an impartial figure.
While Hypatia advised Orestes to act with restraint, there were riots and protests from Cyril’s supporters.
After they attempted to murder Orestes, he murdered their leader, causing more tension.
Hypatia soon became a target within the conflict, as Cyril and his supporters began to spread rumors that she was practicing witchcraft and turned Orestes against Christianity.
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Around 415, as Hypatia traveled through the city, a group of Christian zealots dragged her from her carriage and brutally dismembered and murdered her.
Alexandria was never the same after Hypatia’s horrible and unjust death, as her spirit and practices of inclusion in education made a tremendous impact.
Were you taught about Hypatia in school growing up?
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