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Chapter XV.—Of Hypatia the Female Philosopher.

There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, 945 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 unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in coming to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more. Yet even she fell a 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 Cæsareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her with tiles. 946 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, 947 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. 948



The following incident has been popularized by Charles Kingsley in his well-known novel of Hypatia, which has, however, the accessory aim of antagonizing the over-estimation of early Christianity by Dr. Pusey and his followers. The original sources for the history of Hypatia, besides the present chapter, are the letters of her pupil Synesius, and Philostorgius, VIII. 9. Cf. also Wernsdoff, de Hypatia, philosopha Alex. diss. 4, Viteb. 1748.


στράκοις, lit. ‘oystershells,’ but the word was also applied to brick tiles used on the roofs of houses.


The responsibility of Cyril in this affair has been variously estimated by different historians. Walch, Gibbon, and Milman incline to hold him guilty. J. C. Robertson ascribes him indirect responsibility, asserting that the perpetrators of the crime ‘were mostly officers of his church, and had unquestionably drawn encouragement from his earlier proceedings.’ Hist. of the Christ. Ch. Vol. I. p. 401. W. Bright says, ‘Cyril was no party to this hideous deed, but it was the work of men whose passions he had originally called out. Had there been no onslaught on the synagogues, there would doubtless have been no murder of Hypatia.’ Hist. of the Church from 313 to 451, pp. 274, 275. See also Schaff, Hist. of the Christ. Ch. Vol. III. p. 943.


415 a.d.

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