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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Hypatia of Alexandria

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born in the latter half of the 4th century, was the daughter of Theon the younger, by whom she was instructed in mathematics and philosophy, and professed, like her father, the old heathen doctrines, of which she was one of the most eloquent advocates. So eminent did she become in the ancient philosophy that, in the early part of the 5th century, she publicly lectured on Aristotle and Plato, both at Athens and Alexandria, with immense success. Socrates (Wells's translation, 1709, of the Latin of Valesius) thus narrates her history: "There was a woman at Alexandria by name Hypatia. She was daughter to Theon the philosopher. She had arrived to so eminent a degree of learning that she excelled all the philosophers of her own times, and succeeded in that Platonic school derived from Plotinus, and expounded all the precepts of philosophy to those who would hear her. Wherefore all persons who were studious about philosophy flocked to her from all parts. By reason of that eminent confidence and readiness of expression wherewith she had accomplished herself by her learning, she frequently addressed even the magistrates with a singular modesty. Nor was she ashamed of appearing in a public assembly of men, for all persons revered and admired her for her eximious modesty. Envy armed itself against this woman at that time; for because she had frequent conferences with Orestes [the prefect of Alexandria], for this reason a calumny was framed against her among the Christian populace, as if she hindered Orestes from coming to a reconciliation with the bishop. Certain persons therefore, of fierce and over hot minds, who were headed by one Peter, a reader, conspired against the woman, and observed her returning home from some place; and, having pulled her out of her chariot, they dragged her to the church named Caesareum, where they stripped her and murdered her. And when they had torn her piecemeal, they carried all her members to a place called Cinaron, and consumed them with fire. This fact brought no small disgrace upon Cyrillus and the Alexandrian Church" (Hist. Eccles. bk. 7:c. 15). The death of Hypatia occurred in 415. Suidas ( ῾Υπατία ), 3:533, puts the guilt of Hypatia's death more directly upon Cyril; but his account is by the best authorities, Gibbon of course excepted, not thought to be trustworthy (comp. Schaff, Ch. Hist. 3:943). There is a spurious epistle attributed to Hypatia, addressed to Cyril, in favor of Nestorius (Baluze, Concilia, 1, 216). Toland wrote a sketch of Hypatia (Lond. 1730, 8vo), and Kingsley has recently made her story the subject of a novel ("Hypatia"). See Cave, Hist. Lit. anno 415; Wernsdorf, Diss. Acad. de Hypatia (1747); English Cyclopedia; Monage, Hist. ul. Philosoph. p. 52; Munich, Hypatia, in his Vermischt. Schriften (Ludwigsb. 1828), vol. 1; Schaff, Ch. History, 2, 67; Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 4, 502 sq.

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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Hypatia of Alexandria'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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