Hypatia

A brilliant mathematician, philosopher, and astronomer, Hypatia was one of the great thinkers of the ancient world (the only woman for whom such a claim can be made).

Before you read

Born in about 355 CE in Alexandria, an Egyptian city famous for being a center of learning, Hypatia was the child of Theon, a philosopher and mathematician.

Although it was unusual for the time, Theon educated his daughter and she excelled in her studies. Hypatia became the leading mathematician of her era, achieving recognition in algebra, geometry, and astronomy. She also built a reputation as an outstanding teacher, particularly of philosophy. Hypatia taught a kind of philosophy called “Neoplatonism,” which, at the time, was seen as a form of paganism. Her lectures drew huge crowds, and she played an active role in Alexandrian life. Cyril, the Christian archbishop of Alexandria, was involved in an intense feud with the city’s pagan governor, Orestes.

Because she was seen as a wise and impartial figure, governor Orestes consulted Hypatia, who advised him to act with fairness and restraint. But when a group of Cyril’s monks incited a riot, badly injuring Orestes in the process, he had their leader tortured to death. Cyril and his followers blamed Hypatia, accusing her of witchcraft to turn Orestes against Christianity. In March 415, as Hypatia was travelling through the city, the bishop’s militia of monks dragged her from her carriage and brutally murdered and dismembered her.

Have Something Done
We use this form when we talk about someone doing something for us which we ask or instruct them to do. It emphasises the process/action rather than who performs it:
I had my hair cut yesterday. (someone did it for me)
I cut my hair yesterday. (I did it)

Hypatia’s death was a turning point in the politics of Alexandria. In the wake of her murder, other philosophers in the Greek and Roman tradition fled, and the city’s role as a center of learning declined. In a very real way, the spirit of inquisition, openness, and fairness she fostered died with her.

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