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Hypatia: Pagan or Saint?

Title: Pagan or Saint?

Dates: born c. 350–370; died 415 AD

Era in History: Greco-Roman Egypt


  1. Congregation for the Causes of Saints-the department that makes recommendations to the Pope on saints

  2. The Suda or Souda (/ˈsuːdə/; Medieval Greek: Σοῦδα, romanized: Soûda; Latin: Suidae Lexicon)[1] is a large 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Soudas (Σούδας) or Souidas (Σουίδας). It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often derived from medieval Christian compilers.

  3. Iamblichus (/aɪˈæmblɪkəs/; Greek: Ἰάμβλιχος Iámblichos; Aramaic: 𐡉𐡌𐡋𐡊𐡅 Yamlīḵū;[1][2] c. 245 – c. 325 CE) was a Syrian[3][4] Neoplatonist philosopher of Arab origin.[5][6] He determined the direction that would later be taken by Neoplatonic philosophy. He was also the biographer of the Greek mystic, philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras.[7][8]

Bullet Point Facts:

  • 365 AD – The 365 Crete earthquake affects the Greek island of Crete with a maximum Mercalli intensity of XI (Extreme), causing a destructive tsunami that affects the coasts of Libya and Egypt, especially Alexandria. Many thousands were killed.

  • 391 – Theodosius I orders destruction of pagan temples.

  • 395 – Roman Empire formally split in two. The official start of so-called Byzantine Empire.

  • 415 – Lynching of the philosopher Hypatia by a radical Christian mob. The expulsion of the Jews from Alexandria, in 414 or 415 under the leadership of Saint Cyril. Around 100,000 Jews expelled—another Pogrom or "Alexandria Expulsion".

Quotes Used:

Traces of other rumors that spread among the Christian populace of Alexandria may be found in the writings of the seventh-century Egyptian Coptic bishop John of Nikiû,[40][91] who alleges in his Chronicle that Hypatia had engaged in satanic practices and had intentionally hampered the church's influence over Orestes:[91][92][93][94]

And in those days there appeared in Alexandria a female philosopher, a pagan named Hypatia, and she was devoted at all times to magic, astrolabes and instruments of music, and she beguiled many people through her Satanic wiles. And the governor of the city honoured her exceedingly; for she had beguiled him through her magic. And he ceased attending church as had been his custom... And he not only did this, but he drew many believers to her, and he himself received the unbelievers at his house.[92]

Socrates Scholasticus unequivocally condemns the actions of the mob, declaring, "Surely nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity than the allowance of massacres, fights, and transactions of that sort."[95][102][107]

“Donning [the robe of a scholar], the lady made appearances around the center of the city, expounding in public to those willing to listen on Plato or Aristotle,” the philosopher Damascius wrote after her death.

The Suda lexicon, a 10th-century encyclopedia of the Mediterranean world, describes her as being “exceedingly beautiful and fair of form. . . in speech articulate and logical, in her actions prudent and public-spirited, and the rest of the city gave her suitable welcome and accorded her special respect.”

“Almost alone, virtually the last academic, she stood for intellectual values, for rigorous mathematics, ascetic Neoplatonism, the crucial role of the mind, and the voice of temperance and moderation in civic life,” Deakin wrote.

Cyril’s role in Hypatia’s death has never been clear. “Those whose affiliations lead them to venerate his memory exonerate him; anticlericals and their ilk delight in condemning the man,” Michael Deakin wrote in his 2007 book Hypatia of Alexandria.

“Even if Hades is a place of complete oblivion, even there I will remember you, dear Hypatia”, he wrote in one of his letters. Synesius of cyrene

The next morning, when Hypatia appeared in her chariot in front of her residence, suddenly five hundred men, all dressed in black and cowled, five hundred half-starved monks from the sands of the Egyptian desert — five hundred monks, soldiers of the cross — like a black hurricane, swooped down the street, boarded her chariot, and, pulling her off her seat, dragged her by the hair of her head into a — how shall I say the word? — into a church! Some historians intimate that the monks asked her to kiss the cross, to become a Christian and join the nunnery, if she wished her life spared. At any rate, these monks, under the leadership of St. Cyril's right-hand man, Peter the Reader, shamefully stripped her naked, and there, close to the altar and the cross, scraped her quivering flesh from her bones with oyster shells. The marble floor of the church was sprinkled with her warm blood. The altar, the cross, too, were bespattered, owing to the violence with which her limbs were torn, while the hands of the monks presented a sight too revolting to describe. The mutilated body, upon which the murderers feasted their fanatic hate, was then flung into the flames. (6)

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