European Pagan Memory Day

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This is the life of Hypatia according to Damascius (Vita Isidori) and the Suda. English translation based on the Italian version found in the site Maat we would like to thank.


Hypatia was born and educated in Alexandria. Since she had greater intelligence than her father, she was not satisfied with his instruction in mathematical subjects and she devoted herself diligently to philosophical studies.

This woman used to put on her philosopher's cloak and walk through the middle of town. She publicly interpreted Plato, Aristotle, or the works of any other philosopher for everybody who wished to hear her. In addition to her expertise in teaching she rose to the pinnacle of civic virtue.

She was both just and chaste and always remained a virgin. She was so beautiful and shapely that one of her students fell in love with her and was unable to control himself and openly showed her the sign of his infatuation. Someone told that Hypatia cured him of his affliction with the music. But this story about the music is a fake. Actually, she gathered rags that had been stained during her period and showed them to him as a sign of her unclean descent and said, "This is what you love, young man, and it isn't beautiful!" He was so affected by shame and amazement at the ugly sight that he experienced a change of heart and became a better man.

Such was Hypatia, as articulate and eloquent in speaking as she was prudent and civil in her deeds. The whole city loved and worshipped her in a remarkable way, but the rulers of the city envied her, something that often happened in Athens too. For even if philosophy itself had perished, nevertheless, its name still seems magnificent and venerable to the men who exercise leadership in the state.

Thus, one day, Cyril, bishop of the opposition sect [i.e. Christianity] was passing by Hypatia's house, and he saw a great crowd of people and horses in front of her door. Some were arriving, some departing, and others standing around. When he asked why there was a crowd there and what all the mess was about, he was told by her followers that it was the house of Hypatia the philosopher and she was about to greet them. When Cyril learned this he was so struck with envy that he immediately began plotting her murder and in the worst form he could imagine. For when Hypatia went out of her house, in her accustomed manner, a throng of merciless and ferocious men who feared neither divine punishment nor human revenge, attacked and cut her down, thus committing an outrageous and disgraceful deed against their fatherland.

The Emperor was angry, and he would have avenged her, but Aedesius convinced him not to go on. Thus the Emperor remitted the punishment onto his own head, and his descendant paid the price. The memory of these events is still vivid among the Alexandrians.


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