Tuesday, March 27

One of my heroines–Hypatia

Is Hypatia of Alexandria. An amazing lady who was a Greek Philosopher in Roman Egypt, one of the first guruines in Mathematics, she also was amazing in philosophy and astronomy. A contemporary Christian described her as

There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, 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 infrequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more

Can you fall in love with a woman from history? Yes, I can. What a woman. Here is a painting of her by Charles William Mitchell. Before you think it was prurient, remember this is showing her state after  a rabid Christian mob tore off her clothes and just few moments before tore her to pieces.

And guess who killed her? a howling mob of Christians who said that she was a blasphemer, she corrupted young ones and and and.

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 Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her with tiles. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them.

I saw this recent article on her and was prompted to blog about this amazing woman. I quote: This is what she was faced with

In Politics, Aristotle tells us, “silence is a woman‟s glory.”  St. Paul wrote, “women should keep silent . . . they have no permission to talk, but should keep their place as the law directs” (1 Corinthians 33-34).  In 1 Timothy (2:12) St. Paul stated he did not “permit women to teach or dictate to the men”  In Moralia Plutarch states the Roman position on women clearly, “the two great duties of a virtuous woman . . . are to keep at home and be silent. For she is only to speak to her husband, as by her husband.  Nor is she to take amiss the uttering of her mind . . .”  By adopting Platonic/Aristotelian ideologies of women we have, in many ways, reconstructed the universal woman and the universal woman‟s condition in the ancient world as unvaried and universally oppressed.

One good point that the author says is worthy of reiteration:

 It is true that many women were probably prohibited from leading lives similar to Hypatia, however, there have been times and places like Alexandria that were less restricted and may have served to empower women.  Nor do misogynistic ideologies alleviate the responsibility of contemporary feminist scholars to contest the historical canon of ancient rhetoric.  Since traditional history has avoided or suppressed women in history, the trick for feminist scholars is to search for women everywhere, and to recreate historical periods and women‟s lifetimes as fully as possible.  With attention to race, class, orientation in addition to gender, we may be able to uncover likely pockets of women‟s empowerment and subsequent  activity.  I assure you, women like Hypatia of Alexandria were active in a variety of ways in the ancient world, of that there is little doubt.  It seems likely that then, as now, they performed work to serve their families, to earn wages, or to serve other interests and, in some places and times like ancient Greece and Alexandria, they participated in scholarly and public life. 

If one looks around, the situation is much much better (although its really shameful that the number of women in banking, technology, mathematics, physics and and and are so few and far between compared to men). But we still have problems, the state and men still decide your reproductive rights, women are still told that their virtue is based upon them hiding away behind a ghunghat or a veil, they are still aborted much more than boys. Women should fight, its not a fight that will end soon, remember Hypatia lived between 350-415AD, she faced these problems and she was a brave wonderful girl. Anybody who wears a ghunghat or a veil to me is betraying women down the ages and frankly is a bit of a muppet. Stand up, fight, be a woman, your face, body and mind are yours. And don't give me the answer that its your choice. Its your choice to be hidden away based upon what a man told you? bah.

But on to better things, she has been well documented in video as well.

Here is her death in a film, Agora 2009

A trailer from this film.

And the first of five segments on Hypatia.

I have not been to Alexandria yet, but one day I will go there to say hello to one of my mental goddess (as opposed to my domestic goddess, heh).

What a woman.

1 comment:

fljustice said...

So happy to find another Hypatia fan! Thank you for putting a spotlight on her life and death. The more people who know about her, the better. I've written and blogged about her for years and just recently pulled together a free ebook Hypatia: Her Life and Times as a gift to anyone looking for more information about this remarkable woman. Go Hypatia!