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Old November 28th, 2010, 11:33 AM   #1

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Hypatia


Where exactly does this idea of Hypatia as an early scientist come from? What is the source? Socrates only suggests that she was a philosopher. Is there really anything remarkable about Hypatia other than her death? Does Hypatia only attract attention today because of the perceived religious conflict behind her death?
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Old November 28th, 2010, 11:55 AM   #2

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Re: Hypatia


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Old November 28th, 2010, 12:08 PM   #3

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Re: Hypatia


Nothing has survived of her writings; she was the daughter of the mathematician Theon of Alexandria, and seems to have written about mathematics and to have edited works. There are a few surviving letters to her from Synesius of Cyrene, which are the best direct source about her. It is known from these that she made scientific instruments, an astrolabe and hydrometer; it is sometimes claimed that she invented these, but that is certainly not true of the first and unlikely of the second. A liitle that the neo-Platonist phiosopher Damacius wrote about her has also survived. 'Science' was not really separate from philosphy in those days, it was regarded as natural philosophy.
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Old April 17th, 2013, 03:58 AM   #4

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Socrates? He lived at least eight centuries before Hypatia.
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Old April 17th, 2013, 04:13 AM   #5

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It was another Socrates who wrote (briefly) about Hypatia, a church historian:
[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrates_of_Constantinople]Socrates of Constantinople - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]
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Old April 17th, 2013, 04:15 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ariadne View Post
Socrates? He lived at least eight centuries before Hypatia.
He means Socrates Scholasticus, the famous Constantinopolitan church historian. He's also the one that tells us Julian II believed himself to be an incarnation of Alexander and several other things.

The answer is: She has breasts and has therefore warranted especial attention.
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Old April 17th, 2013, 04:25 AM   #7

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There is a lot of mythology circulating about her, encouraged by a ridiculously inaccurate film that was made about her not long ago.
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Old August 1st, 2017, 08:15 AM   #8
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Quote:
Where exactly does this idea of Hypatia as an early scientist come from?
I am aware that this is a 7 year old thread, but in case you don’t know it I would recommend Maria Dzielska’s ”Hypatia of Alexandria”. Dzielska’s work would surely answer your inquiry without any doubt. She had access to Dumberton Oaks’s scholarly support and its library in which materialized in that work.

Byzantine historians such of Nicephorus Gregoras(1300’s) and Psellus(1000’s) do refer to her as “a wise woman”. Hypatia’s father, Theon, was an educated scholar, mathematician and astronomer. He did make some comments to the works of Euclid and Ptolemy, but also in philosophy, but he was more interested in pagan religious literature and old Greek practices of divination, and astrology. “Euclid’s Elements”, “The Data” and “The Optics” were known to and copied by Byzantines where they used them for modern edition of Euclid texts. Hypatia was a collaborator of Theon, so she must somehow had gained an insight.

Philostorgius mentions that Hypatia was superior to her father in term of mathematic and astronomy, and Damascius says that Hypatia was more talented than her father but he also presents her only as mathematician. – However Maria Dzielska says that historians of mathematic have treated Theon better than Hypatia.

But it is much easier if you consulted Dzielska’s ”Hypatia of Alexandria” as it is a bit complex.


Quote:
Is there really anything remarkable about Hypatia other than her death?
Maria Dzielska deals with it as well.

She was made famous in the 1700’s as several persons used her as an instrument in religious and philosophical polemic rather than to do actual history. A lot of things have been distorted by ideological biases without regards to what the firsthand sources says.

It was John Toland who started it as he wanted to portray the early church(Catholic?) in bad manner. So followed Voltaire after Toland where he depicted it as a struggle between rationality and the church in order to pursue his personal agenda. Gibbon of course was also tempted to include this fable into his work as it fitted well with his agenda. It was in 1850’s that this fairy tale was spread massively as Charles Leconte de Lisle spread that myth in some poem, and later Charles Kingsley also continued just in the Toland-manner. Some of it with deviation as in one of the fables Hypatia was converted into Christianity.

That tall tale about a young beautiful Pagan female philosopher that was killed by a mob of fanatics because they hated science was so good fabricated, and believed to be actual history in a long time that it even found place into Bertrand Russel’s History of Western Philosophy

However once consulting the sources and dismissing the fantasies of 18th century personalities, it is very obvious what it was about:

Alexandria has always been a place of struggle between different sections throughout its history since Ptolemaic times. During Hypatia’s time Alexandria was divided between two political fractions of Prefect Orestes and Bishop Cyril. Both were Christians, and Hypatia did have sympathy with Christianity and her favorite student was Synesius who became a bishop later. Hypatia allied herself with Orestes, and thus Cyril and his supporters assumed that she was the person that was responsible for preventing a reconciliation between him and Orestes. Since Orestes was Christian, Cyril could not blame him of being against Christianity so his supporters instead accused Hypatia of manipulating Orestes with magic, astrology and music which is illegal according to both Christian laws and as well the Twelve Tables. So the followers of Cyril killed her.

Once consulting the firsthand sources it becomes very clear that Hypatia was killed because of political reasons, and not because she was a scientist, pretty much as when the Athenians killed Socrates, or when Mark Antony killed Cicero. But the different is that some personalities in 1700’s have used Hypatia as instrument to some biased agenda, and that is the reason why a fable was seed.

And some two minor things about Hypatia:

Hypatia was certainly not a young woman when she was killed as the popular misconception tells: Hesychius says that Hypatia became a renowned person during Arcadius’ time, however Arcadius’ time did not start from 395(after death of Theodosius), but already prior in 383. John Malalas is saying that she died as an old woman. In the letters of Synesius to Hypatia it appears that Synesius is writing to an older person giving his choice of words, and furthermore it is certain that Hypatia taught Synesius in the 390’s when Synesius was around 20 years old, and it is extremely unlikely that Hypatia would also had been in the 20’s when she taught Synesius. – All this suggest that Hypatia certainly did not die as a young woman but rather as a woman in her 50’s.

It has also been told that Hypatia was killed with oysters where the mobs scraped her flesh from her bones with oysters, but that is not what the firsthand sources about her death are saying: Socrates is saying that Hypatia was killed with “ostrakois aneilon”, that means “broken bits of pottery” that is tile as we are in Alexandria with many houses and roof. However, Gibbon has changed it into “oyster”, and made up that Hypatia’s flesh was scraped with oyster alive to make his work more interesting for the readers, despite the sources of Damasius and Socrates Scholasticus clearly not are saying it. – Not that it matters how she died, but actual history doesn’t have anything to do with fantasy.

Last edited by El Cid; August 1st, 2017 at 08:22 AM.
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Old August 1st, 2017, 09:01 AM   #9

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https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hypatia
With the deaths of Synesius and Theophilus and the accession of Cyril to the bishopric of Alexandria, however, this climate of tolerance lapsed, and shortly afterward Hypatia became the victim of a particularly brutal murder at the hands of a gang of Christian zealots. It remains a matter of vigorous debate how much the guilt of this atrocity is Cyril’s, but the affair made Hypatia a powerful feminist symbol and a figure of affirmation for intellectual endeavour in the face of ignorant prejudice. Her intellectual accomplishments alone were quite sufficient to merit the preservation and respect of her name, but sadly, the manner of her death added to it an even greater emphasis.




https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia#Scholarship
Ari Belenkiy describes Hypatia's astronomical work as pivotal for the politics of the region, focusing on controversies related to observations of the equinox and the timing of festivals, ultimately serving to highlight errors in Ptolemy's work and the need for independent observation. In two consecutive works (2010, 2016) Belenkiy proposed an astronomical-calendrical paradigm for Hypatia's murder.

Comparing two principal sources on Hypatia, of Socrates Scholasticus and Philostorgius, Belenkiy suggests that Hypatia carried equinoctial observations in 414-415 , initiated on the request of governor Orestes, which could be the litmus test of who was right in the conflicts over the Easter day in 414 waged by Cyril, the Bishop of the Alexandrian Church, with the local Jewish and Novatian communities. Hypatia's success in establishing the correct day of the vernal equinox could undermine the Alexandrian Church's authority in the timing of Easter, as it used equinoctial computations based on Ptolemy's Syntaxis (Almagest).

Perhaps fearing the test will lead to undesired consequences, a gang of Cyril's followers are reported (by Socrates Scholasticus) to have ambushed and murdered her. Her murder thus was plausibly due to her astronomical observations.

Last edited by Kookaburra Jack; August 1st, 2017 at 09:05 AM.
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Old August 1st, 2017, 09:34 AM   #10
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The author of the Hypatia part in the Britannica(which by the way is not a sholarhips) is Michael Deakin, who is not a historian. That he even doesn’t know that the famous Great Library of Alexandria was already destroyed prior under Pagan rule just underlines the fact. That probably explains somehow of his ignorance on this topic.

Regarding the second part that Wiki-texts of Ari he uses words like “perhaps” and “plausible”. With other words: it is speculation. But that should not surprise that someone with neo-atheistic idiosyncrasy drooled over it.
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