Hypatia lived from 355 to 425 and was the leading astronomer and mathematician of her time. As she was Neoplatonist, Hypatia was considered pagan. She was murdered by Christians who may have been associated with Saint Cyril, or maybe not. It was a long time ago.

But Hypatia’s story fascinates me. She was around as the ashes of the Library of Alexandria were cooling (metaphorically–it was being destroyed for ages in one way or another) and her life’s work, as far as we can tell, was to ensure the survival of Greek mathematics and astronomy. But nothing she wrote has survived to our time. The Encyclopedia Britannica says “her philosophy also led her to embrace a life of dedicated virginity” and here we are accepting knowledge about the sex life of a woman who lived 1600 years ago. Sure we are.

I don’t know how she spent her days. Maybe she woke at 5am and wrote in a journal until heading out to debate and breakfast. Maybe she had two good years and spent the rest of her life in a crushing depression. She might have been a virgin until her death, or she might have been gay, or she might have been asexual and relieved to be removed of the burden of sex by academic structure. All I needed was these few details: math, astronomy, a woman, a pagan, remembered. It makes me wonder who alive today will be remembered 1600 years from now, and for what.


One thought on “Hypatia

  1. Barb says:

    I enjoyed both these posts Jen, thanks! As to Hypatia, it is interesting that she is said to have embraced a life of virginity but if it were a guy, they would say he made vows of abstinence. There is a chasm between those two expressions. And why are we so interested in what she did in the way of sex? Especially 1600 years later when we have nothing written down by her? Like you say, the important parts are that she was a leading astronomer and mathematician and I imagine her as an interesting woman doing those things in that time.
    Synchronicity is interesting too. My belief is that we make up synchronicity with the use of hindsight to reinforce the decisions we’ve made and that it allows us to think, well, there, it was meant to be!

    Liked by 1 person

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