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Headword: Ὑπατία
Adler number: upsilon,166
Translated headword: Hypatia
Vetting Status: high
The daughter of Theon the geometer, the Alexandrian philosopher,[1] she was herself a philosopher and well-known to many. [She was] the wife of Isidore the philosopher.[2] She flourished in the reign of Arcadius.[3] She wrote a commentary on Diophantos,[4] the Astronomical Canon, and a commentary on the Conics of Apollonios. She was torn to pieces by the Alexandrians, and her body was violated and scattered over the whole city. She suffered this because of envy and her exceptional wisdom, especially in regard to astronomy. According to some, [this was the fault of] Cyril,[5] but according to others, [it resulted] from the inveterate insolence and rebelliousness of the Alexandrians. For they did this also to many of their own bishops: consider George and Proterios.[6]
Concerning Hypatia the philosopher, proof that the Alexandrians [were] rebellious. She was born and raised and educated in Alexandria. Having a nobler nature than her father's, she was not satisfied with his mathematical instruction, but she also embraced the rest of philosophy with diligence. Putting on the philosopher's cloak although a woman and advancing through the middle of the city, she explained publicly to those who wished to hear either Plato or Aristotle or any other of the philosophers. In addition to her teaching, attaining the height of practical virtue, becoming just and prudent, she remained a virgin. She was so very beautiful and attractive that one of those who attended her lectures fell in love with her. He was not able to contain his desire, but he informed her of his condition. Ignorant reports say that Hypatia relieved him of his disease by music; but truth proclaims that music failed to have any effect. She brought some of her female rags[7] and threw them before him, showing him the signs of her unclean origin, and said, "You love this, o youth, and there is nothing beautiful about it." His soul was turned away by shame and surprise at the unpleasant sight, and he was brought to his right mind. Such was Hypatia, both skillful and eloquent in words and prudent and civil in deeds. The rest of the city loved and honored her exceptionally, and those who were appointed at each time as rulers of the city at first attended her lectures, as also it used to happen at Athens. For if the reality had perished, yet the name of philosophy still seemed magnificent and admirable to those who held the highest offices in the community. So then once it happened that Cyril who was bishop of the opposing faction, passing by the house of Hypatia, saw that there was a great pushing and shoving against the doors, "of men and horses together,"[8] some approaching, some departing, and some standing by. When he asked what crowd this was and what the tumult at the house was, he heard from those who followed that the philosopher Hypatia was now speaking and that it was her house. When he learned this, his soul was bitten with envy, so that he immediately plotted her death, a most unholy of all deaths. For as she came out as usual many close-packed ferocious men, truly despicable, fearing neither the eye of the gods nor the vengeance of men, killed the philosopher,[9] inflicting this very great pollution and shame on their homeland. And the emperor would have been angry at this, if Aidesios had not been bribed. He remitted the penalty for the murders, but drew this on himself and his family, and his offspring paid the price.
The memory of these [events] still preserved among the Alexandrians reduced very little the honor and zeal of the Alexandrians for Isidore: and although such a threat was impending, nevertheless each strove to keep company with him frequently and to hear the words which came from his wise mouth. As many as excelled in rhetorical or poetic pursuits also welcomed regular association with the philosopher. For even if he was ill-trained in such matters, yet through his philosophical acumen he contributed to these men some greater diligence in their own skills. For he discussed everything with precision and he criticized more judiciously than others the speeches and poems presented. Therefore also in the performance of some literary show he praised sparingly what was presented. His praise was very modest, nevertheless timely and appropriate. Hence all the audience, so to speak, used his judgment as a guide for who spoke better or worse. I know three critics of my time who are able to judge what is said [both with] and without meter. The same man's judgment is recognized for both poems and prose compositions. But I judge the same man to be a creator of both only if equal practice is devoted to both and equal eagerness. I do not say that Isidore was one of these, but was even far inferior to the three. The judges [were] Agapios, Severianus, Nomos. Nomos [is] a contemporary of ours.[10]
Greek Original:
Ὑπατία: ἡ Θέωνος τοῦ γεωμέτρου θυγάτηρ, τοῦ Ἀλεξανδρέως φιλοσόφου, καὶ αὐτὴ φιλόσοφος καὶ πολλοῖς γνώριμος: γυνὴ Ἰσιδώρου τοῦ φιλοσόφου. ἤκμασεν ἐπὶ τῆς βασιλείας Ἀρκαδίου. ἔγραψεν ὑπόμνημα εἰς Διόφαντον, τὸν ἀστρονομικὸν Κανόνα, εἰς τὰ Κωνικὰ Ἀπολλωνίου ὑπόμνημα. αὕτη διεσπάσθη παρὰ τῶν Ἀλεξανδρέων, καὶ τὸ σῶμα αὐτῆς ἐνυβρισθὲν καθ' ὅλην τὴν πόλιν διεσπάρη. τοῦτο δὲ πέπονθε διὰ φθόνον καὶ τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν σοφίαν, καὶ μάλιστα εἰς τὰ περὶ ἀστρονομίαν: ὡς μέν τινες ὑπὸ Κυρίλλου, ὡς δέ τινες διὰ τὸ ἔμφυτον τῶν Ἀλεξανδρέων θράσος καὶ στασιῶδες. πολλοῖς γὰρ καὶ τῶν κατ' αὐτοὺς ἐπισκόπων τοῦτο ἐποίησαν: τὸν Γεώργιον σκόπει καὶ τὸν Προτέριον. Περὶ Ὑπατίας τῆς φιλοσόφου. ἀπόδειξις, ὡς στασιώδεις οἱ Ἀλεξανδρεῖς. αὕτη ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ καὶ ἐγεννήθη καὶ ἀνετράφη καὶ ἐπαιδεύθη. τὴν δὲ φύσιν γενναιοτέρα τοῦ πατρὸς οὖσα οὐκ ἠρκέσθη τοῖς διὰ τῶν μαθημάτων παιδεύμασιν ὑπὸ τῷ πατρί, ἀλλὰ καὶ φιλοσοφίας ἥψατο τῆς ἄλλης οὐκ ἀγεννῶς, περιβαλλομένη δὲ τρίβωνα ἡ γυνὴ καὶ διὰ μέσου τοῦ ἄστεος ποιουμένη τὰς προόδους ἐξηγεῖτο δημοσίᾳ τοῖς ἀκροᾶσθαι βουλομένοις ἢ τὸν Πλάτωνα ἢ τὸν Ἀριστοτέλην ἢ ἄλλου ὅτου δὴ τῶν φιλοσόφων. πρὸς δὲ τῷ διδασκαλικῷ καὶ ἐπ' ἄκρον ἀναβᾶσα τῆς πρακτικῆς ἀρετῆς, δικαία τε καὶ σώφρων γεγονυῖα, διετέλει παρθένος, οὕτω σφόδρα καλή τε οὖσα καὶ εὐειδής, ὥστε καὶ ἐρασθῆναί τινα αὐτῆς τῶν προσφοιτώντων. ὁ δὲ οὐχ οἷός τε ἦν κρατεῖν τοῦ ἔρωτος, ἀλλ' αἴσθησιν ἠδὴ παρείχετο καὶ αὐτῇ τοῦ παθήματος. οἱ μὲν οὖν ἀπαίδευτοι λόγοι φασί, διὰ μουσικῆς αὐτὸν ἀπαλλάξαι τῆς νόσου τὴν Ὑπατίαν: ἡ δὲ ἀλήθεια διαγγέλλει πάλαι μὲν διεφθορέναι τὰ μουσικῆς, αὐτὴν δὲ προενεγκαμένην τι τῶν γυναικείων ῥακῶν αὐτοῦ βαλλομένην καὶ τὸ σύμβολον ἐπιδείξασαν τῆς ἀκαθάρτου γενέσεως, τούτου μέντοι, φάναι, ἐρᾷς, ὦ νεανίσκε, καλοῦ δὲ οὐδενός, τὸν δὲ ὑπ' αἰσχύνης καὶ θάμβους τῆς ἀσχήμονος ἐπιδείξεως διατραπῆναί τε τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ διατεθῆναι σωφρονέστερον. οὕτω δὲ ἔχουσαν τὴν Ὑπατίαν, ἔν τε τοῖς λόγοις οὖσαν ἐντρεχῆ καὶ διαλεκτικὴν ἔν τε τοῖς ἔργοις ἔμφρονά τε καὶ πολιτικήν, ἥ τε ἄλλη πόλις εἰκότως ἠσπάζετό τε καὶ προσεκύνει διαφερόντως, οἵ τε ἄρχον- τες ἀεὶ προχειριζόμενοι τῆς πόλεως ἐφοίτων πρῶτοι πρὸς αὐτήν, ὡς καὶ Ἀθήνησι διετέλει γινόμενον. εἰ γὰρ καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀπόλωλεν, ἀλλὰ τό γε ὄνομα φιλοσοφίας ἔτι μεγαλοπρεπές τε καὶ ἀξιάγαστον εἶναι ἐδόκει τοῖς μεταχειριζομένοις τὰ πρῶτα τῆς πολιτείας. ἤδη γοῦν ποτε συνέβη τὸν ἐπισκοποῦντα τὴν ἀντικειμένην αἵρεσιν Κύριλλον, παριόντα διὰ τοῦ οἴκου τῆς Ὑπατίας, ἰδεῖν πολὺν ὠθισμὸν ὄντα πρὸς ταῖς θύραις, ἐπιμὶξ ἀνδρῶν τε καὶ ἵππων, τῶν μὲν προσιόντων, τῶν δὲ ἀπιόντων, τῶν δὲ καὶ προσισταμένων. ἐρωτήσαντα δὲ ὅ τι εἴη τὸ πλῆθος καὶ περὶ οὗ κατὰ τὴν οἰκίαν ὁ θόρυβος, ἀκοῦσαι παρὰ τῶν ἑπομένων, ὅτι προσαγορεύοιτο νῦν ἡ φιλόσοφος Ὑπατία καὶ ἐκείνης εἶναι τὴν οἰκίαν. μαθόντα δὴ οὕτω δηχθῆναι τὴν ψυχήν, ὥστε φόνον αὐτῇ ταχέως ἐπιβουλεῦσαι, πάντων φόνων ἀνοσιώτατον. προελθούσῃ γὰρ κατὰ τὸ εἰωθὸς ἐπιθέμενοι πολλοὶ ἀθρόοι θηριώδεις ἄνθρωποι, ὡς ἀληθῶς σχέτλιοι, οὔτε θεῶν ὄπιν εἰδότες οὔτ' ἀνθρώπων νέμεσιν ἀναιροῦσι τὴν φιλόσοφον, ἄγος τοῦτο μέγιστον καὶ ὄνειδος προστρεψάμενοι τῇ πατρίδι. καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς ἠγανάκτησεν ἐπὶ τούτῳ, εἰ μὴ Αἰδέσιος ἐδωροδοκήθη. καὶ τῶν μὲν σφαγέων ἀφείλετο τὴν ποινήν, ἐφ' ἑαυτὸν δὲ καὶ γένος τὸ ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ ταύτην ἐπεσπάσατο, καὶ ἐξέπλησε δίκην ὁ τούτου ἔκγονος. τούτων δὲ ἡ μνήμη ἔτι σῳζομένη τοῖς Ἀλεξανδρεῦσι συνέστελλεν εἰς μικρὸν κομιδῆ τὴν περὶ τὸν Ἰσίδωρον τῶν Ἀλεξανδρέων τιμήν τε καὶ σπουδήν: ὅτε καὶ τοιούτου ἐπικρεμαμένου δέους, ὅμως ἕκαστοι ἔσπευδον αὐτῷ συνεῖναι θαμὰ καὶ τῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ σωφρονοῦντος στόματος ἰόντων ἀκροᾶσθαι λόγων. ἐπεὶ καὶ ὅσοι ῥητορικῶν προί̈σταντο διατριβῶν ἢ ποιητικῶν, ἠσπάζοντο τὴν τοῦ φιλοσόφου συχνὴν ὁμιλίαν. εἰ γὰρ καὶ ἀνάγωγος ἦν τὰ τοιαῦτα, ἀλλὰ τῇ γε ἄλλῃ φιλοσόφῳ ἀκριβείᾳ προσετίθει τι καὶ ἐκείνοις ἐπιμελέστερον εἰς τὰ σφέτερα αὐτῶν τεχνύδρια. τά τε γὰρ ἄλλα διηκρίβωτο καὶ τῶν ἐπιδεικνυμένων λόγων τε καὶ ποιημάτων κρίσιν ἐποιεῖτο διαφέρουσαν τῶν ἄλλων. διὸ καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἐπί τινι λογικῇ ἀκροάσει θεάτροις ὀλίγα μὲν ἐπῄνει τοὺς ἐπιδεικνυμένους, καὶ πάνυ ἡσυχάζοντι τῷ ἐπαίνῳ: καιρίως δὲ ὅμως καὶ κατὰ λόγον. ὅθεν ἅπαν τὸ θέατρον, ὡς εἰπεῖν, τῇ ἐκείνου κρίσει γνώμονι διεχρῆτο τῶν ἄμεινον ἢ χεῖρον λεγόντων. τῶν δὲ ἐπ' ἐμοῦ γεγονότων κριτικοὺς ἄνδρας ἐπίσταμαι τρεῖς τὰ λεγόμενα κρίνειν δυναμένους ἄνευ τε μέτρου: τοῦ γὰρ αὐτοῦ ἡ μὲν κρίσις ὁμολογεῖται οὖσα ποιημάτων καὶ συγγραμμάτων. ἐγὼ δὲ καὶ δημιουργὸν ἡγοῦμαι τὸν αὐτὸν ἑκατέρων: μόνον εἰ γυμνασία πρὸς ἑκάτερον ἴση γένοιτο καὶ διὰ προθυμίας τῆς ἴσης. ἕνα δὲ τούτων οὔ φημι τὸν Ἰσίδωρον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πολλῷ ἐλαττοῦσθαι τῶν τριῶν. οἱ δὲ κριταὶ Ἀγάπιος, Σεβηριανός, Νόμος. ἡμέτερος δὲ ἡλικιώτης ὁ Νόμος.
d. AD 415. See generally OCD(4) s.v.
Athanassiadi (see bibliography) includes parts of this entry at 43A-43C, 43E, and 106B.
This biography of Hypatia consists of fragments from Damascius' Life of Isidore and perhaps from Hesychius of Miletus. General information on Hypatia may be found at web address 1. On Cyril of Alexandria and his possible responsibility, see the Catholic Encyclopedia entry at web address 2.
[1] Theon: theta 205.
[2] Isidore: iota 631. This marriage is chronologically impossible. Photius (Bibliotheca 346b14) quotes Damascius as saying, "Isidore was very different from Hypatia, not only as a man is from a woman, but also as a true philosopher is from a geometrician" (ὁ Ἰσίδωρος πολὺ διαφέρων ἦν τῆς Ὑπατίας, οὐ μόνον οἷα γυναικὸς ἀνήρ, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἷα γεομετρικῆς τῷ ὄντι φιλόσοφος ). As Asmus points out, the Suda compiler misinterpreted this passage as if it referred to the two philosophers as man and wife.
[3] Flavius Arcadius, Eastern Roman emperor AD 383-408.
[4] On Diophantos, see the notes at delta 1219.
[5] Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria.
[6] Photius reports similar information from Philostorgius the Arian historian, who attributed Hypatia's murder to adherents of the Nicene party (homoousians): Bidez-Winkelmann p. 111.
[7] Menstrual cloths from Ancient Egypt are known from laundry lists. See Jaana Toivari-Viitala Women at Deir el-Medina p. 162 (information from Suzanne Onstine).
[8] cf. Homer, Iliad 21.16.
[9] Athanassiadi believes that the fragment found at upsilon 579 belongs here.
[10] cf. nu 477, sigma 180.
Asmus, J. R. "Zur Rekonstruktion von Damascius' Leben des Isidorus." BZ 18 (1909) 424-480
Belenkiy, Ari, "The Novatian 'Indifferent Canon' and Pascha in Alexandria in 414: Hypatia's Murder Case Reopened." Vigiliae Christianae 70 (2016) 373-400
Damascius, The Philosophical History, ed. & trans. P. Athanassiadi (Athens 1999)
Deakin, Michael, Hypatia of Alexandria: Mathematician and Martyr (2007)
Dzielska, Maria, Hypatia of Alexandria, F. Lyra, tr. (Cambridge MA, 1996)
Rist, J.M., "Hypatia," Phoenix 19 (1965) 214-225
Watts, Edward J., Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher (2017)
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: biography; Christianity; chronology; clothing; daily life; ethics; gender and sexuality; geography; history; mathematics; medicine; meter and music; philosophy; poetry; religion; rhetoric; science and technology; women
Translated by: Catharine Roth on 9 December 2002@00:44:11.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords; cosmetics) on 9 December 2002@03:22:29.
Catharine Roth (modified translation with help from Athanassiadi's version; augmented notes) on 8 February 2003@01:05:50.
Patrick T. Rourke (Minor cosmetic issues) on 18 May 2003@22:52:31.
William Hutton (Cosmetics and minor changes in wording; added keywords, set status) on 19 May 2003@08:45:59.
William Hutton (Added bibliography item) on 19 May 2003@21:32:51.
Catharine Roth (added note) on 28 November 2004@23:28:10.
Catharine Roth (added keyword) on 29 September 2005@01:54:09.
Catharine Roth (added another keyword) on 1 October 2005@17:56:30.
David Whitehead (added x-ref to H's father; another keyword) on 4 May 2006@04:10:02.
Catharine Roth (added note 7, augmented bibliography) on 21 March 2008@21:50:30.
Catharine Roth (augmented note 7) on 21 March 2008@22:10:52.
Catharine Roth (added bibliography) on 20 May 2008@15:56:05.
Elizabeth Vandiver (minor cosmetics) on 25 August 2011@21:36:37.
David Whitehead (another keyword; cosmetics; raised status) on 20 November 2013@09:30:28.
David Whitehead on 5 August 2014@06:27:52.
Catharine Roth (augmented bibliography) on 23 April 2017@02:04:46.
Catharine Roth (added bibliographical item) on 1 November 2017@00:47:08.
Catharine Roth (removed defunct link) on 2 November 2017@10:51:22.
Catharine Roth (tweaked translation at the instigation of Ari Belenkiy) on 8 December 2017@01:28:24.
Catharine Roth (modified notes, typo) on 25 January 2018@01:27:09.
Catharine Roth (expanded notes, added bibliography) on 22 July 2018@23:10:08.


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