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Paperback Hypatia of Alexandria Book

ISBN: 0674437764

ISBN13: 9780674437760

Hypatia of Alexandria

(Part of the Revealing Antiquity Series)

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Book Overview

Hypatia--brilliant mathematician, eloquent Neoplatonist, and a woman renowned for her beauty--was brutally murdered by a mob of Christians in Alexandria in 415. She has been a legend ever since. In this engrossing book, Maria Dzielska searches behind the legend to bring us the real story of Hypatia's life and death, and new insight into her colorful world.Historians and poets, Victorian novelists and contemporary feminists have seen Hypatia as a symbol--of...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Legend and history.

Prof. Dzielska unravels the real life and murder of Hypatia.Instead of the legendary young virgin martyr for paganism, she sketches a, for the period, remarkable older woman and teacher of neoplatonism and tolerance.Her murder was instigated by the vicious ploys of a jealous catholic archbishop and executed by his ignorant mob. It was a political murder.This book should be read because it treats of an age-old conflict that still rages in the world today: the power struggle between the civil (secular) and religious authorities.This small work is a difficult (based on very few original sources), but very convincing reconstitution of the life of one of the very few known remarkable women of that age. A revealing work.

Female Socrates

Socrates was executed by the state of Athens as a scapegoat for its defeat by the Spartans. His crime was being a free thinker in a short age of turmoil. He was however fondly remembered and documented. Hypatia was first brought to my attention by Carl Sagan in his television series Cosmos. She has often been represented as a pillar of wisdom in an age of growing dogma. Unlike with Socrates we know much less about her life and teachings. She is remembered precisely as a martyr who was sacrificed rather than executed by a literalist Christian mob inspired by "St" Cyril, apparently as she was regarded as a threat to Christendom and theology by certain regio-political figures. Enough material on her survived not least owing to the strong memories evoked at the manner of her despatch which turned her into a historical icon.This excellent short well sourced book is a biographic scenography in the best sense of the word. It does not sadly cover the destruction of the great library or go into great length about the history and politics of 4th century Alexandria but it blows the cobwebs and embelishments that are associated with this enigmatic figure leaving a strong, uncompromising educated presence who would have been of extreme high standing to have obtained the death she received at the hands of bigots.The importance of Hypatia is that she represents a phase in history where Greek religion was being destroyed by the then politicised Roman state religion. Hypatia represents a tragic victim of this dark phase when a great deal of knowledge was irrevocably lost (e.g.Gandy and Freke, the Jesus Mysteries etc.,).To know the real Hypatia, and that phase of history, this is one of the best places to begin.

Going behind the curtain . . .

Those who have an interest in the Fourth Century are familiar with the name Hypatia of Alexandria. Unfortunately she has become a figure of legend and myth. Maria Dzielska's small, short book (106 pages, each about 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" ) first examines the various persons that made her a myth, as well as their motivations. It then goes to the source documents, sorts through the credibility of each, and then redraws our picture of Hypatia. (For example, most encyclopedias give Hypatia's date of birth as about 370. Dzielska builds a strong case that she was born about 15 years earlier than that, and was in her 60's when she was murdered). This book excels in distinguishing fact from fiction - in other words it is a work of historical research. Dzielska also points out where her knowledge ends and her inferences begin. This virtue - once known as humility - also contributes to the value of this book. As one would expect, it has an annotated bibliography ("Sources"), is fully footnoted, and includes a good index. Those whose interest in Hypatia involves "her meaning" may be disappointed; those who want the truth about her will find this a useful piece of research and analysis. Maria Dzielska's book could be used as a sourcebook on HOW historical figures are appropriated for the political or religious agendas of persons less interested in "the facts" than "making a point". This alone makes it of wider interest than it might otherwise appear.

A realistic view of Hypatia

I had placed this book on my wish list because it came to my attention through a friend with similar interests. He generously sent it to me, and I must say I enjoyed it. This is probably more for the individual interested in how historical research is done than for someone looking for an indepth account of the lady's life. Although it will give you a very realistic assessment of her life and times in the two concluding chapters, it gives a scholarly assessment of available primary resoureces as its foundation before doing so. And rightly so, since as the first chapter makes abundantly clear, a lot of sentimental nonsense has been written about the person of Hypatia on next to no basis at all. More than anything the character of Hypatia that is presented by these authors has been designed to illustrate some point of importance or some axe to grind by that individual author. Her actual personality and life history become secondary to those goals as she becomes the center of parable.

A great book about a truly GREAT woman

To be fair, I must admit at the outset that Hypatia of Alexandria is my all time favorite female in world history. That may make my review of this book a bit slanted. For those who may not be familiar w/Hyaptia, she was a neo-Platonic philosopher / astronomer / physicist / mathmatician (among other things) at the library of Alexandria shortly before it was burned to the ground by an angry mob. To back up: the library of Alexandria was the idea of one Alexander the Great. Although he never lived to see it, Alexander wanted a place where scholars from all over the world & from all cultures could come together & share knowledge. The dream was realized when one of his generals built the library. It is also good to keep in mind that had the library not been burned down (according to the late Carl Sagan the building had over 1 million scrolls at its height), we would likely have made it to the moon long before 1,000 A.D. The amount of scientific, literary and historical texts and data that were lost is nothing less than astounding. Hypatia was one of the last teachers to work at the library before its untimely destruction. It is said that she had the form of Aphrodite & the spirit of Plato. A truly remarkable woman, she excelled in sundry fields of intellectual endeavor at a time when women were supposed to be silent & were thought of as stupid. Read this book, especially you ladies in the world. Hypatia is a testament to the human greatness that lies in the heart of us all.
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