Hypatia of Alexandria
Hypatia of Alexandria was a Hellenized Egyptian female, philosopher, mathematician and teacher who lived in one of the worst times for a person with all the credentials I have just mentioned: The start of the Dark Ages. Although Egypt, as part of the Eastern Roman Empire escaped to the collapse of the Western state, it did not escape the destruction of knowledge and the thousand years of scientific stagnation brought up by the victorious Christian faith.
She was born in Egypt, either between 350 and 370 C.E. She was the last fellow of the Museum of Alexandria, associated with the once Great Library of Alexandria. She lectured in mathematics, philosophy and became head of the Platonist School circa 400 C.E. She is famous for commentaries on Diophantus's Arithmetica, on Apollonius' Conics and on Ptolemy's writings. None of those works have reached our times (I wonder why)
Hypatia lived the conflict between the dying Hellenistic culture and the rising Christian faith. The days of Julian were long gone. Theodosius "the Great" became emperor in the East in 379 C.E and of the unified Empire in 392 C.E. In 380 C.E. he decreed the end of religious diversity with the Codex Theodosianus 16.1.2. In 381 C.E. he started a campaign to end the remnants of the Arian Christianity. When he finished them, in 391 C.E he ordered the destruction of all hellenistic temples. Patriarch Theophilus complied with this request in Alexandria. Soon the Hellenistic temples and the libraries associated with them were looted and destroyed to its foundations to build Christian churches on top and with their remains. How many people died during those events? No one knows, we do not have records of that (I wonder why). The 95-year-old hierophant Nestorius predicted the "predominance of mental darkness over the human race"
Hypatia, corageously defended the remnants of the libraries and constantly was at odds with the Christian Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria. In 415 C.E., a Christian mob, tolerated by Cyril, killed her. According to John, Bishop of Nikiu, a 7th century author "a multitude of believers in God arose under the guidance of Peter the magistrate – now this Peter was a perfect believer in all respects in Jesus Christ – and they proceeded to seek for the pagan woman who had beguiled the people of the city and the prefect through her enchantments. And when they learnt the place where she was, they proceeded to her and found her seated on a (lofty) chair; and having made her descend they dragged her along till they brought her to the great church, named Caesarion. Now this was in the days of the fast. And they tore off her clothing and dragged her through the streets of the city till she died. And they carried her to a place named Cinaron, and they burned her body with fire. And all the people surrounded the patriarch Cyril and named him 'the new Theophilus'; for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city." The Catholic encyclopedia describes the death like this: "and tore her flesh with potsherds till she died."
In these days, in which conservative Christians claim there is a "war" against them, we have to remind them of their history and what they did to humanity 1600 years ago. We should not let them silence the voice of knowledge to be replaced with the spider web of superstition. Let Hypatia be the hero and lets not forget her. As she taught: "Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all. To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing."