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Texas, United States

4/13/2013

And So Our Bloody History Goes On...And On...And On...


Hypatia ?-415 A.D. (Hi-pat-cha)
***
Her exact date of birth is not known but Hypatia was 
believed to be between 40 and 60 years old when she was martyred by zealous Christians in 415 A.D. 
History reveals ancient popes and bishops tortured 
to death at least as many innocent martyrs 
as "heathen" Pagans did.
***
Hypatia was a Greek Neo-Platonist philosopher who was the first 
full-documented woman in mathematics. She was also an 
astronomer, teacher, editor, inventor, and musician.

She became head of the Platonist school at Alexandria and taught philosophy and astronomy there. She was of the intellectual school of the 3rd century thinker Plotinus, which encouraged logic and mathematical study in place of empirical enquiry (experiment instead of theory), and strongly encouraged law in place of nature. She was educated at Athens. She imparted the knowledge of Plato and Aristotle to any student interested; her pupils included pagans, Christians, and foreigners. Because of self-assurance and ease of manner which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she frequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates. She evidently felt neither abashed or inhibited going to an assembly of men only. 

It is disputed if she ever married. I found it noted, that like many geniuses, Hypatia likely had a "prickly" personality. That "historian" used as evidence the only anecdote that offers an insight into her personal life, which has her hurling her "menstrual rags" at a lovesick student and saying, "They demonstrate nothing beautiful about carnal desire."


That little temper fit response lends itself to all kinds of interpretation, but I'll refrain from a "thorny" feminine opinion. I have had experience with and totally comprehend PMS. 


No written work, widely recognized by scholars as Hypatia's own has survived to the present time. Many of the works commonly attributed to her are believed to have been collaborative works with her father, Theon Alexandricus. This kind of authorial uncertainty is, unfortunately, typical for female philosophers in Antiquity. 

It still makes me wonder why we seem to have so many more details about the way back B.C. Pharaoh's of Ancient Egypt than we do about the early Christian centuries including the life of Jesus. We allegedly know of all the Pharaoh's dalliances, especially the last, Cleopatra....names, dates, mistakes, places and "affairs."

Hypatia is known with certainty to have edited a number of works in collaboration with her father, who was the last director of the Museion that was the center of scholarship in the classical world...kinda like Harvard and Oxford are today I suppose.  Among those works were a commentary on the 13-volume Arithmetica by Diophantus. She also edited Theon’s commentary on Euclid's Elements, which was likely the basis for every geometry text for the next fifteen centuries.


Contemporary 5th-century sources do identify Hypatia of Alexandria as a practitioner and teacher of the philosophy of Plato and Plotinus, but, two hundred years later, the 7th-century Egyptian Coptic bishop, John of Nikiu, identified her as a Hellenistic pagan and alleged that she was devoted at all times to magic,astrolabes,(early sextants) and instruments of music, and  beguiled many people through her Satanic "devotion." Not all Christians were as hostile towards her as John of Nikiu or the monks who killed her: Some early Christians used Hypatia as symbolic of Virtue, somewhat similar to the way they venerate the "Virgin" Mary today

Since she was trained in the philosophical schools of Plato and Plotinus, she was admired by most of her contemporary scholars for her dignity,virtue, and wisdom. Of the anger she provoked among Christians, Scholasticus, a Greek Christian church historian of the times, wrote, "Hypatia ultimately fell victim to the political jealousy which at the time prevailed.The Roman Governor, Orestes, was known to seek her counsel, and a rumor spread among the Christian community of Alexandria in which she was blamed for his unwillingness to reconcile a disagreement with Bishop Cyril."

 A mob of Christians gathered, led by a  minor cleric named Peter, whom Scholasticus described as a fanatic. They kidnapped Hypatia on her way home and took her to a Church called Caesareum.The Caesareum in Alexandria was a temple conceived by Cleopatra to honor her lover, Mark Antony, and believed to be where she committed suicide. It was converted to a Christian church in the late 4th century and was the headquarters of Bishop Cyril. The angry mob stripped her naked and murdered her. Scholasticus is interpreted as saying that, while she was still alive, Hypatia's flesh was torn off using oyster shells, the Greek word is "ostrakois," also used to describe brick tiles on the roofs of houses as well as to denote pottery shards.  Afterward, the men proceeded to mutilate her, and finally burn her limbs. When news broke of Hypatia's murder, it provoked great public denouncement, not only against Bishop Cyril, but against the whole Alexandrian Christian community. The sins of a few indeed can affect all.

Scholasticus closed his account of what happened to 
Hypatia with this lament:

"Surely nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity 
than the allowance of massacres,fights, and transactions of that sort."

School of Athens 
is an immense painting  in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, it is one of a series of four frescoes painted by Raphael, representing branches of knowledge, this one is dedicated to philosophy as a path to knowledge and especially relates to understanding the causes that drive knowledge.
  
All of the philosophers shown in the fresco traditionally sought knowledge through an understanding of root causes, tying back to the title and theme of the fresco. The painting is considered by some to be Raphael's greatest masterpiece...but he did not leave a description and it is unknown whether he alone devised who would be included and how they would be portrayed, or whether Pope Julius II, who commissioned the painting, contributed his "disputable" input.  It's certainly evident in the Vatican that Julius II commanded the greatest masters of the day to decorate his "private" opulent palace of "worship" floor to ceiling.
Murky Shades of Egyptian Pharaohs & Roman Caesars!

Those who can be identified with some certainty are: Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Pythagoras, Euclid, Ptolemy, Zoroaster, Raphael, Sodoma and Diogenes. Other identifications are more or less speculative, including whether the only woman in the group is indeed Hypatia. 

"Stands to reason," I thought when I marveled at that wall and contemplated the huge fresco in one of the museums in the Vatican, this one known as Stanze di Raffaello. The building is in the shape of a Greek cross which some have suggested was intended to show a harmony between Pagan philosophy and Christian theology. Hum..... 



Detail of Hypatia on a fantastic huge wall painting by iconographer, Mark Dukes, located in an Episcopal church in San Francisco depicting a lot of the never officially proclaimed "saints" line dancing. When I first viewed it, I thought surely Mark must have had a snappy Texas country tune in his brilliant head while he worked. 

If you want to boggle your mind with master frescoes,  exquisite marble sculptures, and the results of the ultimate egomaniac, infamous Pope Julius II, nicknamed "The Fearsome Pope" as well as "II Papa Terribile" ... take a tour of the Vatican museums.
 I have not thought the same about dogma ever since I viewed truths I had not imagined existed prior to that trip to Italy to critique for myself 
some of the greatest artistic creators and thinkers in history. 

There are many interpretations written of who the ancient philosophers, artists, and astrologers really were, just as there are many versions of who the Divine Creator really is.We are very fortunate indeed that most of us are free in this day and time to make up our own minds...though some are still not allowed to do so...such as the young girl from Pakistan whose brother recently hacked her with an ax 15 times trying to kill her as a matter of "honor," as he had slayed the younger man she ran away with to escape her abusive tyrant old husband her parents had forced her to marry when she was 14 and he was 60. It is apparent neither her parents nor their religion consider her brother did anything wrong, they still blame her for surviving and not being willing to conform to their archaic beliefs.
*****
Hypatia Quotes

"All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.
"***
"Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all."
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"Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things 
that are at our door is the best preparation for 
understanding those that lie beyond."
***
"In fact, men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth-often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you cannot get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable."
***

"Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain, and perhaps tragedy  can he be in after years relieved of them."


***

In this painting, Philosopher Of Alexandria, by 15th century Italian Renaissance artist, Masolino da Panicale, Hypatia is depicted with a halo, implying she was venerated as someone "special." I surmise she was just as often misrepresented and defiled by various ancient popes and clergy as Mary Magdalene was, but I think not by brilliant master artist's, because they almost always depicted her
 beautiful as they did Mary M.

In the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries in countries all over the world, Hypatia was still portrayed any where from being a satanic evil witch, to being a loving, saintly, and
 virtuous teacher.She has remained ever since her martyr the subject of countless essays, books, plays, and several movies. 

Most 21st century scholars now consider Hypatia to have 
been a "Universal Genius" born at a time pagan and any other woman were not believed to be as brilliant as men were who converted to 
Christianity to preach the message they muddled so ignorantly
 of Jesus..."The King Of Peace"...who thus became an inspiration for men to commit horrible crimes in his name...just as Mohammed still is being an inspiration, an ancient concerned Prophet 
who initially wanted to escape the  condemnation of Jews and Christians of his era and formed his own opinions and flock, still misinterpreted horribly by present day terrorists who believe slaying those who don't agree with you is a matter of "honor."

Oh dear God!...if there is a Supreme Creator...how “IT” must weep tears of torment at humanity's continued ignorance!
*****
And so our bloody history goes on...and on...and on...

16 comments:

Nancy Alborell said...

Really marvelous! I'd never heard of her until I read this. Now do Boadicea! I've always loved the story of Boadicea.

Monica Brinkman said...

I was mesmorized by this story. Your last sentence struck home and I hope others will open their eyes and see the truths and the reality of religion.

Anna Maria said...

Thanks Nancy, too bad the English early A.D. historians didn't document Boadicea and left it up to the Romans to tell the tale. She is definitely another great story of a brave woman never given her due.

Anna Maria said...

Monica...I'm happy you liked the story. So true and so sad that many are blinded with hate by ancient religions...Especially since the intent should be just the opposite.

Hausdorff said...

Yeah, Hypatia is awesome! Whenever I need a name for a female character in a game Hypatia is my go to.

It has been quite a number of years since I first heard of her at a history of math presentation, but as I remember it we don't have evidence that she did much original work. Instead, she spent her energy preserving previous work that was likely to get destroyed during the times she was living. As you said, she did a lot of work preserving Euclid's elements, which is just one example of the many things that made it through those turbulent times thanks to her.

Anna Maria said...

She was awesome Hausdorff...I ran across Hypatia decades ago when I decided to research my religion, which ultimately changed my mind about a lot of things. Still makes me wonder why so many intellectuals and scholars were persecuted by religion, when for the most part, they were simply dedicated to searching for truth.

c emerson said...

> Still makes me wonder why so many intellectuals and scholars were persecuted by religion, when for the most part, they were simply dedicated to searching for truth.

Nice post. This H quote from your post is great and may be a clue to your own query:

"In fact, men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth-often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you cannot get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable."

It's somewhere in human nature to defend irrational positions and fight against 'truth' - but why is that ....

Anna Maria said...

Thanks C. Emerson. "The child mind accepts and believes them,(fables, myths, superstitions" and only through great pain, and perhaps tragedy, can he be in after years relieved of them."

I think this quote of hers also explains a lot. My Mother raised me in her faith but understood why I had to give it up, but she encouraged me to research and write and I'll ever be grateful for that.

Anna Maria said...

C. Emerson...in light of what happened in Boston yesterday, and your question as to why it is in human nature to fight against truth...I was appalled this morning at the string of politicians, and even some friends on Facebook, calling for blood as if it didn't matter whose blood was spilled

I had to wonder at the politician who wants to throw all the immigrants out. Gee, everyone who lives in America is an immigrant or relative of one, except the Native Americans.

I do wish they would wait until it is known for certain who perpetrated the horror before they start waving swords...and even then they shouldn't. We have a capable judicial system in place to punish those who can't reside peacefully with society.

GRACE PETERSON said...

Anna this is so interesting. I have trouble understanding the nature of some people and how violence is ever justified, especially violence on the innocent. Thank you for sharing. I see a new side to you and I'm very impressed!

Anna Maria said...

Thanks Grace...when I was a young, my relatives called me the "inquisitive child who wants to know everything." Well, I don't, but it's not for lack of trying. My research on religion that started in my mid 30's taught me more than I sometimes wonder if I ever wanted to know.

It's kinda like my granddaughter and her brother I live with who have raised show swine the last six years. I've learned waaaaay more than I ever wanted to know about pigs. :)

Anna Maria said...

Darn! I KNOW I don't have to click but once here to post or I'm going to duplicate...but I keep forgetting because my dumb computer makes me click a number of times to open anything else. +&*#!&!!!!

DMS said...

WOW! I must say I learned a ton here today. I am still trying to absorb it all. I realized after reading this how little I know about Hypatia. I must read more about her.

I hope we can all spread happiness and kindness instead of hate.
~Jess

c emerson said...

> I've learned waaaaay more than I ever wanted to know about pigs. :)

Yes indeed, but it can really be rewarding sometimes to play in mud puddles, don't you think?

As to Boston, I agree with you entirely. Some of these same politicians willing to look for blood without facts would probably have been happy to wipe out the Native Americans as this country full of good people so readily did during its expansionist years. Good post. Thanks

Anna Maria said...

Jess...the wonderful children's books you write and review are excellent tools to teach the young to enjoy reading...and thinking...aware they are fables to entertain the imagination.

I wonder if back in Hypatia's day they had such useful tools...or was is just religion or "pagan" philosophy kids had access to.

Anna Maria said...

Thank you C.Emerson...yes indeed, the kids having to keep those pig pens clean for months is well rewarded when they get ribbons and rewards at the auctions.

So true...our own history is not that pleasant to contemplate considering the motive they had to extinguish the Native Americans who had long lived here without polluting it as we have.