Hypatia of Alexandria - links to academic essays.

Cyril, (John Toland, 1720) History of Hypatia, a most impudent School-Mistress of Alexandria.

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If it is true that the conflict she found herself involved in – eternal, and cutting across the very same Pagan upper classes, in large part Christianised, especially after the Theodosian Decrees - was between fundamentalism and moderation, dogmatism and open-mindedness, it is also true that Hypatia was a charismatic, priestly figure, a mentor of consciences and an “initiator” in the esoteric teachings of Platonism: a “woman-philosopher,” as long as we understand philosophia as that particular relationship between the female and the sphere of the sacred, of the super-rational, that is typical of the spirituality of Late Antiquity.

- 415 C.E.) Hypatia of Alexandria is considered to be the first woman to make anysubstantial contributions to the development of mathematics.

Also see Douglas Kellner, SEP, EB, and Susana Raquel Barbosa

A book such as City and School in late antique Athens and Alexandria (Watts 2008) successfully brings to life the vibrant atmosphere of centuries rich in emotions and intellectual undertakings.

He was responsible for much of the greatnessof Alexandria, even though much of the work was completed by his son,Ptolemy II.

The most distinguished Syriac scholar of thislater period (d. 666-7), Bishop ofKennesrin. He wrote letters on theological subjects to Basil of Cyprusand Sergius, abbot of Skiggar, as well as two discourses on St. GregoryNazianzen. On Aristotelian logic he composed a treatise on thesyllogisms in the Analytics of Aristotle, a commentary on theHermeneutics which was based on the commentary of Paul the Persian, aletter to Aitilaha of Mosul on certain terms used in the Hermeneutics(Brit. Mus. Add. 17156), and a letter to the periodeutes Yaunan on thelogic of Aristotle (Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. 2812). In addition to theseworks on logic he also wrote on astronomical subjects (Brit. Mus. Add.14538), and composed a treatise on the astronomical instrument known asthe astrolabe, which has been edited and published by F. Nau (Paris,1899). In all this he showed himself the product of Alexandrianscience and illustrated the widening scientific interests of theperiod. It seems that he took steps towards introducing the Indiannumerals, but this was not carried on by any immediate successor. Hiswork represents the highest level reached by any Syriac scientist andthis, it will be noted, was associated with Kennesrin.

Hypatia of Alexandria was the greatest female philosopher of her time and one of the greatest of all time.


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From examination of these sources, together with other contemporary evidence, as well as Synesius’ Epistolary, a complex picture of the tensions and social and political conflicts in 4th to 5th century Alexandria emerges, which makes it impossible to reduce the issue of Hypatia’s assassination to a clash between Paganism and Christianity.

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If ecclesiastical authority tended to interfere constantly in the jurisdiction of the prefect Orestes and the Roman-Constantinopolitan central government – the very erosion of state power by the Church dreaded by the Alexandrian aristocracy (Pagan as well as moderate Christian) of which Hypatia was a spokesperson -, the conviction or exaltation of the feared bishop is a litmus test of the position that every historian or literary interpreter assumes with respect to relations between Church and State.

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This rather scanty and scattered informationrepresents what could be learned from Indian embassies comng to theRoman Empire or from travellers' reports. It gives no indication ofanything which would have been gained from Buddhist propaganda in theGraeco-Roman world and this, in conjunction with the silence of theCeylon chronicles, seems conclusive. The belief that there must havebeen effective Buddhist missions as far as Egypt rests on theassumption that the Christian ascetic life which arose in Egyptnecessarily had a Buddhist origin, but this is not proved: Egyptianmonasticism had an independent origin which can be satisfactorilytraced. The later philosophical schools of Alexandria were fond ofreferring to Indian ascetes, but do not show any real familiarity withthem. There remains the possibility that the teaching of the Gnosticsects which arose in Mesopotamia give signs of Buddhist influence. Thatseems likely, but here again there is as yet no definite proof.

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The most celebrated of all translators of Greekscientific works into Arabic was (d.873 or 877) The outline of his life and work are well known from hisautobiography written in the form of letters to 'Ali ibn Yahya in 875.(Text from two manuscripts in the Aya Sofia Mosque at Stambul, ed. withtranslation by G. Bergestrasser, Leipzig, 1925.) He was a native ofHira, the son of a Christian (Nestorian) druggist. In later life helearned Arabic, so presumably he did not belong to the ruling class ofHira which was Arabic-speaking, and this is endorsed by his name'Abadi, which shows that he belonged to the subject people of Hira. Asa young man he attended the lectures of Ibn Masawaih (above) atJundi-Shapur, and so far earned. the approval of his teacher that hewas made his dispenser. But later he annoyed Ibn Masawaih by asking toomany questions in class, and at least his teacher lost patience andsaid: "What have the people of Hira to do with medicine? -- go andchange money in the streets," and drove him out weeping (Ibn al-Qifti,174). Expelled from the academy Hunayn went away to "the land of theGreeks" and there obtained a sound knowledge of the Greek language andfamiliarity with textual criticism such as had been developed inAlexandria. In due course he returned and settled for a time at Basrawhere he studied Arabic under Yhalid ibn Ahmad then, some time before826, proceeded to Baghdad where he obtained the patronage of Jibra'iland for him prepared translations of some of Galen's works. Harunar-Rashid died in 808 and al-Ma'mun succeeded in 813, after the briefand stormy reign of al-Amin, so that Hunayn's activities belong to aperiod later than Harun ar-Rashid. The excellence of his translations,far surpassing any previous work of the sort, greatly impressedJibra'il who then introduced him to the three "Sons of Musa", wealthypatrons of learning. Their father, Musa ibn Shakir, after a life spentin the lucrative profession of a brigand in Khurasan, had reformed andbeen pardoned, then settled down to spend his declining years incultured leisure. He entrusted his sons to the Khalif al-Ma'mun, whoappointed Ishaq ibn Ibrahim, and later Yahya ibn Abi Mansur to be theirteachers, and from those preceptors they received a training inmathematics. They were not so much interested in medicine, butpatronized Hunayn chiefly because of his excellence as a translator. Ofthese "Sons of Musa" the eldest Muhammad rose to high office under theKhalif al Motadid (892-932), and distinguished himself in astronomy andgeometry, a second son Ahmad excelled in mechanics, and the third sonHasan attained celebrity in geometry. They had a house in Baghdad nearthe Bab at-Taq, the gate at the eastern end of the main bridge over theTigris, opening into the great market street of East Baghdad, and therethey built an observatory where they made observations during the years850-870. To them we owe a treatise on plane and spherical geometry, acollection of geometrical problems and a manual of geometry which wastranslated into Latin by Gerhard of Cremona (d. 1187) as "Liber TriumFratrum de geometria" (ed. M. Curtze in xlix,109-167), whichlong held its own as an introduction to geometry. They were generouspatrons of scientific research and according to Ibn Abi Usaibi'a spentat one time an average Of 500 dinars (say £200) a month on theirscientific proteges.