Thursday 20 March 2014

Myths and Propaganda: The Martyrdom of Hypatia

In this well sourced and informative look at the murder of Hypatia, the fourth century Greek Alexandrine Neoplatonist philosopher, Youtuber CoryTheRaven deconstructs the modern myths surrounding her death. 

In her book, Hypatia of Alexandria, Maria Dzielska illustrates how Hypatia became a powerful symbol of the persecution of science by the religious:

Long before the first scholarly attempts to reconstruct an accurate image of Hypatia, her life—marked by the dramatic circumstances of her death—had been imbued with legend. Artistically embellished, distorted by emotions and ideological biases, the legend has enjoyed wide popularity for centuries, obstructing scholarly endeavors to present Hypatia’s life impartially, and it persists to this day. Ask who Hypatia was, and you will probably be told: ‘‘She was that beautiful young pagan philosopher who was torn to pieces by monks (or, more generally, by Christians) in Alexandria in 415.’’ This pat answer would be based not on ancient sources, but on a mass of belletristic and historical literature, a representative sample of which is surveyed in this chapter. Most of these works present Hypatia as an innocent victim of the fanaticism of nascent Christianity, and her murder as marking the banishment of freedom of inquiry along with the Greek gods.
For a comprehensive scholarly review of the limited sources available on Hypatia's life and death, and the complex Alexandrian politics that surrounded her, read Dzielska's accessible and short book.

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