Carl Sagan on The Great library at Alexandria
Historian Bethany Hughes on Hypatia, the last head of the Platonist school at Alexandria
If you watched the clips you’ll get an appreciation for a little celebrated historical figure. Hypatia (ca.355 or 370 – March 415/ 416 A.D.) was a Greek Neo-Platonist philosopher in Roman Egypt who was the first well-documented woman in mathematics. As head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, she also taught philosophy and astronomy. ( http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/gm/a/100909Hypatia.htm )
Stories of why/how she was murdered differ a little but what they all have in common is that her teachings were in direct opposition with Cyril (c. 376 – 444) the Bishop of Alexandria ambitions. He hated paganism and science, he wanted to grow the Christian church’s power no matter who had to be killed. Hypatia was a threat to him not because she was anti-Christian but because she was a woman of science (A narrow-minded view that persist today if you look at the GOP’s ethos) his followers followed/kidnapped her and in a grotesque bastardization of their spiritual beliefs and teaching savagely flayed the flesh of her bones and burned her remains. After that the great library was burned down, the Bishop later became St Cyril I, the 24th Pope of Alexandria.
We must remember men like Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria, not for the religious rhetoric that is responsible for turning him into a saint, but the brutality that even today we commit in the name of the divine. People need to look uncomfortably deep at our sacred truths and take ownership of the immeasurable loss we (the entire species) have suffered at the hands of the so-called pious.
We must celebrate individuals like Hypatia who broke-though traditional male roles in her pursuit of knowledge and equality.
Every epoch has its villains and heroes it’s devils and saints–all are part of the rich history that has gotten each of us to this very site, we can gleam and exalt our spiritual/cultural achievements, but what we must never do is confuse the devil for the saints and never remain mute about religion’s brutality. For me personally it takes more courage not to vilify everyone who tells me God loves you, to me what they are saying is that they love me–even if it comes with certain hang-ups.