Ancient Archive // Hypatia of Alexandria – That Bitch of 300’s Era Egypt

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Welcome to Ancient Archives where I tell you about a cool historical figure or place or situation and try and make it fun and entertaining.

I am not a history major or have a degree in history. I didn’t even finish Uni.
I’m just a gal that thinks there’s loads of fun stuff to learn about history if people just made it interesting instead of boring.

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Look, I barely passed Modern History in high school (we didn’t even touch ancient history) because my teacher was so boring I just wanted to sleep. All I learned from those classes was that the Cold War was a bunch of guys throwing a hissy fit instead of talking and that women had it rough in Salem during 1692-1693 (which, like, duh).

I’ve since found the likes of Rachel Hawkins who posts about white royals, lords and ladies being extra and doing stupid shit while flopping their genitals around, by using #sexyhistory on Twitter.¹ 

Mackenzie Lee covers more of the LGBT+ side of history where women couldn’t help but break the moulds forced on them using #BygoneBadassBroads (she also now has a book and it looks gorgeous on my shelf and I appreciate that it is not fucking huge because chronic pain).¹

I’ve also stumbled onto Anne Thériault, who tweets hilarious history jokes constantly and their fucking amazing.¹

I also love the Stuff You Missed in History podcast by the team of HowStuffWorks where Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey tell listeners all about historical shit, especially focusing on things that are skipped or brushed over in school history classes.

It is quite American/English heavy but they do try to cover history from all countries and don’t shy away from the atrocities committed by colonists either.

I’ve learned so much from listening to their podcast and they have quite the archive with hundreds of episodes— no seriously, I started from the beginning and worked my way forward over the last couple of years, only choosing ones that really interested me and I’m still only up to 2013 episodes.

My OG introduction to HISTORY IS ACTUALLY FUN AND INTERESTING WHAT???? was Rejected Princesses where Jason Porath researches and illustrates women that history likes to forget.

From actual princesses, rebels, heroes and villains, Jason takes on the stories of a variety of women giving us glimpses to some pretty fucking cool chicks.

He also has turned his online work into an actual book of the same name which yes, I also own, unfortunately, this one is big and bulky and hurts my wrists but I will get through it one day, also it’s beautiful on my shelf, so like I’m not mad about the whole being big and bulky. I will read through the pain!

He also has another book coming out in April and it’s all about celebrating the mothers of history and seriously this is the most perfect Mother’s Day gift for my mum who also loves history but like me, needs it to be told like an over-dramatic soap opera where everyone is trying to kill and/or have sex with everyone.

She especially loves Mary Queen of Scots because I got her onto Reign as a gateway drug to getting her into Game of Thrones so I am fully responsible and I have no regrets.
She listens to me read out the twitter threads of Hawkins, Lee and Thériault and random entries from my Rejected Princesses book that I just have to share and talk about whatever cool thing I learned listening to the SYMIHC podcast.

Basically, my mother has no hopes of escaping history so thank god she actually likes it. 

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I discovered all these great people and their work after I had long ago given up on my traditional form of education and they made me realize just how much I love history.
I’m a big believer that if we don’t study history then we are doomed to repeat the same fucking mistakes over and over and obviously, that’s what we’re doing right now. But I also believe that it’s time to make history fun and interesting.

Talk about how sexed up everyone was, how being gay or any other sexual identity is not a new thing, history was gay as fuck (I’m loving 20gayteen but I also wanna hear about 18gayteen too).

I wanna know how much of a drama queen everyone was— including and especially the men, how fucking brilliant women and other marginalized people were by standing up for themselves and refusing to apologize for it, seeing how much kicking up a fuss makes a difference when things fucking suck.

I want real history. Not the diluted, academic, pretentious history where everything is white-washed, told through the male viewpoint and made heterosexual just so that it’s easier for some people to swallow.  

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Like I said I am not a researcher or historian, so most of my sources aren’t primary sources because those are so dry and boring that I’ll never actually get to talk about history because I’ll just fall asleep every time I try to study.

I’ll be taking info from Rejected Princess and BygoneBadassBroads a lot as well as Stuff You Missed in History Class and whatever other podcasts I find to help me in my little project.

I’ll link whatever sources I do use in the end, and I’m not going to lie, I’ll be leaning on Wikipedia to fill in some of the gaps for me, so just think of me as the My Favorite Murder* of history telling; I honestly don’t know what the fuck I’m doing but I’m doing something I love and having fun with it.

¹All of these wonderful ladies and their wonderful historic tales can be found on Twitter, or like click the links. That’s why they’re there.
*If you don’t know what My Favorite Murder is;
1. Shame on you
2. It is an incredible podcast that talks about murder and true crime
3. You’re welcome
4. No, seriously, go check it out.

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Today we start with Hypatia.

The reason I’m starting with her is that I recently listened to the SYMIHC episode on her a couple of months back and my reaction was I love her”. She’s also someone I plan on basing a character on in my WIP because she is ICONIC. Let me tell you why.

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hypatia RP rejected princesses.jpgIn the late 300’s-early 400’s Egypt, Hypatia was THAT bitch. 

She was the first female mathematician— okay well she was the first in recorded history, close enough.

That alone is huge, especially when you take into consideration how rare it is even now for women to choose a career in STEM.

Like it’s 2018 and women are still discouraged from these fields as if women have never made any FUCKING GREAT contributions to STEM nevermind the fact loads of women’s contributions were stolen or hidden by male co-workers.

Case in point: Hypatia.
Not only was she the first recorded female mathematician, but this woman was the definition of an overachiever, being an expert in physics, astronomy and philosophyI couldn’t even get through a semester of uni but okay.

Basically, Hypatia was the female Dr. Spencer Reid of her time, but better because she didn’t have the amazing tool of the internet at her disposal.

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library of alexandria hypatia.jpgHypatia was also possibly the last scientist to have access to the Library of Alexandria which was the library of the time.

It was one of the largest, most significant libraries of the ancient world. We’re talking 300-30 BC era. The girl is older than Jesus. Right? I still am yet to quite understand how the BC/AD time thing works, don’t ask me how I’ve gotten this far not knowing because I honestly have no clue. Help a girl out, please.

The library was part of a much larger research institute, the Musaeum of Alexandria. It was like the Ivy league standard of education back then. I’m definitely assuming this last comparison, what do I know, I was born in 1994.

This place had all sorts of fancy and smart thinkers studying their little butts off there. Don’t ask me who. We’re talking about Hypatia, this is just a quick pit-stop on her story.
Anyway, it was burned down by maybe one massive fire but also may be several different fires, either way it’s gone.

Let us join hands as fellow bookworms in memorial of a once fucking sick library.

Back to Hypatia, there’s not a whole bunch of information on her because she lived such a long time ago, and also she’s a woman so like story of our lives right?

For the most part, it’s believed she never married, not that she didn’t get the chance several times but our girl has got shit to do, ain’t no time for a man.

She became a headmaster of a super top genius school, like Ivy league status kind of school. See I wasn’t wrong with my comparison earlier.

Town magistrates she met with agreed she knew her shit because apparently women also need men to validate their intelligence otherwise it’s not real. I’m very salty about men at the moment can you tell?

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hypatia.jpgNow time for the reason I want to base a character on her; apparently, according to Byzantine historian Damascius, some student had the hots for our Hypatia and to get him to lose interest in her she pretty much told him that he didn’t know what love was or the reality of women while she waved her fucking menstrual rag in front of him.

Tell me that is not iconic? I mean you’ll be wrong, of course, but I’ll defend this point until my last breath.

Sometimes women have to get creative in trying to get rid of a guy.* I may have to adopt Hypatia’s method. Maybe then, with vagina blood in their faces, men will get the fucking hint. Probably not though. 

*I mean just yesterday I had to threaten to call security because a guy was not only trying to chat me up while I was working but also had asked if he could sit with me before I’d even started and was trying to eat my lunch in the food court in peace.

hypatia 2.jpgUnfortunately for Hypatia, Alexandria was basically what America is right now, a fucking mess.

The city was split down the middle due to some batshit crazy stuff happening including Jewish people dancing too much??? and churches being burnt down.

Mostly it was an ongoing and increasing conflict between the bishop of Alexandria, Cyril and the Roman prefect of Alexandria, Orestes.

To simplify things, Cyril wanted everyone to be Christian and to drop Paganism, he wanted everyone to do what he wanted, while Orestes just used his fingers to make the peace sign while posing with a guitar and a scarf around his head asked Hypatia for help because she’s super smart ‘and like I didn’t have time to do my homework babe, I was busy getting in touch with my soul’*.

Because of Oreste’s choice in adviser and Hypatia’s disinterest in Christianity, there was a rumour going around that blamed her for standing in the way of Cyril making up with Orestes.

Basically, Alexandria had become high school and I’m left wondering if men ever grow up???

Cyril lost his shit and the mob under his thumb, a load of Christian monks, went to Hypatia’s home or maybe classroom (listen history is dicey with the facts at best), stripped her down and murdered her because nothing screams ‘my religion is better than your religion’ than murdering people.

Apparently killing her with a roof tile or oyster shell (again, dicey) and maybe using the said oyster shell to slice off her skin wasn’t enough and so they also burned her remains and scattered them all across the city.

Now I’m not a Christian expert by any means but I’m pretty sure you’re not meant to kill people, in like any religion. Was this before the Bible? Hang on….

Okay, I’m back and apparently the Bible didn’t come until 2-3 centuries later. Talk about shitty timing.

Anywho, I wanna take a moment to appreciate the following quote from Jason Paroth’s take on this bloody ending;

“And this happened during Lent. Evidently these guys could give up meat for six weeks, but not murder.”

I mean come on that’s brilliant.

*Don’t ask me why Oreste is a typical 70’s hippy attending college in my head, I honestly couldn’t tell you.

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agora movie poster hypatia.jpgAfter death, Hypatia was painted in whatever light fit a person’s agenda.

John of Nikiu called her called her a devil, Damascius called her the last Hellenic intellectual.

Edward Gibbon thought Cyril was 5 and just really had the hots for Hypatia so showed it by pulling her pigtails spreading the rumour that got her killed.

Charles Kingsley basically wrote smutty fan-fiction where Hypatia is this sex-crazed heathen who needed to be saved. That lovely piece of work has been described as ferociously racist. So I’ll leave you with your own judgments of Kingsley’s character.

The modern resurgence of Hypatia’s popularity can be traced back to 1980 where Carl Sagan talks a bit about Hypatia in a book and TV series called Cosmos, seeing her as a pagan intellectual martyr and then there was a movie made in 2009 called Agora where Amenabar over-exaggerated the whole thing because Hollywood. I may have gotten a copy of it yesterday so that I could watch it.

So while Hypatia is painted as basically any caricature of a woman imaginable, Cyril is busy being a saint.

Seriously, they made him a saint for his determination of trying to make everyone Christian.

Because nothing screams religious excellence like the death of a villainized woman.

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Unlucky for us, and a crime against Hypatia’s life, none of her work remains today.

Many of her students went on to do some pretty great things and we have that stuff, but nothing that was for sure her work has lasted history.

Hypatia was the victim of political bullshit that wasn’t even her shit to be dealing with. Which is sadly not an uncommon ending for a woman’s story in history.

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Who would you like me to research next?
Do you know anything else about Hypatia that I missed?
Who is your favourite historical figure?


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5 thoughts on “Ancient Archive // Hypatia of Alexandria – That Bitch of 300’s Era Egypt

  1. I love this post! I’ve always been a 50/50 kind of person when it comes to history. I used to Hate it because our teachers would have us memorize vocabulary words, which WAS. NOT. FUN. to say the least. Then I learned to appreciate history because of the many narratives and plot (based on who’s telling the history). For sure, I’m leaning more on the literary historian end of the spectrum. I could never sit through a history class where I’m expected to remember dates and events.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked it!
      I could never remember dates or events either but as I’ve grown up and experienced history in different formats I’ve learned that I do actually love it and that it’s incredibly entertaining when told a different way!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an awesome post. 😀 I learned a lot from it about a historical figure I really didn’t know much about, so thank you!
    It’s always nice reading about history, but it gets even better when it’s done with a sense of humor like yours and with all the crazy bits the history books tend to leave out since they might be frowned upon by polite society. lol

    Liked by 1 person

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