, a most beautiful, virtuous, and learned lady of antiquity, was the daughter of Theon, who governed the Platonic school at Alexandria, the place of her birth and education, in the latter part of the fourth century. Theon was famous among his contemporaries for his extensive knowledge and learning; but what has chiefly rendered him so with posterity, is, that he was the father of Hypatia, whom, encouraged by her prodigious genius, he educated not only in all the qualifications belonging to her sex, but likewise in the most abstruse sciences. She made an amazing progress in every branch of learning, and the things that are said of her almost surpass belief. Socrates, the ecclesiastical historian, a witness whose veracity cannot be doubted, at least when he speaks in favour of an heathen philosopher, tells us, that Hypatiaarrived at such a pitch of learning, as very far to exceed all the philosophers of her time:” to which Nicephorus adds, “those of Other times.Philostorgius, a third historian of the same | stamp, affirms, that “she was much superior to her father and master Theon, in what regards astronomy;” and Suidas, who mentions two books of her writing, one “on the Astronomical Canon of Diophantus, and another on the Conies of Apollonius,” avers, that “she not only exceeded her father in astronomy, but also that she understood all the other parts of philosophy.” It is some confirmation of these assertions that she succeeded her father in the government of the Alexandrian school: filling that chair, where Ammonius, Hierocles, and many great and celebrated philosophers had taught; and this, at a time, when men of immense learning abounded both at Alexandria, and in many other parts of the Roman empire. Her fame was so extensive, and her worth so universally acknowledged, that we cannot wonder, if she had a crowded au> ditory. “She explained to her hearers,” says Socrates, “the several sciences, that go under the general name of philosophy for which reason there was a confluence to her, from all parts, of those who made philosophy their delight and study.

Her scholars were as eminent as they were numerous: one of whom was the celebrated Synesius, who was afterwards bishop of Ptolemais. This ancient Christian Platonist every where bears the strongest, as well as the most grateful testimony to the learning and virtue of his instructress; and never mentions her without the profoundest respect, and sometimes in terms of affection coming little short of adoration. In a letter to his brother Euoptius, “Salute,” says he, “the most honoured and the most beloved of God, the Philosopher”; and that happy society, which enjoys the blessing “of her divine voice.” In another, he mentions one Egyptus, who “sucked in the seeds of wisdom from Hypatia.” In another, he expresses himself thus “I suppose these letters will be delivered by; Peter, which he will receive from that sacred hand.” In a letter addressed to herself, he desires her to direct a hydroscope to be maJe and bought for him, which he there describes. That famous silver astrolabe, which he presented to Peonius, a man equally excelling in philosophy and arms, he owns to have been perfected by the directions of Hypatia. In a long epistle, he acquaints her with his reasons for writing two books, which he sends her; and asks her judgment of one, resolving not to publish it without her approbation. | But it was not Synesius only, and the disciples of the Alexandrian school, who admired Hypatia for her great virtue and learning: never woman was more caressed by the public, and yet never woman had a more unspotted character. She was held as an oracle for her wisdom, which made her consulted by the magistrates in all important cases; and this frequently drew her among the greatest concourse of men, without the least censure of her manners. “On account of the confidence and authority,” says Socrates, “which she had acquired by her learning, she sometimes came to the judges with singular modesty. Nor was she any thing abashed to appear thus among a crowd of men; for all persons, by reason of her extraordinary discretion, did at the same time both reverence and admire her.” The same is confirmed by Nicephorus, and other authors, whom we have already cited. Danaascius and Suidas relate, that the governors and magistrates of Alexandria regularly visited her, and paid their court to her; and, when Nicephorus intended to pass the highest compliment on the princess Eudocia, he thought he could not do it better, than by calling her “another Hypatia.

While Hypatia thus reigned the brightest ornament of Alexandria, Orestes was governor of the same place for the emperor Theodosius, and Cyril bishop or patriarch. Orestes, having had a liberal education, admired Hypatia, and frequently consulted her. This created an intimacy between them that was highly displeasing to Cyril, who had a great aversion to Orestes: which intimacy, as it is supposed, had like to have proved fatal to Orestes, as we may collect from the following account of Socrates. “Certain of the Monks,” says he, “living in the Nitrian mountains, leaving their monasteries to the number of about five hundred, flocked to the city, and spied the governor going abroad in his chariot: whereupon approaching, they called him by the names of Sacrificer and Heathen, using many other scandalous expressions. The governor, suspecting that this was a trick played him by Cyril, cried out that he was a Christian; and that he had been baptized at Constantinople by bishop Atticus. But the monks giving no heed to what he said, one of them, called Ammonius, threw a stone at Orestes, which struck him on the head; and being all covered with blood from his wounds, his guards, a few excepted, fled, some one way and some another, hiding themselves in the crowd, lest they should | be stoned to death. In the mean while, the people of Alexandria ran to defend their governor against the monks, and putting the rest to flight, brought Ammonius, whom they apprehended, to Orestes; who, as the laws prescribed, put him publicly to the torture, and racked him till he expired.

But though Orestes escaped with his life, Hypatia afterwards fell a sacrifice. This lady, as we have observed, was profoundly respected by Orestes, who much frequented and consulted her “for which reason,” says Socrates, “she was not a little traduced among the Christian multitude, as if she obstructed a reconciliation between Cyril and Orestes. This occasioned certain enthusiasts, headed by one Peter a lecturer, to enter into a conspiracy against her; who watching an opportunity, when she was returning home from some place, first dragged her out of her chair; then hurried her to the church called Cæsars; and, stripping her naked, killed her with tiles. After this, they tore her to pieces; and, carrying her limbs to a place called Cinaron, there burnt them to ashes.” Cave endeavours to remove the imputation of this horrid murder from Cyril, thinking him too honest a man to have had any hand in it; and lays it upon the Alexandrian mob in general, whom he calls “levissimum hominum genus,” “a very trifling inconstant people.” But though Cyril should be allowed to have been neither the perpetrator, nor even the contriver of it, others have thought that he did not discountenance it in the manner he ought to have done: and was so farfrom blaming theoutrage committed by the Nitrian monks upon the governor Orestes, that “he afterwards received the dead body of Ammonius, whom Orestes had punished with the rack; made a panegyric upon him, in the church where he was laid, in which he extolled his courage and constancy, as one that had contended for the truth; and, changing his name to Thaumasius, or the Admirable, ordered him to be considered as a martyr. However, continues Socrates, the wiser sort of Christians did not approve the zeal which Cyril shewed on this man’s behalf; being convinced, that Ammonius had justly suffered for his desperate attempt.” We learn from the same historian, that the death of Hypatia happened in March, in the 10th year of Honorius’s, and the 6th of Theodosius’s, consulship that is, about A. D. 415. 1


Socrates, VII. Eccl. Hist. c. 15. Fabricii Bibl, Græc, —Moreri. —Saxii Onomasticon.