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The Life of Hypatia of Alexandria

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The Life of Hypatia of Alexandria Edit

Her StoryEdit

“Hypatia The Intellectual”, as depicted in Roman Women, reveals a story of a great philosopher and teacher. Residing from Alexandria, Hypatia lived in the midst of a quest for governing power, which involved a shift towards the ideals of Christianity. It was through this push towards Christianity that the governing powers, “aimed at the annihilation of ritual paganism” (Ronchey p. 160). Due to her overwhelming following and strong philosophical standing, Hypatia met her death as a result of the Christian rulers, particularly the bishop, Cyril. Hypatia’s life, as shown in Roman Women, features two dominant themes that involve her glorious fame and her unfortunate execution. When looking at her life through the lens of Diogenes Laertuis, the way in much this subject matter can be handled provides a different perspective on her legend. Through Diogenes cynical perspective, the life of Hypatia can be viewed in a more insightful and critical way, which questions both Hypatia’s doings, as well as the governing figures of Christianity during this time period.

It is explained that Hypatia, daughter of Theon, was a women of tremendous wisdom and knowledge due to her philosophical mind and teachings. She is described to have, “reached such heights of wisdom that she had by far surpassed all the philosophers of her circle” (p. 161), and the fact that she was woman who had achieved such gratitude and respect is emphasized. However, it is pointed out that this did not provide her with limitation in her rise towards respect and philosophical prowess. As Socrates mentions, she was able to, “directly confront the powerful and to attend men’s meetings without fear” (p. 162). In the end, her high status and religious deviance within the society generated distress to those who watched with discontent. It was this discontent that eventually lead to Hypatia’s horrific death.


When trying to generate a depiction of Hypatia through the eyes of Diogenes Laertius, it can be assumed that he would place greater emphasize on “showing” the characters he describes, rather than simply telling. To do so, as he has done with others mentioned in Lives of Eminent Philsophers, Diogenes would focus on delving deeper into different personalities. Instead of simply generating a list of a particular figures accomplishments and greater life stories, Diogenes gives direct quotes that allow the reader to come up with there own understanding. In the case of Diogenes’ accounts of philosophers, he lists direct words from the philosopher himself, which encourages the reader to put together there own understanding of the person’s belief systems and attitudes. When describing Zeno, he mentions a situation in which a person speaking “nonsense” comes forth, and Zeno gives a response, “the reason why we only have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less” (Diogenes p. 135). By having this illustration that reveals Zeno’s character, we can see that he was a man who placed importance on being level headed and almost humble in a sense, but Diogenes does not come out and tell the reader this directly.

If applying the methods of Diogenes’ towards an account of Hypatia, we would be presented with a greater understanding of what was going on in her mind in the midst of the shift towards Christianity. When looking at the account in Roman Women, the reader only receives a general overview of the turn of events that took place. At no point is there dialect between Hypatia and those who oppose her ways, and instead the reader is merely told a quick summary of these events. When thinking as to how Diogenes could give the reader a better understanding of Hypatia and the values she embodied, he would likely present actual dialog from Hypatia herself. Not only would this demonstrate her core values and philosophical beliefs, but it would also reveal how she keeps to these values in the midst of facing adversity. Through seeing her voice in itself, the reader would still be able to generate a solid understanding of Hypatia’s mental makeup, without having had to been told each and every aspect of her personality.

When considering the troubling end to Hypatia’s life, the large significance of this event is presented in a very anti-climatic way. It is stated that the bishop Cyril was going on a walk past the house of Hypatia, when he saw many people coming and going. It is stated that, “he was informed that it was Hypatia’s day for receiving and here was that house. Having learnt that, Cyril felt his soul bitterly bitten and for that reason he soon organized her murder, the most impious of all assassination” (Ronchey p. 166). While the reader is able to generate an understanding from this brief account, they are unable to understand just what it means when Cyril “felt his soul bittlerly bitten”. If this turn of events was told by Diogenes, we as the reader would be able to see deeper into the mind of Cyril, and the feelings of disgust that he embodied.

Prior to Hypatia’s death, little is presented that shows the deeper mindsets of the characters involved. Instead, there is merely a broad overview of the events, without effectively conveying what Hypatia, Cybil, and those involved were thinking about. While there are brief accounts of when Cyril decided to go forth with her murder, there is virtually nothing that shows how Hypatia handled the whole situation. Through a Diogenes piece, we would likely see the culmination of this event, and would be given some sort of dialog that reveals Hypatia's feelings upon being confronted for execution. After having been told of Hypatia’s death in Roman Women, tremendous speculation and uncertainty is presented in regard to the motives of the killers. Through this, the reader is presented with several different accounts of the public perception of her death, and the various opinions of those both in favor and against the execution. However, there is little information that points to the feelings of Cyril, as it is mentioned that he lived for many years following the killing of Hypatia. A more Diogenes-esque approach might feature further dialog, in which someone asks Cyril to convey his feelings about the murder, and to which degree he did or did not feel shame.


When trying to generate what Hypatia the Intellectual as told by Diogenes Laertius would look like, one first must consider the attention to significant events. As seen in Roman Women, the author does little to present the events of the shift toward Christianity and those involving Hypatia’s death in a way that allows the reader to see things through the perspective of the characters discussed. Instead, the various explanations are very cut and dry, and only give the reader a small understanding of what was taking place. In terms of the psychological aspects of characters, little is done to “show” the character as they are, and instead the author merely tells. If this story were to be told by Diogenes, there would be greater attention to the individual, which would help to show the clash between those who supported Hypatia, and those who sought to get rid of her. In terms of the fallout, which followed Hypatia’s death, Roman Women mainly presented both sides, those who resented her death and those who didn’t. If the story were to betold by Diogenes, he would likely show subtleties involving his own opinion of the events, what would help to enlighten his own belief system.


Laertius, Diogenes. (1965). Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Cambridge: Harvard Universtiy Press.

Ronchey, Silvia. (2001). Roman Women. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Building on Becker's Account: The Importance of Including Intellectual PursuitsEdit

by Emily Lnenicka (Project 1 - Part 2)

In Erik Becker’s account of Hypatia’s story as told by Diogenes Laertius, Becker focuses on how Diogenes might expand on the events preceding Hypatia’s death. While this is certainly one aspect of Hypatia’s story that Diogenes might concentrate on, it very likely that Diogenes would decide to expand another area of Hypatia’s tale, as well. It is clear from Diogenes’ treatment of the various philosophers in Lives of Eminent Philosophers that he values the intellectual ideas of the individuals in his biographies. In his biography of Diogenes the Cynic, for example, he includes numerous quotations that reflect Diogenes' philosophical views. For example, he writes, “…to a man whose shoes were being put on by his servant, [Diogenes] said, ‘You have not attained to full felicity, unless he wipes your nose as well; and that will come, when you have lost the use of your hands” (Laertius 47). This quote is included to exemplify Diogenes the Cynic's view that, "...the gods had given to men the means of living easily, but this had been put out of sight" (Laertius 47). By including this quotation, Diogenes Laertius aptly illustrates one of Diogenes the Cynic's chief philosophical ideas, which Diogenes Laertius would have no cause to do, were he not interested in honoring the ideas of the subjects in his biographies. So, it is reasonable to assume that Diogenes would, similarly, choose to highlight Hypatia’s intellectual inclinations in his version of her biography.

But, what approach might Diogenes take to highlighting such inclinations? Well, his approach would likely be consistent with the approach that Becker suggested he’d use to expand upon Hypatia’s death. With regard to this approach, Becker notes that, “Through a Diogenes piece, we would likely… be given some sort of dialog that reveals Hypatia's feelings upon being confronted for execution.” Similarly, Diogenes’ portrayal of Hypatia’s intellectual life might also utilize dialogue to give a greater sense of what Hypatia’s ideas were and how she communicated them.

For instance, in the biography of Diogenes the Cynic, Diogenes Laertius describes, “…observing a child drinking out of his hands, [Diogenes] cast away the cup from his wallet with the words, ‘A child has beaten me in plainness of living” (Laertius 39). By including this utterance, Diogenes Laertius demonstrates the degree to which Diogenes the Cynic valued a simplistic lifestyle. Further, it shows us that Diogenes preached this value as part of his philosophical teachings, since he chose to make it the subject of a public declaration. Though it may not have been Hypatia’s philosophical style to partake in such public declarations, Diogenes might incorporate philosophical professions from the classroom into Hypatia’s biography.

Since Hypatia was known as a “master of geometry” (Ronchey180), perhaps she repeatedly emphasized the importance of a certain geometrical proof, or the clarity that comes from the knowledge of a given mathematical principle. Maybe Hypatia had been known to say something like, “The study of geometry is the sole pursuit that can lead us to discover ultimate truths about the world.” Diogenes would include a quote like this one, for example, to illustrate Hypatia’s commitment to her craft, the reason she felt her craft was worthy of such a commitment, and the value she placed on seeking truth. As a result, the reader of Diogenes’ account would understand how and why Hypatia prized her intellectual pursuits, through Hypatia’s own words.

Becker notes that, “Through seeing her voice in itself, the reader would still be able to generate a solid understanding of Hypatia’s mental makeup.” By honoring this structure and including the additional information I have suggested, we can expand an understanding of how Diogenes might depict Hypatia’s life to include her philosophical pursuits. In doing so, not only would we have a more complete account of Hypatia’s life, but also, a more accurate portrayal of what elements Diogenes would likely include in her biography.

Works Cited

Laertius, Diogenes. Lives of Eminent Philosophers. 11th. 2. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Ronchey, Silvia. Roman Women. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Project 1 Part 2Edit

Project 1 Part 2

Evidence Showing Diogenes' Writing Styles

Joshua Rose

In this paper, the Life of Hypatia was examined and analyzed. Through the lens of Diogenes Laertius, a thesis was stated about the life of Hypatia if he was the person who wrote the biography of her life.

One inconsistency I found was that the thesis stating “it can be assumed that he would place greater emphasize on “showing” the characters he describes, rather than simply telling” could be looked a little deeper into. There are some examples where Diogenes’ writing style agrees with this argument, but there are also many examples of his writing style disagreeing with this argument. For example, on page 373 of Diogenes’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers, I found 3 pieces of evidence where Diogenes simply ‘tells’ us about a character’s attributes or even physical aspects, giving the reader a very comparable image than if he presented the information in the style argued by the thesis. On page 373, “Aristotle in his Sophist calls Emedocles the inventor of rhetoric as Zeno of dialectic. In his treatise On Poets he says that Empedocles was of Homer’s school and powerful in diction, being great in metaphors and in the use of all other poetical devices.” (Laertius, 373) From the same page, “Satyrus in his Lives says that he was also a physician and an excellent orator” (Laertius, 373) Lastly, and also from the same page, “Of Gorgias Apollodorus says in his Chronology that he lived to be one hundred and nine” (Laertius, 373). All of these pieces evidence distinctly show that Diogenes simply tells us a fact about a character (in this case Empedocles) and the reader gains a good idea of the attributes and even physical aspects to the character. A clearer example perhaps could be on page 381, “In some passages one may see that he is boastful and selfish. At any rate these are his words: ‘All hail! I go about among you an immortal god, no more a mortal etc.’” (Laertius, 381). This is literally Diogenes telling us the words of Empedocles describing himself. These pieces of evidence go against the stated thesis.

There were some other features of the paper that went against the proposed writing styles of Diogenes. The proposed argument that Diogenes uses dialog is a recurring argument in the paper, “Through a Diogenes piece, we would likely see the culmination of this event, and would be given some sort of dialog that reveals Hypatia's feelings upon being confronted for execution.” Yet no evidence of Diogenes using this said dialogue is present to back up the argument. Some evidence to go against this dialog-based-argument could be found on page 11, “Favourite themes with him were the following. He would prove that virtue can be taught; that nobility belongs to none other than the virtuous. And he held virtue to be sufficient in itself to ensure happiness…” (Laertius, 11). This piece of evidence to go against the dialog argument, still also even goes against the earlier argument about how Diogenes does in fact simply tell us the attributes of a character. Diogenes is simply stating a fact about a character’s personality, not in dialog form, to convey to the reader an idea of their personality.

Rosie09 04:17, October 8, 2011 (UTC)Joshua Rose

“Hypatia told by Laertius”

By Nolan Flike

You do a really good job of explaining how Laertius wrote through showing people’s character instead of just telling them but you should have focused more on what personalitiy traits he would have shown for Hypatia. You should have put more examples of the types of quotes Laertius would have put in for Hypatia, examples you could have used are quotes from her teachings, quotes from her interactions with her father, or quotes from her debates with the male philosophers.

Your example of the quote from Laertius about Zeno is a good example of how Laertius used quotes to show the philosopher’s character but in the following sentence you should have given an example of something Laertius would have said about Hypatia and how it would show her character. You also should have been more specific when you talked about Laertius wiring about how Hypatia felt during the shift towards Christianity by giving examples of what think Laertius would write for her thoughts based on Hypatia’s life and Laertius’ past writings.

In your concluding paragraphs you talk about Hypatia’s death and how Laertius would have given more meaning to the death through dialogue of the characters, this is a good idea but you should have quotes from Laertius’ work to prove that he does this with other philosophers. Also instead of just saying he should have dialogue between Hypatia and Cyril give examples of what this dialogue could have been like. Last talk about the different possible meanings Laertius could have given to the death since in the majority of his works he gives multiple stories for how the philosopher dies.

Hypatia of Alexandria: Analysis of DiogenesEdit

Project 1 Part 2

By Cal Smith

Throughout this paper the overall argument was that Diogenes would have depict Hypatia’s life through examples by showing her belief instead of strictly telling a person life.

Diogenes would display the way what Hypatia thought and her true personality “Diogenes would focus on delving deeper into different personalities.” Which is true that Hypatia as a character would have been depicted better than just telling facts of her life in a chorological way. This way the “mental makeup” of Hypatia could be established which is a more effective way to reaching out to the reader. For example, when Diogenes explains Heraclitus way of living “ Finally, he became a hater of his kind and wandered on the mountains, and there he continued to live, making his diet of grass and herbs.”(Laertius 411). This shows how Heraclitus lived which would have been a similar way in Hypatia life in trying to depict her life. Instead of using events of Hypatia’s life Laertius would use specific examples of her life and her beliefs with God with actually quotes.

Later in the paper when developing Diogenes style into Hypatia, “Diogenes, there would be greater attention to the individual, which would help to show the clash between those who supported Hypatia, and those who sought to get rid of her.” In this case, Diogenes would only depict the life of Hypatia with no other characters involved. Where even Cyril the person who was responsible for her death would not be mention by name but how she died would be. Instead Cyril would have been mention with no name. For example, when Diogenes described how Eudoxus died “ From this the priest foretold that he would be famous but shortlived, so we are informed by Favorinus in his Memorabilia.” (Laertius 405). Diogenes also would have not shown a clash between the two since the people were not important to Hypatia beliefs of life and ways of living. Therefore Diogenes would focus more Hypatia for the reader to understand her more.

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