1. Cultural & Trends

Trends at the time of Hypatia’s academic work

Hypatia is quoted as saying, “All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.” (Atheist Foundation of Australia) But other sources say Theon, her father, said these words to her.

In Hypatia’s Heritage, the Alic mentions how over time, before and after Hypatia, the status of women in the sciences would come and go. During the __ period, women held occupations, researched and taught, and practiced medicine. During the ___ periods, priestesses (physicians) were persecuted for doing more than treating women’s gynecological issues, and education of women was frowned upon. Often, only the wealthiest women had access to tutors.

Alic notes that Hypatia did not subscribe to the bigotry of the time; she would teach all three religious groups even though they were separated into different schools of the university.

In 389AD the Serapeum Library was sacked and burned by order of Theophilos, bishop of Alexandria. The great libraries associated with the Museum were one by one destroyed. All neo-Platonists were persecuted, and Hypatia became a controversial figure because of her fame and influence (Inventors Assistance League and Mothers of Invention, Ethlie Ann Vare and Greg Ptacek, 1988, pp. 24-26.).

In her PhD proposal, Egyptian women in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt: the economic and legal activities of women in demotic texts, Alexandra O’Brian summarizes the sources available on the topic. A few sources written on papyrus and ostraca discuss women in economic and domestic roles. Little work was/is devoted to the domestic realm of women at the time and many sources do not document the notion that women were equal to men in the eyes of the law. They did own property, however. (O’Brian)

Scholar, Janet H. Johnson, states that “Papyri show Greek women (kyrios in tow) and Egyptian females (acting alone) buying and selling real estate, lending and borrowing, party to work contracts, making wills, receiving bequests, and sometimes even drafting their own marriage contract.” (1988)


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