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Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher (Women in Antiquity)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher (Women in Antiquity).pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Edward J. Watts(Author)

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A philosopher, mathematician, and martyr, Hypatia is one of antiquity's best-known female intellectuals. For the sixteen centuries following her murder by a mob of Christians Hypatia has been remembered in books, poems, plays, paintings, and films as a victim of religious intolerance whose death symbolized the end of the Classical world. But Hypatia was a person before she was a symbol. Her great skill in mathematics and philosophy redefined the intellectual life of her home city of Alexandria. Her talent as a teacher enabled her to assemble a circle of dedicated male students. Her devotion to public service made her a force for peace and good government in a city that struggled to maintain trust and cooperation between pagans and Christians. Despite these successes, Hypatia fought countless small battles to live the public and intellectual life that she wanted. This book rediscovers the life Hypatia led, the unique challenges she faced as a woman who succeeded spectacularly in a man's world, and the tragic story of the events that led to her murder.

Watts is most compelling in the summations of his findings and narratives ... A careful historical portrait of one of antiquity's most accomplished women. (Steve Young, Library Journal)To shine as a mathematician; to alter decisively the teaching curriculum of an ancient university; to work for the peace of an explosive city: Hypatia of Alexandria had done all this before her senseless murder by a Christian mob in 415 CE. With zest and exemplary scholarship, Ed Watts has brought alive the vivid world of Alexandria that both made Hypatia's achievements possible and also led to her unexpected, shocking death. It is a book that shows that truth is stranger (and a lot more interesting) than the rose-tinted fiction which has usually enveloped the life and death of this remarkable woman. (Peter Brown, Princeton University)Hypatia of Alexandria led an exceptional life as a celibate teacher of philosophy and political adviser. Edward Watts uses his expert knowledge of her city, and of late antique education, to explain the content and context of her teaching, and to show how Alexandria made possible both her career and her appalling death. Hypatia's death made her a symbol of repression, but for her, philosophy was a way of life, and that is the focus of this excellent book. (Gillian Clark, University of Bristol)Immersing Hypatia into her world of competing philosophers, jockeying bishops and local potentates, loyal students and rival monks, Watts restores the brilliant mathematician and philosophical leader, a woman all but submerged under the mask her violent death created. In the process, he also evokes the fabric of cosmopolitan late Roman Alexandria, a city in which Christians and others coexisted despite tensions that could and did erupt into moments of spectacular violence. (Susanna Elm, University of California, Berkeley)Watts' account of Hypatia's life is a work of scholarship, the product of some very thorough research, which provides a detailed and plausible interpretation of the life of a fascinating woman ... I would recommended this book for a university rather than school library, though it might have an appeal for a school pupil with an interest in studying prominent female figures in antiquity ... It is also a book for the thoughtful reader who wishes to examine their own beliefs about how to live the good life and its compatibility with public life. (Alison Henshaw, Classics for All)

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Book details

  • PDF | 224 pages
  • Edward J. Watts(Author)
  • OUP USA (27 April 2017)
  • English
  • 9
  • Biography

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Review Text

  • By Ancient Egypt Magazine on 18 September 2017

    The philosopher Hypatia (born c. AD 355) is the subject of two biographies published this spring (2017 - the other by Charlotte Booth) each interrogating the limited primary sources as well as other later writings, but with differing approaches and contradictory conclusions.The Hypatia of Edward Watt’s book (part of the excellent Women in Antiquity series) was Alexandria’s “leading thinker” for nearly 35 years, a devoted public servant and “force for peace and good government” at a time when rivalries between pagans and Christians frequently erupted into violence on the city’s streets. Yet today she is best known for her tragic and brutal murder, dragged through the streets by a mob and hacked to pieces with broken pottery. Watts uses a brief account of this murder as a starting point to retell Hypatia’s story, focussing on her remarkable achievements as an intellectual who held considerable political influence at a time when only men could hold civic office and wield formal power.Hypatia was educated by her father Theon, the prominent mathematician, taking over his school in the 380s and developing her own moderate Neoplatonist teachings which were seen as a “welcome antidote” to the confrontations between Christians and the Iamblichan philosophers (whose religious practices had been condemned), offering a way for both Christian and pagan communities to “co-exist and co-operate”. She held audiences with the Roman governor and was instrumental in bringing philosophy to the fore in Alexandrian intellectual life. She made sacrifices: she chose to remain celibate, faced constant sexual harassment and had to fight longer and harder than any male philosopher to gain recognition. She also made enemies, although her brutal killing may not have been intended. A group supporting the ambitious Bishop Cyril set out to frighten her with a demonstration outside her house, but ran into her in a public space, where things got out of hand.Following her death, Hypatia’s distinctive style of philosophy disappeared and she is remembered instead in literature and cinema as the legendary martyr to religious extremism symbolising the end of the Classical world. Watts argues that we should not allow her dramatic death to overshadow her life; Hypatia should be remembered for her talents, determination and achievements, as a guiding light for Alexandria during a turbulent period of the city’s history.Reviewed by ancientegyptmagazine dot com


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