The Life of Hypatia

By John, Bishop of Nikiu, from his Chronicle 84.87-103

Reprinted with permission from Alexandria 2

AND IN THOSE DAYS there appeared in Alexandria a female philosopher, a pagan named Hypatia, and she was devoted at all times to magic, astrolabes and instruments of music, and she beguiled many people through (her) Satanic wiles. And the governor of the city honored her exceedingly; for she had beguiled him through her magic. And he ceased attending church as had been his custom. But he went once under circumstances of danger. And he not only did this, but he drew many believers to her, and he himself received the unbelievers at his house. And on a certain day when they were making merry over a theatrical exhibition connected with dancers, the governor of the city published (an edict) regarding the public exhibitions in the city of Alexandria: and all the inhabitants of the city had assembled there (in the theater). Now Cyril, who had been appointed patriarch after Theophilus, was eager to gain exact intelligence regarding this edict. And there was a man named Hierax, a Christian possessing understanding and intelligence who used to mock the pagans but was a devoted adherent of the illustrious Father the patriarch and was obedient to his monitions. He was also well versed in the Christian faith. (Now this man attended the theater to learn the nature of this edict.) But when the Jews saw him in the theater they cried out and said: "This man has not come with any good purpose, but only to provoke an uproar." And Orestes the prefect was displeased with the children of the holy church, and Hierax was seized and subjected to punishment publicly in the theater, although he was wholly guiltless. And Cyril was wroth with the governor of the city for so doing, and likewise for his putting to death an illustrious monk of the convent of Pernodj [1] named Ammonius, and other monks (also). And when the chief magistrate [2] of the city heard this, he sent word to the Jews as follows: "Cease your hostilities against the Christians." But they refused to hearken to what they heard; for they gloried in the support of the prefect who was with them, and so they added outrage to outrage and plotted a massacre through a treacherous device. And they posted beside them at night in all the streets of the city certain men, while others cried out and said: "The church of the apostolic Athanasius is on fire: come to its succour, all ye Christians." And the Christians on hearing their cry came fourth quite ignorant of the treachery of the Jews. And when the Christians came forth, the Jews arose and wickedly massacred the Christians and shed the blood of many, guiltless though they were. And in the morning, when the surviving Christians heard of the wicked deed which the Jews had wrought, they betook themselves to the patriarch. And the Christians mustered all together and went and marched in wrath to the synagogues of the Jews and took possession of them, and purified them and converted them into churches. And one of them they named after the name of St. George. And as for the Jewish assassins they expelled them from the city, and pillaged all their possessions and drove them forth wholly despoiled, and Orestes the prefect was unable to render them any help. And thereafter a multitude of believers in God arose under the guidance of Peter the magistrate -- now this Peter was a perfect believer in all respects in Jesus Christ -- and they proceeded to seek for the pagan woman who had beguiled the people of the city and the prefect through her enchantments. And when they learnt the place where she was, they proceeded to her and found her seated on a (lofty) chair; and having made her descend they dragged her along till they brought her to the great church, named Caesarion. Now this was in the days of the fast. And they tore off her clothing and dragged her [till they brought her] through the streets of the city till she died. And they carried her to a place named Cinaron, and they burned her body with fire. And all the people surrounded the patriarch Cyril and named him "the new Theophilus"; for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city.


1. The Coptic word for the desert of Nitria.

2. This is apparently wrong. It should be "Cyril."

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