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The murder of ancient Alexandria's greatest scholar - Soraya Field Fiorio

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In the city of Alexandria in 415 CE, the bishop and the governor were in a fight. It started with a disagreement over the behavior of a militia of monks, and ended with an accusation of witchcraft leveled against one of the most powerful figures in the city: Hypatia, philosopher and advisor to the city’s leaders. Who was Hypatia and why was she deemed a threat? Soraya Field Fiorio investigates.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Soraya Field Fiorio
  • Director Biljana Labovic
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Art Director Elsa Esteban
  • Animation Elsa Esteban
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Hypatia (c.355-415 CE) was a renowned mathematician, philosopher, and astronomer who lived in Alexandria, Egypt during a turbulent era of history. The great Roman Empire was crumbling, and the new religion of Christianity was gaining political strength. The daughter of Theon of Alexandria, a mathematician, astronomer, and the last member of the Alexandrian Museum, Hypatia surpassed her father and became the lead teacher and philosopher in Alexandria. She wrote math textbooks and lectured on philosophy but none of her work survives. She was murdered in a political feud between the moderate Christian governor, to whom she was an advisor, and the extremist Christian bishop as the two men battled for control over the city.

Soraya Field Fiorio writes about the turbulence of Alexandria and the historical events that led to Hypatia’s murder

Catherine Nixey writes a history detailing the rise of Christianity and the destruction of ancient Roman life called The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World 

Given the dearth of information about Hypatia’s life, reliable biographies about her are scarce. Two carefully researched books are Maria Dzielska’s Hypatia of Alexandria and Edward J. Watts’ The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher

Michael A. B. Deakin wrote Hypatia of Alexandria: Mathematician and Martyr. The author, a mathematician, explores in detail how the ancients viewed mathematics as a subject with spiritual overtones. The book also contains an appendix with the known primary sources about Hypatia.

The film Agora is about Hypatia. While many characters are invented or are composite characters, the film is overall historically accurate in its representation of Alexandria, the political instability of the time, and the teachings of Hypatia.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Soraya Field Fiorio
  • Director Biljana Labovic
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Art Director Elsa Esteban
  • Animation Elsa Esteban
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • See more