Ipazia, daughter of the mathematician Theon, was born in Alexandria , Egypt, around the 370 AC. She was brutally murdered in March 415 A.C. due to the religious fundamentalism of the time. She was considered an enemy of the Christian faith because of her friendship with the Roman prefect, Orestes, who was a political rival of Cyril, Alexandria’s bishop.
Despite her friendship with Synesius, bishop of Ptolemais, who attended her lessons, the religious fundamentalists feared her neoplatonic philosophy as well as it’s pagan influence on the Christian community in Alexandria.
The murder of Ipazia is just one of the many dark episodes in history during which a segment of humanity violently resists the advancements of culture and science. Among these atrocities we must remember the destruction of Alexandria’s library by Roman soldiers in the 3rd century A.C. when the fire allegedly destroyed 500.000 books. We must also remember subsequent sacking of Serapides library.
Although none of Ipazia’s original written work has survived to the present time, we do have Synesius’s letters, who was consulting her on the construction of an astrolabe and an hydroscope. After her death many of her students left Alexandria which precipitated the downfall of the city, famous for its library as a centre of the ancient culture.
Historically, Ipazia is portrayed as a person of rare dignity and beauty, eloquent and highly intelligent and as an acclaimed leader of the neoplatonic school of Alexandria.
Ipazia is the symbol for the love of truth, knowledge and science which were at the origin of the Hellenistic civilization.
Excerpt from the foreward of: ” Ipazia, life and dreams of a scientist woman of the IV century”, by Adriano Petta and Antonio Colavito.