Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hypatia of Alexandria motion comic

A huge thank you to Shelf Life Books and the Beakerhead Festival for hosting a fantastic book launch and video debut.  I am now pleased to present the online premiere of "Hypatia of Alexandria", a motion comic excerpt from Mathemagick: Apples & Origins that tells of one of the first women to study mathematics and Neo-Platonic thought during a time that heralded the Dark Ages.


  1. "Many institutions of learning had been burnt by (Christian) mobs"

    Really? Such as? Where is this mentioned in any source of the time? This seems to be a reference to the destruction of the Serapeum, but none of the five accounts we have of that mention any library still existing in that temple by that stage and it had long since ceased to be a "institution of learning" after its earlier sack by by George of Cappodocia in 360 AD. Ammianus, writing several decades before its destruction, mentions that it "had held" great libraries - note the use of the past tense. Despite the repeated assertions since Edward Gibbon's time that a library was still in the Serapeum when it was destroyed, the evidence indicates that it was long gone.

    "It was the beginning of a dark age"

    It was? That would be news to a series of scholars who flourished in Alexandria after Hypatia's time, including Aedisia, Hierocles, Asclepius of Tralles, Olympiodorus the Younger, Ammonius Hermiae and Hermias - all renowned scholars and several of them Christians. It would also be news to the scholars - including Christians - who continued to study and research in the academies of Antioch and Constantinople for centuries to come.

    A "dark age" certainly descended on far off western Europe, but that had zero to do with Christianity - it was caused by the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the collapse of civilisation and the centuries of chaos and invasion that followed. What ancient learning survived in that period was preserved *by* the Church. But over in the eastern Empire things continued as normal - no "dark age" there.

    "Cyril has been making preaching in protest at your teachings"

    Really? Where is that found in any of the sources? None of them say anything about Cyril having a problem with her teachings. The sources make it clear that her death was due to her political support of Orestes' faction in a tit for tat squabble over civic authority and supremacy.

    Only because they have already wiped everything else that is different from themselves off of the streets."

    Ummm, no. Christianity accepted and used "pagan" authority. They used what was called "the Gold of the Egyptians" argument: all knowledge came from God so all knowledge could be used, regardless of its origin. The idea that Christianity was hostile to pagan philosophy is a myth.

    And why is Orestes here referring to "the Christians" as "they". HE was a Christian himself. As was Hypatia's student Synesius. So much for Christians rejecting learning.

    And where is the political context of the assassination of Hypatia? You don't give any of the *actual* background to the dispute over political supremacy that was the actual cause of her murder, which had precisely zero to do with her teachings.

    I realise the popular Gibbonian myth of Hypatia as a martyr for science makes a good story, but it is bad history. The evidence simply doesn't support it and you've just perpetuated that myth here.

  2. Hello Tim, You raise a lot of very good points and demonstrate a deep understanding of the history I explored. I do confess that my fiction grabbed at the "good story" that initially drew me to Hypatia as I cobbled together a team of super-mathematicians. I did strive for accuracy as I understood it when researching and writing this. However I may have to revisit this scene and rewrite certain lines when Apples & Origins gets collected (which I have done in the past with Mathemagick).

    Please know that I'm not trying to tell an anti-Christian tale (I purposefully avoid directly referencing them. I do call them the church but have been uncomfortable and even nervous with that line for some time - perhaps during that dialogue I need to instead reference the political energies you mentioned). My main antagonists of this volume of Mathemagick are the Lodge of Intertemporal Mathematicians (L.I.M.) who are less of a "Big Bad" so to speak and are more of a serious authoritative foil to the Wandering Stars playfully adventurous existence. The majority of my tale is an imagining of the eathereal selves and dream bodies of various thinkers and I fully admit to taking a broad stroke look at their backstories, having only a few pages to dedicate to each. I truly thank you for your feedback and will earnestly consider your points as I continue to craft out Mathemagick.