What follows is from Chapter Four, The Teeth of Time. The time is the Fifth Century, shortly after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire – and began its attack Paganism and Judaism. The place is Alexandria, Egypt – which had been conquered by Caesar, but had been a Hellenistic cultural center. Christianity was largely a blend of Jewish religion and Greek culture – and it was now determined to eliminate all traces of these connections – especially the Greek part.
Christian mobs were attacking Jews and Pagans alike. Taking especial delight in destroying Pagan relics - which included the Great Library at Alexandria – the best in the world.
The pagan poet Palladas wrote afterward:
Is it not true that we are dead, and living only in appearance,
We Hellenes, fallen on disaster,
Likening life to a dream, since we remain alive while
Our way of life is dead and gone?
Cyril, the Christian Patriarch, demanded the expulsion of the city’s large Jewish population. Alexandria’s governor Orestes, a moderate Christian, refused, and this refusal was supported by the pagan intellectual intellectual elite whose most distinguished representative was the influential and immensely learned Hypatia.
Hypatia was the daughter of a mathematician one of the Library’s famous scholars-in-residence. Legendarily beautiful as a young woman, she had become famous for her attainments in astronomy, music, mathematics, and philosophy. Students came from great distances to study the works of Plato and Aristotle under her tutelage…
Wrapped in the traditional philosophers cloak, called a tribon, and moving about the city in a chariot, Hypatia was one of Alexandria’s most visible public figures…Hypatia’s support for Orestes’ refusal to expel the Jewish population may help to explain what happened next.
Returning to her house, Hypatia was pulled from her chariot…stripped off her clothing, and had her skin flayed off. The mob then dragged her corpse outside the city walls and burned it.
Their hero Cyril was eventually made a saint.