Badass Women26 August 2020
Up next we have the lovely walking encyclopedia, Hypatia of Alexandria. The daughter of a well-respected academic, Hypatia was an Ancient Greek-Egyptian astronomer, mathematician and philosopher who was born around 350 CE (Common Era). She was raised outside the constricting gender roles within Egyptian-Greek society by her forward thinking Papa and thrived as a professor at the University of Alexandria, something unheard of for a woman of her time. Hypatia was a highly respected individual by both the general public and academic community, and it was therefore inevitable something would eventually go wrong for our gal – if you’re a woman in power, it’s tough to have it all. Soon enough, the great city of Alexandria was facing turmoil as Christianity swept in and extreme violence followed- libraries were burnt (and not in a lit kind of way) and a new age of oppression for women swept in, the first victim being our new favourite academic badass.
The light trickled through the patchy glass windows, casting specks of light onto the straw scattered floor. A hollow silence pressed in from the walls of the church, leaking under the doorways, penetrating the windows, and seeking out anyone and everyone as it spread throughout the city – just as the news, too, spread throughout the streets.
The day had been ordinary, as had the day’s teachings. The overcast sky glared too bright for the chance of rain, yet despite the absence of sun, the heat caused my robes to cling to every limb. I had chosen the day’s lecture topic carefully, as I had been sure to do for months now. The basic uses of the astrolabe – a bronze model of my own creation – and how they assist in the study of astronomy. In the corner of my eye, I had seen regular attendees excuse themselves from the crowded amphitheatre, the lecture having already been delivered to them several times. If anything, it amused me so thoroughly that, as they threw nasty glances my way, I had to suppress a smile. Men and their fragile egos.
Gasps break the silence, dragging me back to the present as those same regulars and other officials wander into the church, spotting the pools and splashes of my ruby-red blood scattered all over the tiles. Sobs and screams fill the room, echoing off the pillared walls as those above look down on what’s left of me. A torso, the skin scraped down to the bone of my ribs. An arm, charred and barely human. And worst of all, a detached leg, shattered in more than one place.
After the lecture, I’d been walking to my chariot when I noticed a slight disturbance ahead on the track. I hadn’t quite been able to see what was going on…
“Is it safe?” I questioned the guard sharply.
“When is it ever safe round here? It’ll be right.”
I paused, as all good thinkers do. Another riot, perhaps? There was always something to be protested nowadays- an outdated class system, the Christians making base, the inaccessibility of the Library…
“Shall we get a move on?”
“Yes, yes. Just bypass the street ahead, if you wouldn’t mind.”
A mere five minutes later I was dragged by my hair, kicking and screaming, fighting tooth and nail.
They screamed at me, demanded that I take up a habit and declare myself a worshipper of their Lord Jesus Christ, that I dedicate myself not to the spreading of false words and wisdom, that I preach their Truth rather than my own…
And now I realise, looking down upon what is left of my physical form, that I truly am dead. I am neither here nor there. I’m not floating down the River Styx, as my followers would have predicted, nor have I descended to Hell, as the zealots would certainly be preaching. I’m not currently being reborn or dwelling in the clouds. I am yet another woman looking down upon her own broken body, staring at the consequences of not following yet another man.
Here I shall stay until they forget my name, until the Library of Alexandria is burnt to a crisp and until the religion I fought so hard against takes over the world. Until all reason is gone from the world, and I am no longer able to serve a purpose.