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37. Women in Late Antique Egypt

Jennifer Sheridan Moss

Subject History
Roman History » Roman Empire

Place Africa » Northern Africa

Key-Topics archives and documents, evidence, gender, sources, women

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405192842.2012.00053.x


There was a woman in Alexandria called Hypatia … She so excelled in her studies that she surpassed the philosophers of her time … For this reason those wishing to study philosophy flocked from everywhere to her side … Indeed there was nothing shameful about her presence in a company of men, for they all had the greatest respect and admiration for her because of her outstanding decorum. But hatred was then marshalled against her. Since she visited Orestes [the governor] quite frequently, this stirred up a false accusation among the people of the church … Some hot-headed men … plotted together and kept an eye out for the woman to return home from some outing. They threw her out of her carriage, dragged her to the church … and after stripping off her clothes, killed her by [throwing] broken tiles. When they had torn her limb from limb, they brought the limbs together … and destroyed them by burning. (Socrates, History of the Church VII.I 5) We know of the legendary philosopher-queen Hypatia (also discussed by Deslauriers, this volume, Chapter 25 ) largely because of her prominence as a woman who stepped outside traditional boundaries, which led her to be the subject of both curiosity and wrath. But what about ordinary women who passed their lives in the small cities, villages, and countryside of Egypt during late antiquity? Of course, most women in late antique Egypt lived less ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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