Why didn’t Hypatia have a husband?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

Just thinking out loud here.

Let’s take a moment to explore the issue of why Hypatia did not have a husband.

Since she didn’t have a husband, is there a chance that she had girlfriend? I don’t mean to bulldoze the option that she was ace, but let’s consider the girlfriend angle for a minute. Maybe she ended up dating Asclepigenia? If she was in love with Asclepigenia, it would explain why she didn’t want to marry a man. What if both women were into “running, hiking, horseback riding, rowing, and swimming”? What would we assume if we saw this pattern in modern times? You don’t need much of a gaydar to find this situation interesting.

Does anyone else think it is weird that Wikipedia won’t even mention the possibility that Hypatia loved women? It’s well known that Wikipedia’s editors are overwhelmingly male. I wonder if this text would be written the same way if Wikipedia had more women as editors?

On account of the self-possession and ease of manner which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not infrequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.

Damascius states that Hypatia remained a lifelong virgin and that, when one of the men who came to her lectures tried to court her, she tried to sooth his lust by playing the lyre. When he refused to abandon his pursuit, she rejected him outright, displaying her bloody menstrual rags and declaring “This is what you really love, my young man, but you do not love beauty for its own sake.” Damascius further relates that the young man was so traumatized that he abandoned his desires for her immediately. Michael A. B. Deakin argues that Hypatia’s menstruation was proof of her celibacy, since, in ancient times, menarche generally occurred around the time a woman reached marriageable age, much later than in developed countries today, and, since no reliable methods of birth control existed, menstruation would have actually been a relatively rare occurrence for any woman who was not devoted to a life of celibacy.

If I was Hypatia’s girlfriend, and I found out that she’d just been murdered, my first thought, beyond overwhelming grief, would be “Save the library.” I mean, all the book that Hypatia and her father had accumulated. I’d want to keep those books safe from Christians. Since the Christians had just killed Hypatia, it would be reasonable to fear they would also try to burn her books.

How to save the books? Since the city was no longer safe, I’d try to take the books back to my home village. That raises the vexing question of where that might be. It could be inland, or north on any of a hundred different islands.

Would be interesting to know if she stayed in touch with Asclepigenia all those years.

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