5 Real Librarians With Wrecking Balls for Gonads: Part 2 of 5: Hypatia

by Will Conley

This is Part Two in a series of five posts about real librarians who are way, way cooler than you. Now then, where were we? Ah yes.

Last time, boys and girls, we talked about St. Lawrence the librarian, the Christian who not only didn’t mind being grilled like a New York strip steak…

…but actually supplied cooking advice to his pagan torturers while on fire. Fastforward a century and a half, and the power relationship between Christians and pagans is the exact opposite…


By the year 415, the Christian church had come into its own. Instead of pagans oppressing, killing and peeing on Christians, it was the Christians doing the oppressing and the killing and the peeing. And if there was anything they enjoyed peeing on the most, it was them thar devil-possessed sorcerers that dabbled in such black arts as reading, writing and arithmetic.

A typical 5th century librarian.

Chief among those foul fiends of book-learnin’ was Hypatia, the woman widely considered to be the last librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Hypatia was a mathematician, scientist and philosopher. She was an educator and political advisor to many high ranking officials, including Orestes, who was the governor of Alexandria.

Like any self-respecting Neoplatonist, Hypatia disavowed the pleasures of the flesh. Once, when one of her students came to profess his undying love for her and compliment her on her hot bod, she threw her used menstrual rags before him, proclaiming:

“There is nothing beautiful about carnal desire.” Now that’s a strong woman.

The only problem was that Cyril, the new Archbishop of Alexandria, hated her smartypants face, and so did the rest of Christendom. Hypatia knew full well that she labored under the constant possibility that she could get lynched by a paranoid church mob at any time.

And that’s exactly what happened in 415. Hypatia was on her way to a meeting when a paranoid church mob of common Christians and, believe it or not, monks, tore her from her coach and…

Well, we’re not really sure.

Accounts vary on her manner of death. We know of three theories: her skin was flayed off with abalone shells; she was beaten with construction tiles; or she was just plain burned. It’s like Mad Libs or a Choose Your Own Adventure novel: you decide! Good times.

Hypatia was so closely involved with the Great Library, that her death was considered to be the last nail in the coffin for the Great Library itself, which was also burned.

Rachel Weisz as Hypatia in the movie Agora, depicted here trying to save the library from total idiots.

The church eventually sainted Cyril, a fact that is awesome to know.

All that would be pretty amazing if Hypatia had been a dude, but during her lifetime, women were considered property and rarely participated in the affairs of state. But nobody even in that time could deny that Hypatia was bad-ass, and she wasn’t about to let a little old thing like rock-solid patriarchy ruin her day.

She was just that well endowed in the nad department.



Next week we’ll learn you about Giacomo Casanova. You remember him. He was the guy who has intercourse with that which moves. Yeah, that one guy. Anyway, this particular horndog was also a librarian. Chicks always fall for the nerd act.

Author Will Conley likes his own flesh rare, thank you very much.

About Anne Burwell

Daughter, sister, wife, mother and writer. I spend half of my free time writing and the other half reading contemporary literature. I like to start my day with half an hour of yoga and then I head over to my desk with a cup of green tea to start working on my sci fi novel. On weekends I like to head over to the country side for a breath of fresh air and to catch up with my mom.


  1. flj52452@yahoo.com'fljustice says

    Neat article on librarians…some of my favorite people. Hypatia is up there in my top five. I saw the movie Agora when it first came out in NYC and loved Weisz’ performance as Hypatia, but it’s a fictionalized version of Hypatia’s life. For more about the historical Hypatia, I recommend a very readable biography Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska (Harvard University Press, 1995).

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