Hypatia of Alexandria

Hypatia of Alexandria was a Greek scholar who lived in Egypt from about 370-ish to 415 AD, during the time when Egypt was part of the Eastern Roman Empire. Her father, a philosopher and mathematician himself, tried to raise her as a perfect human.  Not too shabby, Dad.

In this lesson you’ll get to make a mini folder about Hypatia like this one.

Few of her writings exist today but she gets repeated mentions by contemporaries and others who came not long after as a wise and well-educated woman.  She also taught, educating many of the great minds of her day.

This is an artist’s idea of Hypatia. She is being wooed by a man. But, according to historians of antiquity, she remained a virgin throughout her life. So this guy had no hope.


Things she was into include:

She wrote eight volumes on Pollonius’ conic sections.
  • Building scientific instruments
  • Writing and editing math treatises (she edited and corrected Euclid and Ptolmy, folks)
  • Teaching
  • Political advising
  • Astronomy
  • Philosophy
  • Running, hiking, swimming, and horseback riding
  • And heading up universities

Her Tragic End

In 415 she was murdered by a mob of Christian monks who thought she was blocking a reconciliation between their bishop and the Roman prefect.  Bad things happen when religion and politics are mixed.  Her death was one of the inciting incidents that turned a large faction against Christianity in the late Roman Empire.

The monks waylaid her carriage, dragged her into a nearby church, stripped her naked, pelted her and tore at her with tiles, then ripped her body limb from limb before they paraded her parts through the streets and set fire to her. This part of her story can be saved for your high schoolers 😉 and used as a cautionary tale.

Over the centuries she became a positive symbol for movements as varied as Christianity, anti-Catholicism, and feminism.

Library List

Learn more about Hypatia of Alexandria by reading up on her online or in one of these conveniently Amazon linked affiliate books.

As you read take notes about things that stand out to you.

Hypatia of Alexandria Exploration

After learning about Hypatia’s life and work, make a mini folder book about her.  Stuff it with cards and facts about her life.  You can use the images from this post to print, cut out, and paste to the book.  Search for other images and quotes online.  You might also want to include an image of an astrolabe like the one below, an instrument Hypatia is known to have constructed.

This astrolabe was constructed in the eleventh century but would have been similar to one Hypatia made. It was used for astronomy in mapping and tracking the movement of the stars and planets and to find latitude on earth.

Mini Folder Instructions

To make the mini folder you will need two to three pieces of card stock, scissors, and glue.  You’ll also want your notes on Hypatia and a bunch of printed images from the internet handy.  I will show you roughly how I made my folder, but your kids will probably enjoy the project more if you let them use their own creativity and construct the pages and pockets the way they like, especially if this isn’t their first paper folding project.

First I folded a piece of card stock in half the long way, hot dog style.  Then I cut along this fold and folded up the bottom part way so I could make this piece into a pocket.

The rest of my folder was based off the size of this pocket.  I decided I would make the pocket the middle of my folder and I would have three pages total: a front cover, a center pocket, and a back cover.

I lined up my center pocket with other pieces and folds of card stock and cut to fit.

The front and back covers are one piece of paper folded to fit around the pocket and then the pocket was glued in the middle using a narrow strip of card stock as the binding.

To give more visual interest to the front I folded a corner of the cover over and then cut a half inch from the fold. I then glued that half inch down inside to make a nicer edge. You can also see the middle pocket. I just glued up the two sides of the front of the pocket and left the middle unglued. I also have a pair of fancy scissors that I used to make a decorative edge on the front of the pocket before I glued it.
This shows the narrow strip of paper that I used to glue the pocket to the back cover.

Then I made cards to fit in the pocket.  I made them too wide at first and had to trim them down.  Make sure you check the size of the pockets and cards before you start adding facts to your cards.

These are the cards all written on and decorated. On mine I put areas of scholarship that Hypatia excelled in.

The final step is to add the images you printed and information you learned.  I cut my images out around the images of Hypatia before I pasted them in because I like how this looks.

This is inside the cover and the pocket page.
On this page I cut out a plane astrolabe image and glued it to a piece of card stock, then cut that out too. I punched a hole at the top and used a piece of twine to attach the astrolabe to the back of the center pocket.
On the back cover I just found an image quote that I liked and pasted it to the center of the page.

You can then put this whole mini folder into a pocket you create for your history notebook.

Additional Layers

  • Discuss some of Hypatia’s philosophy and beliefs.  What do you agree with and what do you disagree with?  Why?
  • Learn about Neoplatonism, the foundation of Hypatia’s training.
  • Hypatia’s death was tragic and cruel.  Think of other martyrs for their beliefs.  Why does this happen?  What can you learn from this about human nature?
  • Find Alexandria on a map of Egypt.  Draw a map of the Roman Empire in around 400 AD.
This is ancient Rome in about 400 AD, during Hypatia’s life.

More From Layers of Learning

Teach this lesson as part of Unit 1-20, which includes the history of the Roman Empire.

Layers of Learning Unit 1-20
Unit 1-20: Roman Empire, You Explore, Fungi, Composing Music

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