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Hellenistic Greece Unit Test

Page history last edited by Judy S. Nelson 5 years, 5 months ago

Question 1.   Kritios Boy / The Tyrannicides / The Calf Bearer



1.Using your notes, textbook, specific details, vocabulary terms and learnings from the Unit,

a.  Order these sculptures from oldest to most recent.  Use specific vocabulary from the Unit as well as citations from the text to provide approximate dates for these sculptures, based on the traits they exhibit.  

b.  What important ideas or values of Hellenistic Greek society do these sculptures convey?  What ties do they exhibit to other cultures or Pre-Hellenistic Greeks?




2.  Hypatia's Death:  Read the following text.  Even though Hypatia is executed in the Cesareum around 400 AD in Alexandria, which is under Roman rule, Alexander the Great's city is still very much like Hellenistic Greece.  What details of Hellenistic Greek life still appear and resonate in her story?  Use vocabulary terms and specific references to the text in discussing your answer.  How does the emergence of the Mystery Cults during Hellenistic Greece figure into the minds of the people of Hypatia's time, possibly influencing her fate?



     "The mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria was the daughter of the mathematician Theon Alexandricus (c. 335 – c. 405). She was educated atAthens. Around AD 400, she became head of the Platonist school at Alexandria,] where she imparted the knowledge of Plato and Aristotle to students, including pagans, Christians, and foreigners.

Although contemporary 5th-century sources identify Hypatia of Alexandria as a practitioner and teacher of the philosophy of Plato and Plotinus, two hundred years later, the 7th-century Egyptian Coptic bishop John of Nikiû identified her as a Hellenistic pagan and that "she was devoted at all times to magicastrolabes and instruments of music, and she beguiled many people through her Satanic wiles". However, not all Christians were as hostile towards her: some Christians even used Hypatia as symbolic of Virtue. The contemporary Christian historiographer Socrates Scholasticus described her in Ecclesiastical History:

There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. 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.

Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History


Hypatia corresponded with former pupil Synesius of Cyrene, who was tutored by her in the philosophical school of Platonism and later became bishop of Ptolemais in AD 410, an exponent of the Christian Holy Trinity doctrine. Together with the references by the pagan philosopher Damascius, these are the extant records left by Hypatia's pupils at the Platonist school of Alexandria.


Two widely cited but divergent texts describe the feud between Orestes, the  [Roman ] prefect (or Governor) of Alexandria and Cyril, the Christian Bishop of Alexandria. The feud and the city-wide anger it provoked ultimately brought about the death of Hypatia. Kathleen Wider proposes that the murder of Hypatia marked the end of Classical antiquity, and Stephen Greenblatt observes that her murder "effectively marked the downfall of Alexandrian intellectual life."


Orestes, the Roman governor of Alexandria, and Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria, were involved in a bitter feud in which Hypatia became one of the main points of contention. In 415 AD, the feud began over Jewish dancing exhibitions in Alexandria. Because the exhibitions attracted large crowds and were commonly prone to civil disorder of varying degrees, Orestes published an edict that outlined new regulations for such gatherings. When crowds gathered to read the edict shortly after it was posted in the city's theater, it angered Christians as well as Jews. At one such gathering, Hierax, a devout Christian follower of Cyril, read the edict and applauded the new regulations. Many people felt Hierax was attempting to incite the crowd into sedition. Orestes reacted swiftly and violently out of what Scholasticus suspected was "jealousy [of] the growing power of the bishops…[which] encroached on the jurisdiction of the authorities". He ordered Hierax to be seized and tortured publicly in the theater.

Hearing of Hierax's severe and public punishment, Cyril threatened to retaliate against the Jews of Alexandria with "the utmost severities" if the harassment of Christians did not cease immediately. In response to Cyril's threat, the Jews of Alexandria grew even more furious, eventually resorting to violence against the Christians. They plotted to flush the Christians out at night by running through the streets claiming that the Church of Alexander was on fire. When Christians responded to what they were led to believe was the burning down of their church, "the Jews immediately fell upon and slew them" by using rings to recognize one another in the dark and killing everyone else in sight. When the morning came, the Jews of Alexandria could not hide their guilt, and Cyril, along with many of his followers, took to the city's synagogues in search of the perpetrators of the massacre.

After Cyril rounded up all the Jews in Alexandria, he ordered them to be stripped of all possessions, banished them from Alexandria, and allowed their goods to be pillaged by the remaining citizens of Alexandria. With Cyril's banishment of the Jews, "Orestes [...] was filled with great indignation at these transactions, and was excessively grieved that a city of such magnitude should have been suddenly bereft of so large a portion of its population." Because of this, the feud between Cyril and Orestes intensified, and both men wrote to the emperor regarding the situation. Eventually, Cyril attempted to reach out to Orestes through several peace overtures, including attempted mediation and, when that failed, in an appeal to Orestes's allegiances as a Christian Roman, showing the Gospels to him. Nevertheless, Orestes remained unmoved by such gestures.

Meanwhile, approximately 500 monks who resided in the mountains of Nitria, and who were "of a very fiery disposition", heard of the ongoing feud between the Governor and Bishop and descended into Alexandria armed and prepared to fight alongside Cyril. Upon their arrival, the monks intercepted Orestes's chariot and proceeded to bombard and harass him, calling him a pagan idolater. In response to such allegations, Orestes countered that he was actually a Christian and had even been baptized by Atticus, the Bishop of Constantinople. The monks paid little attention to Orestes's claims of Christianity, and one of the monks, Ammonius, struck Orestes in the head with a rock, causing him to bleed profusely. At this point, although Orestes's guards fled in fear, a nearby crowd of Alexandrians came to his aid. Ammonius was subsequently secured and ordered to be tortured for his actions. He died of the torture.

Following the death of Ammonius, Cyril ordered that he henceforth be remembered as a martyr. Such a proclamation did not sit well with "sober-minded" Christians, as Scholasticus pointed out, seeing that he "suffered the punishment due to his rashness he would not deny Christ". This fact, according to Scholasticus, became apparent to Cyril through general lack of enthusiasm for Ammonius's case for martyrdom.

Scholasticus then introduces Hypatia, the female philosopher of Alexandria and the woman who would become a target of the Christian anger that was inflamed during the feud. Daughter of Theon, and a teacher trained in the philosophical schools of Plato and Plotinus, she was admired by most for her dignity and virtue. Of the anger she provoked among Christians, Scholasticus writes, Hypatia ultimately fell "victim to the political jealousy which at the time prevailed". Orestes was known to seek her counsel, and a rumor spread among the Christian community of Alexandria blaming her for Orestes's unwillingness to reconcile with Cyril. A mob of Christians gathered, led by a reader (i.e., a minor cleric) named Peter, whom Scholasticus calls a fanatic. They kidnapped Hypatia on her way home and took her to the "Church called Caesareum. They then completely stripped her, and then murdered her with tiles." Socrates Scholasticus was hence interpreted as saying that, while she was still alive, Hypatia's flesh was torn off using oyster shells (tiles; the Greek word is ostrakois, which literally means "with or by oystershells" but the word was also used for brick tiles on the roofs of houses and for pottery sherds). Afterward, the men proceeded to mutilate her and, finally, burn her limbs. News of Hypatia's murder provoked great public denouncement, not only against Cyril, but against the whole Alexandrian Christian community. Scholasticus closes with a lament: "Surely nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity than the allowance of massacres, fights, and transactions of that sort."

"Hypatia." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.


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