Happy Summer Solstice!
On this longest day of the year, we celebrate a Power Woman who helped map the stars: Hypatia (350 - 415 AD). She was engaged in a multitude of intellectual pursuits (Astronomy, Math, Philosophy and beyond) and a significant player in the innovative, multicultural scene that was ancient Alexandria. It was where Egyptian wisdom, Greek thought, Babylonian science and scholarship from around the world came together and flourished. That is until power hungry Bishop Cyril, destroyed all that Alexandria stood for. To him, Hypatia was a wealthy, educated pagan whose astronomical instruments were objects of evil, black magic. Tragically, her work with the Astrolabe was the cause of her barbarous death by an angry mob of monks. Just as this day is long, her luminous spirit (and it’s thirst for knowledge) endures!
Drawing by Jules Maurice Gaspard, 1908
Meet a 1st century iPhone: an Astrolabe, or “catcher of the stars”. Originally developed by the Greeks and perfected in Alexandria, it calculates the time of day or night, latitude, altitude, and can measure the height of mountains or width of rivers - all of which enables navigation by way of the stars.
This former Sotheby’s auction item is a 1020 AD brass treasure from the dynamic time in history that was Al-Andalus in Spain. What Alexandria and Al-Andalus share is an “East meets West” collaborative exchange of intellectual ideas, art and culture. In some ways, the Islamic culture inherited the rich and varied intellectual pursuits that began in Alexandria.
Photo by Sotheby's