The philosopher Hypatia (350/370–415 ce) is one of the outstanding figures in the intellectual life of Late Antiquity. She is considered a symbol of the transformation of science and philosophy under the Christian bishops in Alexandria at the end of the 4th century ce. Her life and her works are well documented in different literary genres and by famous authors, namely by Synesius of Cyrene in his letters. The extant testimonies on her work prove that she was the guiding light of astronomy in Alexandria, where she was held in high esteem. Unsurprisingly, she became the target of aggression, and she was murdered ferociously in 415. Hypatia has been commemorated in the Byzantine and the Western traditions. She has experienced an impressive revival since the Enlightenment; even in the 21st century she is depicted as a heroine in fiction and film.Hypatia appears to have spent her entire life in her hometown of .
Serving as bishop of Alexandria from 412 until his death in 444, Cyril was one of the two most influential episcopal leaders of the city during Late Antiquity, second only to Athanasius in terms of his involvement in ecclesiastical politics and his significance as an authority for later Christian traditions. His career was marked by attempts to oppose Jews, pagans, and Christians whose theology he regarded as contrary to the Nicene faith. In pursuit of this goal he proved to be a politically savvy tactician, as well as a rhetorically and intellectually powerful polemicist in pamphlets, letters, florilegia, and treatises. He was also an effective bishop who exhibited pastoral concern for the organization and vitality of the Egyptian church as well as its unity with other churches throughout the empire.Details of Cyril’s early life are murky. All that survives are much later reports that may not be accurate, such as the claim that he spent five years in the Nitrian desert receiving instruction from the ascetic Serapion (Severus ibn al-Muqaffa‘, .