Hypatia was the head of the Platonist school in Alexandria, Egypt, during the early 5th century. She was the daughter of a prominent Greek mathematician and had trained in Platonist philosophy at the Academy in Athens. Her work in Alexandria, which was then a great center of scholarship in the ancient world, centered on teaching science and philosophy classes.
Hypatia was reputed to be very beautiful, and her close friendship with the Roman governor of Alexandria put her at the center of local political intrigue. At the time of her death, in 415 or 416, the governor, Orestes, was embroiled in a dispute with Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria, over regulations relating to Jewish dancing competitions in the city. Tensions escalated into violence, with Cyril driving Jewish Alexandrians out of the city.
For her support of the governor and the suspicion that her counsel was frustrating efforts at reconciliation, Hypatia became a target of the local Christian congregation's wrath. One night, as she traveled home by carriage, a mob set upon her and dragged her to a local church. There, she was stripped and murdered with ostrakois, which is usually translated as "oyster shells" but which probably means either roofing tiles or pottery shards.