S2, Ep 18 Hypatia and The Darkening Age: Catherine Nixey (415)

In this episode of Travels Through Time, Catherine Nixey, author of the international bestseller The Darkening Age, guides Violet Moller back to the ancient city of Alexandria in the year 415. They talk about the simmering tensions between Christians, Jews and Pagans at that time. Among the characters they meet is the gifted, beautiful and powerful Hypatia of Alexandria.


Hypatia of Alexandria has always been a compelling figure. Her glittering life and brutal death have inspired writers, poets and film makers for centuries. But what lies behind the myth and speculation?

Hypatia’s murder was a particularly horrific episode in the gradual triumph of Christianity over classical culture, a slow and painful process that was played out across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In this episode Catherine Nixey isolates and analyses 415, one dramatic year in this complex story.

Catherine Nixey is a journalist and author. The Darkening Age won an award from the Royal Society of Literature and was an international bestseller. Her journalism has appeared in The Economist, The Financial Times, The Times and The New York Times.

The Darkening Age is available from MacMillan now.

Show notes:

Scene 1: Cyril becomes Bishop of Alexandria and begins to impose his policy on the city. He regulates theatrical entertainment and the Jews react, killing a Christian in the process.

Scene 2: Cyril orders his followers to attack the synagogues and seize Jewish property. Orestes, secular ruler of the city, is attacked by Christians (even though he is one himself) but manages to escape.

Scene 3: The violence escalates. Hypatia is rumoured to have cast a spell on Orestes, public feeling against her is stirred up. She is pulled from her coach and murdered.

Memento: One of Hypatia's astrolabes.


Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Interview: Violet Moller

Guest: Catherine Nixey

Producer: Maria Nolan

Titles: Jon O