Supposed quotation by Hypatia

An atheist post online used the following as a signature:

“Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fancies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child-mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after-years relieved of them. In fact, men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth – often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you can not get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.”

No reference was given, but the passage can be found attributed to a letter by Synesius.  Unfortunately it seems clear that this is not part of the standard English translation by Fitzgerald, which is online at

So… does anyone know where Synesius says anything like this?

I am suspicious.  Much of this doesn’t sound right.

UPDATE:  No sign of this anywhere in Fitzgerald’s translation.  Looking in Google books, I find the saying in Elbert Hubbard, Little Journeys to the homes of great teachers, 1908, p.84-5 (without reference, of course).  I can’t find anything earlier than that.


7 thoughts on “Supposed quotation by Hypatia

  1. If my memory does not fail me all we have from Hypatia is a few Testimonia, one on how she rejected the love of one of her students, another on how she was killed by a mob organised by St. Cyril of Alexandria because she was a friend of the perfect of Egypt who was an enemy of Cyril. I think none of her works has survived but I could be mistaken

  2. As far as I can tell, Hubbard’s works are heavily interlaced with fiction, no doubt to try to give a sense of immediacy or convey a point, and over and over historical figures sound like a mix of American Transcendentalists and Christian Scientists. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the origin of it; particularly since other remarks he attributes to Hypatia (and to Theon) also seem to dead-end with him, and since it is extremely difficult to imagine the circumstances under which a Neoplatonist would say, “truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.”

  3. That’s a very interesting thought! I agree with you about the anachronism. But I did find the “quote” in a book from 1908, so it must predate the great man.

  4. This may be several years too late for you to read this Roger, but the work where Hubbard presented the alleged quote was published in 1908 (Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Teachers); meaning that the book you read was Hubbard’s and the quote does not predate him.

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