Enormous amounts of RAM required to compile

My laptop has a core i7 (dual core) with 8GB of RAM running ArchLinux.
My gcc compiler is version 4.8.1

I read that graph-tool will use >1GB of RAM during compile because of its
use of templates. However, on my machine, compiling graph-tool quickly
exhausted all available RAM (8GB!) and the process was killed by the linux

This seems like something is seriously wrong.

I have a similar setup to yours, and for me the compilation takes around
4 GB of memory at its peak. Are you sure you had this amount of memory
available? Were you compiling it in parallel?