The Martyrdom of Cyprian of Carthage (258 AD)

Saint CyprianFrom the Acta Proconsularia, 3-6

On the morning of September 14 a large crowd gathered at Sesti by order of proconsul Galerius Maximus. And the same proconsul Galerius Maximus ordered that Cyprian should be brought to the hearing which he conducted on that same day in the Sauciolus Hall. When Bishop Cyprian stood before him, the proconsul said to him, “Are you Tascius Ciprianus?”

Bishop Cyprian answered, “Yes, I am.”

Proconsul Galerius Maximus said, “Are you the one who has presented himself as the leader of a sacrilegious sect?”

Bishop Cyprian answered, “I am.”

Galerius Maximus said, “The most holy emperors bid you to sacrifice.”

Bishop Cyprian said, “I will not do it.”

Proconsul Galerius Maximus said, “Think it over.”

Bishop Cyprian said, “Do what you have been ordered to do. In such a just cause there is nothing to think over.”

Galerius Maximus, after conferring with the college of magistrates, with difficulty and unwillingly pronounced this sentence: “You have long lived sacrilegiously and have gathered many in your criminal sect, and set yourself up as an enemy of the Roman gods and of their religious rites. The pious and most holy Augusti emperors Valerian and Gallienus, and Valerian most noble Caesar, failed to bring you back to the observance of their religious ceremonies.

“Therefore, since you have been seen to be the instigator of the worst of crimes, we shall make an example of you before those whom you have associated with yourself in these wicked actions. The respect for the law will be sanctioned by your blood.” Having said this he read out in a loud voice from a tablet the decree: “I order that Tascius Ciprianus be punished by being beheaded”.

Bishop Cyprian said: ‘Thanks be to God’.

Following the sentence, the crowd of Christian brethren said, “We want to be beheaded with him.” At this there was great agitation among the brethren and a large crowd followed him. Thus Cyprian was led into the countryside of Sesti, and there he took off his cloak and hood, knelt on the ground and prostrated himself in prayer to the Lord. He then removed his dalmatic and gave it to the deacons, leaving himself only in his linen garment, and so waited for the executioner.

When the latter arrived, the bishop ordered his own followers to give the executioner twenty-five gold pieces. Meanwhile his brethren held out pieces of cloth and handkerchiefs to receive the blood as relics. Then the great Cyprian with his own hands bandaged his eyes, but since he could not tie the corners of the handkerchief, presbyter Julian and subdeacon Julian went to help him.

Thus bishop Cyprian was martyred and his body, because of the curiosity of the pagans, was placed in a place nearby where it was hidden from their indiscreet eyes. It was then carried away at night with lighted flares and torches and accompanied as far as the cemetery of procurator Macrobius Candidianus, which is in the ‘Huts’ Road near the Baths. A few days later, proconsul Galerius Maximus died.

The holy bishop Cyprian was martyred on September 14th under emperors Valerian and Gallienus, but in the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all honour and glory be forever. Amen.

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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