The legend of Cyprian the Magician (perhaps mid-fourth century with further development at a later period) tells how a young man in approaches Cyprian so that with he can win the love of the Christian virgin Justina. But all the magical are frustrated by prayer and by the sign of the cross made by Justina. Thereupon the magician becomes a convert and burns his magical books. He first becomes a presbyter and then bishop of Antioch, while Justina assumes the leadership of a house for Christian virgins.

In DIOCLETIAN’s persecution of the Christians (other emperors, too, are mentioned in various versions), both Justina and the converted magician die as martyrs in Nicomedia. In the East the figure of Cyprian of Carthage and this fictitious converted magician have been fused (cf. Forget, CSCO 47, in Scriptores Arabici 3, pp. 33f.; CSCO 78, Scriptores Arabici 12, pp. 37f. [ translation]).

There are three important texts in which the legend is found: (1) Conversio Justinae et Cypriani (around 350), which relates the history of the conversion of Justina and Cyprian; (2) Confessio seu paenitentia Cypriani (which follows the Conversio chronologically), which presents discourses and the life story of Cyprian in autobiographical form, including his initiation into numerous magical arts, his conversion, his confession of faults, his penitence, and his baptism; (3) Martyrium Cypriani et Justinae (end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century). A clue to the dating is the sermon preached by GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS in 379 on the feast of Cyprian of Carthage (14 September) in Constantinople, in which the story of the Antiochene Cyprian’s conversion has already left its coloring on that of the Carthaginian (Or. 24 [PG 35, cols. 1169-93]).

The texts, originally in Greek, were translated into and into Oriental languages (Syrian, Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopic). There is a survey of the surviving Coptic items in Bilabel and Grohmann (1934, pp. 37f.). Bilabel and Grohmann published supplements to the older editions of O. von Lemm (1899) and W. E. Crum (1905), especially the edition and translation of the Pierpont Morgan 609 (Conversio and Martyrium). The prayers of Cyprian and the conjuring-book of Cyprian are in the Heidelberg University Library.


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