Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 1271
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (North Africa), apologises to Cornelius, bishop of Rome, that while Cyprian was in Hadrumetum (North Africa), the letters of the presbyters of the city were addressed to the presbyters and deacons of Rome, and not to Cornelius. Cyprian, Letter 48, AD 251.
Epistula 48
Cyprianus Cornelio fratri s[alutem].
I. Legi litteras tuas, frater carissime, quas per Primitiuum conpresbyterum nostrum misisti, in quibus te conperi motum quod cum de Hadrumetina colonia Polycarpi nomine ad te litterae dirigerentur, posteaquam nos, ego et Liberalis, in eundem locum uenissemus, coepissent illuc ad presbyteros et diaconos litterae dirigi.
II,1. Quod scire te uolumus et pro certo credere nulla id leuitate aut contumelia factum. Sed cum statuissemus collegae conplures qui in unum conueneramus ut legatis ad uos coepiscopis nostris Caldonio et Fortunato missis omnia interim integra suspenderentur, donec ad nos idem collegae nostri rebus illic aut ad pacem redactis aut pro ueritate conpertis redirent, presbyteri et diaconi in Hadrumetino consistentes Polycarpo coepiscopo nostro absente ignorabant quid nobis in commune placuisset.
2. At ubi nos in praesentiam uenimus, conperto consilio nostro ipsi quoque id quod et ceteri obseruare coeperunt, ut in nullo ecclesiarum istic consistentium consensio discreparet.
(ed. Diercks 1994: 228-229)
Letter 48
Cyprian to Cornelius his brother, greeting.
I. I have read your letters, dearest brother, which you sent by Primitivus our co-presbyter, in which I perceived that you were annoyed that, whereas letters from the Adrumetine colony in the name of Polycarp were directed to you, yet after Liberalis and I came to that place, letters began to be directed thence to the presbyters and to the deacons.
II,1. In respect of which I wish you to know, and certainly to believe, that it was done from no levity or contempt. But when several of our colleagues who had assembled into one place had determined that, while our co-bishops Caldonius and Fortunatus were sent as ambassadors to you, all things should be in the meantime suspended as they were, until the same colleagues of ours, having reduced matters there to peace, or, having discovered their truth, should return to us. The presbyters and deacons abiding in the Adrumetine colony, in the absence of our co-bishop Polycarp, were ignorant of what had been decided in common by us,
2. but when we came before them, and our purpose was understood, they themselves also began to observe what the others did, so that the agreement of the churches abiding there was in no respect broken.


Primitivus is named as "fellow presbyter" by Cyprian here, but it is unclear whether he belongs to the clergy of Rome or of Carthage.
The election of Cornelius in Rome was contested, so the support of the African bishops, especially Cyprian, was important for him. This is why Cornelius was annoyed that the clergy of Hadrumetum addressed their letters to the presbyters and deacons of Rome, and not to Cornelius, as if not accepting his election. Cyprian reassures Cornelius that the presbyters of Hadrumetum were not informed about the decisions of Cyprian to support Cornelius, and the will refer to him from now on.

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Rome
  • Carthage
  • Hadrumetum
  • Rome

About the source:

Author: Cyprian
Title: Letters, Epistulae, Epistolae
Origin: Carthage (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Cyprian was born probably about AD 200. He converted to Christianity in about 245 and in 248 was elected Bishop of Carthage. Soon after, the Decian persecution began (in 249/250) and Cyprian went into hiding. In 251 he returned to the city. Under Valerian, he was exiled in 257 and executed in 258. The epistolary of Cyprian consists of 81 letters (16 of them by his correspondents, and 6 synodal or collective), the majority of them are from the period of 250-251, when they were the means of Cyprian`s communication with his clergy. They offer us a wide view on the organization of the Church in Carthage in the middle of the third century, her relation with the Church of Rome, on the development of the persecutions, and on the conflicts that they caused inside the Church.
Different numerations of Cyprian's letters exist, I follow the edition of Diercks in Corpus Christianorum.
G.F. Diercks ed., Sancti Cypriani Episcopi Epistularium. Epistulae 1-57, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 3B, Turnhout 1994.


Writing activity - Correspondence
    Travel and change of residence
    Ecclesiastical administration - Ecclesiastical envoy
    Ecclesiastical administration
      Described by a title - Conpresbyter
      Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER1271,