In Her Own Words: The Life and Poetry of Aelia Eudocia

  Sowers, Brian P. 2020. In Her Own Words: The Life and Poetry of Aelia Eudocia. Hellenic Studies Series 80. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Appendix. Eudocia’s Martyrdom of Cyprian

Book 1: The Conversion


1* [1]   When God in heaven brought light to earth
          and the true voice of wondrous men was accomplished,
          a life-producing radiance filled the whole world
          through the words of (other) prophets, the evangelists.
5*       For all robust men embraced one God,
          the Heavenly Father, Lord of all, and his Son,
          and in the name of the Holy Spirit were washed with water
          from the many sins staining their bodies.

Narrative Proper

          Once upon a time, there was a venerable girl named Justa.
10*     Her father was Aedesius and her mother, Cledonia,
          from the majestic city that Antiochus founded.
          Near that city is a laurel-crowned field, pleasant to behold,
          and mighty cypress trees wave their boughs,
          and silver drops of holy Castalia drip.
15*    There was a certain man, Praulius, the Christ-bearer,
          an exceptionally holy man and prudent minister of God,
          crowned with good cheer and faith.
          He studied the prophetic books and always sang
          the good faith and the holy voice of the prophets.
20*     The noble girl continuously heard him—
          for there was a light-bearing window nearby—as she looked from her bedroom
          into the house of the agreeable minister.
          She heard about the great acts of God, the body
          that God took on, the message of the great and noble prophets,
25*     the travail of the renowned and glorious Virgin Mary.
          She heard about the Magi, how they venerated the glorious Son of
          God by the beautiful shining star, which
          with its divine light revealed Him lying in a manger;
          about the truth and the heavenly citizens’
30*     divinely orchestrated sound of amazing praise to the Lord;
          about the awesome power of the divine cross, and how
          a mortal race emerged from the dead because Christ suffered;
          about how, after His death, He met his disciples;
          how He divulged things ordained for each of His followers;
35*     how He returned to His eternal Father’s house
          and sat on a throne to His right in a position of authority.

          The arrow of divine love shot (all) this into the girl’s heart,
          and she could no longer hide her burning passion within
          but desired to see the appearance of the holy man
40*     and to learn the whole truth from his mouth.
          And when she did not find a way, she said to her dear mother,
          “Listen to your little girl, mother.
          We are in distress, because we trust false and wretched demons.
          They are made of stone, fresh hewn trees,
45*     burnished gold, radiant silver,
          or of the white bones of dead animals
          by the hands of strong men. If an
          Israelite were here, he would publicly
          and effortlessly smash them with a word or prayer.”
50*     Cledonia grew angry and, with kind thoughts for demons,
          said, “… may your father never
          hear your opinions.” Justa replied hurtfully,
          “Dear mother, you should know this, as well as my God-opposing father,
          that, since I am struck in my heart with love for God,
55*     I search for Christ His Son, who, according to His Father’s testimony,
          rules for ever and ever,
          the only-begotten Son, almighty Christ, is always present.”
          And when she said these things, she went back to her bedroom,
          as was her habit, to speak intimately with the immortal Christ.

          And when dark night covered the paths of the earth,
60*     the mother and father of the wise child, Justa,
          (the text is missing some lines here)
          his dear and shrewd spouse addressed him first,
          relating to him the whole truth about the girl.
          In the silent night, they fell asleep at the hour
65*     that compels sweet sleep upon people.
          And in their sleep, angels stood gathered round,
          and they saw men in their house, more than a hundred,
          bearing torches, and Christ, standing in the middle of the angels,
          saying, “Come, both of you,
70*     near to me, so I may give you the right to heaven.”
          The gates of Aedesius’ eyes were loosed,
          and fleeting, anxiety-banishing sleep left the man.
          Terrified, Aedesius’ dear heart leapt up.
          He took his dear wife, along with the respected girl,
75*     in his hands and went to the holy house of God.
          Traveling with the faithful and righteous Praulius,
          he stood before the priest of Christ,
          the famous Optatus,
          and earnestly accomplished the affair: at once with his feet, he trampled
80*     his idol, and everyone began to pray in unison
          that the one performing the mystery would give them the seal of eternal life.
          But he refused, until he learned about the
          divine message and compassionate girl’s desire for Christ.
          And Aedesius immediately cut his hair on both sides
85*     from his head and chin—for he was a priest of powerless
          idols. They did not let go of the feet of the one performing the mystery
          until they received the blameless seal,
          and Aedesius obtained the position of presbyter,
          which he held for twelve whole months plus six,
90*     and then he left human cares behind.
          But his holy child went to the houses of God unceasingly.

          There was a certain wealthy man, Aglaidas,
          extremely well born, who excelled in cunning and
          whose heart was possessed by the lawless desire for idols.
95*     Upon seeing the very lovely girl habitually rushing to
          the houses of almighty God, he was distracted in his thoughts,
          and he sent many men and women
          to beg her parents that he would take
          the holy girl as an equal partner in his bedroom.
1 [2]    But she grievously sent away all the young men,
          choosing the Lord Christ as her only suitor.
          But (Aglaidas) gathered a crowd, since he intended
          to defile the holy child by force among the Lord’s seats.
5        Those pursuing her shouted loudly,
          and everyone rushed out of the rooms with weapons
          and made Aglaidas’ infantry vanish.
          But, because he held pure lust in his heart,
          as if struck with blindness, he hid himself to try to grab the girl.
10      But she immediately performed the powerful sign of Christ,
          threw the villain on his back, and, with her hands, tore
          Aglaidas’ body, as well as his cheeks and sideburns.
          She tore up his beautiful clothes, and she made him a laughingstock to everyone.
          After running the same course as glorious Thecla
15      by doing these things, Justa returned to the house of God.

          But Aglaidas grew angry and requested of an evil man,
          Cyprian, the counselor of impious magic,
          by offering to him two talents of gold
          and shining silver, that he forcibly compel
20      the virgin, because she was unwilling to consent to sex—
          Aglaidas did not know Christ’s unflagging power.
          The magician pitied the miserable man and, with an invocation,
          effortlessly summoned an irksome, evil-working demon.
          Arriving immediately, he said, “Why do you call me? Speak!”
25      He answered, “The love for one Galilean girl
          horribly tames my heart. Tell me, whether you are
          powerful enough to bring her to my bed, for I deeply desire her.”
          The dim-witted adversary agreed to grant this hopeless thing.

          And Cyprian directly addressed the villain,
30      “Tell me your accomplishments, so that I may have confidence.”
          And the demon answered, “I was once the best of the angelic ranks,
          but, in obeying my father, I abandoned the highest Lord
          of the seven-vaulted sphere. All that I have done,
          you shall know— I will relate it. The foundations of the pure heaven
35      through my wickedness I myself shook up, dividing it in two,
          and I cast an array of the heavenly host to earth.
          I deceived Eve, the mother of mortals, by force;
          I separated Adam from delightful paradise;
          I myself made the hand of Cain fratricidal;
40      I drenched the earth with blood, and the earth bears thorny
          and meager fruit for the race of mortals, all because of me.
          I accomplished wonders inimical to God—I made
          beds adulterous, I beguiled the human mind
          to worship feeble idols, and I inspired men
45      to sacrifice to a horrid bull.
          I myself wickedly urged the Hebrews to stretch on a cross
          the mighty Word of God, the eternal Son.
          I have confounded cities and thrown down their high walls.
          With a dance, I derail many marriages with strife.
50      Since I have accomplished all these evils and countless others,
          how will I not get this holy and intelligent girl?”

          And Cyprian said to the baneful demon, the rejoicer in evil,
          “Take this herb, and, in a circle, sprinkle the room
          of Aedesius’ daughter; I will come later
55      and will place my father’s mind into her heart.
          As if in a trance, she will obey whatever you want.”

          At that same time, the pious virgin, with her face to the ground,
          in the third hour of the night, sang of the noble God.
          But, when the girl deep in her heart began to tremble
60      and perceived the evil worker’s treachery
          as a fiery burning in her kidneys, she quickly set her thoughts on
          her longed-for Lord. With her hand, she quickly crossed
          her whole body and yelled,
          “Lord of all, glorious God, Father of the immaculate child,
65      Jesus Christ, You who bound the Tartarean,
          monstrous serpent in its shadowy lair,
          dearest Lord, and You who saved all those chained by him.
          With Your hand You delineated the starry sky, and,
          in the midst of chaos, You planted the earth on its watery foundation.
70      You supplied fiery brands to Titan’s progeny,
          You yoked the silvery moon to the night,
          You fashioned mortal man precisely in Your image
          and enjoined him to delight in the garden’s pleasure.
          By the advice of the most shameful beast, the serpent,
75      man was separated from the wooded plain, but You again
          sought and saved him, thanks to Your merciful heart, Lord.
          Through Your cross, You made amends for his punishment,
          And, in the name of Christ, You cleansed all his sufferings (sins).
          For this reason, the inexhaustible earth shines forth.
80      Heaven has been firmly established, the earth has been fixed,
          and waters pour forth—the whole course from beginning to end
          knows that You are the ruler of all. Come then, save
          Your servant according to Your mighty will; let shameful
          disgrace not conquer me. O everlasting author, for Your sake
85      I desire to remain a holy virgin.
          I love You with all my heart, blessed Jesus,
          my praiseworthy master, because You lit
          a blazing torch of desire for You and placed it in my heart.
          Therefore, never hand Your servant over to
90      the enemy, the abominable, lawless anti-God.
          Blessed one, never allow me to transgress Your decrees,
          but ward off the conceited sinner, the deceiver.”

          Having said these things, she quickly
          armed her body with the sign of God and immediately set
95      the grotesque demon to flight by saying Christ’s name.
          She completely routed the scoundrel.

          Deeply embarrassed, he returned to the magician.
          Cyprian asked the demon, “Where is the girl
          I ordered you to bring here as quickly as possible?”

100    And the enemy replied, “Do not ask me about all this openly,
          for I saw the terrible sign and became afraid.”

          But the magician smiled, trusting in his nefarious deeds.
          Again, he called another dreaded demon, Beliar.
          He said to Cyprian, “I have learned of your command
105    and of this one’s dismal failure. Therefore, my father has sent me
          as an aide to your distress.” Immensely pleased, the magician
          answered, “This is the plan, demon: the entire house of the holy maiden
          bind with a potion. And I will go behind you.
          I intend to persuade her quickly.” The demon departed, but the most holy,
110    devout virgin in the middle of the night was praying
          to the Lord and issued forth these words from her mouth,
          “In the middle of the night, I rose from my bed
          to confess, o Great One, the sins I have committed
          before Your justice and unerring judgment.
115    Ruler of creation, endless giver of mercy,
          lawgiver and lord of the heavenly host,
          before whom the earth trembles and who overthrows
          and shames the strength of the nefarious enemy. Father Abraham’s
          sacrifice You accepted as a splendid hecatomb;
120    You threw down Baal and slew the dragon;
          through Your pious servant, Daniel,
          You taught the whole Persian race Your divinity.
          Through Your only-begotten son, Christ,
          You set everything right and established light on earth;
125    after His death, You led dead people back into the light.
          I beg you, Lord, do not allow me to come upon evils,
          but guard my body, Lord, so that it may be forever unharmed,
          and give me the burning torch of virginity,
          so that I may know the bridal chamber with my husband,
130    Christ, and I will honor the vows I made—
          for He has power and glory with honor. Amen.”

          While she prayed these things, the demon,
          dejected with shame, fled because of her courage.
          He returned to the magician, and Cyprian
135    asked, “Tell me demon, where is the girl I ordered you
          to bring here?” The demon answered,
          “The sign (of the cross), which I saw, conquered me with its power—
          it is entirely horrible, overwhelming, unbearable.”

          Then Cyprian called another demon, more powerful still,
140    who rules all the others, the father of dark-eyed (creatures).
          Cyprian said, “Are you such an insignificant weakling, that you will give up?”
          And Satan bravely answered, “In a moment I will bring
          that girl to you—you better be ready.”
          Cyprian answered, “Tell me the sign
145    by which you will have victory.”
          Satan said, “First, I will weaken her body with fever.
          Then, on the sixth day, once I have antagonized her,
          that night I will bring her ready for you.”

          The fool went and stood before the holy girl,
150    disguised as a young woman and wearing similar clothing.
          Sitting on her bed, he said deceptively,
          “I have come to you this very morning,
          satisfied by my lovely virginity, because
          Christ the Lord called me to be consecrated.
155    So, dear girl, tell me this: what reward is there
          for lovely virginity, and what payment is offered—
          I notice that you look like a corpse—
          for a sun-scorched lifestyle and a bone-dry table?”
          The esteemed virgin replied, “The immediate
160    prize is negligible, but a greater reward follows.”
          The plotter of evil said, “Was not Eve a virgin
          in the plain of paradise with Adam?
          But later, when she had intercourse in the bed
          of the first-born, Adam, she was proclaimed mother of children.
165    From then, she produced the entire moral race
          and learned all good things.” At that very moment, Justa was about
          to be persuaded by the demon to go outside,
          and the insufferable one gleefully showed her the way.
          But the moment she perceived the crafty enemy’s deceit,
170    she immediately turned her thoughts to prayer, signed
          her body with the cross, issued a call from her mouth,
          and cast that guilty, oppressive thing out of her house.
          Breathing a bit after the commotion, she said,
          “Thank God. A fiery disease was snuffed out.”
175    She prayed, “Christ, powerful Lord,
          preserve my god-fearing body, Master.
          In Your justice, pity me, and give
          honor to Your name.” The enemy returned once again
          to the magician, downcast, terribly distressed.

180    And Cyprian struck him with reproaches,
          “Surely you did not fear the sight of a young, doe-eyed girl?
          Since you have seen her strength, tell me how great it is.”
          The enemy said, “Do not ask or request this of me.
          I cannot relate how great a sign I saw.
185    Trembling terribly, I turned tail and quickly ran away.
          But, if you want to learn more, you have to swear an unbreakable oath.”
          Cyprian answered and asked, “What sort of oath should I swear?”
          Satan answered, “By all the powers
          I control and possess.” Hearing this, Cyprian immediately swore
190    that he would never abandon the arrogant one. Emboldened, Satan
          said, “When I saw the sign of the cross of the crucified Christ,
          I turned and fled.” Cyprian responded,
          “Come now, tell me, is He far stronger than you?”
          The adversary answered, “Listen to me, and I will tell you the truth:
195    Everything we do here in shameful sin,
          delivering mortals to error,
          benefits everyone. But in yonder life,
          there is a curved instrument of bronze that
          lies aflame in their midst. On whomever sins,
200    human or angel, heavenly beings use this instrument to
          bring that one to the judgment seat of the crucified Christ.”

          Cyprian responded, “All right, go away. I am
          quickly falling in love with him. Obey me now. I
          desire the one who rejoiced in the cross, so that I not suffer these things.”
205    Satan replied foully, “You just swore an unbreakable oath,
          do you want to break it?” Cyprian answered, “Tell me, scoundrel,
          what oath did I just now swear to you?” Satan said,
          “An oath by my strong powers.” The magician responded,
          “Enemy, I do not fear you or your deeds.
210    Tonight, I have learned the whole truth from you
          because of the virgin’s prayers and holy requests
          and because of the mighty cross. You are powerless.
          Now, on my limbs I place the powerful sign
          that you have said is remarkably strong.
215    I also reject your friendship and renounce your counsels.”
          When he said these things, Cyprian gave honor to Christ
          and drove out the shameful demon by saying, “Be gone.
          I call upon Christ.” The enemy immediately left.

          Cyprian gathered his magical books and gave
220    them to strong slaves to carry to the house
          of the immaculate God. He followed behind them.
          Falling at the feet of the godly priest,
          Anthimus, Cyprian supplicated him,
          “Servant of the celestial God, I want
225    to enlist my heart in Christ’s army and book.” Anthimus angrily
          answered him, “Away with your wickedness.
          Are you not content to do what you want
          at a safe distance? Stay away from the Lord’s people.
          The Almighty’s power is invincible.”

230    Cyprian responded, “I know in my heart
          that Christ’s power is effective and mighty.
          Tonight, against a holy girl I sent
          wicked demons to ensnare her strong-minded
          good sense with deceptive bonds.
235    When she perceived them, through prayer and the sign of Christ
          she forcefully defeated them. So, bear with me and have pity on me.
          Respect your supplicant, most sacred of men, and receive
          my books that I, a sinner, used to perform countless evils.
          Burn them up and pity my soul.”
240    Persuaded, Anthimus took the books and destroyed them all.
          Blessing Cyprian, he sent him away with holy words
          and strongly encouraged him to enter God’s sheepfold.
          Cyprian returned home,
          destroyed his images of ineffectual idols,
245    and whipped his body throughout the dreary night,
          saying, “How can I come before Christ’s face,
          when I have done so many evils? How can I praise God
          with lips used to abuse others
          by summoning vile demons?”
250    On the ground, he scattered ashes and begged for God’s
          mercy in silence, because he feared to raise his voice.

          And when the bright, rosy-armed dawn
          of the great Sabbath arrived, it was a festive occasion for everyone.
          Cyprian came as a neophyte of the mighty God
255    to the holy gathering and humbly prayed,
          “Lord, if I am your worthy servant,
          grant that I may enter your house and hear a word
          from the biblical texts that bodes well for me.”
          And, as he stepped into temple’s threshold, David spoke,
260    the noble son of Jesse: “Behold, Lord, do not cast me aside,
          o ruler, nor make it so that I am far from You.” [3]
          And the great prophet Hosea said these things
          under inspiration: “Therefore, make sure he is not a slave.” [4] And again
          David said, “My eyes are set
265    upon the shining dawn that drives away gloomy night,
          so that I may always follow your divine words.” [5]
          In another passage, Isaiah said, “May fear never trouble         
          your soul, my child, Jacob, whom I love
          and selected as the preeminent race of people.” [6]
270    God’s messenger, Paul, said, “The Lord
          Christ purchased us from the turbulent curse
          of the first law.” [7] And again, the prophet
          David, best of lyre players, said, “Who can declare
          the power of the immortal one and who can tell to every ear
275    the praises of the all-powerful one?” [8] Then, the Lord’s book
          of divine words was read, then the priest’s
          address, then the instructional word for men:
          “Exit God’s temple, you who are half-initiated.”

          Cyprian calmly and silently remained seated,
280    and a certain deacon, Asterius, said to him,
          “Exit the Lord’s house.” But Cyprian answered him,
          “I am a servant of the crucified Christ; do you
          drive me outside?” The deacon responded, “You are
          not yet a fully-initiated servant of the almighty God.”
285    Cyprian in turn said, “God is eternally alive
          and alone reveals that wicked demons are disgraceful.
          He saved the virgin and pitied my heart.
          It is not right for me to leave this house
          until I have come to faith in Christ.”

290    Learning this, God’s attendant quickly approached the priest
          to tell him the news. The priest summoned Cyprian, as was fitting,
          told him many hard words,
          and asked him what he had done. He prayed so much that
          he shook the cosmos created by God.
295    Finally, he purified him in the divine waters.

          On the eighth day, Cyprian became a lector of the revered
          books that speak of Christ. And on the twenty-fifth day,
          he became a lesser deacon
          and guarded the doors of the holy mystery.
300    Fifty days later, he was eminently worthy
          of the deaconship. With power, he tamed
          the ranks of the godless, impudent, and lawless
          and healed terrible afflictions to human bodies.
          Indeed, he led into the flock of Christ many
305    who rejected the blind faith of idols.
          After a year, he took the post
          of priest, and for sixteen years
          he waited for the elder’s seat.

          Then, the blessed bishop Anthimus
310    summoned all the surrounding priests.
          When he had told them the will of Christ,
          while still alive, he gave the see to Cyprian.
          A little while later, Anthimus went to heaven
          and handed over the flock, which he had led, to the glorious man.

315    While Cyprian was overseeing the glorious house of God,
          he welcomed the virgin, appointing her deaconess.
          He no longer called her Justa but renamed
          her Justina the blameless and made her mother of all
          tender girls, servants of almighty Christ.
320    Cyprian saved many who had been led astray, the irreligious,
          and persuaded them to desire Christ. He diligently gathered them
          into the flock of the Lord who always has honor. Amen.

Book 2: The Confession

          “You who care about the mystery of faith in
          the exalted Christ, see my fresh tears,
          so you may know where my deep pain comes from—
          I speak the truth, and I know that you know it.
5        You who delight in unseemly idols,
          pay attention, because I will point out their deceptions.
          There is no other human like me:
          so impious, so in league with demons,
          such a devotee of worthless idols,
10      as to learn what they are or their strength.

          I am that famous Cyprian, whose
          parents dedicated to Apollo while I was still a child.
          At a young age, I learned the sacred rites of the Beast,
          the stomach-traveling serpent. In my seventh year,
15      I was initiated to Phaethon Mithras,
          and I lived on the acropolis of the noble Athenians.
          I became a citizen, since this was pleasing to my
          parents, who raised me. In my tenth year,
          I lit the torch for the god, and I committed myself to the white
20      suffering of Kore. I also accomplished the serpentine initiations
          of Athena, who lives on the Acropolis. Being initiated as a temple servant,
          I went to the glen of Olympus, which ignorant people claim
          is the abode of powerless gods.
          There, I heard the echo and sound of certain words.
25      I beheld herbs and roots—an amazing sight it was—
          things which shameless, evil demons hold office over, though without effect.
          In that place, I perceived the seasons and changing winds.
          I learned about many days, which certain rogues,
          harsh adversaries, use to fabricate deceptive illusions.
30      I beheld a choir shamelessly singing,
          and I saw others in a crowd, performing deeds of Ares.
          I also saw ambushes of others and their malicious habits,
          and I saw them distraught with fear. I also saw a vast
          array of goddesses and gods, because I remained there
35      forty days and another eight after that.
          From there, as if from mighty realms,
          spirits traveling by air to the earth are sent forth
          to make all nations do whatever evils they wish.
          I ate a meal from the high branches of blossoming trees
40      once Phaethon had set. Going into my fifteenth year,
          I was thoroughly taught about spirits and gods
          by seven hierophants
          and about empty deeds, the works of lawless demons.
          My parents were exceedingly eager that I learn
45      everything on the earth, in the sky, and in the sea,
          not only things used for the destruction of men
          but also things about lush grass and well-stemmed
          plants, and things that oppress man’s feeble body,
          and things the evil-minded enemy,
50      the ruler of this earth, discovered, the swift-minded serpent
          who spitefully disregards the plan of the immortal Ruler.

          From there, I came to Argos, the lush pasture of horses.
          There was a festival of Dawn, wife of Tithonus, clad in white,
          and I became an initiate of the air,
55      of the heaven with its many spheres, [ – – – ]
          of the harmony of the waters and the well-fed earth,
          from dewy streams to divine air.
          I went as far as Elis, and,
          in Sparta, I saw the stout figure of Artemis Tauropolos, in order to learn
60      accursed things: volatile nature and destruction,
          written stones, cosmic symbols,
          and ancient myths. But when I went to the land of Phrygia,
          I became very wise and inspired. I
          learned from inspecting entrails what was marked on the liver.
65      From the Scythians, I learned about birds and resounding signs,
          as well as the wayward paths of animals
          and the utterances of those who see the future.
          I also learned about the sounds of wooden planks and stones,
          as well as the inhumed voices of those long dead.
70      I learned about thuds from doors and palpitations of mortal cares.
          I also learned about masses of blood that defile one’s limbs
          and when worms eat away at the joints.
          I learned the exchange of myths, the rhythm of words,
          the visible sufferings of the flesh, and the limits of nature.
75      I also learned vows, those true and untrue,
          and schemes hostile to men.
          No art escaped my notice—nothing chthonic, celestial
          or under-worldly, no versatile apparition, no hidden mind,
          nothing crafty, cunning, or skillful—
80      I learned everything as far as weak deception, impious deeds,
          everything on earth like this.

          After these things, when I entered my twentieth year,
          I arrived in the land of shadowy men,
          Egypt, and went to Memphis.
85      There, I attempted everything inappropriate for a human:
          how apotropaic spirits relate to earthly races and how
          they are invoked; what stars they desire,
          both as a rule and in fact; how they are put to flight;
          and how these same spirits keep the murky darkness.
90      And I learned which spirits are their opponents
          and how many rulers of dreaded Erebus and enemies of God there are.
          And I learned how these beings are similar in soul and body
          to cattle and fish, as well as what things they care about
          and what things they do: swift movement, knowledge,
95      memory, terror, skillful deception, footprints,
          secret forgetfulness of many, deeds of the people,
          and similar things. I also learned the trembling of the earth,
          as well as the origin and roar of rain storms,
          the swell of earth and sea—things which, in truth, were imitations,
100    illusions of the Immortal’s wisdom.
          In that place, I perceived the souls of strong and long-lived
          mortals, the shameful monsters, the Giants,
          whose souls are dreadfully crushed in the murky darkness.
          In a vision, I saw how they bear the earth on their backs,
105    like a man bears a heavy burden of wood on his shoulders.
          I saw demons have intercourse with crooked serpents,
          and I perceived the biting winds, which bring death for those on earth.
          I saw roaming demons attack the material world
          and cast numerous woes upon humans.

110    I saw the earth tortured by a demon
          but not resting on unstable water
          because of its supports and foundations.
          I came to a place where the enemy change their form,
          created by the serpent, because of his antagonism toward God’s power,
115    to distort all human life with misery.
          From there, many spirits work
          impiety against humans, consisting of equal elements, as they travel the earth.
          I also saw there a person possessed by evils,
          suddenly come into conflict with a pious man—
120    a crazy person against a wise person, a dishonorable man against an upright one.
          That place had nothing holy nor any activity that should be chosen.

          I saw there the gruesome, artificial image of Falsehood.
          There was the triple appearance of hideous Lust:
          bloody, charred, resembling froth and bile.
125    After that, I saw the likeness of Wrath, winged, wretched,
          savage, like a wild animal. Then I saw Deceit,
          relentless, secretive, adorned with duplicitous words.
          I saw the disgusting image of Hatred, blind
          but with four eyes on the back of his head
130    that shun the glorious sight of bright light.
          Many feet stick out from his head—
          they alone are terrifying. He has no stomach,
          for he is ruthless and proceeds without emotion.
          Jealousy and dreaded Envy are similar to one another,
135    but baneful Envy has a mouth like a shovel.
          I beheld Morosity, emaciated, nearly a corpse.
          She has many eyes, arrows for pupils,
          with a mind always set on revenge. And
          I saw the appearance of the demon Greed. Starting from the top, he has a head
140    that is narrow and long, and he has two mouths,
          one in his midriff and the other on his back.
          He feasts on solid earth and heavy rocks—
          insatiably hungry for flesh and consumed with evil.
          I saw Love for Wealth;
145    she has a greedy and sharp appearance—you would swear you saw a scythe.
          Her pupils are always hidden in her eyelids.
          Likewise, I saw Commerce, unsophisticated and quick roving,
          who carries on her shoulders the burden of every hope for wealth.
          I beheld the appearance of Vanity, who has a good spirit
150    and rich flesh. She is not just white bones.
          I saw Idolatry soaring high.
          At the back of her head, she has two thick wings
          which she apparently uses to protect everyone else, but
          which are unable to protect her own limbs.
155    I beheld the deceitful, heavy terror of Hypocrisy,
          who is entirely delicate and has a hollow breast,
          secretly putrefied, blasted by the winds when they bite.
          I also saw the appearance of Delirium, who simultaneously has
          two natures, that of a young man and woman.
160    She is nude, internally shameless, and impotent.
          I saw the wretched demon Recklessness, who has a brazen
          tongue by far larger than his other body parts.
          I also saw Insanity, who has a head like a nut,
          a vacuous soul that accomplishes everything under the sun.
165    Of all these terrible things I noticed one thing—
          their appearance as they shamelessly come down
          through the cosmos—those accursed, evil, monstrously terrible,
          three hundred and sixty-five
          demons of grievous passions who preside over
170    vain glory. I saw the mighty disgrace of Virtue
          and also of Wisdom and empty Justice,
          which they use to divert Greeks from wisdom.
          For someone sees an image, and truth completely withdraws.
          All of this is shadow and useless dust.
175    For in them, every vice works
          to deceive many. But I myself am not supposed
          to write endless books. By describing a few of my many deeds,
          I have related to you my impiety.

          But I will say this in addition: when I was
180    thirty years old, I left the land of shadowy men,
          and I arrived at the city of the Chaldeans, an ancient people,
          and was eager to learn the course of the air,
          which they say rests on flames of fire,
          but which learned men think rests on light.
185    There, I learned the periodic nature of stars—
          just as if someone plucks an infinite herb from mere buds—
          and the celestial ranks formed in battle formations.
          They showed me the relationships and homes of each star,
          their affection, their food and drink,
190    and their intellectual love dedicated to the light.
          They showed me the layers of the silvery heaven,
          three hundred and sixty-five of them.
          There was among them a “demiurge” of visible nature.
          And they provided an explanation: they too obeyed a leader.
195    They revealed to me the plan and the path of those
          who conceal a way of life always concerned about hidden things,
          and who are only appeased by sacrifices.
          Others do not listen at all, nor do they care for libations,
          but they only care about the vast expanse of light.
200    Thus, I saw why they continued to
          trust in dark counsels—to give light
          to dim stars by gradually mixing them.
          I was completely astonished when I saw intermediaries,
          because they, ethereal and dark, care about happiness.
205    I was amazed when I perceived their customs,
          which they mutually establish with each other
          by keeping faithful vows in their hearts.
          There was piety, love, energy,
          and a passionate desire to have intercourse with each other,
210    which their leader, that architect of evils, established.
          He made them wise by drawing breath from the air
          and an eloquent tongue from the fruitful earth.
          With his infernal powers, he taught all the “tricks of the trade.”
          He blocked the whole line of the cosmos, trusting that
215    they would forget their nature and the loving God.
          Cajoling, he put everything up for sale;
          that evil-doer rules the earth by dissipating everything.
          Believe me, I saw the demon himself
          after supplicating him with many libations and sacrifices.
220    Believe me, when I saw him, I spoke with him
          and heard his kind words. Among other things,
          he called me a youth, beautiful in appearance, just like Jambres,
          and an initiate, mighty in deeds, Jambres’ equal.
          He promised that I would become leader of the cosmos
225    by working with him, because he knew the deeds of my life.
          Honoring me, he granted me a grievous troop
          of wicked demons and said to me on my way out,
          “Cyprian, you are a strong mortal.” Rising from his chair,
          he sent me forth and amazed the spectators.
230    From that time on, all his priests honored me just like him.
          In appearance, he was like richly-worked gold,
          with flashing eyes and long hair. On his head,
          he wore a garland layered with precious stones,
          whose brilliance and splendor illuminated that place.
235    His clothing had a similar embellishment. When he turned, he shook the earth.
          Around his chair stood many shield-bearers,
          holding their gaze to the ground, prepared in army formation.
          He illuminated the earth like an Olympian god,
          gleaming with stars and making plants grow.
240    By doing everything that God does,
          he contends with the sovereign Immortal and his saints.
          That is how he apparently deceives the mind of men,
          totally feeble, he produces empty shadow,
          from which demonic form appears and quickly disappears.
245    Shameful beings are interested in this activity—to be visible
          and to take on solid power with flesh. For those who
          want these things, libation and the scent of sacrifice provide them.
          Dark shades sitting close-by draw smoke
          from sacrifices as it rises into the air.
250    This smoke they put on like decorated cloaks,
          like beautiful wool or delicate linen ware—
          numerous shadowy apparitions from lofty temples—
          they wear this air instead of truth.
          For this reason, he even needs the sacrifice of an ant
255    and asks for water, rinds, fruits—
          everything the nourishing earth produces—
          that he might reveal to mortals a mere illusion.
          Just as we see in our mind the appearance of the dead
          and we seem to converse with those not present,
260    in the same way, the adversary plants his image
          in his initiates. He places this image around the faces
          and bodies of idols which have no strength.
          He pours forth a great storm sure enough, but it is false,
          like making fire similar to icy snow,
265    or producing a fish that you can see but not eat,
          or radiant gold to be the partner of wretched poverty.
          The imitator also fashions material objects:
          cities, bedrooms, forested plains,
          shaded glens, man-nourishing fields,
270    decorated bedcoverings that mortals make,
          things that bring blood-lusty demons all sorts of shadowy things.
          Likewise, even sleep-walkers see clearly when they are fast asleep.
          These are the works of the sinful demon, this is the work
          of godless and irreligious people, those with impure religions.
275    What then do I suffer—wanting to fear
          the heavenly God yet dreading the icy demon’s
          deadly power and his empty boasts,
          I am hidden in a shadowy vale? For from a holy girl,
          the esteemed virgin Justa, I learned about
280    demons, how totally feeble they are.
          For I saw one eccentric in thought, clothed in scales,
          boasting unspeakable things, gigantic, a shameful serpent;
          yet against her, he did not even have the strength of a fly.
          I learned from the most honorable virgin that my lord
285    claims a lot but does nothing true.
          A single girl trampled that mighty serpent with her feet.
          Oh my! The ruler of deceitful demons
          was repelled from entering the girl’s bedroom,
          and he was trembling terribly. The commander of countless demons
290    did not have the power to barge through the maiden’s door.
          Pretending to rule everything, he was mastered by a girl;
          fantasizing about confounding the earth, he fled from a woman;
          having a mischievous heart, he could not defeat a girl.
          Thinking he could roar like a devouring lion
295    and scare everyone, like a fly, he was mocked
          in the girl’s atrium. When I left the land of the Persians
          and headed to the great city of Syrian Antioch,
          I accomplished many wonders through my terrible, supernatural skill.
          For some, I provided the cure for love and, for others, the cure for jealousy,
300    bitter rivalry, and evil, which affected their flesh.

          In that city, there was a certain lover, Aglaidas, who begged me,
          as did many others, on his knees for the sake of a girl,
          named Justina, that he might have intercourse with her.
          That is when a demon first seemed unreliable to me.
305    The many legions he commanded were gathered
          around the holy virgin but returned unsuccessful.
          The virgin’s faith rendered Aglaidas’ helper unconscious
          and made him powerless.
          Aglaidas had many sleepless nights,
310    and I used my magic skills and the enemy’s attacks
          for seven weeks and another three after that.
          Then, the leader of the demonic horde with his servants
          waged war against the virgin.
          For not only had Eros tamed the young Aglaidas,
315    he also eagerly touched my heart.
          It was amazing to see an assemblage of so many demons,
          along with the serpent, defeated by the girl’s prayers.
          But Beliar could not curb our appetite,
          although he was struggling greatly and terribly on our behalf.
320    I said to him, “If you have such great power,
          let the Eros in our hearts subside,
          so that we no longer suffer such pains to no avail.”
          As I was listening, he ordered the eagle that rules
          wantonness to do whatever I said. And he accomplished
325    many things, but he did not manage any more than that.
          The lord merely proved that human nature
          is stronger than all the abominable demonic hordes.
          But when he discovers a human nature at its zenith,
          then he thinks highly of himself and swaggers.
330    He no longer looks at the life-giving flower of men
          but places credit for it in his own power,
          just like a weak and lame fighter,
          sitting on a horse familiar with the battle charge,
          joyfully assigns most of the credit to himself.
335    For whenever love increases in budding youth,
          it raises a spirit more violent than blazing fire.
          A great battle took place between me and the demons,
          and they fought with one another for some time.
          At last, I addressed the serpent with baneful words
340    and said that his honor had suddenly fallen.
          Perceiving his inadequacy, he remained silent.
          I routed him by shouting mighty things, and he left quickly,
          since he knew that his power was inferior and that he was ineffectual.
          Then, the demon did something amazing to trick Aglaidas:
345    he led in a virgin, but his trick was immediately evident,
          since her appearance was nothing like holy Justina.
          When I learned these things, I hated the serpent.
          And he transformed the leader of guilty men
          to have a beauty similar to prudent Justina.
350    And when he approached Aglaidas, Aglaidas happily said,
          “The golden beauty of the renowned Justina has arrived.”
          When he said her name, the demon heard it and fled.
          Aglaidas was so scared that his courage failed.

          Friends, I myself was present at these wicked
355    events. I saw the girl’s desire
          for God, the Lord Most High, and I saw the serpent’s helplessness.
          Along with the serpent, I was shamed, and I never slept,
          since I stood by him when he was present. I was turned from a man into a woman
          and a winged bird. But when I stepped into her atrium,
360    the illusion disappeared, and I returned to being
          Cyprian, the believer in worthless magic.
          I then made Aglaidas fly.
          Down from above, he landed on the girl’s roof.
          When the holy virgin cast her gaze out of the light-bearing window,
365    she struck down the beautifully-winged bird.
          Aglaidas nearly came to death’s door,
          haplessly perched like a bird so high up,
          had the good and wise girl not pitied him
          and addressed him kindly,
370    saying that he should remain silent at home and fear God.
          She then told him to quickly leave the atrium.

          Not a sickness nor a disease, nor any other distressing thing,
          overcame the virgin, for the evil-working demon sent
          countless evils against her. And her parents,
375    when the doctors predicted that her life was coming to an end,
          wasted away with grief. But she said to them, “Dear parents,
          it is not destined for me to die.
          I have an affliction of the heart, not of the body,
          a kind of airborne burning fever
380    smolders within my body.” In addition to these,
          we released many other evils against the young virgin’s limbs,
          but with the cross of Christ she destroyed
          the arrows of the evil spirit, the deceiver, the enemy.

          Then, I brought about evils for her parents,
385    killing their flocks, herds, and mules;
          the virgin immediately persuaded them,
          “May these things not bother you, but rejoice in the little things,
          because they will multiply for the pure one who speaks blessings.”
          The girl’s terrible predicament was evident to her neighbors.
390    They ordered the virgin to quickly bring together
          a lawful matrimony, but the young woman
          strengthened her parents’ resolve with the sign of the cross.
          At another time, the demon sent a destructive plague upon the people
          and issued an oracle to those in the area,
395    saying that he would not stop the irrepressible vengeance until
          Aglaidas led Justa to the bed, as is the custom.
          The handmaid of Christ put an end to the people’s cry
          with holy prayers and drove the plague from the city.
          Those near the city who had been tested
400    honored Christ and heaped dishonor on me.
          Saying that I was the bane of the city,
          they vehemently hated me, but I
          left out of fear for her parents and neighbors alike.

          But later, seeing the power and great works of the cross,
405    I had the following thought, which I said to the evil demon,
          “Woe, you destructive brood, bearer of every evil,
          vessel of impiety; why have you deceived my soul in this way?
          You are worthless and powerless, as you yourself know.
          If just the thought of the immortal God overpowers you,
410    what will you do when He comes?
          If you tremble before the name of Christ, what will you do
          when He seeks vengeance for your deeds and destructive actions?
          If the mighty power of the divine cross overwhelms you so much,
          where will you place your footsteps when He returns?
415    If the signum crucis repels you,
          how will you be able to save humans from His hand, the force of His power?
          For surely you do not have an army so great as to defend against Him.
          Even now, I am well acquainted with your misleading skill,
          and I understand your illusion—I know that you are stupid.
420    Your gift is useless and momentary.
          Your counsel is soft; your mind is the worst.
          There is not a single thing you can do against God;
          You only have illusions and things similar to smoke.
          You have destroyed my heart and my hope,
425    and you unleashed a swarm concerned with rational thoughts.
          Through your terrible evil, you devoured my life;
          Through your magical counterfeits, you destroyed my allotted nature.
          Because you deceived my mind, I have sinned.
          I have become senseless and impious and have yielded everything to you.
430    I fruitlessly learned wisdom and ancient texts.
          By trusting in you, I lost my property and wealth;
          along with my parent’s riches, you have robbed me of my very breath.
          If beggars and paupers had eaten as much
          as you wasted, lawless one, maybe just a little,
435    I would have God to bless my hopes.
          Why did you disrespect me so badly, you evildoer?
          I am extremely exhausted, insufferable one—I see the incurable end.
          I was a corpse, only appearing to be among the living.
          I paid a fortune for a tomb
440    and crossed the threshold of death [ – – – ]
          It is appropriate for me to beg God’s holy servants,
          who are very pious men,
          to receive pity and compassion. If only I
          could kiss the footsteps of the venerable child, faithful Justina,
445    so that she thinks positively about my life.
          Be gone, Satan, deceiver, lawless one, despot,
          you hate the truth and make light of piety.”

          Growing angry, he moved to kill me with violence.
          With all his strength, he attempted to kill me
450    by grabbing my throat. Since no one was around to help me
          and I was unable to escape and run from death,
          the sign of the most holy girl came to my mind,
          that of the bright-shining cross, through which she had obtained victory.
          I said in a prayer, “Lord God of the glorious girl,
455    come, help me.” I immediately stretched out my hand
          and placed on my limbs the sign of the cross.
          Like an arrow in flight, he fled
          and earnestly threatened me by waving his spear.
          Having adopted the signum crucis,
460    I was invigorated and repeatedly shouted “God.”
          But the evil-planning beast grew angry and said
          in his retreat, “Christ, the one sought in your prayer, will not save you
          from me, because He hates the impious.
          He helps you some now, so that later, with a trick,
465    He can lead you away and condemn you to a wretched fate.
          When He leaves you, you know what I will do to you—
          you have despised my power. Christ does not welcome
          my servants. You have destroyed two things, villain,
          our friendship and yourself, for the savior
470    will not help you.” When I heard these words,
          I was terribly scared, because he
          had addressed me with such threats, even if in vain.

          Therefore, dear men, who know my lament,
          I declare my wretched life to you, so you may look
475    and have pity on me. Tell me if it is possible for me
          to placate Christ, if He will listen to my conversion
          and lend me aid, so I can flee the shameful path
          I previously knew so well.” The crowd remained silent for a long time.
          Finally, someone said to me with a far-reaching shout …


[ back ] 1. In order to facilitate a comparison with the Greek editions of Bevengi and Salvaneschi, I maintain their line numbers. Salvaneschi, of course, did not have in his possession the first 99 lines of the Conversion. To distinguish line numbers in Bevegni’s edition (the first 99 lines of the Conversion) from those in Salvaneschi’s edition (the final 322 lines), the first 99 lines of the Conversion are marked with an asterisk.
[ back ] 2. Here begins the text as edited by Salvaneschi.
[ back ] 3. Psalm 51:11 or (perhaps) Psalm 35:22.
[ back ] 4. Hosea 11:1 or (more likely) Isaiah 52:13.
[ back ] 5. Psalm 119:148.
[ back ] 6. Isaiah 44:1–2.
[ back ] 7. Galatians 3:13.
[ back ] 8. Psalm 106:2.