Cyprian (ca. 200 - 258), also known as Cyprian of Carthage, was bishop of Carthage and one of the major theologians of the early North African Church. He was born in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received
an excellent secular education. Having converted to Christianity, he became a bishop (c. 248) and eventually died a martyr at Carthage. A
biography has survived that was written by Pontius the Deacon.
"Cyprian was forced to flee Carthage during the persecutions of Emperor Decius from 249 to 251. Upon his return he addressed the problem of Christians who had failed to stand firm during the persecution. Cyprian favored the readmission of such Christians
to the church but under stringent conditions. Opposing the schism of Novatian, who believed that lapsed Christians should be permanently excluded, he argued that baptisms performed by the schismatics were invalid. On this issue he was opposed by Pope
Stephen I. In the renewed persecution of Valerian's reign, Cyprian was beheaded not far from Carthage.
"Cyprian's writing reflects the influence of
Tertullian, whom he held in high esteem. His best-known work is De ecclesiae unitate (
On the Unity of the Church), in which he stressed the role of the bishop in deciding local church matters, although he gave the Roman church a position of preeminence."