Genesis, background information.

Early Christian Writings

Title: Cyprianus Gallus (Cyprian the Poet) 


From: (

Ante-Nicene Fathers

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

Related Link:   

By: Roger Pearse  

Our Ref:

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material; the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. For purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

INTRODUCTION TO CYPRIANUS GALLUS (Cyprian the Poet)[1]1.  This information is abbreviated from the section on Cyprian the Poet in J. QUASTEN, Patrology, vol. 4 (1985), pp.312-317.  Further information has also been found in the Chronica Tertullianea … Continue reading

In 1891 R. Peiper published a critical edition in the Vienna Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (CSEL 23) series of a series of poetic compositions on the historical books of the Old Testament under the name of Cyprianus Gallus.  By so doing he provided a more or less precise paternity for various works which had floated around for centuries in more or less mutilated forms as spuria for various authors, to whom they plainly did not belong. 

This drew a line under a long period of confusion:

In 1560 Morel had published 165 lines of verse with the title Genesis from a manuscript (now BNF Paris Latinus 14758) which ascribed it to Cyprian.  Also in the MS under the same author was De Sodoma.  Sirmond added further passages in 1643; in 1724 Martène published a further 1276 lines from a 9th-century manuscript which ascribed them to Iuvencus.  These fragments were published many times under the names of Tertullian, Cyprian, Iuvencus, Salvian, Alcimus Avitus and even Prudentius.  In the Patrologia Latina 19 (c.345-380), with the notes of Martène and Arévalo, they appear under the name of Iuvencus.  Other versions appear in PL 2 and 4 under Tertullian and Cyprian.

In 1852 Pitra (the real editor of the Tertullian volumes of the PL) completed Genesis from 2 MSS of s.IX and s.X, and published for the first time ExodusDeuteronomyJoshua and parts of Leviticus and Numbers.[2]2.  PITRA, Spic. Solesm. I, Paris (1852), pp.171-258.  Not checked. (Details from Quasten 4, p.312).  In 1888 he added Judges and more portions of LeviticusNumbers, and Deuteronomy.[3]3.  PITRA, Analecta sacra et class. I, Paris-Rome (1888).  Not checked. (Details from Quasten 4, p.312).  Because of the attribution in the manuscripts and obvious similarities of vocabulary, syntax, idioms, poetic license and metre, Pitra attributed this vast work to Iuvencus.  Although some passages are still missing, it comprises some 5250 verses. almost all of which are hexameters.

Peiper compiled a full list of the manuscripts.  From this, it became plain that the fragments all came from a larger work, and also that this larger work had been transmitted with a number of minor poems, some of which had then been copied separately in collections of poems.  Once the full manuscript tradition was visible, the relationship between the poems was clear.  How some of the minor poems acquired Tertullian’s name in a few MSS remains a mystery, since they are always assigned to Cyprian in the main MSS.

Pieper gave the work the title Heptateucos.  References to such a work did exist in ancient MSS, while a catalogue of Lorsch mentioned extra books of KingsEstherJudith and Maccabees.  A catalogue of Cluny mentioned also Paralipomenon.  Pieper also found some verses of Job.  From s.VII onward these works had been mingled in the MSS with others of similar content (e.g. Avitus) which had caused confusion.

At the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century discussions on the author and date took place which ended in agreement that the work was by a certain Cyprian and should be dated to around 400AD.   The author was familiar with the work of Ausonius and Claudianus; while Genesis was known to Claudius M. Victorius who died before 450.  Also a pre-Jerome Latin text of the Bible was used, and sometimes the Greek itself.  It is suggested (by Brewer) that the author is the same as the learned presbyter and biblicist Cyprian who was the addresse of Jerome’s letter 140, and praised by him, and that he lived in North Italy,  rather than Gaul as Pieper thought.  He should therefore be referred to as Cyprian the Poet rather than Cyprianus Gallus, but the name  is used in the literature.

The De Sodoma and De Iona seem to be a single work in two parts by this author.  The other verses belong to the same period and climate, even if not by Cyprianus Gallus, and are discussed with them in the literature.

All these verses arrived in the collected editions of Tertullian in the edition of PAMELIUS (1583-4).  RIGAULT dismissed them as spurious, but reprinted them little altered, and they continued to be printed in an appendix until the Patrologia Latina text of 1844, the last incarnation of RIGAULT.  The next edition, OEHLER, omitted Ad Senatorem; all were omitted in both CSEL and CCSL.



Rudolf PEIPER, Cyprianus Gallus: Heptateuchos, Fragmenta, De Sodoma, De Iona propheta, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 23, Vienna (1891). Checked.


D.J. NODES, Doctrine and Exegesis in Biblical Latin Poetry. ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs, vol. 31. Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1993. Pp.133 + bibliog. and index. £20. ISBN 0905205863.   Reviewed by BMCR

Josep. M. ESCOLÀ TUSETCuestiones varias sobre los Carmina PseudocyprianeaActas del Congreso Internacional «Cristianismo y tradición latina», Malaga (2000).  Published in AnMal electrónicanúmero 6 extraordinario.  This briefly presents the 6 poems; Genesis, Sodoma, Iona, Ad senatorem, Lign., CRes., published by Hartel.  The author intends a fresh edition with Catalan translation of all except Genesis.  English translation.

There is a further bibliography in QUASTEN 4.


1 1.  This information is abbreviated from the section on Cyprian the Poet in J. QUASTEN, Patrology, vol. 4 (1985), pp.312-317.  Further information has also been found in the Chronica Tertullianea et Cyprianea volume under ‘Cyprien (Pseudo-)’.  Checked.
2 2.  PITRA, Spic. Solesm. I, Paris (1852), pp.171-258.  Not checked. (Details from Quasten 4, p.312).
3 3.  PITRA, Analecta sacra et class. I, Paris-Rome (1888).  Not checked. (Details from Quasten 4, p.312).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *