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It is worthy of note in this regard, however, that from the moment when African Christianity comes into historical prominence, the bishops of Roman Africa are seen in very close relations with the See of Rome . The two greatest names in the history of the Church of Carthage are those of Tertullian and St. The former comes on the scene, in the troubled days of he persecution of Septimius Severus, as an able and valiant defender of his religion. In his youth he devoted himself to the study of law and literature, and thus obtained the intellectual training which was to prove of the greatest service to his future coreligionists.The faithful of Carthage in particular were "greatly interested in all that happened at Rome ; every movement of ideas, every occurrence bearing on discipline, ritual, literature, that took place at Rome was immediately re-echoed at Carthage" (Duchenne, Hist. His conversion appears to have been influenced by the heroism of the martyrs, and one of his earliest treatises was an exhortation to those ready to die for the faith (Ad martyres).Cyprian was Donatus, who presided over a council of ninety African bishops which condemned as a heretic Privatus, Bishop of Lambesa.Like Tertullian, Cyprian was a convert to Christianity ; he was baptized at Carthage about 246.From the year of the martyrdom of Scillium and Madaura (180) the Christians of Africa were not molested by the authorities for nearly two decades.But in 197 or 198 the governors recommenced the legal pursuit of the followers of Christ, who soon filled the prisons of Carthage.During the long interval of peace since the persecution of Severus the fervour of the Christians of Carthage had suffered a notable decline.
The intercession of confessors for the fallen was then customary, and was always regarded by the bishops as a reason for remitting part of the canonical penance for apostasy.At the beginning of the storm, Cyprian, knowing that as bishop he would be one of the first victims, and judging that in a time so perilous it was his duty for the moment to preserve his life for the good of his flock, retired to a secure refuge.