Legend of Aphroditianus

Narratio Aphroditiani

Other titles: The Narrative of Events Happening in Persia on the Birth of Christ, falsely attributed to Julius Africanus

Clavis numbers: CANT 55.

Related literature:

Standard abbreviation: Leg. Aphr.

Status: in progress by Katharina Heyden.


At the moment of Christ’s birth, the statues in the temple of Hera in Persia dance and sing, announcing that Hera (meaning Mary) has become pregnant by Zeus (God) and will give birth to a child. A star appears above the statue of Hera and all the other statues bow down in worship to her. The wise men of the land interpret this as a sign of the birth of the Messiah. So the Magi follow the star to Judah with gifts for the child. The Magi return to Persia and inscribe on golden plates what they encountered (incorporating in Matthew 2:1-12). They tell of their meeting with leaders in Jerusalem and their arrival in Bethlehem. They describe Mary and Jesus and child and reveal that one of their number painted an image of mother and child which they deposited in Hera’s temple. Their story finishes with a report of an angel warning them to return home.



3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

Manuscripts: embedded in multiple Greek MSS of De gestis in Perside, an anonymous 5th/6th-century fictional account of a dispute between Pagans, Christians, and Jews set in Persia; incorporated in John Damas­cene’s Homily on the Incarnation of Christ (also Greek; 8th cent.); two Slavonic recensions translated from Greek (one of these has been translated into Romanian); and Armenian (unedited).

Translations and editions: Pauline Bringel, “Une polémique religieuse à la cour perse: le De gestis in Perside. Histoire du téxte, édition critique et traduction” (2 vol.; Paris: Diss. Sorbonne 2007) (edition of De gestis in Perside).

3.2 Modern Translations

Katharina Heyden, MNTA 1 (forthcoming); ANF 6:127-30 (online text).

3.3 General Works

Gero 3980-81

Katharina Heyden, Die “Erzählung des Aphroditian.” Thema und Variationen einer Legende im Spannungsfeld von Christentum und Heidentum (Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum 53; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009)

Andreas Külzer, Disputationes graecae contra Iudaeos. Untersuchungen zur byzantinischen antijüdischen Dialogliteratur und ihrem Judenbild (Byzantinisches Archiv 18. Leipzig/Stuttgart: Teubner, 1999).