« Prev Under Verus, Polycarp with Others suffered… Next »

Chapter XV.—Under Verus,11311131    Marcus Aurelius Verus. See below, p. 390, note.Polycarp with Others suffered Martyrdom at Smyrna.

1. At this time,11321132    Polycarp’s martyrdom occurred in Smyrna, not during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, as Eusebius says, but during the reign of Antoninus Pius, between 154 and 156 (probably in 155). This has been proved by Waddington in his Memoire sur la Chronologie de la vie du rheteur Ælius Aristide (in Mem. de l’acad. des inscript. et belles lettres, Tom. XXVI., part II., 1867, p. 232 sq.’ see, also, his Fastes des provinces Asiatiques, 1872, p. 219 sq.), and the date is now almost universally accepted (for example, by Renan, Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Lightfoot, Harnack, &c.). But the Chron. of Eusebius seems to put the martyrdom in the seventh year of Marcus Aurelius (166–167 a.d.), and this is the date given by Jerome and others, who based their chronology upon Eusebius, and was commonly accepted until Waddington proved it false. Lightfoot, however, shows that Eusebius did not mean to assign Polycarp’s death to the seventh year of Marcus Aurelius, but that he meant only to place it in the reign of that emperor, and did not pretend to fix the year. How he made the mistake of assigning it to the wrong emperor we do not know, but knowing Eusebius’ common confusion of the various emperors that bore the name of Antonine, we are not surprised at his error at this point. For the best and most recent discussion of this whole subject, see Lightfoot’s Ignatius, I. p. 629 sq. Since Waddington published his researches, Wieseler (in his Christenverfolgungen, 1878, p. 34–87) and Keim (Aus dem Urchristenthum, 1878, p. 92–133) have ventured to dispute his conclusions and to advocate the old date (167), but their arguments are worthless, and have been completely refuted by Lightfoot (ibid. p. 655 sq.). when the greatest persecutions were exciting Asia, Polycarp ended his life by martyrdom. But I consider it most important that his death, a written account of which is still extant, should be recorded in this history.

2. There is a letter, written in the name of the church over which he himself presided,11331133    I.e. the church of Smyrna. This letter (the greater part of which Eusebius gives in this chapter) is still extant in four Greek mss., and also in a poor Latin version which is preserved in numerous mss. The letter has been published a number of times, most recently by Zahn (in Gebhardt, Harnack, and Zahn’s Patrum Ap. opera, II. p. 132. sq.), and by Lightfoot (in his Apostolic Fathers, Part II.; St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp, p. 947 sq). Lightfoot gives the Greek text with full notes and an English translation, and to his edition the reader is referred for fuller particulars on the whole subject. to the parishes in Pontus,11341134    Pontus was the northeast province of Asia Minor, bordering on the Black Sea. What led Eusebius to suppose that this epistle was addressed to the church in Pontus, we do not know. The letter is addressed to the church in Philomalium, and that city was not Pontus (according to Lightfoot, ibid. II. p. 948). Valesius suggests that we should read π€ντα τόπον instead of Πόντον, but the latter reading is confirmed both by Rufinus and by the Syriac as well as by all the Greek mss. I am inclined to think that Eusebius may have read hastily and erroneously in the heading of the letter Πόντον instead of π€ντα τόπον, and, not knowing that Philomelium was not in Pontus, never thought that his reading was incorrect. Such careless mistakes are by no means uncommon, even in these days, and, having once written Pontus, it is easy enough to suppose that nothing would occur to call his attention to his mistake, and of course no copyist would think of making a correction. which relates the events that befell him, in the following words:

3. “The church of God which dwelleth in Philomelium,11351135    Philomelium, according to Lightfoot (ibid. p. 947), was an important city in Phrygia Paroreios, not far from Pisidian Antioch. and to all the parishes of the holy catholic Church11361136    τῆς ἁγίας καθολικῆς ἐκκλησίας. The phrase “Catholic Church” occurs first in Ignatius’ Ep. ad Smyr., chap. 8, and there the word “catholic” evidently has the common and early meaning, “universal” (see Lightfoot’s Ignatius, I. p. 398 sqq.). In later usage (so in Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and the Muratorian Fragment) it has the meaning “orthodox,” as opposed to heretical and schismatical bodies. In the present epistle it occurs four times (§§3, 15, 39, below, and in a passage not quoted in this chapter), and at least the first three times with the later meaning, and consequently, in all probability, it has the same meaning the fourth time also. (Lightfoot, it is true, contends that it has the earlier meaning, “universal,” in the first, second and fourth cases; but in at least the first two that sense of the word produces most decided tautology, and is therefore to be rejected.) The occurrence of the word in the later sense has caused some critics to deny the genuineness of the epistle; but its genuineness is too well established to admit of doubt, and it must be granted that it is by no means impossible that a word which was used at the end of the second century (in Alexandra, in Rome, and in Carthage) with a certain meaning may have been employed in the same sense a generation earlier. On the other hand it is possible, as suggested by some, that the word “Catholic” itself is an interpolation; for it is just such a word that would most easily slip into a document, through the inadvertency of copyists, at a later time, when the phrase “Catholic Church” had become current. Lightfoot (ibid. p. 605 sq.) maintains the genuineness of the word (taking it in its earlier sense) in all but the third instance, where he substitutes ἁγίας upon what seem to me insufficient grounds. in every place; mercy and peace and love from God the Father be multiplied. We write11371137    ἐγρ€ψαμεν, the epistolary aorist, referring, not to another epistle, but to the one which follows, the writer putting himself in thought in the position of those who are reading the letter. See Lightfoot’s note on Gal. vi. 11, in his Commentary on that epistle. unto you, brethren, an account of what happened to those that suffered martyrdom and to the blessed Polycarp, who put an end to the persecution, having, as it were, sealed it 189by his martyrdom.”

4. After these words, before giving the account of Polycarp, they record the events which befell the rest of the martyrs, and describe the great firmness which they exhibited in the midst of their pains. For they say that the bystanders were struck with amazement when they saw them lacerated with scourges even to the innermost veins and arteries, so that the hidden inward parts of the body, both their bowels and their members, were exposed to view; and then laid upon sea-shells and certain pointed spits, and subjected to every species of punishment and of torture, and finally thrown as food to wild beasts.

5. And they record that the most noble Germanicus11381138    Of Germanicus we know only what is told us in this epistle especially distinguished himself, overcoming by the grace of God the fear of bodily death implanted by nature. When indeed the proconsul11391139    This proconsul was Statius Quadratus, as we are told in the latter part of this epistle, in a passage which Eusebius does not quote. Upon his dates, see the discussions of the date of Polycarp’s martyrdom mentioned in note 2, above. wished to persuade him, and urged his youth, and besought him, as he was very young and vigorous, to take compassion on himself, he did not hesitate, but eagerly lured the beast toward himself, all but compelling and irritating him, in order that he might the sooner be freed from their unrighteous and lawless life.

6. After his glorious death the whole multitude, marveling at the bravery of the God-beloved martyr and at the fortitude of the whole race of Christians, began to cry out suddenly, “Away with the atheists;11401140    Compare Justin Martyr’s Apol. I. 6; Tertullian’s Apol. 10, &c.; and see chap. 7, note 20, above. let Polycarp be sought.”

7. And when a very great tumult arose in consequence of the cries, a certain Phrygian, Quintus11411141    Of Quintus we know only what is told us in this epistle. It is significant that he was a Phrygian, for the Phrygians were proverbially excitable and fanatical, and it was among them that Montanism took its rise. The conduct of Polycarp, who avoided death as long as he could without dishonor, was in great contrast to this; and it is noticeable that the Smyrnæans condemn Quintus’ hasty and ill-considered action, and that Eusebius echoes their judgment (see above, p. 8). by name, who was newly come from Phrygia, seeing the beasts and the additional tortures, was smitten with cowardice and gave up the attainment of salvation.

8. But the above-mentioned epistle shows that he, too hastily and without proper discretion, had rushed forward with others to the tribunal, but when seized had furnished a clear proof to all, that it is not right for such persons rashly and recklessly to expose themselves to danger. Thus did matters turn out in connection with them.

9. But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard of these things, continued undisturbed, preserved a quiet and unshaken mind, and determined to remain in the city. But being persuaded by his friends who entreated and exhorted him to retire secretly, he went out to a farm not far distant from the city and abode there with a few companions, night and day doing nothing but wrestle with the Lord in prayer, beseeching and imploring, and asking peace for the churches throughout the whole world. For this was always his custom.

10. And three days before his arrest, while he was praying, he saw in a vision at night the pillow under his head suddenly seized by fire and consumed; and upon this awakening he immediately interpreted the vision to those that were present, almost foretelling that which was about to happen, and declaring plainly to those that were with him that it would be necessary for him for Christ’s sake to die by fire.

11. Then, as those who were seeking him pushed the search with vigor, they say that he was again constrained by the solicitude and love of the brethren to go to another farm. Thither his pursuers came after no long time, and seized two of the servants there, and tortured one of them for the purpose of learning from him Polycarp’s hiding-place.

12. And coming late in the evening, they found him lying in an upper room, whence he might have gone to another house, but he would not, saying, “The will of God be done.”

13. And when he learned that they were present, as the account says, he went down and spoke to them with a very cheerful and gentle countenance, so that those who did not already know the man thought that they beheld a miracle when they observed his advanced age and the gravity and firmness of his bearing, and they marveled that so much effort should be made to capture a man like him.

14. But he did not hesitate, but immediately gave orders that a table should be spread for them. Then he invited them to partake of a bounteous meal, and asked of them one hour that he might pray undisturbed. And when they had given permission, he stood up and prayed, being full of the grace of the Lord, so that those who were present and heard him praying were amazed, and many of them now repented that such a venerable and godly old man was about to be put to death.

15. In addition to these things the narrative concerning him contains the following account: “But when at length he had brought his prayer to an end, after remembering all that had ever come into contact with him, small and great, famous and obscure, and the whole catholic Church throughout the world, the hour of departure being come, they put him upon an ass and brought him to the city, it being a great Sabbath.11421142    Σαββ€του μεγ€λου. “The great Sabbath” in the Christian Church, at least from the time of Chrysostom on, was the Saturday between Good-Friday and Easter. But so far as we know, there are no examples of that use of the phrase earlier than Chrysostom’s time. Lightfoot points out that, in the present instance, it is not “The great Sabbath” (τὸ μέγα Σ€ββατον), but only “A great Sabbath”; and therefore, in the present instance, any great Sabbath might be meant,—that is, any Sabbath which coincided with a festival or other marked day in the Jewish calendar. Lightfoot gives strong reasons for assuming that the traditional day of Polycarp’s death (Feb. 23) is correct, and that the Sabbath referred to here was a great Sabbath because it coincided with the Feast of Purim (see Lightfoot, ibid. I. p. 660 sqq. and 690 sqq.). And he was met by 190Herod,11431143    Of Herod and Nicetes we know only what is told us in this epistle. The latter was not an uncommon name in Smyrna, as we learn from inscriptions (see Lightfoot, ibid. II. p. 958). the captain of police,11441144    εἰρήναρχος (see Lightfoot, ibid. p. 955). and by his father Nicetes, who took him into their carriage, and sitting beside him endeavored to persuade him, saying, ‘For what harm is there in saying, Lord Cæsar, and sacrificing and saving your life?’ He at first did not answer; but when they persisted, he said, ‘I am not going to do what you advise me.’

16. And when they failed to persuade him, they uttered dreadful words, and thrust him down with violence, so that as he descended from the carriage he lacerated his shin. But without turning round, he went on his way promptly and rapidly, as if nothing had happened to him, and was taken to the stadium.

17. But there was such a tumult in the stadium that not many heard a voice from heaven, which came to Polycarp as he was entering the place: ‘Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.’11451145    Compare Joshua i. 6, 7, 9, and Deut. i. 7, 23. And no one saw the speaker, but many of our people heard the voice.

18. And when he was led forward, there was a great tumult, as they heard that Polycarp was taken. Finally, when he came up, the proconsul asked if he were Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was, he endeavored to persuade him to deny, saying, ‘Have regard for thine age,’ and other like things, which it is their custom to say: ‘Swear by the genius of Cæsar;11461146    τὴν Καίσαρος τύχην. This oath was invented under Julius Cæsar, and continued under his successors. The oath was repudiated by the Christians, who regarded the “genius” of the emperor as a false God, and therefore the taking of the oath a species of idolatry. It was consequently employed very commonly by the magistrates as a test in times of persecution (cf. Tertullian, Apol. 32; Origen, Contra Cels. VIII. 65, and many other passages). repent and say, Away with the Atheists.’

19. But Polycarp, looking with dignified countenance upon the whole crowd that was gathered in the stadium, waved his hand to them, and groaned, and raising his eyes toward heaven, said, ‘Away with the Atheists.’

20. But when the magistrate pressed him, and said, ‘Swear, and I will release thee; revile Christ,’ Polycarp said, ‘Fourscore and six years11471147    See above, chap. 14, note 5. Whether the eighty-six years are to be reckoned from Polycarp’s birth, or from the time of his conversion or baptism, we cannot tell. At the same time, inasmuch as he speaks of serving Christ, for eighty-six years, not God, I am inclined to think that he is reckoning from the time of his conversion or baptism, which may well be if we suppose him to have been baptized in early boyhood. have I been serving him, and he hath done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?’

21. “But when he again persisted, and said, ‘Swear by the genius of Cæsar,’ Polycarp replied, ‘If thou vainly supposest that I will swear by the genius of Cæsar, as thou sayest, feigning to be ignorant who I am, hear plainly: I am a Christian. But if thou desirest to learn the doctrine of Christianity, assign a day and hear.’

22. The proconsul said, ‘Persuade the people.’ But Polycarp said, ‘As for thee, I thought thee worthy of an explanation; for we have been taught to render to princes and authorities ordained by God the honor that is due,11481148    See Rom. xiii. 1 sq., 1 Pet. ii. 13 sq. so long as it does not injure us;11491149    τιμὴντὴν μὴ βλ€πτουσαν ἡμᾶς. Compare Pseudo-Ignatius, ad Antioch. 11, and Mart. Ignat. Rom. 6 (in both of which are found the words ἐν οἷς ἀκίνδυνος ἡ ὑποταγή). but as for these, I do not esteem them the proper persons to whom to make my defense.’11501150    The proconsul made quite a concession here. He would have been glad to have Polycarp quiet the multitude if he could. Polycarp was not reckless and foolish in refusing to make the attempt, for he knew it would fail, and he preferred to retain his dignity and not compromise himself by appearing to ask for mercy.

23. But the proconsul said, ‘I have wild beasts; I will throw thee to them unless thou repent.’ But he said, ‘Call them; for repentance from better to worse is a change we cannot make. But it is a noble thing to turn from wickedness to righteousness.’

24. But he again said to him, ‘If thou despisest the wild beasts, I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, unless thou repent.’ But Polycarp said, ‘Thou threatenest a fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is quenched; for thou knowest not the fire of the future judgment and of the eternal punishment which is reserved for the impious. But why dost thou delay? Do what thou wilt.’

25. Saying these and other words besides, he was filled with courage and joy, and his face was suffused with grace, so that not only was he not terrified and dismayed by the words that were spoken to him, but, on the contrary, the proconsul was amazed, and sent his herald to proclaim three times in the midst of the stadium: ‘Polycarp hath confessed that he is a Christian.’

26. And when this was proclaimed by the herald, the whole multitude, both of Gentiles and of Jews,11511151    The Jews appear very frequently as leading spirits in the persecution of Christians. The persecution under Nero was doubtless due to their instigation (see Bk. II. chap. 25, note 4). Compare also Tertullian, Scorp. 10, and Eusebius, H. E. V. 16. That the Jews were numerous in Smyrna has been shown by Lightfoot, ibid. p. 966. who dwelt in Smyrna, cried out with ungovernable wrath and with a great shout, ‘This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the overthrower of our gods, who teacheth many not to sacrifice nor to worship.’

27. When they had said this, they cried out and asked the Asiarch Philip11521152    “The Asiarch was the head of the Commune Asiæ, the confederation of the principal cities of the Roman province of Asia. As such, he was the ‘chief priest’ of Asia, and president of the games” (Lightfoot, ibid. p. 967; on p. 987 ff. of the same volume, Lightfoot discusses the Asiarchate at considerable length). The Asiarch Philip mentioned here was a Trallian, as we learn from a statement toward the close of the epistle, which Eusebius does not quote; Lightfoot identifies him with a person named in various Trallian Inscriptions. to let a lion loose upon Polycarp. But he said that it was not lawful for 191him, since he had closed the games. Then they thought fit to cry out with one accord that Polycarp should be burned alive.

28. For it was necessary that the vision should be fulfilled which had been shown him concerning his pillow, when he saw it burning while he was praying, and turned and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him, ‘I must needs be burned alive.’

29. These things were done with great speed,—more quickly than they were said,—the crowds immediately collecting from the workshops and baths timber and fagots, the Jews being especially zealous in the work, as is their wont.

30. But when the pile was ready, taking off all his upper garments, and loosing his girdle, he attempted also to remove his shoes, although he had never before done this, because of the effort which each of the faithful always made to touch his skin first; for he had been treated with all honor on account of his virtuous life even before his gray hairs came.

31. Forthwith then the materials prepared for the pile were placed about him; and as they were also about to nail him to the stake,11531153    The Greek reads simply προσηλοῦν αὐτόν. he said, ‘Leave me thus; for he who hath given me strength to endure the fire, will also grant me strength to remain in the fire unmoved without being secured by you with nails.’ So they did not nail him, but bound him.

32. And he, with his hands behind him, and bound like a noble ram taken from a great flock, an acceptable burnt-offering unto God omnipotent, said,

33. ‘Father of thy beloved and blessed Son11541154    παιδός not υἱοῦ. παίς commonly conveys the meaning of servant rather than son, although in this passage it is evidently used in the latter sense. Its use in connection with Christ was in later times dropped as Arianistic in its tendency. Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of thee, the God of angels and of powers and of the whole creation and of the entire race of the righteous who live in thy presence, I bless thee that thou hast deemed me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a portion in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of Christ, unto resurrection of eternal life,11551155    Compare John v. 29. both of soul and of body, in the immortality of the Holy Spirit.

34. Among these may I be received before thee this day, in a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as thou, the faithful and true God, hast beforehand prepared and revealed, and hast fulfilled.

35. Wherefore I praise thee also for everything; I bless thee, I glorify thee, through the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved Son, through whom, with him, in the Holy Spirit, be glory unto thee, both now and for the ages to come, Amen.’

36. When he had offered up his Amen and had finished his prayer, the firemen lighted the fire and as a great flame blazed out, we, to whom it was given to see, saw a wonder, and we were preserved that we might relate what happened to the others.

37. For the fire presented the appearance of a vault, like the sail of a vessel filled by the wind, and made a wall about the body of the martyr,11561156    It is not necessary to dispute the truthfulness of the report in this and the next sentences on the ground that the events recorded are miraculous in their nature, and therefore cannot have happened. Natural causes may easily have produced some such phenomena as the writers describe, and which they of course regarded as miraculous. Lightfoot refers to a number of similar cases, Vol. I. p. 598 ff. Compare also Harnack in the Zeitschrift für Kirchengesch. II. p. 291 ff. and it was in the midst not like flesh burning, but like gold and silver refined in a furnace. For we perceived such a fragrant odor, as of the fumes of frankincense or of some other precious spices.

38. So at length the lawless men, when they saw that the body could not be consumed by the fire, commanded an executioner11571157    Κομφέκτορα. It was the common business of the Confectores to dispatch such wild beasts as had not been killed outright during the combat in the arena. See Lightfoot, p. 974. to approach and pierce him with the sword.

39. And when he had done this there came forth a quantity of blood11581158    Before the words “a quantity of blood” are found in all the Greek mss. of the epistle the words περιστερὰ καὶ, “a dove and.” It seems probable that these words did not belong to the original text, but that they were, as many critics believe, an unintentional corruption of some other phrase, or that they were, as Lightfoot thinks, a deliberate interpolation by a late editor (see Lightfoot, II. 974 ff. and I. 627 ff.). No argument, therefore, against the honesty of Eusebius can be drawn from his omission of the words. so that it extinguished the fire; and the whole crowd marveled that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this man also was one, the most wonderful teacher in our times, apostolic and prophetic, who was bishop of the catholic Church11591159    See above, note 6. That the word καθολικῆς is used here in the later sense of “orthodox,” as opposed to heretical and schismatical bodies, can be questioned by no one. Lightfoot, however, reads at this point ἁγίας instead of καθολικῆς in his edition of the epistle. It is true that he has some ms. support, but the mss. and versions of Eusebius are unanimous in favor of the latter word, and Lightfoot’s grounds for making the change seem to be quite insufficient. If any change is to be made, the word should be dropped out entirely, as suggested by the note already referred to. in Smyrna. For every word which came from his mouth was accomplished and will be accomplished.

40. But the jealous and envious Evil One, the adversary of the race of the righteous, when he saw the greatness of his martyrdom, and his blameless life from the beginning, and when he saw him crowned with the crown of immortality and bearing off an incontestable prize, took care that not even his body should be taken away by us, although many desired to do it and to have communion with his holy flesh.

41. Accordingly certain ones secretly suggested to Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce,11601160    All, or nearly all, the mss. of Eusebius read Δ€λκης, and that reading is adopted by Stephanus, Valesius (in his text), Schwegler, Laemmer, Heinichen, and Crusè. On the other hand, the mss. of the epistle itself all support the form ῎Αλκης (or ᾽Αλκῆς, ῞Ελκεις, as it appears respectively in two mss.), and Lightfoot accepts this unhesitatingly as the original form of the word, and it is adopted by many editors of Eusebius (Valesius, in his notes, Stroth, Zimmermann, Burton, and Closs). Dalce is an otherwise unknown name, while Alce, though rare, is a good Greek name, and is once connected with Smyrna in an inscription. Moreover, we learn from Ignatius, ad Smyr. 13, and ad Polyc. VIII., that Alce was a well-known Christian in Smyrna at the time Ignatius wrote his epistles. The use of the name at this point shows that its possessor was or had been a prominent character in the church of Smyrna, and the identification of the two seems to me beyond all reasonable doubt (see, also, Lightfoot, I. 353; II. 325 and 978). That Eusebius, however, wrote Alce is not so certain. In fact, in view of the external testimony, it might be regarded as quite as likely that he, by a mistake, wrote Dalce, as that some copyist afterwards committed the error. Still, the name Alce must have been to Eusebius, with his remarkable memory, familiar from Ignatius’ epistles, and hence his mistaking it for another word seems a little strange. But whether Eusebius himself wrote Dalce or Alce, believing the latter to be the correct form, the form which he should have written, I have ventured to adopt it in my translation. that he should plead with the magistrate 192not to give up his body, ‘lest,’ it was said, ‘they should abandon the crucified One and begin to worship this man.’11611161    This shows that the martyrs were highly venerated even at this early date, as was indeed most natural, and as is acknowledged by the writers themselves just below. But it does not show that the Christians already worshiped or venerated their relics as they did in later centuries. The heathen, in their own paganism, might easily conclude from the Christians’ tender care of and reverence for the martyrs’ relics that they also worshiped them. They said these things at the suggestion and impulse of the Jews, who also watched as we were about to take it from the fire, not knowing that we shall never be able either to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of those that are saved, or to worship any other.

42. For we worship him who is the Son of God, but the martyrs, as disciples and imitators of the Lord, we love as they deserve on account of their matchless affection for their own king and teacher. May we also be made partakers and fellow-disciples with them.

43. The centurion, therefore, when he saw the contentiousness exhibited by the Jews, placed him in the midst and burned him, as was their custom. And so we afterwards gathered up his bones, which were more valuable than precious stones and more to be esteemed than gold, and laid them in a suitable place.

44. There the Lord will permit us to come together as we are able, in gladness and joy to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom,11621162    This is, so far as I am aware, the earliest notice of the annual celebration of the day of a martyr’s death, a practice which early became so common in the Church. The next reference to the custom is in Tertullian’s de Corona, 3 (cf. also Scorp. 15). So natural a practice, however, and one which was soon afterward universal, need not surprise us at this early date (see Ducange, Natalis, and Bingham, Ant. XIII. 9. 5, XX. 7. 2). for the commemoration of those who have already fought and for the training and preparation of those who shall hereafter do the same.

45. Such are the events that befell the blessed Polycarp, who suffered martyrdom in Smyrna with the eleven11631163    The majority of the mss. read δώδεκα τοῦ ἐν Σμύρνῃ μαρτυρήσαντος, which, however, is quite ungrammatical as it stands in the sentence, and cannot be accepted. Heinichen reads δώδεκα τὸν ἐν κ.τ.λ., changing the genitive of the majority of the mss. to an accusative, but like them, as also like Rufinus, making twelve martyrs besides Polycarp. But the mss. of the epistle itself read δωδέκατος ἐν Σμ. μαρτυρήσας, thus making only eleven martyrs in addition to Polycarp, and it cannot be doubted that this idiomatic Greek construction is the original. In view of that fact, I am constrained to read with Valesius, Schwegler, and Zahn (in his note on this passage in his edition of the epistle), δωδέκατον ἐν Σμ. μαρτυρήσαντα, translating literally, “suffered martyrdom with those from Philadelphia, the twelfth”; or, as I have rendered it freely in the text, “suffered martyrdom with the eleven from Philadelphia.” It is, of course, possible that Eusebius himself substituted the δώδεκα for the δωδέκατος, but the variations and inconsistencies in the mss. at this point make it more probable that the change crept in later, and that Eusebius agreed with his original in making Polycarp the twelfth martyr, not the thirteenth. Of these eleven only Germanicus is mentioned in this epistle, and who the others were we do not know. They cannot have been persons of prominence, or Polycarp’s martyrdom would not so completely have overshadowed theirs. from Philadelphia. This one man is remembered more than the others by all, so that even by the heathen he is talked about in every place.”

46. Of such an end was the admirable and apostolic Polycarp deemed worthy, as recorded by the brethren of the church of Smyrna in their epistle which we have mentioned. In the same volume11641164    γραφῇ. These other accounts were not given in the epistle of the Smyrnæans, but were doubtless appended to that epistle in the ms. which Eusebius used. The accounts referred to are not found in any of our mss. of the epistle, but there is published in Ruinart’s Acta Martyrum Sincera, p. 188 sq., a narrative in Latin of the martyrdom of a certain Pionius and of a certain Marcionist Metrodorus, as well as of others, which appears to be substantially the same as the document which Eusebius knew in the original Greek, and which he refers to here. The account bears all the marks of genuineness, and may be regarded as trustworthy, at least in the main points. But Eusebius has fallen into a serious chronological blunder in making these other martyrs contemporaries of Polycarp. We learn from a notice in the document given by Ruinart that Pionius, Metrodorus, and the others were put to death during the persecution of Decius, in 250 a.d., and this date is confirmed by external evidence. The document which Eusebius used may not have contained the distinct chronological notice which is now found in it, or Eusebius may have overlooked it, and finding the narrative given in his ms. in close connection with the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom, he may have jumped hastily to the conclusion that both accounts relate to the same period of time. Or, as Lightfoot suggests, in the heading of the document there may have stood the words ἡ αὐτὴ περίοδος τοῦ χρόνου (a peculiar phrase, which Eusebius repeats) indicating (as the words might indicate) that the events took place at the same season of the year, while Eusebius interpreted them to mean the same period of time. Upon these Acts, and upon Metrodorus and Pionius, see Lightfoot, I. p. 622 sqq. The Life of Polycarp, which purports to have been written by Pionius, is manifestly spurious and entirely untrustworthy, and belongs to the latter part of the fourth century. The true Pionius, therefore, who suffered under Decius, and the Pseudo-Pionius who wrote that Life are to be sharply distinguished (see Lightfoot, I. p. 626 sqq.). concerning him are subjoined also other martyrdoms which took place in the same city, Smyrna, about the same period of time with Polycarp’s martyrdom. Among them also Metrodorus, who appears to have been a proselyte of the Marcionitic sect, suffered death by fire.

47. A celebrated martyr of those times was a certain man named Pionius. Those who desire to know his several confessions, and the boldness of his speech, and his apologies in behalf of the faith before the people and the rulers, and his instructive addresses and, moreover, his greetings to those who had yielded to temptation in the persecution, and the words of encouragement which he addressed to the brethren who came to visit him in prison, and the tortures which he endured in addition, and besides these the sufferings and the nailings, and his firmness on the pile, and his death after all the extraordinary trials,11651165    This is an excellent summary of Pionius’ sufferings, as recorded in the extant Acts referred to in the previous note.—those we refer to that epistle which has been given in the Martyrdoms of the Ancients,11661166    This is the Collection of Ancient Martyrdoms, which is no longer extant, but which is referred to by Eusebius more than once in his History. For particulars in regard to it, see above, p. 30 sq. collected by us, and which contains a very full account of him.

48. And there are also records extant of others that suffered martyrdom in Pergamus, a city 193of Asia,—of Carpus and Papylus, and a woman named Agathonice, who, after many and illustrious testimonies, gloriously ended their lives.11671167    A detailed account of the martyrdoms of Carpus, Papylus, and Agathonice is extant in numerous mss., and has been published more than once. It has, however, long been recognized as spurious and entirely untrustworthy. But in 1881 Aubè published in the Revue Archæologique (Dec., p. 348 sq.) a shorter form of the Acts of these martyrs, which he had discovered in a Greek ms. in the Paris Library. There is no reason to doubt that these Acts are genuine and, in the main, quite trustworthy. The longer Acts assign the death of these martyrs to the reign of Decius, and they have always been regarded as suffering during that persecution. Aubè, in publishing his newly discovered document, still accepted the old date; but Zahn, upon the basis of the document which he had also seen, remarked in his Tatian’s Diatessaron (p. 279) that Eusebius was correct in assigning these martyrdoms to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, and Lightfoot (I. p. 625) stated his belief that they are to be assigned either to that reign or to the reign of Septimius Severus. In 1888 Harnack (Texte und Unters. III. 4) published a new edition of the Acts from the same ms. which Aubè had used, accompanying the text with valuable notes and with a careful discussion of the age of the document. He has proved beyond all doubt that these martyrs were put to death during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, and that the shorter document which we have contains a genuine account related by an eye-witness. These are evidently the Acts which Eusebius had before him. In the spurious account Carpus is called a bishop, and Papylus a deacon. But in the shorter account they are simply Christians, and Papylus informs the judge that he is a citizen of Thyatira.
   Eusebius apparently did not include the account of these martyrs in his collection of Ancient Martyrdoms, and Harnack concludes from that that he found in it something that did not please him, viz. the fanaticism of Agathonice, who rashly and needlessly rushes to martyrdom, and the approval of her conduct expressed by the author of the Acts. We are reminded of the conduct of the Phrygian Quintus mentioned in the epistle of the Smyrnæans but in that epistle such conduct is condemned.

« Prev Under Verus, Polycarp with Others suffered… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection