13th cent. Reliquary depicting the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket

modified from a text by Norman Hugh Redington in the Ecole Dictionary

ACCORDING to tradition, Polycarp, while a boy, heard the preaching of St. John.  His martyrdom took place c. 155: thus he belongs to the generation that links the age of the New Testament with that of the Apologists.

Polycarp's life is known mainly from the writings of his disciple Irenaeus of Lyons, made familiar to a wide audience by the extensive quotations in Eusebius. Irenaeus is depicted as the heir to the Johannine tradition; his uncompromising opposition to the heretic Marcion is equated with the evangelist's to Cerinthus. Polycarp was also a defender of the Johannine Easter date, and late in life made a visit to Rome for inconclusive talks on the subject with Pope Anicetus. Besides John, Polycarp was connected with another outstanding figure of the apostolic church: Ignatius of Antioch addressed an epistle to him

Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir) in western Asia Minor. Members of his flock wrote an extremely detailed account of their aged hierarch's martyrdom, one of the most famous documents to be passed down from the age of persecution.

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