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E00014: Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastical History, mentions as his source-texts martyrdom accounts of the martyrs of Smyrna, including *Polykarpos/Polycarp (bishop and martyr, S00004), *Metrodoros (Marcionite priest and martyr, S00047), and *Pionios (presbyter and martyr, S00031), and of the martyrs of Pergamon, *Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike (S00051); all in western Asia Minor. He also mentions a collection of martyrdom accounts compiled by himself (now lost). Written in Greek, in Palestine, 311/325.

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posted on 2014-08-29, 00:00 authored by admin
Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, 4.15

4.15.1-2, 46-48
(1.) ἐν τούτῳ δὲ ὁ Πολύκαρπος μεγίστων τὴν Ἀσίαν ἀναθορυβησάντων διωγμῶν μαρτυρίῳ τελειοῦται, ἀναγκαιότατον δ’ αὐτοῦ τὸ τέλος ἐγγράφως ἔτι φερόμενον ἡγοῦμαι δεῖν μνήμῃ τῆσδε τῆς ἱστορίας καταθέσθαι. (2.) ἔστιν δὲ ἡ γραφὴ ἐκ προσώπου ἧς αὐτὸς ἐκκλησίας ἡγεῖτο, ταῖς κατὰ τόπον παροικίαις τὰ κατ’ αὐτὸν ἀποσημαίνουσα διὰ τούτων·

(46.) τὰ μὲν δὴ κατὰ τὸν θαυμάσιον καὶ ἀποστολικὸν Πολύκαρπον τοιούτου κατηξίωτο τέλους, τῶν κατὰ τὴν Σμυρναίων ἐκκλησίαν ἀδελφῶν τὴν ἱστορίαν ἐν ᾗ δεδηλώκαμεν αὐτῶν ἐπιστολῇ κατατεθειμένων· ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ δὲ περὶ αὐτοῦ γραφῇ καὶ ἄλλα μαρτύρια συνῆπτο κατὰ τὴν αὐτὴν Σμύρναν πεπραγμένα ὑπὸ τὴν αὐτὴν περίοδον τοῦ χρόνου τῆς τοῦ Πολυκάρπου μαρτυρίας, μεθ’ ὧν καὶ Μητρόδωρος τῆς κατὰ Μαρκίωνα πλάνης πρεσβύτερος δὴ εἶναι δοκῶν πυρὶ παραδοθεὶς ἀνῄρηται. (47.) τῶν γε μὴν τότε περιβόητος μάρτυς εἷς τις ἐγνωρίζετο Πιόνιος· οὗ τὰς κατὰ μέρος ὁμολογίας τήν τε τοῦ λόγου παρρησίαν καὶ τὰς ὑπὲρ τῆς πίστεως ἐπὶ τοῦ δήμου καὶ τῶν ἀρχόντων ἀπολογίας διδασκαλικάς τε δημηγορίας καὶ ἔτι τὰς πρὸς τοὺς ὑποπεπτωκότας τῷ κατὰ τὸν διωγμὸν πειρασμῷ δεξιώσεις παραμυθίας τε ἃς ἐπὶ τῆς εἱρκτῆς τοῖς παρ’ αὐτὸν εἰσαφικνουμένοις ἀδελφοῖς παρετίθετο, ἅς τε ἐπὶ τούτοις ὑπέμεινεν βασάνους, καὶ τὰς ἐπὶ ταύταις ἀλγηδόνας καθηλώσεις τε καὶ τὴν ἐπὶ τῆς πυρᾶς καρτερίαν τήν τε ἐφ’ ἅπασιν τοῖς παραδόξοις αὐτοῦ τελευτὴν πληρέστατα τῆς περὶ αὐτοῦ γραφῆς περιεχούσης, τοὺς οἷς φίλον, ἐπὶ ταύτην ἀναπέμψομεν τοῖς τῶν ἀρχαίων συναχθεῖσιν ἡμῖν μαρτυρίοις ἐντεταγμένην. (48.) ἑξῆς δὲ καὶ ἄλλων ἐν Περγάμῳ πόλει τῆς Ἀσίας ὑπομνήματα μεμαρτυρηκότων φέρεται, Κάρπου καὶ Παπύλου καὶ γυναικὸς Ἀγαθονίκης, μετὰ πλείστας καὶ διαπρεπεῖς ὁμολογίας ἐπιδόξως τετελειωμένων.

'(1.) In that time [under Marcus Aurelius], immense persecutions perturb Asia and Polycarp meets his end in martyrdom. I deem it absolutely necessary to commend to the memory of this history the account of his end, which is indeed preserved in writing. (2.) The writing [γραφή] comes from the church whose head he was, and relates his story to the various local Christian communities in the following terms ...'

After quoting or paraphrasing the Letter of the Smyrnaeans on the Martyrdom of Polycarp:

'(46.) So the story of the wonderful and apostolic Polycarp was granted such an end, as the brethren of the church of Smyrna record the account in their letter [ἐπιστολή] which we have presented. In the same writing [γραφή] concerning him, there were also some other martyrdoms attached, which took place in the same city of Smyrna in the same period of time as the martyrdom of Polycarp. Among them Metrodoros – who seems to have been a presbyter of Markion’s falsehood – was killed by fire. (47.) A certain Pionios was reported to be famous among the martyrs of those times. His several confessions, and the boldness of his speech, and his defences [ἀπολογίας] of the faith given before the people and the rulers, and his instructive addresses and, moreover, his acceptance of 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 nailing, and his perseverance on the pyre, and his death with all its extraordinary aspects, are contained in their fullest in the writing about him, which is included in the Martyrdoms of the Ancients, compiled by us, and we therefore refer those interested to it. (48.) Next there are also accounts about others who were martyred in Pergamon, a city of Asia: Karpos, Papylos and a woman called Agathonike, who met their end in glory, after several and distinguished acts of confession.'

Text: Schwartz et al. 1999. Translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr in Smyrna, ob. AD 155/6 or in the 160s : S00004 Pionios, presbyter and martyr in Smyrna in the late 2nd or mid-3rd century : S00031 Anonymous Martyrs : S00060 Metrodoros, Marcionite priest martyred in Smyrna in AD 250 :

Saint Name in Source

Πολύκαρπος Πιόνιος Μητρόδωρος Κάρπος, Παπύλος, Ἀγαθονίκη

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Caesarea Maritima

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Caesarea Maritima

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eusebius of Caesarea

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


Eusebius lived in Caesarea Maritima in Palestine between c. AD 260 and 340. He was a pupil and friend of the martyred Christian intellectual *Pamphilos ($S00140). Under Constantine, he emerged as one of the most influential Christian figures of the Roman Empire, and was ordained bishop of Caesarea. Written between 311 and 325, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History is the first literary work to employ the methodology and objectives of classical historiography – which, since Herodotus and Thucydides, had traditionally focused on military and political events – in a novel field, the history of the Christian community. The first paragraphs of the work outline its chronological framework and thematic range: it is a narrative of events in the life of the Christian community from the times of Christ and the Apostles to the times of Eusebius (c. 260-340); it records the leaders of the most important communities (i.e. successions of bishops in Alexandria, Antioch, Rome and Jerusalem); it records the most notable exponents of Christian doctrine and their works, and also the main heresies and their proponents; it finally records persecutions and people that suffered and were martyred during them. The Ecclesiastical History is mostly a synthesis of quotations and summaries from other sources, for which Eusebius often gives concrete references. Thus his work preserves excerpts from early Christian texts which do not survive in their full form. Eusebius’ source material consists mostly of Greek texts, originating from Christian communities in Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. These areas constitute the main geographical range of his narrative, while his information about Christianity in the European provinces of the Roman Empire (except Rome) and North Africa is very limited. The text survives in several Greek manuscripts, in a Latin translation by Rufinus, and in Syriac and Armenian translations.


In these passages, Eusebius gives concrete reference to a major source he uses, the Letter of the Smyrnaeans on the martyrdom of Polycarp (E00035). He points out that the story is preserved in an original document which the author regards as extraordinarily important and deems necessary to quote ('I deem it absolutely necessary to commend to the memory of this history the account of his end, for it is still extant in writing'). Although he refers to martyrs earlier in his Ecclesiastical History, for none of them does he quote from an extensive source text describing their martyrdom. Eusebius perhaps believed that the Letter is the earliest document describing the story of a martyr – a belief well established in modern scholarship as well. After presenting the text, partly quoted in full and partly paraphrased, there follows a paragraph of bibliographic information, which is very important for the history of martyrdom literature, and for the editorial history of the Martyrdom of Polycarp in particular. According to the author, the same document (γραφή, graphē) concerning Polycarp included other martyrdom accounts from Smyrna, notably that of Metrodoros. There follows a reference to Pionios with a summary of the contents of his martyrdom account (on which see E00096), and a reference to the Martyrdom of Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike. Lightfoot interprets graphē as 'book' which included all that is set forth in the following lines. For him, this graphē was a compilation of martyr-related documents, including the Martyrdom of Polycarp and the Martyrdom of Pionios (Lightfoot 1889, vol. 1, 608). He interprets the phrase καὶ ἄλλα μαρτύρια συνῆπτο ('also other martyrdoms were attached') as referring to independent martyrdom accounts included in this single dossier. Lightfoot’s view is supported by the epilogue of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, which seems to suggest that it was indeed included in some broader corpus, although that paragraph is most likely to post-date Eusebius (on which see E00054). Von Campenhausen (1957, 32-37) proposed that the graphē was in fact a more extensive version of the Letter of the Smyrnaeans (Martyrdom of Polycarp) which included short accounts of the other martyrs of Smyrna. His views were criticised by Buschmann (1998, 343-346) and Dehandschutter (1979, 146-149), but they are in fact quite likely. According to von Campenhausen, in its original version, the Letter of the Smyrnaeans was a typical early Christian letter of information on many martyrs, like the Letter of the Churches of Lyon and Vienne or the Letter of Dionysios of Alexandria to Phabios of Antioch, both of which are quoted by Eusebius (E00212, E00277). This view is also supported by statements at the beginning and the end of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, which inform us that Polycarp was the last of eleven martyrs in Smyrna, of whom only a certain Germanikos is mentioned (E00035). Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the same graphē included also the Martyrdom of Pionios, as suggested by von Campenhausen. Both the Martyrdom of Pionios and the Martyrdom of Karpos, Papylos and Agathonike were independent martyrdom accounts which Eusebius regarded as contemporary with the Martyrdom of Polycarp (dating them to the reign of Marcus Aurelius) and included in his lost collection of Ancient Martyrdoms (E00139).


Edition: Schwartz, E., Mommsen, T., and Winkelmann, F., Eusebius Werke II: Die Kirchengeschichte. 3 vols (Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte NF 6/1-3; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1999). Translations: Lake, K., Oulton, J.E.L., and Lawlor, H.J., Eusebius of Caesarea: The Ecclesiastical History. 2 vols. (Loeb Classical Library; London and Cambridge, MA: Heinemann and Harvard University Press, 1926). Williamson, G.A., and Louth, A., Eusebius: The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine (London: Penguin, 1989) Further Reading: Buschmann, G., Das Martyrium des Polykarp. Vol. 6 (Kommentar zu den Apostolischen Vätern; Göttingen, 1998). Campenhausen, H. von, Bearbeitungen und Interpolationen des Polykarpmartyriums (Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philologisch-Historische Klasse; Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1957). Dehandschutter, B., Martyrium Polycarpi. Een literair-kritische studie (Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium; Leuven: Universitaire Pers Leuven, 1979). Delehaye, H., Les passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires (2ed.; Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1966), 15-46. Lightfoot, J.B., The Apostolic Fathers II: S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp. 2 vols. Vol. 1 (London: Macmillan, 1889). Zwierlein, O., Die Urfassungen der Martyria Polycarpi et Pionii und das Corpus Polycarpianum. 2 vols (Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte; Berlin and Boston: Walter De Gruyter, 2014).

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