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E00487: The Greek Life of Polykarpos, of the 3rd or early 4th c., mentions the burial of *Boukolos (bishop of Smyrna, 2nd c., S00314) and of *Thraseas (bishop of Eumeneia, martyred in Smyrna, S00271) in the same cemetery. After the burial of Thraseas, a myrtle tree grows, perhaps regarded as a miracle; the text also mentions a memorial service, most probably the Eucharist, held after the burial of Boukolos. Written in Smyrna (western Asia Minor).

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posted on 2015-05-11, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Life of Polycarp (BHG 1561), 20

ἀγαγόντες δὲ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ μακαρίου Βουκόλου εἰς Σμύρναν εἰς τὸ πρὸ τῆς Ἐφεσιακῆς βασιλείας κοιμητήριον καὶ καταθέμενοι ἔνθα νῦν μυρσίνη ἀνεβλάστησεν μετὰ τὴν ἀπόθεσιν τοῦ σώματος Θρασέου τοῦ μάρτυρος, πληρώσαντες πάντα, προσέφερον ἄρτον ὑπὲρ τοῦ Βουκόλου καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν.

‘And they took the body of the blessed Boukolos to Smyrna, to the cemetery by the imperial road to Ephesos, and they buried it where now a myrtle tree has sprung up after the burial of the body of the martyr Thraseas. And, when all was over, they offered bread for Boukolos and the rest.’

Text: Stewart-Sykes 2002. Translation: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Thraseas, bishop of Eumeneia, martyred in Smyrna, ob. c. 170 : S00271 Boukolos, bishop of Smyrna, ob. 2nd c. : S00314

Saint Name in Source

Θρασέας Βουκόλος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Smyrna Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miracle with animals and plants

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people


The 3rd century Life of Polycarp survives in a single manuscript, the codex Parisinus Graecus 1452, an 11th century collection of hagiographical texts, concerning the feasts of February. In the manuscript, it precedes the Martyrdom of Polycarp. The extant text contains a substantial lacuna between paragraphs 28 and 29, and it seems to be missing its last parts, ending abruptly in paragraph 32. Most recent edition and translation: Stewart-Sykes 2002 (with earlier bibliography).


The burial of the bishop of Smyrna Boukolos, predecessor of *Polycarp, took place in the early 2nd century AD. This passage from the Life of Polycarp (E00453) gives a topographical detail, suggesting that the text was addressed to a local readership, familiar with the topography of Smyrna. The scene is set at the Christian cemetery near the highway connecting Smyrna with Ephesos (referred to as Ἐφεσιακή βασιλεία [ὁδός]). The text was evidently written much later, since it informs the reader that the resting place of Boukolos was buried at a place where more recently the martyr Thraseas had been buried. This is mentioned as a recent event, which could mean that the text appeared (or purports to have appeared) around AD 200. Thraseas, bishop of the city of Eumeneia, was martyred in Smyrna after Polycarp, perhaps in the 170s or 180s, and he was buried in the local Christian cemetery. His martyrdom is mentioned in a letter of Polykatēs of Ephesos, written in the 190s (see E00488), and in an anti-Montanist treatise by Apollonios of Ephesos, writing in c. 200 (quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 5.18.13). It seems that the body of Thraseas was buried in a separate section of the cemetery where other bishops and martyrs were also resting. Interestingly, however, the text implies that the grave of Boukolos was not known with precision, which would suggest that it did not attract any special veneration. The reference to the myrtle tree, on the other hand, may reflect the belief that the site acquired a special grace after the burial of the martyr.


Text editions, translations and commentaries: Lightfoot, J.B., The Apostolic Fathers II: S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp. Vol. 3 (London: Macmillan, 1889), 423-506. Rebillard, E., Greek and Latin Narratives About the Ancient Martyrs (Oxford Early Christian Texts; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 108-147. Stewart-Sykes, A., The Life of Polycarp. An Anonymous Vita from Third-Century Smyrna (Early Christian Studies; Sydney: St Pauls Publications, 2002). Further reading: Delehaye, H., Les passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires (2nd ed.; Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1966), 15-46. Gerlach, K., The Ante-Nicene Pascha: A Rhetorical History (Leuven: Peeters, 1998). Hoover, J., “False Lives, False Martyrs: "Pseudo-Pionius" and the Redating of the Martyrdom of Polycarp,” Vigiliae Christianae 67 (2013), 471-498. Stewart-Sykes, A., "Vita Polycarpi: A Third-Century Vita," Augustinianum 40 (2000), 21-33.

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