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22
POLYCLITUS

one occasion Marcion endeavoured to establish relations with him and accosted him with the words, “Recognize us.” But Polycarp displayed the same uncompromising attitude which his master John had shown towards Cerinthus and answered, “I recognize you as the first-born of Satan.” The steady progress of the heretical movement in spite of all opposition was a cause of deep sorrow to Polycarp, so that in the last years of his life the words were constantly on his lips, “Oh good God, to what times hast thou spared me, that I must suffer such things!”

3. Polycarp's Visit to Rome—It is one of the most interesting and important events in the church history of the 2nd century that Polycarp, shortly before his death, when he was considerably over eighty years old, undertook a journey to Rome in order to visit the bishop Anicetus. Irenaeus, to whom we are indebted for this information (Haer. iii. 3, 4; Epist. ad victorem, ap. Euseb. v. 24), gives as the reason for the journey the fact that differences existed between Asia and Rome “with regard to certain things” and especially about the time of the Easter festival. He might easily have told us what these “certain things” were and given us fuller details of the negotiations between the two great bishops, for in all probability he was himself in Rome at the time. But unfortunately all he says is that with regard to the certain things the two bishops speedily came to an understanding, while as to the time of Easter, each adhered to his own custom, without breaking off communion with the other. We learn further that Anicetus as a mark of special honour allowed Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in the church, and that many Marcionites and Valentinians were converted by him during his stay in Rome.

4. Polycarp's Martyrdom.—Not many months apparently after Polycarp's return from Rome a persecution broke out in Asia. A great festival was in progress at Smyrna. The proconsul Statius Quadratus was present on the occasion, and the asiarch Philip of Tralles was presiding over the games. Eleven Christians had been brought, mostly from Philadelphia, to be put to death. The appetite of the populace was inflamed by the spectacle of their martyrdom. A cry was raised “Away with the atheists. Let search be made for Polycarp.” Polycarp took refuge in a country farm. His hiding-place, however, was betrayed and he was arrested and brought back into the city. Attempts were made by the officials to induce him to recant, but without effect. When he came into the theatre the proconsul urged him to “revile Christ,” and promised, if he would consent to abjure his faith, that he would set him at liberty. To this appeal Polycarp made the memorable answer, “Eighty and six years have I served Him and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I speak evil of my King who saved me?” These words only intensified the fury of the mob. They clamoured for a lion to be let loose upon him there and then. The asiarch however refused, urging as an excuse that the games were over. When they next demanded that their victim should be burned, the proconsul did not interfere. Timber and faggots were hastily collected and Polycarp was placed upon the pyre. With calm dignity and unflinching courage he met his fate and crowned a noble life with an heroic death.

The question as to the date of-the martyrdom has evoked considerable controversy. Eusebius in his Chronicon gives A.D. 166 as the date of Polycarp's death, and until the year 1867 this statement was never questioned. In that year appeared Waddington's Mémoire sur la chronologie de la vie du rhéteur Aelius Aristide, in which it was shown from a most acute combination of circumstances that the Quadratus whose name is mentioned in the Martyrium was proconsul of Asia in 155-156, and that consequently Polycarp was martyred on the 23rd of February 155. Waddington's conclusion has received overwhelming support amongst recent critics. His views have been accepted by (amongst many others) Renan,[1] Hilgenfeld,[2] Gebhardt,[3] Lipsius,[4] Harnack,[5] Zahn,[6] Lightfoot,[7] Randell.[8] Against this array of scholars only the following names of importance can be quoted in support of the traditional view—Keim,[9] Wieseler[10] and Uhlhorn.[11] The problem is too complex to admit of treatment here. There seems to be little doubt that the case for the earlier date has been proved. The only point upon which there is division of opinion is as to whether Waddington's date 155, or—as is suggested by Lipsius and supported by C. H. Turner[12]—the following year 156 is the more probable. The balance of opinion seems to favour the latter alternative, because it leaves more room for Polycarp's visit to Anicetus, who only became bishop of Rome in 154. Harnack, however, after careful investigation, prefers 155.

The significance of Polycarp in the history of the Church is out of all proportion to our knowledge of the facts of his career. The violent attack of the Smyrnaean mob is an eloquent tribute to his influence in Asia. “This is the teacher of Asia,” they shouted, “this is the father of the Christians: this is the destroyer of our gods: this is the man who has taught so many no longer to sacrifice and no longer to pray to the gods.”[13] And after the execution they refused to deliver up his bones to the Christians for burial on the ground that “the Christians would now forsake the Crucified and worship Polycarp.”[14] Polycarp was indeed, as Polycrates says,[15] “one of the great luminaries” (μεγάλα στοιχεῖα) of the time. It was in no small degree due to his stanch and unwavering leadership that the Church was saved from the peril of being overwhelmed by the rising tide of the pagan revival which swept over Asia during the first half of the 2nd century, and it was his unfaltering allegiance to the Apostolic faith that secured the defeat of the many forms of heresy which threatened to destroy the Church from within. Polycarp had no creative genius. He was a “transmitter, not a maker,” but herein lies his greatness. Much occurred between the Apostolic age and the age when the faith of the Church was fixed in the earliest creed and protected by the determination of the canon of the New Testament. This intervening period was the most perilous epoch in the history of the ante-Nicene Church. The Apostolic tradition might have been perverted and corrupted. The purity of the Gospel might have been defiled. The Christian ideal might have been lost. That the danger was so largely averted is to no small extent the result of the faithful witness of Polycarp. As Irenaeus says (iii. 3, 4), “Polycarp does not appear to have possessed qualifications for successfully conducting a controversial discussion with erroneous teachers . . . but he could not help feeling how unlike their speculations were to the doctrines which he had learned from the Apostles, and so he met with indignant reprobation their attempt to supersede Christ's gospel with fictions of their own devising.” It is this that constitutes Polycarp's service to the Church, and no greater service has been rendered by any of its leaders in any age.

Bibliography.—J. B. Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, pt. ii. (2nd ed., 1889). Polycarp is dealt with in i. 417-459, 530-704; ii. 897-1086; G. Volkmar, Epistula Polycarpi Smymaei genuina (Zürich, 1885); T. Zahn, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Kanons, &c., iv. 249, 279; J. M. Cotterill, “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians,” Journ. of Philol. (1891), xix., 241-285; Harnack, Chronologie der altchristlichen Litteratur (1897). See also Apostolic Fathers.

(H. T. A.) 

POLYCLITUS, the name of two Greek sculptors of the school of Argos; the first belonging to the fifth century, the second to the early part of the fourth.

1. The elder and best known Polyclitus was a contemporary of Pheidias, and in the opinion of the Greeks his equal. He made a figure of an Amazon for Ephesus which was regarded as superior to the Amazon of Pheidias made at the same time; and his colossal Hera of gold and ivory which stood in the temple near

Argos was considered as worthy to rank with the Zeus of Pheidias.


  1. Antichrist (1873), p. 207.
  2. Zeitschrift f. wiss. Theol. (1874), p. 325.
  3. Zeitschrift f. hist. Theol. (1875), p. 356.
  4. Jahrb. f. prot. Theol. (1883), p. 525.
  5. Chronologie, i. 334-356.
  6. Zeitschrift f. wiss. Theol. (1882), p. 227; (1884), p. 216.
  7. Ignatius and Polycarp, i. 629-702.
  8. Studia biblica (1885), i. 175.
  9. Aus dem Urchristentum, p. 90.
  10. Die Christemierfolgungen der Caesaren (1878), p. 34.
  11. Studia biblica (1890), ii. 105-156.
  12. Realencyk. f. prot. Theol., 2nd ed. xii. 105.
  13. Martyrium, ch. 12.
  14. Ibid. 17.
  15. Ap. Euseb. v. 24.