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On this page: Polycaon – Polycarpus



men Sanitatis Salernitanum (in numerous editions), and to three or four other works. [W. A. G.]

POLYCAON (Ho\vKdw). 1. A son of Lelex, brother of Myles, and husband of Messene, the daughter of Triopas of Argos. He emigrated from Laconia to Messenia, which country he thus called after his wife. He was the first king of Messenia. (Pans. iii. 1. § 1, iv. 1. § 1.)

2. A son of Butes, was married to Euaechme, the daughter ,of Hyllus. (Paus. iv. 2. § 1.) [L. S.]

POLYCARPUS (noAiJ/capTros). 1. asceta. There is extant in Greek a life of the female saint Syncletica, which has been ascribed to various persons. Some MSS. and the Greek ecclesiastical historian, Nicephorus Callisti (ff. E. viii. 4O), as­cribe it to Athanasius, but Montfaucon, though he gives the piece with a Latin version in his edition of the works of Athanasius (vol. ii. p. 681, &c.), classes it among the spurious works, and declares that the difference of style, and the absence of any external testimony for five or six centuries after Athanasius, leave no room to doubt its spurious-ness. A copy, which was among the papers of Comb£fis, contains a clause, stating that the dis­courses or sayings of the saint had been reported by " the blessed Arsenius of Pegadae ;" but this does not seem to describe him as the compiler of the narrative, but only as the author from whom part of the materials were derived. It is then most reasonable to follow the very ancient MS. in the Vatican library, which ascribes the biography to Polycarp the Ascetic or Monk, but where or when this Polycarp lived cannot be determined. The biography was first published in the Latin version of David Colvillus in the Ada Sanctorum Januarii, vol. i. p. 242, &c. The original Greek text is said to have been published with some other pieces, 4to. Ingoldstadt, 1603 ; it is given with a new Latin version and notes in the Ecelesiae Graecae Monu-menta of Cotelerius, vol. i. p. 201, &c., 4to. Paris, 1677. The MS. used by Cotelerius contained neither the author's name nor the final clause about Arse­nius of Pegadae. The title of the piece is Bios Kal TroAiTefa ttjs offias Kal aotSi'/xou jurjrpos tjjlmj/ (in Montfaucon's edition, B. k. tt. ttjs dyias Kal (j.aKa-pias Kal SiScKT/caAou) St/yKArjri/CT/s, Vita et Gesta sanctae celebrisque matris nostrae (or according to Montfaucon, sanctae beataeque magistrae) Synde-licae. (Fabric. Biblioth. Graec. vol. x. p. 329.)

2. martyr. [No. 3.]

3. Of smyrna, a Christian writer of the age immediately succeeding that of the Apostles. Of the early history of this eminent father we have no trustworthy account. The time of his birth is not known, and we can only determine it by approximation. At the time of his martyr­dom, to which various dates are assigned, he had been a Christian eighty-six years. Now if we adopt for the present Tillemont's date of his mar­tyrdom, a. d. 166, and suppose Polycarp to have been of Christian parents, or at least educated from childhood in the Christian faith, and so in­terpret the eighty-six years, as several eminent critics do, of the term of his natural life, his birth will fall in a. d. 80 ; but if with other critics we suppose him to have been converted at a riper age, and compute the eighty-six years from the time of his conversion, his birth must be placed at a con­siderably earlier period. A vague passage in the Latin text of Polycarp's epistle to the Philippians (c. xi.), which we think merely indicates that the


church at Smyrna was not in existence when the Apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians, has been adduced to prove that Polycarp was born before that time ; but the words are too indefinite to bear out any such inference.

An ancient life, or rather a fragment of a life of Polycarp, ascribed by Bollandus to a certain Pionius of unknown date, and given by him in a Latin version in the A eta Sanctorum Januarii (a. d. 26), vol. ii. p. 695, &c., dwells much on the early history of Polycarp, but the record (if indeed it be the work of Pionius) is some centuries later than its subject, and is evidently false in several particulars. We are inclined to think, however, that it embodies some genuine traditions of Polycarp's history. According to this account, the Apostle Paul visited Smyrna in his way from Galatia, through the pro­consular Asia to Jerusalem (the writer apparently confounding two journeys recorded in Acts, xviii. 18—22, and 23, &c.), and having collected the believers, instructed them in the proper time of keeping Easter. After Paul's departure, his host, Strataeas, the brother of Timotheus, became bishop of the infant church ; or, for the passage is not clear, Strataeas became an elder and Bucolus was bishop. It was during the episcopate of Bucolus (whether he was the contemporary or the successor of Strataeas) that Callisto, a female member of the church, eminent for riches and works of charity, was warned of God in a dream to go to the gate of the city, called the Ephesian gate, where she would find a little boy (puerulum) named Polycarp, of Eastern origin, who had been reduced to sla­very, and was in the hands of two men, from whom she was to redeem him. Callisto, obedient to the vision, rose, went to the gate, found the two men with the child, as it had been revealed to her ; and having redeemed the boy, brought him home, educated him with maternal affection in the Christian faith, and, when he attained to manhood, first made him ruler over her house, then adopted him as her son, and finally left him heir to all her wealth. Polycarp had been from childhood distinguished by his beneficence, piety, and self-denial; by the gravity of his deportment, and his diligence in the study of the Holy Scrip­tures. These qualities early attracted the notice and regard of the bishop, Bucolus, who loved him with fatherly affection, and was in return regarded by him with filial love. By Bucolus he was or­dained first to the office of deacon, in which he laboured diligently, confuting heathens, Jews, and heretics ; delivering catechetical homilies in the church, and writing epistles of which that to the Philippians is the only extant specimen. He was subsequently when of mature age (his hair was already turning gray) and still maturer conduct, ordained presbyter by Bucolus, on whose death he was elected and consecrated bishop. We omit to notice the various miracles said to be wrought by Polycarp, or to have occurred on different occasions in his life.

Such are the leading facts recorded in this an­cient narrative, which has, we think, been too lightly estimated by Tillemont. That it has been interpolated with many fabulous admixtures of a later date, is clear ; but we think there are some things in it which indicate that it embodies earlier and truer elements. The difficulty is to discover and separate these from later corruptions. The chief ground for rejecting the narrative altogether is the

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