In the year 155 persecution broke out against the Christians in Smyrna in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). Believers were being fed to the wild beasts in the arena and burned alive. At the time the persecuters called for the Christians' leader, so the authorities brought in Polycarp. Polycarp had been a disciple of the apostle John and was a revered elderly leader of the church. The church in Smyrna wrote an account of Polycarp's death and sent it to believers throughout the region. This was the first Christian martyr story, and it influenced how Christians thought about martyrdom ever afterward. Here is their account of Polycarp's arrest, trial and martyrdom.

The most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard of it [his impending arrest], was not perturbed, but desired to remain in the city. But the majority induced him to withdraw, so he retired to a farm not far from the city and there stayed with a few friends, doing nothing else night and day but pray for all men and for the churches throughout the world, as was his constant habit. And while he was praying, it so happened, three days before his arrest, that he had a vision and saw his pillow blazing with fire, and turning to those who were with him he said, "I must be burned alive."

And while those who were searching for him continued their quest, he moved to another farm, and forthwith those searching for him arrived. And when they did not find him, they seized two young slaves, one of whom confessed under torture. …

Taking, therefore, the young slave on Friday about suppertime, the police, mounted and with their customary arms, set out as though "hasting after a robber." … Even so he could have escaped to another farm, but ...

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