Lives of the Saints
ST. IGNATIUS, surnamed Theophorus, a word implying a divine or heavenly person,
was a zealous convert and an intimate disciple of St. John the Evangelist, as his acts
assure us; also the apostles SS. Peter and Paul, who united their labors in planting
the faith at Antioch. It was by their direction that he succeeded Evodius in the
government of that important see, as we are told by St. Chrysostom, who represents
him as a perfect model of virtue in that station, in which he continued upwards of
forty years. During the persecution of Domitian, St. Ignatius defended his flock by
prayer, fasting, and daily preaching the word of God. He rejoiced to see peace
restored to the church on the death of that emperor -- so far as this calm might be
beneficial to those committed to his charge -- but was apprehensive that he had not
attained to the perfect love of Christ, nor the dignity of a true disciple, because he
had not as yet been called to seal the truth of his religion with his blood, an honor
he somewhat impatiently longed for. The peaceable reign of Nerva lasted only fifteen
months. The governors of several provinces renewed the persecution under Trajan his
successor; and it appears from Trajan's letter to Pliny the younger, governor of
Bithynia that the Christians were ordered to be put to death, if accused; but it was
forbidden to make any inquiry after them. That emperor sullied his clemency and
bounty, and his other pagan virtues, by incest with his sister, by an excessive vanity,
which procured him the surname of Parietmus (or dauber of every wall with the
inscriptions of his name and actions) and by blind superstition, which rendered him a
persecutor of the true followers of virtue, out of a notion of gratitude to his
imaginary deities, especially after his victories over the Daci and Scythians in 101
and 105. In the year 106, which was the ninth of his reign, he set out for the East on
an expedition against the Parthians and made his entry into Antioch on the 7th of
January, 107, with the pomp of a triumph. His first concern was about the affair of
religion and worship of the gods, and for this reason he resolved to compel the
Christians either to acknowledge their divinity and sacrifice to them or suffer death in
case of refusal.
Ignatius, as a courageous soldier, being concerned only for his flock, willingly
suffered himself to be taken and carried before Trajan, who thus accosted him: "Who
art thou, wicked demon, that durst transgress my commands, and persuade others to
perish?" The saint answered: "No one calls Theophorus a wicked demon." Trajan
said: "Who is Theophorus?" Ignatius answered: "He who carrieth Christ in his
breast." Trajan replied: "And do not we seem to thee to bear the gods in our breasts,
whom we have assisting us against our enemies?" Ignatius said: "You err in calling
those gods who are no better than devils, for there is only one God, who made
heaven and earth, and all things that are in them, and one Jesus Christ his only Son,
into whose kingdom I earnestly desire to be admitted." Trajan said: "Do not you
mean him that was crucified under Pontius Pilate?" Ignatius answered: "The very
same, who by his death has crucified with sin its author, who overcame the malice of
the devils, and has enabled those who bear him in their heart to trample on them."
Trajan said: "Dost thou carry about Christ within thee?" Ignatius replied, "Yes; for it
is written: I will dwell and walk in them." Then Trajan dictated the following
sentence: "It is our will that Ignatius, who saith that he carrieth the crucified man
within himself, be bound and conducted to Rome, to be devoured there by wild
beasts, for the entertainment of the people." The holy martyr, hearing this sentence,
cried out with joy, "I thank thee, O Lord, for vouchsafing to honor me with this token
of perfect love for thee, and to be bound with chains of iron, in imitation of thy
apostle Paul, for thy sake." Having said this, and prayed for the church, and
recommended it with tears to God, he joyfully put on the chains, and was hurried
away by a savage troop of soldiers to be conveyed to Rome. His inflamed desire of
laying down his life for Christ made him embrace his sufferings with great joy.
On his arrival at Seleucia, a sea-port, about sixteen miles from Antioch, he was put
on board a ship which was to coast the southern and western parts of Asia Minor.
Why this route was pitched upon, consisting of so many windings preferably to a
more direct passage from Seleucia to Rome is not known; probably to render the
terror of his punishment the more extensive and of the greater force, to deter men
from embracing and persevering in the faith; but providence seems to have ordained
it for the comfort and edification of many churches. Several Christians of Antioch,
taking a shorter way, got to Rome before him, where they waited his arrival. He was
accompanied thither from Syria by Reus, Philo, a deacon, and Agathopodus, who
seem to have written these acts of his martyrdom. He was guarded night and day,
both by sea and land, by ten soldiers, whom he calls ten leopards, on account of
their inhumanity and merciless usage, who, the kinder he was to them, were the
more fierce and cruel to him. This voyage, however, gave him the opportunity of
confirming in faith and piety the several churches he saw on his route, giving them
the strictest caution against heresies and schism and recommending to them an
inviolable attachment to the tradition of the apostles. St. Chrysostom adds that he
taught them admirably to despise the present life, to love only the good things to
come, and never to fear any temporal evils whatever. The faithful flocked from the
several churches he came near, to see him, and to render him all the service in their
power, hoping to receive benefit from the plenitude of his benediction. The cities of
Asia, besides deputing to him their bishops and priests, to express their veneration
for him, sent also deputies in their name to bear him company the remainder of his
journey, so that he says he had many churches with him. So great was his fervor and
desire of suffering, that by the fatigues and length of the voyage, which was a very
bad one, he appeared the stronger and more courageous. On their reaching Smyrna,
he was suffered to go ashore, which he did with great joy, to salute St. Polycarp,
who had been his fellow disciple under St. John the Evangelist. Their conversation
was upon topics suitable to their character, and St. Polycarp felicitated him on his
chains and sufferings in so good a cause. At Smyrna he was met by deputies of
several churches, who were sent to salute him. Those from Ephesus were Onesimus,
the bishop; Burrhus, the deacon; Crocus, Euplus, and Fronto. From Magnesia in Lydia,
Damas the bishop, Bassus and Apollo, priests, and Sotio, deacon. From Tralles, also
in Lydia, Polybius the bishop. From Smyrna, St. Ignatius wrote four letters; in that to
the church of Ephesus, he commends the bishop Onesimus, and the piety and
concord of the people, and their zeal against all heresies, and exhorts them to glorify
God all manner of ways: to be subject, in unanimity, to their bishop and priests; to
assemble, as often as possible, with them in public prayer, by which the power of
Satan is weakened; to oppose only meekness to anger, humility to boasting, prayers
to curses and reproaches, and to suffer all injuries without murmuring. He says that
because they are spiritual, and perform all they do in a spiritual manner, that all,
even their ordinary actions, are spiritualized, because they do all in Jesus Christ.
That he ought to have been admonished by them, but his charity would not suffer
him to be silent; wherefore he prevents them, by admonishing first, that both might
meet in the will of God. He bids them not be solicitous to speak but to live well, and
to edify others by their actions; and [he] recommends himself and his widow church
of Antioch to their prayers. Himself he calls their outcast, yet declares that he is
ready to be immolated for their sake, and says they were persons who had found
mercy, but he a condemned man; they were strengthening in grace, but he struggling
in the midst of dangers. He calls them fellow-travelers in the road to God, which is
charity, and says they bore God and Christ in their breasts, and were his temples,
embellished with all virtues, and that he exulted exceedingly for the honor of being
made worthy to write to them, and rejoice in God with them; for, setting a true value
on the life to come, they loved nothing but God alone. Speaking of heretics, he says,
that he who corrupts the faith for which Christ died, will go into unquenchable fire,
and also he who heareth him. It is observed by him, that God concealed from the
devil three mysteries -- the virginity of Mary, her bringing forth, and the death of the
Lord -- and he calls the Eucharist the medicine of immortality, the antidote against
death, by which we always live in Christ. "Remember me, as I pray that Jesus Christ
be mindful of you. Pray for the church of Syria, from whence I am carried in chains to
Rome, being the last of the faithful who are there. Farewell in God the Father, and in
Jesus Christ, our common hope." The like instructions he repeats, with a new and
most moving turn of thought, in his letters to the churches of Magnesia and of the
Trallians; [he] inculcates the greatest abhorrence of schism and heresy and begs
their prayers for himself and his church in Syria, which he is not worthy to be called a
member, being the last of them. * * His letter was written to the Christians of Rome.
The saint knew the all-powerful efficacy of the prayers of the saints, and feared lest
they should obtain of God his deliverance from death. He therefore besought St.
Polycarp and others at Smyrna, to join their prayers with his, that the cruelty of the
wild beasts might quickly rid the world of him, that he might be presented before
Jesus Christ. With this view he wrote to the faithful at Rome, to beg that they would
not endeavor to obtain of God that the beasts might spare him, as they had several
other martyrs -- which might induce the people to release him and so disappoint him
of his crown.
The ardor of divine love which the saint breathes throughout this letter is as
inflamed as the subject is extraordinary; in it he writes, "I fear your charity, lest it
prejudice me; for it is easy for you to do what you please; but it will be difficult for
me to attain unto God if you spare me. I shall never have such an opportunity of
enjoying God; nor can you, if ye shall now be silent, ever be entitled to the honor of
a better work. For if ye be silent on my behalf, I shall be made partaker of God; but
if ye love my body, I shall have my course to run again. Therefore, a greater kindness
you cannot do me than to suffer me to be sacrificed unto God, while the altar is now
ready; that so becoming a choir in love, in your hymns ye may give thanks to the
Father by Jesus Christ, that God has vouchsafed to bring me, the bishop of Syria,
from the East unto the West, to pass out of the world unto God, that I may rise
again unto him. Ye have never envied any one. Ye have taught others. I desire,
therefore, that you will firmly observe that which in your instructions you have
prescribed to others. Only pray for me, that God would give me both inward and
outward strength, that I may not only say, but do -- that I may not only be called a
Christian but be found one; for if I shall be found a Christian, I may then deservedly
be called one and be thought faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world.
Nothing is good that is seen. A Christian is not a work of opinion but of greatness,
when he is hated by the world. I write to the churches and signify to them all, that I
am willing to die for God, unless you hinder me. I beseech you that you show not an
unseasonable good-will towards me. Suffer me to be the food of wild beasts,
whereby I may attain unto God; I am the wheat of God, and I am to be ground by
the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather
entice the beasts to my sepulcher, that they may leave nothing of my body, that,
being dead, I may not be troublesome to any. Then shall I be a true disciple of Jesus
Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body. Pray to Christ for me, that
in this I may become a sacrifice to God. I do not, as Peter and Paul, command you.
They were apostles; I am an inconsiderable person. They were free; I am even yet a
slave. But if I suffer, I shall then become the freeman of Jesus Christ, and shall arise
a freeman in him. Now I am in bonds for him; I learn to have no worldly or vain
desires. From Syria even unto Rome, I fight with wild beasts, both by sea and land,
both night and day, bound to ten leopards, that is, to a band of soldiers, who are the
worse for kind treatment. But I am the more instructed by their injuries; yet am I not
thereby justified. I earnestly wish for the wild beasts that are prepared for me, which
I heartily desire may soon dispatch me; whom I will entice to devour me entirely and
suddenly and not serve me as they have done some whom they have been afraid to
touch; but if they are unwilling to meddle with me, I will even compel them to it.
Pardon me this matter, I know what is good for me. Now I begin to be a disciple. So
that I have no desire after any thing visible or invisible, that I may attain to Jesus
Christ. Let fire, or the cross, or the concourse of wild beasts, let cutting or tearing of
the flesh, let breaking of bones and cutting off limbs, let the shattering in pieces of
my whole body and all the wicked torments of the devil come upon me, so I may but
attain to Jesus Christ. All the compass of the earth, and the kingdoms of this world,
will profit me nothing. It is better for me to die for the sake of Jesus Christ than to
rule unto the ends of the earth. Him I seek who died for us; Him I desire who rose
again for us; He is my gain at hand. Pardon me, brethren; be not my hindrance in
attaining to life, for Jesus Christ is the life of the faithful. While I desire to belong to
God, do not ye yield me back to the world. Suffer me to partake of the pure light.
When I shall be there, I shall be a man of God. Permit me to imitate the passion of
Christ my God. If any one has him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and
let him have compassion on me, as knowing how I am straitened. The prince of this
world endeavors to snatch me away and to change the desire with which I burn of
being united to God. Let none of you who are present attempt to succor me. Be
rather on my side, that is, on God's. Entertain no desires of the world, having Jesus
Christ in your mouths. Let no envy find place in your breasts. Even were I myself to
entreat you when present, do not obey me; but rather believe what I now signify to
you by letter. Though I am alive at the writing of this, yet my desire is to die. My
love is crucified. The fire that is within me does not crave any water; but being alive
and springing within, says, 'Come to the Father.' I take no pleasure in the food of
corruption, nor in the pleasure of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the
flesh of Jesus Christ, and for drink, his blood, which is incorruptible. I desire to live
no longer according to men; and this will be, if you are willing. Be, then, willing, that
you may be accepted by God. Pray for me that I may possess God. If I shall suffer,
ye have loved me; if I shall be rejected, ye have hated me. Remember in your
prayers the church of Syria, which now enjoys God for its shepherd instead of me. I
am ashamed to be called of their number for I am not worthy, being the last of them
and an abortive; but through mercy I have obtained that I shall be something, if I
enjoy God." The Martyr gloried in his sufferings as in the highest honor, and regarded
his chains as most precious jewels. His soul was raised above either the love or fear
of any thing on earth; and, as St. Chrysostom says he could lay down his life with as
much ease and willingness as another man could put off his clothes. He even wished,
every step of his journey, to meet with the wild beasts; and though that death was
most shocking and barbarous and presented the most frightful ideas, sufficient to
startle the firmest resolution, yet it was incapable of making the least impression
upon his courageous soul. The perfect mortification of his affections appears from his
heavenly meekness, and he expressed how perfectly he was dead to himself and the
world, living only to God in his heart, by that admirable sentence: "My love is
crucified." To signify, as he explains himself afterwards, that his appetites and
desires were crucified to the world, and to all the lusts and pleasures of it.
The guards pressed the saint to leave Smyrna, that they might arrive at Rome before
the shows were over. He rejoiced exceedingly at their hurry, desiring impatiently to
enjoy God by martyrdom. They sailed to Troas, where he was informed that God had
restored peace to his church at Antioch -- which freed him from the anxiety he had
been under, fearing lest there should be some weak ones in his flock. At Troas he
wrote three other letters: one to the church of Philadelphia, and a second to the
Smyrnans, in which he calls the heretics -- who denied Christ to have assumed true
flesh, and the Eucharist to be his flesh -- wild beasts in human shape and forbids all
communication with them, only allowing them to be prayed for, that they may be
brought to repentance, which is very difficult. His last letter is addressed to St.
Polycarp, whom he exhorts to labor for Christ without sparing himself; for the
measure of his labor will be that of his reward The style of the martyr everywhere
follows the impulses of a burning charity, rather than the rules of grammar, and his
pen is never able to express the sublimity of his thoughts. In every word there is a
fire and a beauty not to be paralleled; every thing is full of a deep sense. He
everywhere breathes the most profound humility and contempt of himself as an
abortive and the last of men; a great zeal for the church, and abhorrence of schisms;
the most ardent love of God and his neighbor, and tenderness for his own flock --
begging the prayers of all the churches in its behalf to whom he wrote, and
entreating of several that they would send an embassy to his church at Antioch, to
comfort and exhort them. The seven epistles of this apostolic father, the same which
were quoted by St. Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, St. Athanasius, St. Chrysostom,
Theodoret Gildas, &c. are published genuine by Usher, Vossius, Cotelier, &c., and in
English by archbishop Wake, in 1710.
St. Ignatius, not being allowed time to write to the other churches of Asia,
commissioned St. Polycarp to do it for him. From Troas they sailed to Neapolis in
Macedonia, and went thence to Philippi, from which place they crossed Macedonia
and Epirus on foot, but took shipping again at Epidamnum in Dalmatia and, sailing by
Rhegium and Puteoli, were carried by a strong gale into the Roman port, the great
station of the navy near Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber, sixteen miles from Rome.
He would gladly have landed at Puteoli, to have traced St. Paul's steps, by going on
foot from that place to Rome, but the wind rendered it impracticable. On landing, the
authors of these acts, who were his companions, say they were seized with great
grief, seeing they were soon to be separated from their dear master; but he rejoiced
to find himself so near the end of his race. The soldiers hastened him on, because
the public shows were drawing to an end. The faithful of Rome came out to meet
him, rejoicing at the sight of him, but grieving that they were so soon to lose him by
a barbarous death. They earnestly wished that he might be released at the request
of the people. The martyr knew in spirit their thoughts, and said much more to them
than he had done in his letter on the subject of true charity, conjuring them not to
obstruct his going to the Lord. Then kneeling with all the brethren, he prayed to the
Son of God for the Church, for the ceasing of the persecution, and for perpetual
charity and unanimity among the faithful. He arrived at Rome the 20th of December,
the last day of the public entertainments, and was presented to the prefect of the
city, to whom the emperor's letter was delivered at the same time. He was then
hurried by the soldiers into the amphitheater. The saint hearing the lions roar, cried
out: "I am the wheat of the Lord; I must be ground by the teeth of these beasts to
be made the pure bread of Christ." Two fierce lions being let out upon him, they
instantly devoured him, leaving nothing of his body but the larger bones; thus his
prayer was heard. "After having been present at this sorrowful spectacle," say our
authors "which made us shed many tears, we spent the following night in our house
in watching and prayer, begging of God to afford us some comfort by certifying us of
his glory." They relate, that their prayer was heard, and that several of them in their
slumber saw him in great bliss. They are exact in setting down the day of his death,
that they might assemble yearly thereon to honor his martyrdom. * They add that his
bones were taken up and carried to Antioch and there laid in a chest as an
inestimable treasure. St. Chrysostom says his relics were carried in triumph on the
shoulders of all the cities from Rome to Antioch. They were first laid in the cemetery
without the Daphnitic gate, but in the reign of Theodosius the younger were
translated thence with great pomp to a church in the city, which had been a temple
of Fortune, but from this time bore his name, as Evagrius relates. St. Chrysostom
exhorts all people to visit them, assuring them they would receive thereby many
advantages, spiritual and corporal, which he proves at length. They are now at Rome,
in the church of St. Clement Pope, whither they were brought about the time when
Antioch fell into the hands of the Saracens in the reign of Heraclius, in 637. The
regular canons at Arouaise near Bapaume in Artois, the Benedictine monks at Liesse
in Haynault, and some other churches, have obtained each some bone of this
glorious martyr. The Greek keep his feast a holyday on the day of his death, the 20th
of December. His martyrdom happened in 107.
The perfect spirit of humility, meekness, patience, charity, and all other Christian
virtues -- which the seven epistles of St. Ignatius breathe in every part -- cannot fail
deeply to affect all who attentively read them. Critics confess that they find in them
a sublimity, an energy and beauty of thought and expression, which they cannot
sufficiently admire. But the Christian is far more astonished at the saint's perfect
disengagement of heart from the world, the ardor of his love for God, and the
earnestness of his desire of martyrdom. Every period in them is full of profound
sense, which must be attentively meditated on before we can discover the divine
sentiments of all virtues which are here expressed. Nor can we consider them without
being inspired by some degree of the same and being covered with confusion to find
ourselves fall so far short of the humility and fervor of the primitive saints. Let us
listen to the instructions which this true disciple of Christ gives in his letter to the
Philadelphians, an abstract of his other six epistles being given above. He begins it
by a strenuous recommendation of union with their bishop, priests, and deacons; and
gives to their bishop (whom he does not name) great praises, especially for his
humility and meekness, inasmuch that he says his silence was more powerful than
the vain discourses of others, and that conversing with an unchangeable serenity of
mind, and in the sweetness of the living God, he was utterly a stranger to anger. He
charges them to refrain from the pernicious weeds of heresy and schism, which are
not planted by the Father, nor kept by Christ. "Whoever belong to God and Jesus
Christ, these are with the bishop. If any one follows him who maketh a schism, he
obtains not the inheritance of the kingdom of God. He who walks in the simplicity of
obedience is not enslaved to his passion. Use one Eucharist, for the flesh of the Lord
Jesus Christ is one, and the cup is one in the unity of his blood. There is one altar,
as there is one bishop, with the college of the priesthood and the deacons, my fellow
servants, that you may do all things according to God. My brethren, my heart is
exceedingly dilated in the tender love which I bear you, and exulting beyond bounds,
I render you secure and cautious; not I indeed, but Jesus Christ, in whom being
bound I fear the more for myself, being yet imperfect. But your prayer with God will
make me perfect, that I may obtain the portion which his mercy assigns me." Having
cautioned them against adopting Jewish ceremonies and against divisions and
schisms, he mentions one that had lately happened among them, and speaks of a
revelation which he had received of it as follows: "When I was among you, I cried out
with a loud voice, with the voice of God, saying, 'Hearken to your bishop, and the
priesthood, and the deacons.' Some suspected that I said this from a foresight of the
division which some afterwards made. But He for whom I am in chains is my witness,
that I knew it not from man, but the Spirit declared it, saying: Do ye nothing without
your bishop. Keep your body holy as the temple of God. Be lovers of unity; shun all
divisions. Be ye imitators of Jesus Christ, as he is of the Father. I therefore did what
lay in me, as one framed to maintain union. Where disagreement or anger is found,
there God never dwells. But God forgives all penitents." He charges them to send
some person of honor from their church to congratulate with his church in Syria upon
peace being restored to it, and calls him blessed who should be honored with this
From his genuine epistles, also from the acts of his martyrdom, St. Chrys. Hom. in
St. Ignat M.
t. 2, p. 32, Ed. Nov. Eusebius. Bee Tillemont, t. 2, p. 191. Cave, t. 1, p. 100. Dom
Ceillier. Dom     
Marechal Concordance des Pères Grecs et Latins, t. 1, p. 58.      
The Martyrdom of Ignatius[2]

WHEN Trajan, not long since, succeeded to the empire of the Romans, Ignatius, the
disciple of John the apostle, a man in all respects of an apostolic character, governed
the Church of the Antiochians with great care, having with difficulty escaped the
former storms of the many persecutions under Domitian, inasmuch as, like a good
pilot, by the helm of prayer and fasting, by the earnestness of his teaching, and by
his [constant] spiritual labor, he resisted the flood that rolled against him, fearing
[only] lest he should lose any of those who were deficient in courage, or apt to suffer
from their simplicity. Wherefore he rejoiced over the tranquil state of the Church,
when the persecution ceased for a little time, but was grieved as to himself, that he
had not yet attained to a true love to Christ, nor reached the perfect rank of a
disciple. For he inwardly reflected, that the confession which is made by martyrdom,
would bring him into a yet more intimate relation to the Lord. Wherefore, continuing
a few years longer with the Church, and, like a divine lamp, enlightening every one’s
understanding by his expositions of the [Holy] Scriptures, he [at length] attained the
object of his desire.
For Trajan, in the ninth year of his reign, being lifted up [with pride], after the victory
he had gained over the Scythians and Dacians, and many other nations, and thinking
that the religious body of the Christians were yet wanting to complete the
subjugation of all things to himself, and [thereupon] threatening them with
persecution unless they should agree to worship demons, as did all other nations,
thus compelled all who were living godly lives either to sacrifice [to idols] or die.
Wherefore the noble soldier of Christ [Ignatius], being in fear for the Church of the
Antiochians, was, in accordance with his own desire, brought before Trajan, who was
at that time staying at Antioch, but was in haste [to set forth] against Armenia and
the Parthians. And when he was set before the emperor Trajan, [that prince] said
unto him, “Who art thou, wicked wretch, who settest thyself to transgress our
commands, and persuadest others to do the same, so that they should miserably
perish?” Ignatius replied, “No one ought to call Theophorus wicked; for all evil spirits
have departed from the servants of God. But if, because I am an enemy to these
[spirits], you call me wicked in respect to them, I quite agree with you; for inasmuch
as I have Christ the King of heaven [within me], I destroy all the devices of these
[evil spirits].” Trajan answered, “And who is Theophorus?” Ignatius replied, “He who
has Christ within his breast.” Trajan said, “Do we not then seem to you to have the
gods in our mind, whose assistance we enjoy in fighting against our enemies?”
Ignatius answered, “Thou art in error when thou callest the demons of the nations
gods. For there is but one God, who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all
that are in them; and one Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, whose
kingdom may I enjoy.” Trajan said, “Do you mean Him who was crucified under
Pontius Pilate?” Ignatius replied, “I mean Him who crucified my sin, with him who
was the inventor of it, and who has condemned [and cast down] all the deceit and
malice of the devil under the feet of those who carry Him in their heart.” Trajan said,
“Dost thou then carry within thee Him that was crucified?” Ignatius replied, “Truly so;
for it is written, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them.’” Then Trajan pronounced
sentence as follows: “We command that Ignatius, who affirms that he carries about
within him Him that was crucified, be bound by soldiers, and carried to the great
[city] Rome, there to be devoured by the beasts, for the gratification of the people.”
When the holy martyr heard this sentence, he cried out with joy, “I thank thee, O
Lord, that Thou hast vouchsafed to honor me with a
perfect love towards Thee, and hast made me to be bound with iron chains, like Thy
Apostle Paul.” Having spoken thus, he then, with delight, clasped the chains about
him; and when he had first prayed for the Church, and commended it with tears to
the Lord, he was hurried away by the savage cruelty of the soldiers, like a
distinguished ram the leader of a goodly flock, that he might be carried to Rome,
there to furnish food to the bloodthirsty beasts.
Wherefore, with great alacrity and joy, through his desire to suffer, he came down
from Antioch to Seleucia, from which place he set sail. And after a great deal of
suffering he came to Smyrna, where he disembarked with great joy, and hastened to
see the holy Polycarp, [formerly] his fellow-disciple, and [now] bishop of Smyrna. For
they had both, in old times, been disciples of St. John the Apostle. Being then
brought to him,and having communicated to him some spiritual gifts, and glorying in
his bonds, he entreated of him to labor along with him for the fulfillment of his
desire; earnestly indeed asking this of the whole Church (for the cities and Churches
of Asia had welcomed the holy man through their bishops, and presbyters, and
deacons, all hastening to meet him, if by any means they might receive from him
some spiritual gift), but above all, the holy Polycarp, that, by means of the wild
beasts, he soon disappearing from this world, might be manifested before the face of
And these things he thus spake, and thus testified, extending his love to Christ so
far as one who was about to secure heaven through his good confession, and the
earnestness of those who joined their prayers to his in regard to his [approaching]
conflict; and to give a recompense to the Churches, who came to meet him through
their rulers, sending letters of thanksgiving to them, which dropped spiritual grace,
along with prayer and exhortation. Wherefore, seeing all men so kindly affected
towards him, and
fearing lest the love of the brotherhood should hinder his zeal towards the Lord,
while a fair door of suffering martyrdom was opened to him, he wrote to the Church
of the Romans the Epistle which is here subjoined. (See the Epistle as formerly
Having therefore, by means of this Epistle, settled, as he wished, those of the
brethren at Rome who were unwilling [for his martyrdom]; and setting sail from
Smyrna (for Christophorus was pressed by the soldiers to hasten to the public
spectacles in the mighty [city] Rome, that, being given up to the wild beasts in the
sight of the Roman people, he might attain to the crown for which he strove), he
[next] landed at Troas. Then, going on from that place to Neapolis, he went [on foot]
by Philippi through Macedonia, and on to that part of Epirus which is near Epidamnus;
and finding a shipin one of the seaports, he sailed over the Adriatic Sea, and
entering from it on the Tyrrhene, he passed by the various islands and cities, until,
when Puteoli came in sight, he was eager there to disembark, having a desire to
tread in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. But a violent wind arising did not suffer
him to do so, the ship being driven rapidly forwards; and, simply expressing his
delight over the love of the brethren in that place, he sailed by. Wherefore,
continuing to enjoy fair winds, we were reluctantly hurried on in one day and a night,
mourning [as we did] over the coming departure from us of this righteous man. But
to him this happened just as he wished, since he was in haste as soon as possible
to leave this world, that he might attain to the Lord whom he loved. Sailing then into
the Roman harbor, and the unhallowed sports being just about to close, the soldiers
began to be annoyed at our slowness, but the bishop rejoicingly yielded to their
They pushed forth therefore from the place which is called Portus; and (the fame of
all relating to the holy martyr being already spread abroad) we met the brethren full
of fear and joy; rejoicing indeed because they were thought worthy to meet with
Theophorus, but struck with fear because so eminent a man was being led to death.
Now he enjoined some to keep silence who, in their fervent zeal, were saying that
they would appease the people, so that they should not demand the destruction of
this just one. He being immediately aware of this through the Spirit, and having
saluted them all, and begged of them to show a true affection towards him, and
having dwelt [on this point] at greater length than in his Epistle, and having
persuaded them not to envy him hastening to the Lord, he then, after he had, with
all the brethren kneeling [beside him], entreated the Son of God in behalf of the
Churches, that a stop might be put to the persecution, and
that mutual love might continue among the brethren, was led with all haste into the
amphitheater. Then, being immediately thrown in, according to the command of
Caesar given some time ago, the public spectacles being just about to close (for it
was then a solemn day, as they deemed it, being that which is called the thirteenth
in the Roman tongue, on which the people were wont to assemble in more than
ordinary numbers), he was thus cast to the wild beasts close, beside the temple,
that so by them the desire of
the holy martyr Ignatius should be fulfilled, according to that which is written, “The
desire of the righteous is acceptable [to God],” to the effect that he might not be
troublesome to any of the brethren by the gathering of his remains, even as he had
in his Epistle expressed a wish beforehand that so his end might be. For only the
harder portions of his holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and
wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace
which was in the
Now these things took place on the thirteenth day before the Kalends of January,
that is, on the twentieth of December, Sura and Senecio being then the consuls of
the Romans for the second time. Having ourselves been eye-witnesses of these
things, and having spent the whole night in tears within the house, and having
entreated the Lord, with bended knees and much prayer, that He would give us weak
men full assurance respecting the things which were done, it came to pass, on our
falling into a brief slumber, that some of us saw the blessed Ignatius suddenly
standing by us and embracing us, while others beheld him again praying for us, and
others still saw him dropping with sweat, as if he had just come from his great labor,
and standing by the Lord. When, therefore, we had with great joy witnessed these
things, and had compared our several visions together, we sang praise to God, the
giver of all good things, and expressed our sense of the happiness of the holy
[martyr]; and now we have made known to you both the day and the time [when
these things happened], that, assembling ourselves together according to the time
of his martyrdom, we may have fellowship with the champion and noble martyr of
Christ, who trode under foot the devil, and perfected the course which, out of love to
Christ, he had desired, in Christ Jesus our Lord; by whom, and with whom, be glory
and power to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, for evermore! Amen.

[1] Butler's Lives of the Saints - 17 October.
[2] Cf. ANF vol. 1
St Ignatius of Antioch Martyr and Bishop of
Antioch A.D. 107