"He who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails."
According to the account of his pupil, Irenaeus, Polycarp was himself a pupil of the apostles, more especially of John, and had conversed with many who had seen the Lord in the flesh. According to Tertullian (De praescriptione, 32) and Jerome (Catal. scr. ecci., 17), he was consecrated Bishop of Smyrna by John.
Along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic Fathers. His only existing writing, a pastoral letter to the church at Philippi, shows he had little formal education, and was unpretentious, humble, and direct. In The Letter to the Philippians he encourages the community of faith to remain strong in their faith and to flee from materialism.
Polycarp lived in an age after the deaths of the apostles, when a variety of interpretations of the sayings of Jesus were being preached. His role was to authenticate orthodox teachings through his reputed connection with the apostle John: "a high value was attached to the witness Polycarp could give as to the genuine tradition of old apostolic doctrine.
In his later years, he tried to settle disputes about the date to celebrate Easter. Irenaeus states (iii. 3) that on Polycarp's visit to Rome his testimony converted many disciples of the gnostic teachers Marcion and Valentinus.
At 86, Polycarp was to be burned alive in a stadium in Smyrna; the flames did not harm him and he was finally killed by a dagger, and his body burned.The Acts of Polycarp’s martyrdom are the earliest preserved reliable account of a Christian martyr’s death.
It is recorded that when he heard Roman officials were intent on arresting him, he decided to wait for them at home. Panic-stricken friends pleaded with him to flee, so to calm them, he finally agreed to withdraw to a small estate outside of town. But while in prayer there, he received some sort of vision. Whatever he saw or heard, we don't know. He simply reported to his friends that he now understood, "I must be burned alive."
Roman soldiers eventually discovered Polycarp's whereabouts and came to his door. When his friends urged him to run, Polycarp replied, "God's will be done," and he let the soldiers in.
compiled from several sources