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The year was A.D. 155. The persecution against Christians had swept across the Roman Empire. It had come to the city of Smyrna. The Pro-Consul of Smyrna, swept up into this persecution, put out the order to arrest Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp. He was to be arrested and brought to the local Coliseum, for execution.
Polycarp had been warned to flee, but he had decided not to. He invited his captors in, treated them as friends, prepared them food and served them a meal. Polycarp just asked for one hour to pray before they took him away. The Roman officers overheard his prayers, which actually went on for two hours. They probably began to have second thoughts: "What are we doing arresting an old man like this?" A man well advanced in his eighties.
An Offer for Reprieve
The crowd screamed when they saw this famous Christian leader come forward. They wanted his blood. The Pro-Consul, however, offered him a way of reprieve. He said: "Pity your grey hairs old man. Just curse Christ and I will release you." Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, responded: "Eighty-six years I have served Christ and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?"