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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: May 2021

11 - The Letters of Ignatius


Writing in the fourth century, Eusebius puts forward what may be regarded as the traditional story of Ignatius of Antioch. Little is said of his birth or early life. Eusebius’ account begins in earnest with the apparent arrest of Ignatius in Syria or, more specifically, in Antioch. Ignatius is then forced to travel with a cohort guarding him overland through Asia. While in Smyrna and Troas, he wrote seven letters: five to nearby communities of believers in western Asia (Ephesians; Magnesians; Trallians; Philadelphians; Smyrnaeans), one to believers in Rome (Romans), and one to a fellow ecclesial leader named Polycarp (Polycarp). In his Letter to Polycarp, Ignatius says that he would like to write more but is unable to do so because he is being forced to sail on to Neapolis (Ign. Pol. 8.1). This is the last that is heard from Ignatius himself. To follow the story to the end we must consult documents that postdate Ignatius’ letters. These end with Ignatius’ death by the beasts that he had earlier hoped would become his tomb (Ign. Rom. 4.2).

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