For this assignment, you are asked to read two texts:
- The account of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, written as a letter sent from the church in Smyrna to the church in Philomelium. In this letter members of the community in Smyrna describe the persecution and death of several local Christians and mainly of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, who died around 155 C.E.
- An excerpt from an article by Leonard L. Thompson, “The Martyrdom of Polycarp: Death in the Roman Games,” published in 2002.
After you have read both texts, please choose one of the following options for the assignment:
- Creative option
The letter describing the death of Polycarp is written from a Christian point of view, but as Leonard Thompson argues in his article, a Roman person sitting among the crowds in the arena would have seen the events differently. Using the information and analysis in Thompson’s article, write a short first-person account of the events surrounding Polycarp’s death from the point of view of a Roman who came to watch the games in the stadium of Smyrna that day. In a separate paragraph at the end, explain how what you learned from Thompson’s article informed the account you wrote.
- Analytical option
In his article, Leonard Thompson claims that the Roman games during which Polycarp was executed were a “political theatre.” What does he mean by that? Using specific examples from Thompson’s article, explain how the Roman games were used to foster certain political and social values and how this is reflected in the story of the death of Polycarp.
Please write clearly and concisely and be sure to cite any text you use. DO NOT use any other sources except for the lectures and readings assigned for this course.
Word count: up to 750