returned from Rome, after the death ofPothinus, he became bishop ofLyons, which is how he is traditionally known. Irenaeus was from the east, and the name 'Pothinus' probably indicates a similar eastern background. Irenaeus describes how, in his early youth, he had known Polycarp, the bishop of the church in Smyrna. This connection with Polycarp was important for Irenaeus: he emphasises that Polycarp had been appointed bishop of Smyrna by the apostles themselves and spoke often about his discussion with John and others who had seen the Lord.7 Irenaeus thus brought with him to Gaul a living connection with the age of the apostles themselves. Polycarp was martyred sometime in the late 150s, after returning from a visit to Rome. It is tempting to picture both Pothinus and Irenaeus as having accompanied Polycarp to Rome, and then having moved on to Gaul, perhaps with Christians from Rome itself. Other epistolary evidence, considered below, demonstrates that links with Rome were important to the Christians in Gaul.
The letter indicates that a number of others in the Christian community of Vienne and Lyons were also immigrants from the east. It specifically mentions that Attalus, a Roman citizen, was a native of Pergamum (HE 5.1.17), and that Alexander, a physician, was a Phrygian who had spent many years in various parts of Gaul (HE 5.1.49). Alcibiades, who, as we will see later, was connected with the Montanist movement, was also from Phrygia (HE 5.3.2-4). The same may be true of Vettius Epagathus, who though young and 'distinguished' or 'noble' (episemos), acted as the advocate for the Christians, 'having the Advocate in himself, the Spirit, more abundantly than Zacharias'.8 The other names recorded by the letter offer evidence that these Christian communities were diverse in composition: Sanctus, the deacon of Vienne, replied to his interrogators in Latin (HE 5.1.20); Blandina was a slave girl, whose nameless mistress was also martyred (HE 5.1.17), and who also encouraged a fifteen-year-old boy called Ponticus (HE 5.1.53); along with Attalus, several others appear to have been Roman citizens (HE 5.1.47); Maturuswas a 'recent convert' (HE 5.1.17), as perhaps was also Biblis, who initially denied her faith before 'recovering herself and being martyred (HE 5.1.25-6). Finally the letter records that a number of the Christians had pagan servants, who were also seized and interrogated (HE 5.1.14). Thus, despite the severity of the persecution, the letter specifically mentions only eleven Christians from the two communities, ten by name and the anonymous mistress of Blandina. It is probable, however,
7 Cf.Iren. Haer. 3.3.4; and his 'Letter to Flora', cited in HE 5.20.4-8.
8 HE 5.1.9-10. The mention here of Zacharias is an allusion to the priestly father ofJohn the Baptist (Luke 1:6), though it is also given as the (baptismal?) name of Vettius in the martyrologies. Cf. Nautin, Lettres, 50.
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