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In fact, on this particular issue their scepticism now appears premature.
The letter, sent from the church in Smyrna to another church in Asia Minor at Philomelium, is partly written from the point of view of an eye-witness, recounting the arrest of the elderly Polycarp, the Romans' attempt to execute him by fire, and subsequent miraculous events.
This year, in the major new edition of the martyr acts by E.
Rebillard an emendation to ‘Philadelphia’ is considered.
For a historian of Roman provincial law the answer to this problem is in fact fairly obvious: Philomelion was (and had been since the first century BC) one of the slightly more than a dozen centres of the province of Asia, where the proconsul conducted an annual assize session, just as he did at Smyrna.
Not only were these assize sessions the only legitimate occasions on which trials of Christians could take place, but there is also reasonable evidence for the early Christian communities in Asia Minor imitating the Roman official practice of distributing texts through the as necessarily contradictory: the text certainly strives to provide a narrative of a trial in which, in the literary form imitating Roman court minutes, the real authority appears to rest with the martyr rather than with the Roman governor.