“…those condemned to the wild beasts endured fearful punishments, being made to lie on sharp shells and punished with other forms of various torments, in order that [the devil] might bring them, if possible, by means of the prolonged punishment, to a denial of their faith.”
From “The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, as Told in the Letter of the Church of Smyrna to the Church of Philomelium” in Early Christina Fathers ed. Cyril C. Richardson. 150-51.
It continues: “The most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard of it, was not perturbed, but desired to remain in the city. But the majority induced him to withdraw, so he retired to a farm not far from the city and there stayed with a few friends, doing nothing else night and day but pray for all men and for the churches throughout the world, as was his constant habit. And while he was praying, it so happened, three days before his arrest, that he had a vision and saw his pillow blazing with fire, and turning to those who were with him he said, “I must be burned alive.”
“And while those who were searching for him continued their quest, he moved to another farm, and forthwith those searching for him arrived. And when they did not find him, they seized two young slaves, one of whom confessed under torture. For it was really impossible to conceal him, since the very ones who betrayed him were of his own household. And the chief of the police, who chanced to have the same name as Herod, was zealous to bring him into the arena….”
The narrative tells of the final exchange in the arena where the proconsul urges Polycarp to recant his faith: “…the proconsul was insistent and said: ‘Take the oath, and I shall release you. Curse Christ.’
Polycarp said: ‘Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’
And upon his persisting still and saying, ‘Swear by the fortune of Caesar,’ he answered, ‘If you vainly suppose that I shall swear by the fortune of Caesar, as you say, and pretend that you do not know who I am, listen plainly: I am a Christian. But if you desire to learn the teaching of Christianity, appoint a day and give me a hearing.’
…the proconsul said: ‘I have wild beasts. I shall throw you to them, if you do not change your mind.
But he said: ‘Call them. For repentance from the better to the worse is not permitted us; but it is noble to change from what is evil to what is righteous.’
And again [the proconsul said] to him, ‘I shall have you consumed with fire, if you despise the wild beasts, unless you change your mind.’
But Polycarp said: ‘The fire you threaten burns but an hour and is quenched after a little; for you do not know the fire of the coming judgment and everlasting punishment that is laid up for the impious. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will.’”