The usual test applied to Christians was that they must call Caesar, the emperor, “Lord,” as if he were a divine person. Refusal to do so meant the death sentence. Taken before the Roman consul, Polycarp was required to say, on oath, that he venerated Caesar in this way. But he was firm in his refusal.
“I have wild beasts,” said the consul. “If you refuse I will throw you to them.”
“Send for them,” replied Polycarp.
“If you despise the wild beasts I will send you to the fire,” said the consul. “Swear and I will release you: curse the Christ.”
“Eighty and six years have I served Christ,” replied Polycarp, “and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me? You threaten the fire that burns for an hour and then is quenched. But you know not of the fire of the judgment to come, and the fire of the eternal punishment. Bring what you will.”
Quoted by S. M. Houghton in Sketches from Church History