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Burrhus (Ign. Phild. 11; Ign. Eph.2; Ign. Smyr. 12)

Role: Literate Worker

Gender: Male

Date:  105-180 CE

Place: Ephesus; Asia Minor

Language:  Greek

Literary Genre: Letter

Title of Work: Ignatius, Letter to the Philadelphians; Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians; Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans

Reference:  Ign. Phild. 11; Ign. Eph.2; Ign. Smyr. 12

Original Text:

ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἡ ἀγάπη τῶν ἀδελφῶν τῶν ἐν Τρωάδι, ὅθεν καὶ γράφω ὑμῖν διὰ Βούρρου πεμφθέντος ἅμα ἐμοὶ ἀπὸ Ἐφεσίων καὶ Σμυρναίων εἰς λόγον τιμῆς. (Ign. Philad. 11)

Περὶ δὲ τοῦ συνδούλου μου Βούρρου, τοῦ κατὰ θεὸν διακόνου ὑμῶν ἐν πᾶσιν εὐλογημένου, εὔχομαι παραμεῖναι αὐτὸν εἰς τιμὴν ὑμῶν καὶ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου· καὶ Κρόκος δέ, ὁ θεοῦ ἄξιος καὶ ὑμῶν, ὃν ἐξεμπλάριον τῆς ἀφ᾿ ὑμῶν ἀγάπης ἀπέλαβον, κατὰ πάντα με ἀνέπαυσεν, ὡς καὶ αὐτὸν ὁ πατὴρ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἀναψύξαι ἅμα Ὀνησίμῳ καὶ Βούρρῳ καὶ Εὔπλῳ καὶ Φρόντωνι, δι᾿ ὧν πάντας ὑμᾶς κατὰ ἀγάπην εἶδον. (Ign. Eph. 2)

Ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἡ ἀγάπη τῶν ἀδελφῶν τῶν ἐν Τρωάδι, ὅθεν καὶ γράφω ὑμῖν διὰ Βούρρου, ὃν ἀπεστείλατε μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ ἅμα Ἐφεσίοις, τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ὑμῶν, ὃς κατὰ πάντα με ἀνέπαυσεν. καὶ ὄφελον πάντες αὐτὸν ἐμιμοῦντο, ὄντα ἐξεμπλάριον θεοῦ διακονίας. (Ign. Smyr. 12)

English Translation:

The love of the brothers in Troas greets you; it is from there that I am writing you through Burrhus, who has been sent together with me from the Ephesians and Smyrneans as a pledge of honor. (Ign. Philad. 11)

But as to my fellow slave Burrhus, your godly [servant] who is blessed in all things, I ask that he stay here for the honor of both you and the bishop. And Crocus as well—who is worthy of God and of you, whom I received as an embodiment of your love—has revived me in every way. So may the Father of Jesus Christ refresh him, along with Onesimus, Burrhus, Euplus, and Fronto, those through whom I lovingly saw all of you.  (Ign. Eph. 2)

The love of the brothers who are in Troas greets you; from there I am writing to you through  Burrhus, whom you sent along with me, together with your brothers the Ephesians. He has refreshed me in every way. Would that everyone imitated him, as he is the embodiment of the service of God. (Ign., Smyr. 12)

Text and Translation: adapted from Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003)


Burrhus is one of the central literate workers named in the letters of Ignatius, the second century bishop of Antioch. Sometime in the summer of 116 CE, Burrhus was sent by the Christian assemblies in Ephesus and Smyrna to assist the elderly bishop as he traveled under armed guard through Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) to Rome. When he located Ignatius he began to serve as an amanuensis (secretary) and messenger for the bishop.[1] It is also likely that like Epaphroditus and Onesimus, who supported Paul while he was imprisoned, Burrhus performed other tasks on behalf of the imprisoned Ignatius.

Burrhus is explicitly identified as a διάκονος a word that can be translated as either “deacon” or “servant” and a σύνδουλος (fellow-enslaved person).  It is likely that Burrhus was from Ephesus or its environs. Though residents of both Smyrna and Ephesus sponsored his trip, Ignatius requests of the Ephesians that Burrhus be permitted to stay in Smyrna with him (Ign. Eph. 2.1). The request seems to have been a costly one: an agreement between the Ephesian and Smyrnaean Christians had covered the cost of Burrhus’s travel as far as Smyrna, but the Smyrnaeans were unwilling to cover any further expenses. That Burrhus could not make these decisions for himself suggests that he either lacked means or that he was enslaved. The Ephesians must have agreed to the request as Burrhus accompanied Ignatius at least as far as the northern port of Alexandria Troas (an almost ten-day journey on foot).

It appears that Burrhus, like Crocus, was distinguished in the eyes of Ignatius. He is explicitly noted and commended in the concluding greetings of the Letter to the Philadelphians and the Letter to the Smyrnaeans.  Ignatius consistently presents Burrhus as a reflection of the communities that financially backed him: he is a “word [or pledge] of honor” (Phld. 11.2) and a “copy” of their love (Eph. 2.1; 11.2). When Ignatius speaks of Burrhus and Crocus, he consistently refers to the honor that they bring to the Ephesians and Smyrnaeans. He describes them as literate objects, calling them “living cop[ies]” of the love of the Ephesians (Moss). The word for “copy” here is exemplarium, a Latin loanword used to describe literary copies of legal documents (Dig. 31.47). As Chris Londa has shown, messengers were regularly pictured as extensions of the presence and character of the ones who had sent them, but their status as breathing objects evokes the Roman elite practice of describing secretaries as tablets and pens. We should note that Ignatius uses the same language to describe Onesimus, the Bishop of Ephesus (Ign. Trall. 3.2).  

According to Schoedel, the Latin name Burrhus was associated with those of servile rank.[2] There were, of course, exceptions (e.g.Sextus Afanius Burrus, Praetorian Prefect of Nero CIL 12.5842), but this Burrhus seems to have lacked both means and autonomy. The evidence, thus, leans in the direction of enslaved status.  

There are numerous difficulties involving the form and dating of the letters of Ignatius. Scholarly efforts to date the corpus range from the early to the late second century. On this the summary contained in the introduction to Ehrman’s edition.

Keywords: Apostolic Fathers; Christian; Ignatius; Literate Worker; Messenger; Secretary

Related Entries: Crocus (Ign. Eph 2 and Rom 10); Onesimus (Ign. Eph. 1-2 and 6)


Londa, Chris. “Letters.” In Writing, Enslavement, and Powerin the Roman Mediterranean. Edited by Jeremiah Coogan, Joseph Howley, Candida Moss. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

Moss, Candida R. God’s Ghostwriters: Enslaved Christians and the Making of the Bible. New York: Little Brown, 2024.

Richards, E. Randolph. “Silvanus Was Not Peter’s Secretary: Theological Bias in Interpreting διὰ Σιλουανοῦ …εγραψαin 1 Peter 5:12,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43.3 (2000): 417–32.

Schoedel, William R. Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1985. 

How to Cite:

Moss, Candida R. “Burrhus (Ign. Eph. 2; Phld. 11; Smyr. 12).” Ancient Enslaved Christians. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR <URL>


1  In his work E. Randolph Richards argues that Burrhus was only the emissary, not the secretary, for Ignatius’s letters. 

2 Schoedel, Ignatius, 46.



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