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Crocus (Ign. Eph 2 and Rom. 10)

Role: Messenger

Gender: Male

Date: early-second century CE

Place: Ephesus; Rome

Language: Greek

Literary Genre: Letter

Title of Work: Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians; Ignatius, Letter to the Romans

Reference: Ign. Eph. 2; Ign. Rom. 10

Original Text:

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) 

Γράφω δὲ ὑμῖν ταῦτα ἀπὸ Σμύρνης δι᾿ Ἐφεσίων τῶν ἀξιομακαρίστων. ἔστιν δὲ καὶ ἅμα ἐμοὶ σὺν ἄλλοις πολλοῖς καὶ Κρόκος, τὸ ποθητόν μοι ὄνομα. (Ign. Rom. 10)

English Translation:

But as to my fellow slave Burrhus, your godly deacon 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)

I am writing this to you from Smyrna, through Ephesians, who are worthy to be blessed. Along with many others, Crocus is with me, a name that is dear to me. (Ign. Rom. 10)

Text and Translation adapted from Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers (Loeb Classical Library 24; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 150–1.


Crocus was one of two literate workers prominently mentioned in the letters of Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch. As Ignatius of Antioch journeyed under house arrest from Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) to Rome for his eventual execution, he utilized the services of literate workers to communicate with churches along the way. 

Crocus was likely from Ephesus or its environs. He may be identified as the secretary for Ignatius’s Letter to the Romans and may also have delivered the letter. Ultimate responsibility for the writing of the Letter to the Romans is credited to the Ephesians. We can infer from this that  the Ephesians supplied Crocus and are here credited with his work. Unlike Burrhus, about whom there were some disagreements about sponsorship, the arrangement regarding the costs of Crocus’ assistance seems to have been settled. The situation evokes the ways in which the work of enslaved people is credited to their enslavers.

When Ignatius speaks of Crocus and Burrhus, 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. 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 of Onesimus, the Bishop (Ign. Trall. 3.2).  

Like Burrhus and several others, Crocus is identified as one of those who “refreshed” Ignatius during his captivity (Ign. Eph. 2.2). This may imply that like Epaphroditus and Onesimus, who supported Paul while he was imprisoned, Crocus performed other tasks on behalf of the imprisoned Ignatius.

The rarely attested Greek name Crocus means “saffron.” It was held by people from a variety of ranks (Preisigke, 187). Among them were several enslaved workers (e.g. CIL 6.4422; CIL 6.16610). Crocus’s dependence upon and description as a literary representation of the Ephesians leans strongly 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 see the summary contained in the introduction to Ehrman’s edition.

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


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.

How to Cite:

Moss, Candida R. “Crocus (Ign. Eph. 2 and Rom. 10)” Ancient Enslaved Christians. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. <URL>.



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