It is widely believed that the Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity politicized religious allegiances, dividing the Christian Roman Empire from the Zoroastrian Sasanian Empire and leading to the persecution of Christians in Persia. This account, however, is based on Greek ecclesiastical histories and Syriac martyrdom narratives that date to centuries after the fact. In this groundbreaking study, Kyle Smith analyzes diverse Greek, Latin, and Syriac sources to show that there was not a single history of fourth-century Mesopotamia. By examining the conflicting hagiographical and historical evidence, Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia presents an evocative and evolving portrait of the first Christian emperor, uncovering how Syriac Christians manipulated the image of their western Christian counterparts to fashion their own political and religious identities during this century of radical change.
California Uni Pr Trade
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Series: Transformation of the Classical Heritage
15 October 2019
Acknowledgments Abbreviations Introduction: Constantine and the Writing of Fourth-Century History PART I: THE ROMAN FRONTIER AND THE PERSIAN WAR 1 * Patronizing Persians: Constantine's Letter to Shapur II 2 * Constantine's Crusade: The Emperor's Last Days and the Persian Campaign 3 * Rereading Nisibis: Narrating the Battle for Roman Mesopotamia PART II: ROMAN CAPTIVES AND PERSIAN ENVOYS 4 * On War and Persecution: Aphrahat the Persian Sage and the Martyrdom and History of Blessed Simeon bar Sabba?e 5 * The Church of the East and the Territorialization of Christianity 6 * Memories of Constantine in the Acts of the Persian Martyrs Appendix A. Constantine's Letter to Shapur: Eusebius's Life of Constantine IV.8-14 Appendix B. Martyrdom of the Captives of Beth Zabdai Appendix C. Martyrdom of Abbot Barshebya, Ten Fellow Brothers, and One Magus Bibliography Index
Kyle Smith is Associate Professor of Historical Studies and Religion at the University of Toronto and the translator of The Martyrdom and History of Blessed Simeon bar Sabba'e.
Reviews for Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia: Martyrdom and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity
Kyle Smith has written a provocative, engaging, and elegant book. . . .[in which] Smith critiques previous historiography and demonstrates new possibilities and avenues for constructing the history of Persian Christians in the fourth century and their relationship to Constantine and the Roman Empire. * Studies in Late Antiquity * A welcome contribution to an important field of study. * Plekos * By examining Constantine through the lens of the Sasanian world...[Kyle Smith] manages to break free of Eusebius and his domineering narrative. This will pay dividends for our understanding of this major figure in world history, as well as the history of Christianity in Late Antiquity more broadly. That Smith's book is so clearly written, well organized, and tightly argued further ensures its impact on the field. * Pleket *