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Constantine and the Captive Christians of PersiaMartyrdom and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity$
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Kyle Smith

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520289604

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520289604.001.0001

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Constantine and the Writing of Fourth-Century History

(p.1) Introduction
Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia

Kyle Smith

University of California Press

This book reconsiders the history of Christianity in the fourth century by analyzing narratives about Constantine and the Christians of Persia. Drawing on a range of Greek, Latin, and Syriac sources, it argues that there was not, and never has been, just one history of fourth-century Mesopotamia. Instead, there are multiple and fragmented histories with competing historiographical, hagiographical, and ideological agendas. The first part of the book examines how Constantine and the Roman–Persian War were seen from within the Roman Empire, and the second part focuses on how the fourth century was remembered by Syriac-speaking Christians of the Persian Empire. It shows that accounts regarding the persecution of Christians in fourth-century Persia on the basis of their presumed allegiances to the Roman Empire have been embellished by dozens of conflicting sources that were composed decades, even centuries, after the events they describe.

Keywords:   Christianity, Constantine, Persia, Mesopotamia, Roman–Persian War, Roman Empire, Syriac-speaking Christians, Persian Empire, persecution, Christianity

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