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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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Patronizing Persians

Patronizing Persians

Constantine’s Letter to Shapur II

(p.17) One Patronizing Persians
Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia

Kyle Smith

University of California Press

This chapter examines Constantine's letter to the Persian king Shapur II and its significance as a source for Roman–Persian relations in the fourth century. More specifically, it analyzes the content of the letter, its probable date and context, and the debates over its authenticity. It considers whether the letter can (or should) be understood as a cause of persecution in Sasanian Persia and how Constantine deploys Valerian's capture and death to write a new, Christian history of the Roman Empire. On the basis of its date, context, and content, the chapter suggests that the letter should be read primarily as a reconfiguration of divine support for Roman kingship in the person of Constantine. It argues that the emperor's letter, despite being unique, neither led to Shapur's persecution of Persian Christians nor to a religious war.

Keywords:   letter, Shapur II, Roman–Persian relations, persecution, Persia, Constantine, Valerian, Roman Empire, Persian Christians

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