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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’s Crusade

Constantine’s Crusade

The Emperor’s Last Days and the Persian Campaign

(p.45) Two Constantine’s Crusade
Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia

Kyle Smith

University of California Press

This chapter examines Constantine's planned religious campaign against Persia on behalf of the Christians and its possible motivations. Constantine's march toward the Mesopotamian battlefields where he planned to meet Shapur II was ill fated. He died hardly a hundred kilometers from Constantinople, unable to come near the Roman eastern frontier. This chapter considers the connections that have been drawn among Constantine's war plans, his letter to Shapur II, and the persecution of Christians in the Sasanian Empire. It first provides a background on the Roman–Persian War and its aftermath and argues that the war fought after Constantine's death had nothing to do with Persian Christians. Although Constantine was preparing to engage Shapur in battle in 337, the war was over the security and territorial integrity of the Roman eastern frontier, not the lives of Christians beyond the border. This chapter explores how Constantine's last days were reread by Roman ecclesiastical historians based on Eusebius of Caesarea's account of his life.

Keywords:   letter, Constantine, Persia, Mesopotamia, Shapur II, persecution, Sasanian Empire, Roman-Persian war, Persian Christians, Eusebius of Caesarea

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