Kyle Smith has written a provocative, engaging, and elegant book. In Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia: Martyrdom and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity, Smith has masterfully utilized more familiar sources, such as Eusebius' Life of Constantine, as well as sources less well-known—at least to some Western scholars—such as the Syriac texts: Aphrahat's Demonstrations, The Martyrdom of Blessed Simeon bar Ṣabba‘e, and the History of Blessed Simeon bar Ṣabba‘e. Through his reading of these texts, 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.

Smith begins his book not with the fourth century but, rather, with the twenty-first. The opening pages of Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia offer readers a brief vignette describing the 2008 kidnapping and subsequent murder of Monsignor Paulos...

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