Ephrem the Syrian and a New Beginning in Syriac Poetry

In the decades following emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, imperial backing for this religion coincided with intensified religious competition and search for orthodoxy across the Roman Empire. I suggest that, in this context of renewed religious, but also literary, competition, a new self-awareness emerged in Syriac poetry, which ultimately reshaped Syriac poetics and led to the birth of Syriac literary criticism. This crucial and far-reaching transformation is instantiated in the work of Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373 CE), who made a case for the fundamental coherence of his poetry with Scripture.