Peter the Patrician (1)

Peter The Patrician (1)

was a Byzantine historian of the 6th century. He was born at Thessalonica, in the province of Macedonia, then included in the prefecture of Illyricum. He settled at Constantinople, where he acquired distinction as a rhetor or advocate, a profession for which his cultivated mind, agreeable address, and natural powers of persuasion were admirably adapted. These qualifications pointed him out to the discernment of the emperor Justinian I as suited for diplomatic life, and he was sent by him (A.D. 534) as ambassador to Amalasuntha, regent of the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. Before arriving in Italy Peter learned the death of the young king Athalaric, the marriage of Amalasuntha and Theodotus, one of the principal chiefs of the Ostrogoths, their exaltation to the throne of Italy, and of their subsequent dissensions and the imprisonment of Amalasuntha. Peter then received instructions to vindicate the cause of the imprisoned queen; but his arrival at Ravenna was speedily followed by the murder of Amalasuntha. Procopius charges Peter with instigating Theodotus to commit the murder; being secretly commissioned to do so by the jealousy of Theodora, Justinian's wife, who held out to him as an inducement to comply with her desire the hope of great advancement. Whether he was an abettor to the crime or not, Peter, in conformity to the orders of Justinian, demanded reparation for it, and declared war against Theodotus. The latter, terrified, commissioned him to convey to Justinian the most humble propositions of peace, and even, if necessary, the offer of his abdication. The last offer only was accepted; but when Peter returned to communicate the will of the emperor to Theodotus, the latter was not disposed to accept it. The king of the Ostrogoths even violated the law of nations by imprisoning the Byzantine ambassadors. Peter and his colleague remained in captivity until Belisarius, by detaining some Ostrogothic ambassadors, compelled Vitiges, who had succeeded Theodotus, to release him about the end of A.D. 538. On his return Peter received, as Procopius intimates, by Theodora's interest, and as a reward for his participation in procuring Amalasuntha's death, the high appointment of magister officiorum, but incurred general odium by the part he had acted. He exercised his authority with the most unbridled rapacity; for although he was, according to Procopius, naturally of a mild temper, and by no means insolent, he was at the same time the most dishonest of all mankind, κλεπτίστατος δὲ ανθρώπων ἁπάντων. Several years afterwards (about A.D. 550) Peter, who retained his post of magister offciorum, and had in addition acquired the dignity of patrician, was sent by Justinian to negotiate a peace with Chosroes I, king of Persia. Some negotiations with pope Vigilius (552), and a new mission into Persia (562), are the last events known of the career of Peter the Patrician. He died soon after his return from Persia, leaving one son, who succeeded him in his office of magister officiorum. According to Suidas, Peter composed two works, Historiae and De Statu Reipublicae. The Historiae began with Augustus, or rather with the second triumvirate, and continued to a period a little later than the time of Constaptine the Great. Considerable portions of it are preserved in the Excerpta de Legationibus, made by order of the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. The treatise De Statu Reipublicae is lost, although Mai thinks he recognises it in De Republica, from which he has deciphered and published long passages in his Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio. Authentic fragments from the treatise of Peter are found in the De Caeremoniis Aulae Byzantinae of Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Peter the Patrician has given a relation of his negotiations with Chosroes, which is quoted by Menander. All the remains of this historian are given in the Bonn edition of the Excerpta de Legationibus. See Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca, 6:135; 7:538; 8:33; Reiske, Praefatio, c. 2, to the De Caeremoniis of Constantine Porphyrogenitus; Niebuhr, De Historicis quorum Reliquiae hoc Volumine continentur, in the Excerpta de Legat. ed. of Bonn; Mai, De Fragmentis Politicis Petri Magistri, in the Script. Veterum Nova Collec. 2:571 sq.; Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biog. and Mythol. 3:226; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 40:182.

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