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Priscus or Priscus Panites

*Pri/skos,), one of the earliest and most important Byzantine historians, was surnamed PANITES, because he was a native of Panium in Thrace. We know little of his life in general, but much of a short, though highly interesting and important period of it, viz. from A. D. 445-447, when he was ambassador of Theodosius the Younger at the court of Attila. The embassy consisted of several persons. In later years he and one Maximinus transacted diplomatic business for the emperor Marcian, in Egypt and Arabia. He died in or about A. D. 471. Niebuhr thinks he was a heathen.


Works


Account of Attila

Priscus wrote an account of his embassy to Attila, enriched by digressions on the life and reign of that king, the Greek title of which is Ἱστορία Βιζαντικὴ καὶ κατὰ Ἀττήλαι. which was originally divided into eight books, according to Suidas. This is the most valuable account we have on Attila, and it is deeply to be regretted that only fragments of it have come down to posterity : it was written after the death of Theodosius, which took place in A. D. 450. Priscus is an excellent and trustworthy historian, and his style is remarkably elegant and pure.


Μελεταὶ Ῥητορικαί,

Suidas says that he also wrote Μελεταὶ Ῥητορικαί, Declamationes Rhetoricae and Epistolae, which are lost.


Impact

Jornandes and Juvencus, the author of the Life of Attila, borrowed largely from the History of Priscus, whose name is often mentioned by them, as well as by other Byzantine writers, as, for instance, by Evagrius, who calls him Πατρίσκος, and by Theophanes, who calls him Περσικός, both apparently mistakes or corruptions of the text.


Editions

The fragments of the History were first edited in Greek by David Hoeschel, Augsburg, 1603, 4to; a Latin translation with notes, by Cantoclarus or Chanteclair, Paris, 1609, 8vo; the same reprinted together with the text, and revised by Fabrot in the Paris edition of Excerptae de Legationibus, together with Dexippus, Menander, and others; the same also in Labbe's Protrepticon, Paris, 1648, fol. The latest and best edition, together with the other writers who have furnished the materials for the Excerpta de Legationibus, is, by Niebuhr, in the Bonn Collection of the Byzantines, 1829, 8vo.


Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vii. p. 539, 540; Hanckius, de Script. Byzant. ; Niebuhr's Notes on Priscus, in his edition mentioned above ; Suidas, s. v. Πρίσκος Πανίτης.

[W.P]

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