25. PATRICIUS et MAGISTER, a Byzantine historian of the sixth century.
He was born at Thessalonica (Procop. De Bell. Gotthic.
1.3), in the province of Macedonia, then included in the praetorian praefecture of Illyricum, on which account he is said to have been an Illyrian. (Procop.l.c.) Peter 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, and Theodatus, one of the chieftains of the Ostrogoths in Italy. On his way, at Aulon, near the entrance of the Adriatic, on the coast of Epeirus, or perhaps before his arrival there, Peter heard of the death of Athalaric, the young Ostrogothic king, of the marriage of Amalasuntha and Theodatus and their exaltation to the throne of Italy, and of their subsequent dissensionsand the imprisonment of Amalasuntha. heconsequently despatched intelligence of these important events to the emperor, while he himself waited at Aulon for further instructions. Justinian, without delay, undertook to vindicate the cause of the imprisoned queen, and directed Peter to declare his purpose openly to Theodatus. Peter immediately proceeded (A. D. 535), to Italy; but his arrival was speedily followed by the murder of Amalasuntha, an event extremely opportune for the ambitious views of Justinian, who. through Peter, immediately declared war against the Ostrogoths, on account of the queen's death. Such is the account given in one place by Procopius (ibid. 100.4); but he elsewhere (Hist. Arcan.
100.16) charges Peter with instigating Theodatus 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.
The baseness of Theodatus was alarmed by the declaration of war, and by the successes of Belisarins, who rapidly conquered Sicily; and he negotiated with Peter, who had not yet quitted Ravenna, a peace by which he ceded Sicily to Justinian, engaged to pay a yearly tribute in money, and to furnish him yearly with a body of Ostrogothic soldiers ; he consented also to restrict the exercise of his own power within very narrow limits, and to exercise it under the supremacy of Justinian.
He at the same time commissioned Peter, in case the emperor should reject these terms, to promise an unconditional abdication; binding him, however, by oath not to reveal this second offer, unless the emperor should have previously rejected the first. Peter returned to Byzantium: the first offer was rejected, and the second then divulged and accepted ; and Peter with another ambassador, Athanasius, was sent back to Italy to complete the arrangement. But Theodatus meanwhile, encouraged by some disasters which the Byzantine forces had sustained in Dalmatia, had changed his mind : he not only refused to fulfil his promise of submission, but violated the law of nations by imprisoning the ambassadors. (Ibid. De Bell. Gotthico,
1.6-8.) Peter and his colleague remained in captivity until Belisarius, by detaining some Ostrogothic ambassadors, compelled Vitiges, who had succeeded Theodatus, to release them about the end of A. D. 438. (Ibid. 2.22.) On his return, Peter received, as Procopius (Hist. Arcan.
100.16,) 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, according to the same authority, 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 ἀνθρώπων ἁπάντων.
Several years afterwards (about A. D. 550), Peter, who retained his post of magister officiorum, and had in addition acquired the dignity of patrician (a dignity which Niebuhr not inaptly compares to that of privy councillor in England), was sent by Justinian to negotiate a peace with Chosroes I. king of Persia; but Chosroes, who did not desire peace, dismissed him, with a promise of sending an ambassador of his own to Constantinople to effect the proposed arrangement. Shortly afterwards (A. D. 551 or 552) Peter was engaged in some negotiations with Pope Vigililus, then at Chalcedon : at this time he possessed, in addition to his other honours, the dignity of ex-consul or consul codicillaris, and the office of referendarius. (Vigil. Papa, Epistola ad Universam Eccles.
vol. iii. col. 3. ed. Hardouin.) In A. D. 562 Peter was again sent to arrange the terms of a peace with Chosroes; and meeting Zichus, the Persian commissioner at or near Dara in Mesopotamia, and afterwards proceeding to the court of Persia to negotiate with Chosroes himself, succeeded in concluding a treaty. Menander, who has narrated the affair at length Excerpta de Legationibus,
pp. 133-147, ed. Paris, pp. 88-99, ed. Venice, pp. 346-373, ed. Bonn), has given at some length several of the speeches of Peter during the negotiation. Peter died shortly after. (Menander, ibid.) some suppose he is the Petrus Rhetor mentioned in an Epigramma
(No. xviii.) of Leontius inthe Anthologia
(vol. iii. p. 107, ed. Brunck, vol. iv. p. 77, ed Jacobs), as killed by the falling of a theatre.
He left a son named Theodore, who successively held the offices of magister officiorum and "comes largitionum," and was sent by the emperor Justin II. (A. D. 576) on an embassy to Chosroes. (Menander apud Excerpta,
120, ed. Paris, p. 80, ed. Venice, p. 319, ed. Bonn, cum nota Valesii.) Peter was held in the highest esteem in his own day. Niebuhr has collected various testimonies of his reputation from Byzantine authors.
Suidas, who has two articles on Peter (Πέτρος ὁ ῥήτωρ
simply) ascribes to him two works.
Of the Historiae
considerable portions are preserved in the Excerpta de Legationibus,
made by order of the emperor Constantine Pophyrogenitus. [CONSTANTINUS VII. ; PRISCUS.] The earliest extract latest to the transactions of the Caesar Julian, afterwards emperor, in Caul in the reign of Constantius II. From the date of theses extracts and a short fragment, subjoined to the Excerpta
in the Bonn edition, Niebuhr infers that the Historiae
began with Augustus, or rather with the second triumvirate, and continued to a period a little later than the time of Constantine the Great, where the Historia
of Eunapius [EUNAPIUS] became more full. Niebuhr conjectures that Peter epitomized the Historia
of Dio Cassius as far as that work extended. The De Reipublicae
is conjectured by Angelo Mai to be the anonymous work composed in the form of a dialogue between the patrician Menas and the referendarius Thomas Περὶ πολιτικῆς
, Dr Re publica,
briefly analysed by Photius (Biblioth.
Cod. 37), and of which Mai considered large fragments, deciphered in a palimpsest, and published by himself under the title Περὶ πολιτικη-ς ἐπιστήμης
, De scientia Politica,
in his Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio,
vol. ii. pp. 590, &c. to be a part.
But if the work mentioned by Suidas be, as is most likely, that in which Peter defined the duties of a magister officiorum, as noticed by Joannes Lydus (De Magistratibus,
2.25. 26), and from which considerable portions (lib. 1. c.84, 85, certainly, and 100.86-95, probably) of the work of constantine Porphyrogenitus De Caeremoniis Aulae byzantinae
are taken, it must have been a different kind of work from that described by Photius.
It is not ascertained in which of his works Peter published the account of his negotiations with Chosroes, whether in one of those mentioned by Suidas, or in some other work not mentioned. Menander, who cites the work (apud Excerpta,
p. 429, ed Bonn), describes it as ἡ τοῦ αὐτοῦ Πέτρου συναγωγή
, Ejusdem Petri Collectio,
a title somewhat indefinite, but which seems to indicate a different work from either of those mentioned by Suidas.
The accounts could not have been given in the Historiae,
unless this came down to a much later period than Niebuhr supposes; but it may have formed part of the De Reipublicae Statu,
if we suppose a part of that work to have been devoted to defining and illustrating the duty of ambassadors.
All the remains of Peter are given in the Bonn edition of the Excerpta de Legationibus,
The valuable prefatory dissertation tation by Niebuhr, De Historicis quorum Reliquiae hoc Volumine continentur,
has been our chief guide in this article.
Compare Reiske's Praefatio,
c. ii. to the work of Constantine Porphyrogenitus De Caeremoniis ;
the dissertation by Mai, De Fragmentis Politicis Petri Magistri,
in the volume already cited of his Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio,
pp. 571, &c.; Fabric. Bibl. Craec.
vol. vi. p. 135, vol. vii. p. 538, vol. viii. p. 33; and Vossius, De Historicis Graecis,