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Confusion with Joannes Damascenus

Among the works of Joannes Damascenus [Damascenus, Joannes] (vol. i. p. 652, ed. Le Quien) are an Epistola ad Zachariam, and a short piece entitled Caput de immaculato Corpore, &c. The Epistola is cited by Michael Glycas at the end of the twelfth century, in certain letters extant in MS., as having been written by Joannes Damascenus; and both pieces were published under the name of that author by Petrus Pantinus, 8vo. Antwerp, 1601; and by Fronto Ducaeus, Paris, 1603 and 1619. These editors were supported by the authority of MSS. in ascribing them to Joannes; but internal evidence showed that such ascription was erroneous ; and the authority of a more perfect MS. enabled Le Quien to restore them to their true author.


As published by Michael Glycas (ubi suprá) they bear respectively these titles,

Identity of this Peter

It is by no means clear who this Peter was. His surname Mansur makes it probable that he was of the same family as Joannes Damascenus, by whom that surname was borne. Le Quien thinks that the writer of the letter was not Peter, metropolitan of Damascus, an intimate friend of Joannes Damascenus, who, for writing against the doctrines of the Mohammedans and the Manichaeans (i. e. the Paulicians), had his tongue cut out, and was banished by order of the Caliph Walid into Arabia Felix, where he suffered martyrdom. (Theophane, Chronographia, ad A. M. 6234 = A. D. 743, p. 349, ed. Paris, p. 278, ed. Venice, vol. i. p. 641, ed. Bonn.) Theophanes mentions (ibid.) another Peter, as having suffered martyrdom from the Saracens at Maiuma, the port of Gaza in Palestine, about the same time, and adds that Joannes Damascenus had written in honour of this Peter. Le Quien, though he refers to this passage in Theophanes, gives no intimation that he regarded the martyr of Maiuma as the author of the pieces in question: but he has observed that a quotation from the Liturgy of St. James, or of Jerusalem, in the Epistola, shows that the writer was an ecclesiastic of Palestine. There was a later Peter of Damascus, a Greek monk, who flourished in the middle of the twelfth century, and wrote several works an the discipline of a monastic life, which are found in MS. in various libraries: but it is hardly likely that he wrote the Epistola and the Caput, for Michael Glycas would hardly have ascribed pieces of so recent an origin to Joannes Damascenus, a writer of four hundred years previous to his own time. If either of the above-mentioned persons was the writer, we think the balance of probability is in favour of the martyr of Maiuma.

Further Information

Le Quien, Opera Damasceni, l.c. ; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. ix. p. 717, vol. xi. p. 336; Cave, Hist. Litt. vol. ii. Dissert. i. p. 15.

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743 AD (1)
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