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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Petrus, Surnamed Mongus

Petrus (6), surnamed Mongus (Stammerer), Monophysite patriarch of Alexandria, ordained deacon by Dioscorus, and said to have taken part in the outrages against Flavian at the Latrocinium (Mansi, vi. 1017). On the death of the Monophysite patriarch Timotheus Aelurus in 477, and in the absence of the orthodox Salofaciolus whom he had displaced, the Monophysites determined to place Peter in the see. The emperor Zeno, indignant at the boldness of the Monophysites (Neale, Hist. Alex. ii. 17), ejected Peter, and ordered his expulsion from Alexandria (Mansi, vii. 983–985). Accordingly, Peter was driven out of Egypt; John, surnamed Talaia, steward of the great church, was chosen patriarch, but neglected to announce his accession to Acacius, who, piqued by this omission, prevailed on Zeno to expel John, and to restore Peter on condition that he should support an attempt to promote doctrinal unity without enforcing the authority of the council of Chalcedon. Zeno ordered Talaia to be expelled from Alexandria and Peter Mongus enthroned after accepting the HENOTICON, or instrument of unity (a.d. 482). This was addressed to the bishops, clergy, monks, and laymen of the Alexandrian patriarchate; it recognized the creed of "the 318" at Nicaea as "confirmed by the 150" at Constantinople, the decisions of the council of Ephesus, together with the 12 articles of Cyril; it employed language as to Christ's consubstantiality with man which Cyril had adopted in his "reunion with the Easterns"; it rejected the opposite theories of a "division" and a "confusion" in the person of Christ, and included Eutyches as well as Nestorius in its anathema. Instead of renewing the explicit censure directed by Basiliscus in a previous circular against the council of Chalcedon, Zeno employed an ambiguous phrase, "We anathematize every one who thinks or ever has thought differently, either at Chalcedon or at any other synod," words which might be explained as pointed at those who were admitted to communion at Chalcedon after disclaiming Nestorianism, while, as their adversaries alleged, they were still Nestorians at heart. At the same time all recognition of that council was omitted (Evagr. iii. 14; Liberat. c. 18, and note thereon; Galland. Bibl. Patr. xii. 149). Peter was accordingly enthroned amid a great concourse, at Alexandria. His instructions were to unite all parties on the basis of the Henoticon. This, for the time, be effected at a public festival, when as patriarch he preached to the people, and caused it to be read (Evagr. iii. 13; Liberat. c. 18). In letters to Acacias, the patriarch of Constantinople, and pope Simplicius, he professed to accept the council of Chalcedon (Liberatus); and by playing the part of a time-server ( κόθορνος , Evagr. iii. 17) disgusted the thorough-going Monophysite John, bp. of Zagylis in Libya, and various abbats and monks of Lower Egypt, who raised a tumult in the Caesarean basilica (Liberat. u.s. ). Peter could not afford to quarrel with them, and probably thought himself secure enough to shew his hand. (See Valesius on Evagr. iii. 16. He accordingly anathematized the council of Chalcedon and the Tome of pope Leo, substituted the names of Dioscorus and Timotheus Aelurus for those of Proterius and Timotheus Salofaciolus on his diptychs, and gratified his own vindictiveness by taking the body of Salofaciolus from its place among the buried patriarchs and "casting it outside the city" (Liberat.; cf. Felix. ap. Mansi, vii. 1076. This caused a great excitement; the earnest Catholics renounced Peter's communion; and tidings of this turn of events disturbed the mind of Acacius, who sent to Alexandria for an authentic account. Peter then surpassed himself in an evasive letter, which Evagrius has preserved. Acacius was glad to accept his explanations, as he could not afford to break with Mongus; but he had now to deal with the clear head and resolute will of pope Felix II. (or III.), the successor of Simplicius, who listened readily to the complaints of the exiled Talaia and other Egyptian bishops (Evagr. iii. 20) against Peter, and sent two bishops, Vitalis and Misenus, to Constantinople to denounce Peter and summon Acacius to defend himself before a council at Rome. The legates were partly coaxed and partly frightened into communicating with the resident agents of Peter at Constantinople, and brought back to Rome letters in which Zeno and Acacius assured Felix that Peter was an orthodox and meritorious prelate (Evagr. iii. 20; Mansi, vii. 1055, 1065, 1081). Their weakness was punished by deposition; and Felix, with his synod, proceeded not only to anathematize Peter as an "Eutychian" usurper, but even to excommunicate the bp. of Constantinople as his patron (July 28, 484). He then wrote again to Zeno, desiring him to "choose between the communion of Peter the apostle and that of Peter the Alexandrian" (Mansi, vii. 1066). Nothing daunted, Acacius broke off communion with Rome and upheld Peter to the last, although he must have felt his conduct highly embarrassing, for Peter again anathematized the proceedings of Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo, and those who would not accept the writings of Dioscorus and Timotheus Aelurus (Evagr. iii 22). He expelled certain orthodox bishops, and, from one named John, transferred the abbacy or hegumenate of Diolchos to his friend Ammon (Liberat.). These proceedings being reported to Zeno, he sent Cosmas to rebuke Peter and restore peace. Peter again modified his tone, and wrote to Acacius, as if acknowledging Chalcedon. This double-dealing, becoming known in Egypt, provoked some Monophysite clerics, monks, and laymen to disown him and to meet for worship apart, omitting his name in their diptychs (Liberat. 18), and these uncompromising dissentients became known as "Acephali" (Leontius, de Sectis , v. 2), and obtained as their bishop one Esaias from Palestine (Liberat.). When Fravitas, or Flavitas, succeeded Acacius in 489, he wrote to both Felix (Liberat. 18) and Peter (Evagr. iii. 23); but after four months he died, and was succeeded by Euphemius, who, on discovering Peter's real position in regard to the council of Chalcedon, indignantly broke off all relations with him (Evagr. iii. 23). A new strife between Constantinople and Alexandria was imminent, when Peter Mongus, respected by none, died at the end of Oct. 490 (Le Quien, ii. 422), leaving behind numerous works (Neale, ii. 24).


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Petrus, Surnamed Mongus'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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