saint and twenty-first patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (373-380). Peter was designated by his formidable predecessor ATHANASIUS to succeed him on the throne of Alexandria. At the time of Athanasius’ death, Peter was already an old man, known for his piety and loyalty to the principles of Athanasian theology. However, it must be assumed that his succession provided the silenced enemies of Athanasius with a breathing space. Athanasius had been so great an occupant of the archiepiscopal throne that he triumphantly withstood Arian conspiracies and Arian theological aberrations.
After Peter’s accession, the remaining Arian loyalists under Lucius, an Arian presbyter, joined hands with the oppressed Jewish population and the Egyptian pagans of Alexandria to form a united front. They hoped to recover the ground they had lost during the reign of Athanasius. At the time, Valens (364-378) was too involved in arguments with his brother, Valentinian I (364-375), co-emperor of the Western empire, to devote his attention to what was happening in Alexandria. The moment proved propitious for the uprising. The forces hostile to orthodoxy found a strong leader in Palladius, the pagan prefect. He assembled a crowd of pagans, Jews, and Arians to storm the church of Saint Theonas, where Syrians had almost arrested Athanasius in 356.
Peter resisted surrendering to his enemies, who finally forced the doors of the church open and committed unspeakable orgies within its sanctuary while Peter fled. (According to some stories, he was seized and incarcerated, a claim that cannot be authenticated, since he reappeared shortly afterward. He was supported by Damasus, bishop of Rome, whose delegate to Alexandria was arrested by the hostile crowds and dispatched to the mines of Phenne.
Peter remained in concealment and afterward, following the example of his predecessor, he made his way to safety by fleeing to Rome, where he is said to have taken refuge in a self- inflicted exile for about five years, during which time he propagated the Egyptian monastic rule in the West. Peter also participated in a Roman council probably in 377, where Apollinarianism was condemned, particularly in relation to Antioch.
The death of Valens in 378 and the succession of Theodosius I (375-395) altered the situation within the empire and paved the way toward settling matters in Alexandria. In 378 Peter returned to his achiepiscopal throne undisturbed. On his arrival, the Arian Lucius, had to step down. Theodosius issued an edict of Thessalonica (380) reinstating both Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria as the true confessors of standard orthodoxy, not knowing that Peter had already died.
AZIZ S. ATIYA