PETROS III (d. 1607)

Petros was certainly the successor of Krestodolu I, but in Ethiopian documents, information about his episcopate is fragmentary and scant, perhaps explained by the fact that the annals of the sovereigns of his time do not survive. Only the manifesto issued around 1624 by Negus Susenyos (1607-1632) in an effort to explain his joining the gives a summary view of this episcopate. the conduct of certain metropolitans in Ethiopia, this negus wrote:

Abuna Petros [III], who succeeded this metropolitan [Krestodolu I], had relations with the wife of a Melchite, and when this fact became public, he paid the fine levied against any adulterer who corrupts the wife of another; certain witnesses having knowledge of this are still living, such as Joseph and Marino, who are foreigners not Ethiopians. Moreover, to this sin the metropolitan added other misdeeds. In the seventh year of Negus Ya‘qob’s reign, Petros [III] issued a general excommunication which caused the people to depose Yaqob, exile him to Ennarya, and replace him with Za-Dengel. Later, he [Petros III] issued a second general excommunication in order to persuade the Ethiopians to get rid of Negus Za-Dengel, who was in fact killed [and replaced by Ya‘qob]. And as if that were not enough, when we [Susenyos] decided to fight against Negus Ya‘qob, the metropolitan [Petros III] went to war with him and fell with him on the battlefield.

The essential facts referred to in this passage from Susenyos’ manifesto must be summarized. Sarsa Dengel had had no male offspring by his wife Maryam Sena, but at his he did leave some illegitimate sons. During his life he had designated his nephew Zadengel (his brother’s son) to be his successor, but after his death the court decided instead upon Ya‘qob, who was Sarsa Dengel’s illegitimate son and only seven years old at the time. Guided by a regency council, Ya‘qob reigned until Easter 1596 in the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 1604). But because he showed a certain independent spirit, Ya‘qob was deposed and sent to Ennarya, and Zadengel was enthroned in his place. It is to this dethronement of Ya‘qob that Petros first excommunication mentioned by Susenyos refers. A few months later, Zadengel, in turn, found himself in difficulty. He was suspected of wishing to introduce social reform and of leaning toward the Catholic then being preached by the Jesuits. This provoked a reaction among the conservatives of the court, so Petros III thereupon excommunicated Zadengel, who was deposed and killed. A fight for the throne then ensued between Ya‘qob and Susenyos, the son of Negus Sarsa Dengel’s cousin. In this fight the metropolitan sided with Ya‘qob and accompanied him on his campaign. The first onslaught occurred on 18 Miyazya 1598 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 23 April 1606) at Cacaho,

where Petros III was slightly wounded. Susenyos then won the decisive battle that took place at Gol (in Gojam), on 4 Maggabit 1599 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 10 March 1607). During this combat, both Negus Ya‘qob and Abuna Petros III died on the battlefield. According to an Ethiopian source, the metropolitan was killed by a soldier who did not recognize him because he was not wearing his cross.

There are no other data concerning this metropolitan, whose successor was Abuna Sem‘on.


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