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Peter Urseolo of Hungary


Peter Urseolo of Hungary

"Peter Orseolo" redirects here. For the Venetian doges, see Pietro I Orseolo and Pietro II Orseolo.
Peter the Venetian
Depicted in the Illuminated Chronicle
King of Hungary
1st reign
2nd reign
1038 – 1041
1044 – 1046
Predecessor Stephen I
Successor Samuel
Andrew I
House House of Orseolo
Father Otto Orseolo
Mother an unnamed daughter of Géza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians
Born 1010 or 1011
Died 1046 or late 1050s
Burial Cathedral of Pécs
Religion Roman Catholicism

Peter Orseolo or Peter the Venetian (Hungarian: Velencei Péter) (Venice, 1010 or 1011 – 1046 or late 1050s) was twice King of Hungary. He first succeeded his uncle, King Stephen I in 1038. However, his blatant favoritism towards his foreign courtiers caused an uprising which ended with his deposition in 1041. Peter was restored in 1044 by Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor. He accepted the emperor's suzerainty during his second reign which ended in 1046 due to a pagan uprising. Hungarian chronicles unanimously narrate that Peter was executed on the order of his successor, Andrew I, but the chronicler Cosmas of Prague's reference to his alleged marriage around 1055 implies that he survived his second deposition.


Early life (before 1038)

Peter was born in Venice as the only son of Doge Otto Orseolo.[1] His mother was a sister of Stephen I, the first king of Hungary.[1][2] The historian Gyula Kristó proposes that Peter was born in 1010 or 1011.[1] The Venetians rose up and deposed Otto Orseolo[3] in 1026.[1] Peter did not follow his father who fled to Constantinople.[3][1] Instead, he departed for Hungary where his uncle appointed him commander of the royal army.[4]

Prince Emeric, the king's only son who survived infancy died in an accident in 1031.[5] Thereafter King Stephen's cousin, Vazul had the strongest claim to the throne, but the monarch neglected him and named Peter as his heir.[6] Vazul was in short time blinded, his three sons – Levente, Andrew and Béla – exiled, which strengthened Peter's right to succeed his uncle.[7][8] Peter took a solemn oath to respect the property of his uncle's wife, Queen Giselle upon the king's request, which suggests that his relationship with his aunt was tense.[9]

First rule (1038–1041)

Peter succeeded King Stephen I who died on August 15, 1038.[10] He soon adopted an active foreign policy.[5][11] For instance, Hungarian troops plundered Bavaria in 1039 and 1040, and invaded Bohemia in 1040 in order to assist Duke Bretislav I against Emperor Henry III.[12] Hungarian chronicles emphasize that Peter preferred the company of Germans "who roared like wild beasts", and Italians "who chattered and twittered like swallows",[13] which made him unpopular among his subjects.[5][7] He introduced new taxes, seized Church revenues[5] and deposed two bishops.[14]

Peter even dared to confiscate Queen Giselle's property and take her into custody.[5] She sought the assistance of the Hungarian lords who blamed one of Peter's favorites named Budo for the monarch's misdeeds.[15] They first demanded that Budo be put on trial for his acts.[15] However, the king refused them, thus the lords seized and murdered his unpopular advisor[15] and deposed the monarch in 1041.[4] They soon elected a new king, Samuel Aba who was either the brother-in-law[16] or another nephew[5] of King Stephen I.

As soon as he began to rule, Peter threw aside every trace of the forbearance befitting a monarch's majesty, and in consort with Germans and Latins raged with Teutonic fury, treating the nobles of the kingdom with contempt and devouring the wealth of the land "with a proud eye and an insatiable heart." Fortifications, castles, and every office in the kingdom was taken away from the Hungarians and given to Germans or Latins. In addition, Peter was extremely debauched, and his hangers-on behaved with shameful and unbridled lust, violently assaulting the wives and daughters of the Hungarians wherever the king travelled. No one at the time could feel sure of the chastity of his wife or daughter in the face of the importunity of Peter's courtiers.

In exile (1041–1044)

Peter first fled to Austria[4] whose ruler Margrave Adalbert had married his sister, Frowila.[15] He also approached Emperor Henry III to seek his assistance against Samuel Aba.[15] The new Hungarian monarch invaded Austria in February 1042, but Markgrave Adalbert routed his troops.[18] Emperor Henry III launched his first expedition against Hungary in early 1042.[19] His forces advanced in the lands north of the Danube and reached the river Garam (Hron).[19] The emperor was planning to restore Peter, but the locals expressed strong opposition to this idea.[19] Accordingly, the emperor appointed another (unnamed)[20] member of the Hungarian royal family to administer these territories.[19]

In the autumn King Henry also invaded Hungary, destroyed Hainburg and Pressburg and either laid waste or received the surrender of the northern region of the Danube as far as the River Gran, because rivers and marshes protected the southern region. Part of the army twice encountered attacking Hungarians and wrought great slaughter. After the subjection of the Hungarians of that territory, since they refused to accept Peter, he installed for them as duke one of their number who was at that time in exile among the Bohemians.

The emperor returned to Hungary in the early summer of 1044.[4] As he was advancing, many Hungarian lords joined him.[7] The decisive battle was fought at Ménfő near Győr on 5 June where Samuel Aba's forces were defeated.[7] Although Samuel Aba himself escaped from the battlefield, Peter's partisans in short time seized and murdered him.[4]

Second rule (1044–1046)

Following Samuel Aba's death, Emperor Henry entered Székesfehérvár[15] where he restored Peter.[5][7] Peter even introduced the Bavarian law in his realm which suggests that Hungary became an imperial fief.[15] It is without doubt that he formally accepted the emperor's suzerainty on Whitsun in 1045 when he handed over his royal lance to his overlord who returned to Hungary.[7][22] A number of plots to overthrow Peter prove that he remained unpopular.[8] For instance, two of King Stephen I's maternal cousins named Bolya and Bonyha conspired against the king in 1045, but he had them arrested, tormented and executed.[22] Next Bishop Gerard of Csanád invited the late Vazul's exiled sons to the country.[22] However, it was an uprising by pagan communers which ended Peter's second rule in 1046.[4]

Peter was planning to flee again to the Holy Roman Empire, but one of Vazul's sons Andrew who had in the meantime returned to Hungary invited him to a meeting in Székesfehérvár.[23] Peter soon realised that Andrew's envoys actually wanted to arrest him.[23] Accordingly, he fled to a fortified manor at Zámoly, but his opponent's partisans took it and captured him in three days.[23] All 14th-century Hungarian chronicles narrate that Peter was soon blinded which caused his death.[23] However, the nearly contemporary Cosmas of Prague reports that Judith of Schweinfurt, the widow of Duke Bretislaus I of Bohemia who was expelled by her own son fled to Hungary and married Peter around 1055 "as an insult to" her son "and all the Czechs".[23][24] If the latter report is reliable, Peter survived his mutilation and died in the late 1050s.[23] Peter was buried in the cathedral of Pécs.[23]

The following autumn the Hungarians remembered their former treachery and set up a certain Andreas as their king. They killed the many foreigners who had fought for King Peter; they inflicted various injuries on him and his wife and finally they deprived Peter of his eyes and sent him, together with his wife, to be kept in a certain place. At the same time many foreigners in that country were despoiled, exiled and killed.
King Peter, seeing that the Hungarians had with one mind taken the part of Dukes Andreas and Levente, took flight with his [Germans] towards Musun, intending to cross from there into Austria, but he could not escape. For the Hungarians had been beforehand and had occupied the gateways and egresses of the kingdom; moreover the ambassador of Duke Andreas called King Peter back under the pretext of wishing to come to a peaceable and honourable agreement with him. Believing him, King Peter returned [...]. When he turned aside to the village of Zamur, the aforesaid ambassador wished to take him in an ambush and to bring him bound to Duke Andreas; but having knowledge of this, Peter took refuge in a mansion and defended himself bravely for three days. At last all his soldiers were killed by arrows and he himself was taken alive; he was blinded and brought to Alba, where in great pain he soon ended his life.


The name and family of Peter's wife is unknown.[15] Gyula Kristó proposes that she was of German origin.[15] Historians debate the validity of Cosmas of Prague's report on Peter's second marriage with the widowed Judith of Schweinfurt. For instance, Lisa Wolverton, the translator of the chronicle suggests that Cosmas of Prague misinterpreted his sources which wrote of the marriage of another Judith (Judith of Swabia) with another King of Hungary (Solomon) instead of the marriage of the deposed Hungarian king.[27] The following family tree presents Peter the Venetian's ancestors and his relatives who are mentioned in the article.[3][28]

Gyula of Transylvania
a "Cuman" lady*
Pietro II Orseolo
Otto Orseolo
Stephen I of Hungary
Giselle of Bavaria
Samuel Aba**
Peter the Venetian
Judith of Schweinfurt***

*A Khazar, Pecheneg or Volga Bulgarian lady.
**Samuel Aba might have been Géza's grandson instead of his son-in-law.
***Cosmas of Prague's report on Judith of Schweinfurt's marriage to Peter the Venetian is not unanimously accepted by historians.

See also



Primary sources

  • Herman of Reichenau: Chronicle. In: Eleventh-century Germany: The Swabian Chronicles (selected sources translated and annotated with an introduction by I. S. Robinson) (2008); Manchester University Press; ISBN 978-0-7190-7734-0.
  • Cosmas of Prague: The Chronicle of the Czechs (Translated with an introduction and notes by Lisa Wolverton) (2009). The Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 978-0-8132-1570-9.
  • Simon of Kéza: The Deeds of the Hungarians (Edited and translated by László Veszprémy and Frank Schaer with a study by Jenő Szűcs) (1999). CEU Press. ISBN 963-9116-31-9.
  • The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle: Chronica de Gestis Hungarorum (Edited by Dezső Dercsényi) (1970). Corvina, Taplinger Publishing. ISBN 0-8008-4015-1.

Secondary sources

  • (Hungarian)
  • (Hungarian)
  • (Hungarian)

Peter, King of Hungary
Born: 1010 or 1011 Died: 1046 or late 1050s
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Stephen I
King of Hungary
Succeeded by
Samuel Aba
Preceded by
Samuel Aba
King of Hungary
Succeeded by
Andrew I
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