H E Christian Topography of Cosmas, surnamed Indicopleustes, or the Indian Navigator, has been preserved in two copies: one a parchment MS. of the tenth. (COSMAS THE INDIAN VOYAGER). A Greek traveller and geographer of the first half of the sixth century, b. at Alexandria, Egypt. Cosmas probably received. 1. TITLE: World Pictures of Cosmas. DATE: A.D.. AUTHOR: Cosmas Indicopleustes of Alexandria. DESCRIPTION: Much of the tone of medieval European.
|Published (Last):||11 March 2012|
|PDF File Size:||1.24 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||6.83 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
The existence of the cosmax, which had been for ages forgotten, and the importance and interest of its contents, were first made known in the latter half of the seventeenth century by Emeric Bigot. This learned French scholar, while visiting Italy, extracted from the Florentine Codex a copy of the ii Adulitic Inscriptions, 1 and of passages relating to Ethiopia and India. These extracts were afterwards published in Thevenot’s Relation de divers Voyages, accompanied with a translation into French.
Twenty years laterthe work appeared in its complete form as exhibited in the Florentine Codex, collated with that of the Vatican. It was not, however, published separately, but was included in the second volume of the splendid work Nova Collectio Patrum et Scriptorum Graecorum, edited by Father Montfaucon, a Benedictine monk, celebrated for his profound knowledge of Patristic literature.
The Greek text was illustrated by a learned introduction and a Latin translation of great elegance and accuracy. Notes were also added, chiefly to point out where discrepancies exist in the readings of the MSS. The present translation has been prepared from Montfaucon’s text, as reprinted in the 88th volume of the Patrologia Graeca, printed at the Migne Press, Paris, In the Florentine Codex, the index of the work reads thus: This Book named by us Christian Topography comprehensive of the whole world, Montfaucon entitles it: As Cosmas all through the work keeps harping, with the most provoking reiteration, on his doctrine that the universe consists of only two places, namely, the earth which is below the firmament, and heaven, which is above it, the term Topography designates the treatise properly enough; though on turning to peruse it for the first time, we should from its title expect its contents to be very different from codmas they are found to be.
Montfaucon does not seem to have been aware that a brief notice of the Topography is to be found in the Bibliotheka of Photius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who was elected to that dignity in A. Inndicopleustes does not give the author’s name, but states indicoplfustes he flourished in the reign of the Roman Emperor Justinus, and dedicated his work to a certain Pamphilus.
He condemns it as being below mediocrity in style, and faulty in its syntax; and at the same time calls in question the author’s veracity, saying that he makes up stories so incredible that he may fairly indicopleusges regarded as a writer of fables rather than of facts.
He then gives a very concise summary of the iv contents of the Topography, and concludes with a reference to the last four books, which had from time to time been added to defend the doctrines set forth in those which had preceded.
A doubt long ago arose as to whether Cosmas was the proper or family name of the author of the Topography. Isaac Voss first started this doubt, and Fabricius subsequently indicoplehstes currency to the opinion that Cosmas was so called because his work was devoted to a description of the Kosmos: In the absence of evidence, this must remain an open question.
The Topography fortunately contains passages which throw light on the personal history of its author, and enable us also to fix with certainty the date at which he wrote.
He was most probably a native of Alexandria, and may have been of Greek parentage. His education was confined to the more elementary branches of knowledge, such as would fit him for the career he pursued in the earlier part of his lifethat of a merchant.
Cosmas | Egyptian geographer |
But though he was not instructed, as he tells us himself, 2 v in the “learning of the schools,” yet so inquisitive was his turn of mind and so sharp his intellect that he eventually acquired such a knowledge of literature and science as raised him to the level of the culture of his time, and to his being accepted as a capable exponent and defender of the Christian faith. The commercial pursuits of Cosmas carried him into seas and countries far remote from his home.
Thus he tells us that he had sailed upon three of the great gulfs which run up into the earth from the ocean, namely, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and Persian Gulf. When the ship which carried Cosmas was approaching this dread region of currents and fogs, a storm gathered overhead, indicopelustes flocks of albatrosses, like birds of ill omen, hovered on the wing high above the mast. Dismay seized alike the passengers and the crew, and amidst outcries of “port the helm,” the course of the vessel was reversed and she headed northwards.
One of the most interesting and instructive xosmas of the Topography is that in which Cosmas relates what he had heard and seen in the course of his travels in Ethiopia.
Like Herodotus of old, he was ever athirst after knowledge, and when he was unable to visit places which lay in the vicinity of his route, he made inquiries about them from such persons as knew them and could be trusted to report things truly.
The capital of Ethiopia at that time was Axum, an important centre of commerce, and also of religion and learning. It was one of the places which Cosmas, in pursuit of his calling, visited, 7 and from one or two of his statements we may infer that he was well received at Court, and was permitted by the King, who professed the Christian faith and could speak Greek, to travel freely through his dominions.
Cosmas found himself here in the year A.
Cosmaas other parts of Ethiopia which our traveller visited we may include the Aromatic countrythat great projection on the east of the African Continent which terminates in Cape Guardafui.
His description of this district which supplied the Egyptians of old with their spices for embalming the deadand of its products and its foreign trade, shows that it must have come from the pen of an eye-witness.
Montfaucon, in his Preface, credits him with the discovery, in the Abyssinian province called Agau, of the true source of the Nile. There was still another interesting locality which the traveller tells us he visited, and this lay on the other side of the Red Seathe Desert, namely, of Sinai, where he found, strewn indicoppleustes the sands, fragments of rock covered with inscriptions which he took to have been carved by the Israelites when they were wandering in that wilderness.
Cosmas, when all his travels were over, returned to Alexandria, perhaps after paying a visit to Jerusalem; and, abandoning the secular life, retired to the seclusion of the cloister, where he devoted his leisure to the composition of works on descriptive geography, cosmography, and Scriptural exegesis. Of these, the Christian Topography alone is extant. The loss of the geographical treatise, as Montfaucon well says, is to be deplored with tears. It has been conjectured that the geographical passages in the Topography, as, for instance, the description of Ceylon in the undicopleustes book, are extracts from that treatise.
In the days of Cosmas ecclesiastical controversies were rife, and professing Christians were divided ix into numerous sects. That to which Cosmas most probably belonged was the Nestorian. To this point Photius makes no reference, and it has been equally overlooked by Montfaucon. The first who called in question the orthodoxy of our Monk was De La Croze, who, in his Histoire du Christianisme des Indes, adduced the following arguments to prove his Nestorian proclivities: Had Cosmas in his monastery relapsed into what was there considered orthodoxy?
We have already mentioned that the Topography has data from which the time when Cosmas wrote can be certainly determined. In the second book p.
Now, as it is known that the expedition was made in A. It is true that an indication which apparently conflicts with this appears in the tenth book p. Now it is known that this Timothy died inand was indicoleustes by Theodosius, who, after a brief xi residence in his diocese went to Constantinople, whence he was banished in The tenth book must therefore have been written in the year preceding.
How, then, is this earlier date to be reconciled with the later? Montfaucon answers this question satisfactorily. Cosmas, he points out, in order to meet objections urged against his opinions, was in the habit of making additions from time to time to the number of its books.
The earlier date thus probably indicates the time when he began to make such additions, and the later when he was making the last, or one of the last, recensions of his work. The condemnatory verdict of Photius upon the work of Cosmas has not been endorsed by modern opinion. The style of the Inddicopleustes has no doubt the shortcomings which the Patriarch pointed out; but Cosmas, it is proper to remember, expressly disclaims all pretensions to the learning of the schools. He pleads that from his early years he had been so engrossed in business, and had been besides ocsmas much abroad, that he had found no spare time for studying rules of grammar and the art of composition; he could, therefore, only write in a homely style, without attempting any flights of rhetoric.
Rhetoric, moreover would, he thought, be out of place in his books, since “he wrote for xii Christians, who had more need of correct notions than of fine phrases. Indicopleutes, in spite of his loose grammar, seldom fails to make his meaning clear, or to put forward his arguments with sufficient point and force. Some passages, besides, which give us an insight into the depth and fervour of his faith, rise to an eloquence which suggests the belief that, had he cultivated the art, he might have shone in pulpit oratory.
It is, however, in relating his travelling experiences that Cosmas is found at his best. The language he uses is simple, and his descriptions are not only remarkably vivid, but are, above all things, truthful. In this respect modern opinion is entirely at variance with that of Photius. The greater knowledge now possessed of the remote regions which Cosmas visited goes all to show that the thought of tickling the fancy of his readers with tales of wonder had never entered his mind, but that on the contrary he was a man who indicopleustds a supreme regard for truth, and who was at once an acute observer, and shrewd in judging the value of the information which he received from others.
As soon as the Topography, in its complete edition by Montfaucon, made its appearance, it excited great interest in the circles of learning, and at once took rank as a work which contained more accurate and more valuable information on geographical subjects than any other document that had come down from the early mediaeval age. The Topography was republished at Venice in in Gallandi’s Bibliotheca veterum Patrum, idnicopleustes its most valuable sections were, printed, along with a French translation, at Paris inin Charton’s Voyageurs Anciens et Modernes.
The latter, referring to the absurd theory of the world held by Cosmas, remarks that “the nonsense of the Monk was, nevertheless, mingled with the practical knowledge of the traveller”.
It is essentially controversial, its professed design being to refute, from Scripture and common sense, the impious Pagan cosmography, according to indicipleustes the earth is a sphere; and the centre around which the heaven, which is also a sphere, revolves with all its luminaries. The arguments with indicoppeustes Cosmas seeks to demolish this theory and to illustrate his own are absurd in the extreme; and were it not for the geographical, historical, and other kinds of notices which are here and there incidentally introduced into its pages, his work would chiefly serve for amusement.
It was left to Cosmas to develop the conception and work it out into all its details. So he explains again and again that the division of the Tabernacle into two places, by means of the veil, typified the division of the universe into two worldsan upper and a lower, by means of the firmament. The table of shew-bread, again, with its waved border, represented the earth surrounded by the ocean, while its other parts and the things upon it symbolized each some object or other in the natural world.
Now, as the table was twice as long as it was broad, and was placed lengthwise from east to west, and breadthwise from north to south, from this we learn that the earth is a rectangular plane which extends in length from east to west, and in breadth from north to south, and is twice as long as it is broad.
The ocean, he further gives us to know, is unnavigable, and, while encompassing this earth of ours, is itself encompassed by another earth, which had been the xvi seat of Paradise and the abode of man until the Ark, floating on the billows of the Flood, wafted Noah and his family over into this earth. The heavens come downward to us in four walls, which, at their lower sides, are welded to the four sides of the earth beyond ocean, each to each. The upper side of the northern wall, at the summit of heaven, curves round and over, till it unites with the upper side of the southern wall, and thus forms, in the shape of an oblong vault, the canopy of heaven, which Cosmas likens to the vaulted roof of a bathroom.
This vast rectangular hall is divided at the middle into two stories by the firmament, which thus serves as a ceiling for the lower story and a floor for the upper. The lower story is this world, where men and angels have their abode until the Resurrection, and the story above is heaven the place of the future state. Clearly, therefore, the place of the earth was at the bottom of the universe a position to which it must have naturally sunk as he shows in a very curious passage at the very instant of its creation.
Were it in the middle, there must be something below it as well as above it; but there is nothing below it, since we learn from Genesis that God made heaven and earth, and nothing else beyond these. Here then the Pagans are at war with divine Scripture; but, not content with this, they are at war also with common sense itself and the very laws of nature, declaring, as they do, that the earth is a central sphere, and that there are Antipodes, who must be standing head-downward and on whom the rain must fall up.
Referring to the figure of the world as thus conceived by Cosmas, Sir Henry Yule with grim humour remarked that “one of the huge receptacles in which female travellers of our day carry their dresses, forms a perfect model of the Kosmos of Kosmas”. The theory, again, by which Cosmas accounts for the vicissitudes of day and night is no less preposterous than his idea of the figure of the world. The Pagan theory that the earth is spherical and placed in the centre of the universe, with the heavenly bodies revolving round it, accounted satisfactorily for the disappearance of the sun during the night; but where could Cosmas, in whose philosophy there was neither a spherical earth nor any under-world, find a place for the great orb of light when no longer visible?
The problem did not baffle his ingenuity.
Calling to his aid the words of Solomon, which declared that the sun on rising turned first towards the south and then xviii towards the north, where he went down, and thence hastened to the place in which he arose, he made them the basis of the following extraordinary theory.
The earth, he tells us, gradually rising up from the south, extends westward, until it culminates at last in a huge conical mountain situated somewhere in the far-away frozen north.
Behind this immense cone, the sun at the close of day disappears from view, and leaves the world which we inhabit in darkness, until, having circled round the cone, he reappears in the east to give birth to a new day.
According, moreover, as he is high or low during his nocturnal revolution, the nights vary in their length; while, owing to a slight obliquity in his motion, eclipses are produced.
On the question of the magnitude of the great luminary Cosmas differed widely from the Pagan philosophers, and wrote his sixth book mainly to prove that, instead of its being, as they thought, many times larger than the earth, it was no more than the size of two only of the earth’s climates or zones, those between the latitudes of Alexandria and Rhodes, and Rhodes and Constantinople, an extent of about geographical miles.
The Pagan theory which Cosmas especially detested, and made most frequently the subject of his scornful and violent invective, was that which maintained that the heavens were spherical and in constant revolution. He heaps text upon text to confute the advocates of this most pestilent doctrine, which, if admitted, would, he contended, abolish the future state and make the resurrection of Christ of no account.
But while Cosmas regarded as impious the doctrine that the heavens revolve, he admitted the revolution of the celestial luminaries, which, he held, were propelled in their courses by the angels, who do not live in heaven but are restricted to the aerial spaces below the firmament, until the resurrection.
All these and other views no less absurd, though interesting, Cosmas states and re-states with the most wearisome pertinacity, and holding them to be most vital verities, sanctioned alike by common sense and the paramount authority of divine Scripture, denounces again and again “those reprobate Christians who, instead of accepting them, prefer, through their perverse folly or downright wickedness, to adopt the miserable Pagan belief xx that earth and heaven are spherical, and that there are Antipodes on whom the rain must fall up.
Since the Topography had for its main design the exposition of these views, it has been compared by Yule to “a mere bank of mud, but remarkable on account of certain geographical fossils which are found imbedded in it”.
This comparison, however, we venture to think, does less than justice to the work, for besides the geographical there are many other “fossils” to be found in the mud, of different kinds and generally of more or less interest and value.
A list of thesebut not pretending to be completehas been given by Montfaucon in his Introduction. Among others may be specified the indication of Clysma as the place of the passage of the Cos,as Sea; the wares coskas by merchants to the Israelites when they sojourned in cosmqs wilderness; the seat of the terrestrial Paradise; the worship of Mithras by the Persians; the rite of baptism; the date of the Nativity; the question of the canonicity of the Catholic Epistles; the exposition of the prayer of Hezekiah; the inscriptions on the rocks found in the desert of Sinai; the state of Christianity in Socotra, Ceylon and India; the extent to which Christianity had spread over the heathen world; the interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel; extracts from Pagan writers and Fathers of the Church preserved only by Cosmas; and his clsmas on the destiny of children xxi who die in the womb or in infancy.
The portion, moreover, of the Topography which is the “mud bank” of the comparison is not without some value.