Pg 88 Κοσμάς Cosmas Indicopleustes, Christian Topography. Preface to the online edition



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BOOK II.




The Christian theories regarding the form and position of the whole world, the proofs of which are taken from Divine Scripture.
OW long I put off the composition of my work regarding the figure of the world, even though other admirable men as well as thyself frequently urged me to undertake it, you know best of all. O dearest, God-loving and Christ-loving Pamphilus, a man worthy of that name, since all holy men love thee 1----a sojourner in the earthly Jerusalem, but enrolled among the first-born and the prophets, with whom when of yore I knew thee only by report I was knit in the bonds of warmest friendship; but now I have had the satisfaction of having seen thee face to face, when by the will of God you came hither to us, to Alexander's great city, and never ceased to importune us about this work, enfeebled though we were in body, afflicted with ophthalmia and costiveness of the bowels, and as the result suffering afterwards from constant attacks of illness; while besides we were deficient in the school-learning of the Pagans,2 without any knowledge of the rhetorical art, |24 ignorant how to compose a discourse in a fluent and embellished style, and were besides occupied with the complicated affairs of everyday life. Nevertheless you ceased riot pressing us to compose a treatise about the Tabernacle prepared by Moses in the wilderness, which was a type and copy 3 of the whole world, as I explained to thee personally by the living voice in a cursory way, not as communicating opinions and conjectures of my own framing, but what I had learned from the divine scriptures, [125] and from the living voice of that most divine man and great teacher Patricius, who when fulfilling the vows of the Abrahamic rule,4 set out from Chaldaea with his disciple Thomas of Edessa, a holy man who followed him wherever he went, but by the will of God was removed from this life at Byzantium. Patricius propagated the doctrines of holy religion and true science, and has now by the grace of God been elevated to the lofty episcopal throne of all Persia, having been appointed to the office of Bishop Catholic of that country.5 So then being greatly perplexed about this undertaking, on account more |25 especially of those who delight in censoriousness, whose tongues are glib at calumny, and who can always find abundance of material for their scoffs and jeers, I shrank with more than ordinary hesitation from addressing myself to the work. But you again pressed me to proceed with it, loading me with condemnation upon condemnation if I refused, and assuring me that the work would be useful for the guidance of life and for the study and understanding of the divine doctrines, as well as for a refutation of the Greek preconceptions; while showing that the whole scope of divine scripture has respect to the future state, as is most pointedly affirmed by the Apostle when he says: For we know that if the earthly house of this our tabernacle were dissolved we have a building of God----a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.6 When in these and such like terms you appealed to me, and it was beyond my power to gainsay the injunctions laid upon me by your piety, I consented, trusting to receive the benefit of your prayers; while making supplication ourselves that the divine grace without which we can do nothing aright |26  might be vouchsafed to us in the opening of the mouth, so that we might be able without polished and artistic modes of expression, but in the simple words of ordinary speech (while grace manifests her own peculiar powers), both to teach her foster-children the divine knowledge of the doctrines, the lives of pious men, and the figure of the world and its origin, without ambiguity; as well as to describe with all readiness, and to communicate ungrudgingly, what we ourselves have freely received from God.

Having finished, therefore, O God-beloved, the first book concerning pretended Christians, and having convicted them, to the best methinks of my power, of having attempted impossibilities, without our having sought to disparage the beauty of their language, which God forbid I should do, but to refute the fictitious and fabulous Greek theories; and having finished that book, we now in obedience to thy order proceed to discuss first in this second book the Christian theories regarding the figures and the position of the world. We shall then in the third book show that in describing and explaining the utility of the figures of the world, divine scripture alike in the Old and the New Testament is in itself sure and trustworthy. In the fourth book again we shall offer a recapitulation [126] and a delineation of the figures of the world; and similarly shall in the fifth book present a description of the tabernacle prepared by Moses, and exhibit the harmony of what has been said by the Prophets and Apostles. Be this then the book which we have entitled Christian Topography, embracing the whole world and deriving its proofs from the truly divine scriptures, regarding which a Christian is not at liberty to doubt. Since then aid from above, as has been said, cooperates with us through your prayers, we proceed to state our theories. Moses, then, the Divine Cosmographer, says: In the beginning God made |27 the heaven and the earth.7 We assume, therefore, that heaven and earth comprise the universe as containing all things within themselves. And that this is so he himself again proclaims: For in six days God made the heaven and the earth and all that in them is 8; and again in like manner he says: And the heaven and the earth were finished and all the host of them.9 And again, when recapitulating and giving its name to the book, he speaks thus: This is the book of the generation of heaven and earth,10 as if they contained all things, and as if all things that are in them ought to be signified along with them. For if, according to the counterfeit Christians, the heaven alone comprises the universe, he would not have mentioned the earth along with the heaven, but he would have said: This is the book of the generation of heaven. Evidently, however, he has not done so, nor any other of the prophets, and it is manifest that they knew that the two together comprised the universe, and indeed the whole company of the righteous and of the prophets always indicate the heaven along with the earth. Hear what each of them says. Melchisedech first when blessing Abraham thus speaks: Blessed be Abraham of God most High who created the heaven and the earth.11 In the second place, Abraham says: I will stretch out my hand to God most High who created the heaven and the earth. And again: Place thine hand under my thigh and I will make thee swear by the Lord the God of the heaven and the God of the earth.12 For when the most faithful Abraham wished to make his servant swear with more than usual solemnity by the circumcision as being a seal royal, Place, he said, thine hand under my thigh, instead of under the seal royal, that is, the circumcision. See also: Gen. xxiv, 7; |28 [127] Psalm cxiv, 15; cxxxiv, 6, ci, 25; Isai. xlii, 5; Zech. xii, i; Isai. li, 13, xliv, 24, xlviii, 13, xlvi, 1, xl, 22; Jerem. x, 11; Daniel iii, 59; Acts xvii, 24, xiv, 15; Math., xi 25.13 Since then the divine scripture of both the Old and the New Testament shows by its customary declarations that all things are contained within heaven and earth, how is it possible that one can be a Christian who disbelieves all this, and says that all things are contained within the heaven only.

[128] Since then the heaven and the earth comprise the universe, we assert that the earth has been founded on its own stability by the Creator, according once more to the divine scripture, and that it does not rest upon any body; for in the Book of Job it is written: He hangeth the earth upon nothing; and again (xxxviii, 4, 5, 6): Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? etc. And in like manner in David (Psalm cii, 5) it is said: He who laid the foundations of the earth upon its own stability. By the power, therefore, of the Deity who created the universe, we say that it was founded and is supported by him. Upholding all things, as the Apostle saith, by the word of his power.14



For if a body of any kind whatever were either underneath the earth or outside of it, that body could not keep its place, but would fall down according to what is seen always occurring in the natural world. For if we take air, for instance, or water or fire, we find that things which are heavier than these do invariably fall down in them. Since therefore the earth is heavier than any other body whatever, the Deity placed it as the foundation of the universe, and made it steadfast in virtue of its own inherent stability. To illustrate this, let us suppose a place to have a depth |29 of a hundred cubits, and this place to be filled with a body denser say than water; then if one should lift a stone with his hand and drop it into the place, in what interval of time would it reach the bottom? One may reply, in four hours, let us say. But further, supposing the place to be filled with some rarer substance, air, for example, in what interval of time would the stone now reach the bottom? Evidently in a shorter time: in two hours, let us say. Supposing in the next place a still rarer substance, then the bottom will be reached in an hour, and with a yet rarer substance in half an hour. And again, if a rarer still be supposed, the stone will touch the bottom in a still shorter time; and so on until the body when attenuated to the last degree becomes incorporeal, and the time ceases of necessity to be any time at all. Thus then in the case supposed, where no body at all exists, but where there is only the incorporeal, the heavy body of necessity gains the bottom in no time at all and becomes stationary. The Deity, having thus in the order of nature, as the scripture declares, suspended the earth upon nothing, when it had reached the bottom of space laid its foundations upon its own stability so that it should not be moved for ever. But should one again, from a wanton love of contradiction, assume that outside of earth and heaven there exists [129] a place made of another invisible and imaginary substance, even such a place must of necessity rest upon something else, and this again upon another, and so on ad infinitum. Nevertheless let us, with God's help, tackle this subject as more a question of physical science. If one should suppose that place to be chaos, then because .....15 as the heaven is light and tends upwards, and the |30 earth heavy and tends downwards, and extremes are bound together with extremes, that, namely, which tends upwards with that which tends downwards, they support the one the other by their pulling against each other, and so remain unmoved. The Deity accordingly having founded the earth, which is oblong, upon its own stability, bound together the extremities of the heaven with the extremities of the earth, making the nether extremities of the heaven rest upon the four extremities of the earth, while on high he formed it into a most lofty vault overspanning the length of the earth. Along the breadth again of the earth he built a wall from the nethermost extremities of the heaven upwards to the summit, and having enclosed the place, made a house, as one might call it, of enormous size, like an oblong vaulted vapour-bath. For, saith the Prophet Isaiah (xlix, 22): He who established heaven as a vault. With regard, moreover, to the glueing together of the heaven and the earth, we find this written in Job: He has inclined heaven to earth, and it has been poured out as the dust of the earth. I have welded it as a square block of stone.16 Do not the expressions about inclining it to the earth and welding it thereto clearly show that the heaven standing as a vault has its extremities bound together with the extremities of the earth? The fact of its inclination to the earth, and its being welded with it, makes it totally inconceivable that it is a sphere.17 |31 

Moses, likewise, in describing the table in the Tabernacle, which is an image of the earth, ordered its length to be of two cubits, and its breadth of one cubit. So then in the same way as Isaiah spoke, so do we also speak of the figure of the first heaven made on the first day, made along with the earth, and comprising along with the earth the universe, and say that its figure is vaultlike. And just as it is said in Job that the heaven has been welded to the earth, so do we again also say the same. Having learned, moreover, from Moses that the earth has been extended in length more than in breadth, we again admit this, knowing that the scriptures, which are truly divine, ought to be believed. But further, when God had produced the waters and angels and other things simultaneously with the earth and the highest heaven itself, he on the second day exposed to their vision this second heaven visible to our eyes, which, as if putting to use the creations of his own hands, he formed from the waters as his material. In appearance it is like the highest heaven, but not in figure, and it lies midway between that heaven and the earth; and God [130] having then stretched it out extended it throughout the whole space in the direction of its breadth, like an intermediate roof, and bound together the firmament with the highest heaven, separating and disparting the remainder of the waters, leaving some above the firmament, and others on the earth below the firmament, as the divine Moses explains to us, and so makes the one area or house two houses----an upper and a lower story.



But again, the divine scripture speaks thus in Moses concerning the second heaven: And God called the firmament heaven18; and in the inspired David we find these words: Stretching out the heaven as a covering19; and he adds: |32 who covereth his upper chambers with the waters; saying this evidently with respect to the firmament. But scripture, when coupling the two heavens together, frequently speaks of them in the singular, as but one, saying through Isaiah: He that established the heaven as a vaulted chamber, and stretched it out as a tent to dwell in20; meaning here by the vaulted chamber the highest heaven, and by what is stretched out as a tent the firmament, and thus declaring them in the singular number to be bound together and to be of similar appearance. David again speaks to this effect: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth forth his handiwork21; here beginning with a duality and ending with a unity. For since, agreeably to the idiom of the Hebrew language, the same word serves to express both heavens and heaven, and the two heavens are not only bound together as one, but are also like in appearance and aspect, the divine scripture speaks of heaven both in the plural and in the singular number indiscriminately. For the blessed David, using this idiom, exclaims: Praise him, ye heavens of heavens,22 where you might say in the singular number a heaven of heaven, for he says elsewhere: And the water which is above the heavens: here distinctly employing the plural number, heavens, and indicating that the firmament has the waters above it. For following the idiom, instead of saying, the heaven of the heaven, he said the heavens of the heavens. For he again says also in another place: the heaven of the heaven belongs to the Lord, but the earth hath he given to the sons of man,23 here calling the highest heaven which is like a vault heaven of heaven, as it is the heaven of the firmament, being up above it and much loftier. And in Deuteronomy the great hierophant Moses thus speaks: |33 Behold unto the Lord thy God belongeth the heaven and the heaven of heaven, the earth with all that is therein. The great apostle Paul, moreover, uses this idiom, exclaiming: For our citizenship is in the heavens, from which also we look for the Saviour;24 beginning here with the plural number and ending with the singular, for he uses from which in the singular number. David also frequently makes use of this mode of expression, exclaiming: Praise the Lord from the heavens;25 and after he had said: Praise the Lord from the earth, he thus ends: the praising of him in earth and heaven;26 and in another passage, To him who made the heavens in wisdom;27 and on this subject he uses many such expressions.

We have said that the figure of the earth is lengthwise [131] from east to west, and breadthwise from north to south, and that it is divided into two parts: this part which we, the men of the present day, inhabit, and which is all round encircled by the intermedial sea, called the ocean by the Pagans, and that part which encircles the ocean, and has its extremities bound together with those of the heaven, and which men at one time inhabited to eastward, before the flood in the days of Noah occurred, and in which also Paradise is situated.28 Men, strange to say, having crossed the ocean in the Ark at the time of the Deluge, reached our part of the earth and settled in Persian territory, where also the Ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, having saved alive Noah and his sons, together with |34 their wives, so that there were four pairs, and all the brute animals, three pairs of clean, but of wild only one poor pair. Since Noah appears to have offered up to God in sacrifice the superfluous one pair of all the clean animals, there were four pairs of human beings, and of clean animals three pairs, but of wild beasts only one poor pair. Now when the Ark had crossed over into this part of the earth which we now from that time forth inhabit, the three sons of Noah divided the earth among them. Shem and his posterity obtained the regions extending from Asia as far as the eastern parts of the ocean29; Ham and his posterity the regions from Gadeira30 in the west to the ocean of Ethiopia, called Barbaria, beyond the Arabian Gulf,31 receiving besides the regions extending as far as our sea, |35 that is to Palestine and Phoenicia, as well as the southern parts, together with all that part of Arabia which adjoins us, and that which is called the Happy; and Japhet and his posterity: the regions extending from Media and Scythia in the distant north, as far as the western ocean and the parts outside of Gadeira, according to what is written in Genesis by the inspired Moses, who, in describing the division of the earth, speaks thus concerning these three: The sons of Japhet, Gamer (Gomer) 32 and Magog 33 and Madaï and Javan (Iouaun) and Elisa,34 whereby he indicates the hyperborean nations of the Scythians and Medes, and then similarly the Ionians 35 and the Greeks, 36 and likewise Thôbel 37 and Mosôch 38 and Thêres (Qh&raj) that he may show what nations lay near them. For he calls the Thracians Thêres, and from these, he tells us, some |36 were removed and dispersed among the islands of the Gentiles 39 and adjacent localities, for this indicates Tharseis. 40 The inhabitants of Cyprus he calls Kêtioi, and those of Rhodes, Rhodians.41 The sons of Ham (Cham), Cush (Chous) and Mesraim, thereby designating the Ethiopians and Egyptians. 42 Finally, Phut (Phouth) and Canaan,43 |37 whereby he designates the Libyans and adjoining nations. The sons of Cush, Saba and Elêsâ, whereby he designates the Homerites and their neighbours 44; similarly also the [132] nations one after another that occupy the southern parts. The Chananeans again, he says, were descended from Mesraim, that is the Egyptians and Sidonians and all the neighbouring nations. The sons of Shem, Elam and Ashur, that is the Elamites 45 and Assyrians and remaining nations, and as many of these as were spread far and wide over Asia and the East----the nations of the Persians, Huns, Baktrians, 46 Indians, onwards to the ocean.

The pagans even, availing themselves of what Moses has thus revealed, divide the whole earth into three parts: Asia, Libya and Europe, designating Asia the east, Libya the south, extending to the west; Europe the north, also extending to all the west; and in this our part of the earth there are four gulfs which penetrate into it from the ocean as the pagans also say, and say with truth when treating |38 of this subject 47 namely, this gulf of ours, which entering from Gadeira in the west extends along the countries subject to Rome; 48 the Arabian Gulf called the Erythraean 49 and the Persian, both of which advance from Zingium to the southern and more eastern parts of the earth from the country called Barbaria, which begins where the land of the Ethiopians terminates. 50 Now Zingium, as those who navigate the Indian sea are aware, is situated beyond the country called Barbaria which produces frankincense,51 and |39 is girdled by the ocean which streams from thence into both the gulfs. The fourth gulf is that which flows from the north-eastern part of the earth, and is called the Caspian or Hyrcanian Sea.52 These gulfs only admit of navigation, for the ocean cannot be navigated on account of the great number of its currents, and the dense fogs which it sends up, obscuring the rays of the sun, and because of the vastness of its extent. Having learned these facts from the Man of God, as has been said, I have pointed them out as coincident also with my own experience, for I myself have made voyages for commercial purposes in three of these gulfs----the Roman, the Arabian and the Persian, while from the natives or from seafaring men I have obtained accurate information regarding the different places.

Once on a time, when we sailed in these gulfs, bound for Further India 53 and had almost crossed over to Barbaria, beyond which there is situated Zingium, as they term the |40 mouth of the ocean, I saw there to the right of our course a great flight of the birds which they call Souspha, which are like kites, but somewhat more than twice their size.54 [133] The weather was there so very unsettled that we were all in alarm; for all the men of experience on board, whether passengers or sailors, all began to say that we were near the ocean and called out to the pilot: "Steer the ship to port and make for the gulf, or we shall be swept along by the currents and be carried into the ocean and be lost." For the ocean rushing into the gulf was swelling into billows of portentous size, while the currents from the gulf were driving the ship into the ocean, and the outlook was altogether so dismal that we were kept in a state of great alarm. A great flock, all the time, of the birds called Souspha followed us, flying generally high over our heads, and the presence of these was a sign that we were near the ocean.

The northern and western parts of the earth which we inhabit are of very great elevation, while the southern parts are proportionately depressed.55 For to what extent of its breadth the earth is imperceptibly depressed it is found to have an elevation of like area in the northern and western parts, while the ocean beyond is of unusual depth. But in the southern and eastern parts the ocean beyond is not of unusual but of the medium depth. When these facts are considered, one can see why those who sail to the north and the west are called lingerers. It is because they are mounting up and in mounting up they sail more |41 slowly, while in returning they descend from high places to low, and thus sail fast, and in a few'days bring their voyage to an end. Then the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, flowing down from the northern parts, that is, from Persarmenia to the south, have far more rapid currents than our river the Nile----that is, the Gêôn. For this river Nile flowing from low-lying regions in the south towards the elevated northern regions, and running, as one may say, up,56 pursues quietly the even tenor of its way. The eastern and southern parts again, as low-lying and overheated by the sun, are extremely hot, while the northern and western from their great elevation and distance from the sun are extremely cold, and in consequence the inhabitants have very pale complexions, and must keep themselves warm against the cold. But the whole of this portion of the earth is not inhabited, for the parts in the extreme north are to the last degree cold, and remain uninhabited, just as the parts in the extreme south remain also uninhabited on account of the excessive heat. For the blessed David thus speaks: Neither from the goings forth nor from the goings down (of the sun); nor from the desert mountains,57 where he calls the east exodous and the west dusmas, and the other regions, namely the extreme north and extreme south desert mountains. The pagans when [134] writing on these subjects say what is true concerning them.



These things being so we shall say, agreeably to what we find in divine scripture, that the sun issuing from the east traverses the sky in the south and ascends |42 northwards, and becomes visible to the whole of the inhabited world. But as the northern and western summit intervenes it produces night in the ocean beyond this earth of ours, and also in the earth beyond the ocean;58 then afterwards when the sun is in the west, where he is hidden by the highest portion of the earth, and runs his course over the ocean through the northern parts, his presence there makes it night for us, until in describing his orbit he comes again to the east, and again ascending the southern sky illumines the inhabited world, as the divine scripture says through the divine Solomon: The. sun riseth and the sun goeth down and hasteth to his own place. Rising there, he goeth to the south, and wheeleth his circuit, and the wind turneth round to his circuits.59 Here he calls the air the wind, for, as he says, the sun making a circuit in the air from east to south, from south to west, from west to north, from north to cast, causes the vicissitudes of day and night and the solstices; for, by the expressions wheeleth his circuit, and turneth round to his circuits, he signified not only the revolution but also the solstices, for it is the plural number he uses. For he does not say that the wind describes a circuit, but that the sun does so through the wind, that is, through the air.60 Yea, even the blessed Moses having been ordered on Mount Sinai to make the Tabernacle according to the pattern which he had seen, said under divine inspiration, that the outer Tabernacle was a pattern of this the visible world. Now the divine Apostle in the epistle to the |43 Hebrews, in explaining the inner Tabernacle, or that which was within the veil, declares that it was a pattern of the heavenly----that is, of the kingdom of the heavens or the future state, taking the veil which divides the one Tabernacle into two for the firmament; just as the firmament placed in the middle, between the heaven and the earth, has made two worlds----this world namely, and that which is to come, into which world to come the first who entered was the forerunner on our behalf, Christ, who thus prepared for us a new and living way. Now in his description of the first Tabernacle, Moses places in the south of it the candlestick, with seven lamps, after the number of days in the week----these lamps being typical of the celestial luminaries----and shining on the table placed in the north of the earth. On this table again he ordered to be [135] daily placed twelve loaves of shewbread, according to the number of the twelve months of the year----three loaves at each corner of the table, to typify the three months between each of the four tropics.61 He commanded also to be wreathed all around the rim of the table a waved moulding,62 to represent a multitude of waters, that is, the ocean; and further, in the circuit of the waved work, a crown to be set of the circumference of the palm of the hand, to represent the land beyond the ocean, and encircling it, where in the east lies Paradise, and where also the extremities of the heaven are bound to the extremities of the earth. And from this description we not only learn concerning the luminaries and the stars that most of them, when they rise, run their course through the south, but from the same source we are taught that the earth is surrounded by the ocean, and further |44 that beyond the ocean there is another earth by which the ocean is surrounded.

But again, from the prophecy of Lamech, the father of Noah, we learn that Noah, by means of the world-carrying Ark, was to convey men and the brute beasts into this earth of ours, for the prophecy runs somewhat to this effect: This same shall give us rest concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord God hath cursed.63 For this reason also Lamech gave Noah his name, which means rest. For the first man having sinned, and having been cast by God out of the garden into the earth, which was foul with thorns and effete, those ten generations smarted under grievous chastisement, being forbidden according to the sacred scripture to eat any longer of fruit that grew upon a tree, because man had transgressed by eating the fruit of a tree. And meagre truly was the fare on which the generations from Adam to Noah subsisted, since they neither ate the olive, nor tasted either wine or flesh, but were commanded to eat only grain, and that too although there the earth was by no means productive, but required the very hardest toil for its cultivation; for thus saith the scripture: Cursed is the ground in thy labours; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.64




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