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Cosmas Indicopleustes, Christian Topography (1897) pp. 1-22.  Prologues, Book 1







[113]1 This book, which embraces the whole world, I have designated "Christianikê Topographia".


IN the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost----the one adorable Godhead in three Persons----the consubstantial and life-originating Trinity of the one God, from whom every good gift and every perfect gift comes down to us from above, I, a miserable sinner, open my slow and stammering lips, trusting that for my humility's sake in soliciting utterance, and for the advantage of my hearers, He will give me the spirit of wisdom and utterance in the opening of my lips: He who is the Lord of Grace and Dispenser of all good things; God over all and blessed for evermore, Amen! |2 


Book I, work of a Christian

Against those who want to be Christian, but believe and profess, like those outside, that heaven is spherical.

Book II

Christian theories on the form and layout of places in the whole universe, taking their proofs from the divine scriptures.

Book III

That divine scripture is sure and worthy of trust, that it reveals things which agree among themselves and with the whole, in both the Old and New Testament, and that it indicates the utility of the shape of the whole universe.

Book IV

Concise recapitulation, with illustration, of the shape of the universe according to the divine scriptures, and refutation of the sphere.

Book V

Where is found the description of the tabernacle and the agreement of the prophets and the apostles.


Book VI, additional

The size of the sun.

Book VII

Dedicated to Anastasius and proving that the heavens are indestructible.


On the canticle of Ezechiel, and the retrogradation of the sun.

Book IX 

Design of the course of the stars.

Book X

Citations of the Fathers agreeing with the whole of our writing.

Moreover, apart from the work: Book XI

Drawings and description of the Indian animals; in the same way about the trees and of the island of Taprobane.

Still another book: Book XII

Explaining that many ancient writers, among outsiders, attest the antiquity of the divine scriptures composed by Moses and the prophets and that the Greeks seem to have learned to write later than everyone else, as well as the divine scriptures, because of their inveterate incredulity.]


FIRST of all I exhort those who will read this book to peruse it with all attention and diligence, and not to run over it in a perfunctory manner, but with loving pains to study it and take into their minds impressions of the places, figures, and histories which it contains; and when the book has been read to the end, let them further look into the volume which we have composed for that lover of Christ, Constantinus: a volume wherein we have described more fully the whole earth, both the one beyond the ocean, and this one, and all its countries, together with the southern parts from Alexandria to the Southern Ocean, namely, the river Nile and the countries adjacent, and all the races of Egypt and Ethiopia; the Arabian Gulf besides, with the countries adjoining and their inhabitants as far as the same ocean, and likewise the middle country between the river and the gulf, with the cities, districts and tribes therein contained----a volume 2 to prove that what things are said by us are true, and those false which are said by our adversaries, [114] for whose sake this book and the drawings 3 it contains have been prepared----those, I mean, concerning the size of the sun, and that sun-burnt, uninhabited part of the world about which they din our ears, and vomit out fictions and fables. Let me next exhort my readers to examine the sketch 4 of the universe and the stellar motions which we have prepared as a representation of |3 the organic sphere of the pagans 5, and to study the account of it sent to the pious deacon Homologus, then they with God's help are quite competent, especially with this book and the volume mentioned, to overthrow from the foundation the error of the pagan 6 theories. For if any Christian possesses these three works, and is by divine grace carefully exercised in the divine scriptures, he will easily confute the foolish views of the fable-mongers, for, from the figure itself, the constitution of the world and the very nature of things, they prove that the divine scriptures and the doctrines preached by Christians are perfectly true. Be strong then, ye Christians, in the Lord.



The Christian Topography of the whole world demonstrated from divine scripture, about which Christians ought not to doubt.

IN days long gone by I hesitated, O God-beloved, God-loving and Christ-loving 7 Pamphilus, to take in hand the treatise descriptive of the constitution of the whole world which you enjoined me to draw up. For even had I so wished, it was out of my power, as you well know, on account of the lingering illness by which I was prostrated. |4 But since, in answer to your frequent prayers, I have recovered from that illness, accept at last the Preface to the books of the work which I submit, partly as fulfilling the obedience I owe you, and partly as dreading the condemnation of the sluggish servant which the discourse of our Saviour in the Gospels has pronounced. And let no one condemn me as overbold, because I conduct the exposition of my subject in a style homely and unmethodical, since it is not fine phrases the Christian requires but right notions. For while many be the darts and helmets and shields and wars set in motion against the Church, some supposed to be Christians, holding divine scripture of no account but despising and looking down upon it, assume like the Pagan philosophers, that the form of the heavens is spherical, being led into this error by the solar and lunar eclipses.8 We have therefore conveniently divided the subject of the book into five parts. In the outset then the first part is directed against the persons referred to who have been misled, and argues that one who wishes to profess Christianity cannot be led away by the plausible [115] errors of those outside the Church----errors which are opposed to divine scripture. For should any one choose to examine closely the Pagan theories he will find them to be entirely fictitious, fabulous sophistries, and to be utterly impossible. Then again, for the Christian who will naturally ask and say: these being refuted, what are the true theories that must be admitted in opposition to them? I have written the second book, which proceeds to explain from divine scripture the nature of the Christian theories----to describe the figure of the whole world, and to notice that some of the ancient Pagans have been of the same opinion. Then again, by way of replying to one |5 who should doubt and ask: how does it appear that Moses and the prophets in saying such things say what is true? the third book exhibits the credibility of Moses and the Prophets, showing that they spake not of themselves, but as inspired by divine revelation, and that the writers alike of the Old and New Testament, men approved both by word and deed, having foreseen these things, declared them accordingly. It further shows what is the utility of delineations of the world, and how the notion of the sphere had its origin and beginning. The fourth book, again, has been written for behoof of those who wish to run their eye over the figures, and is a brief recapitulation, along with delineations, of what has been said before----a refutation, in fact, of the theory of the sphere and of the Antipodes. Then again, the fifth book has been written for those enquiring what the Christian theories are, and it shows that in what we have said and have represented by drawings we have neither devised fictions of our own nor invented new fables; but from revelation and from what God who created the world has ordained, have beheld the pattern of the whole world----namely the Tabernacle prepared by Moses, which the New Testament consistently with this view has pronounced to be an image of the whole world; and which also by means of the vail Moses divided, and so made one tabernacle into two, just as God also in the beginning divided what was one region, extending from the earth to the highest heaven, into two regions, by means of the firmament; and just as in the tabernacle there was an outer and an inner place, so here there was a lower and an upper. Now the lower is this world, and the upper is the world to come, into which also the Lord Christ, after having risen according to the flesh from the dead, ascended the first of all, and into which the righteous shall in their turn afterwards ascend. And since from Adam to Moses, and from Moses to John, and from John all the Apostles |6 and Evangelists, have each and all in harmony, and both by words and types spoken of these two states; and since not one of them has uttered a discordant note, either saying that there was a state before the first, or supposing that there is a third after the second; but all of them, as if inspired by the Holy Ghost, have proclaimed that there are [116] but two states only, we, therefore, putting our confidence in the scriptures, which are truly divine, have not only sketched the figures of the whole world, but also of those very places by which you will find the Israelites made their exodus, also the mountain on which they received the law in writing, and were instructed in the knowledge of writing; also the delineation of the Tabernacle and the settlement in the Land of Promise; until he who was expected to arise from among them, and who was predicted by all the men of old and by the Prophets, did actually appear, proclaiming the future second state, which on his coming he showed in himself to us all, having entered into the inner Tabernacle, into the upper celestial region, into which at his second coming he shall call the righteous, saying: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. To Him be glory for ever, Amen! |7 



Against those who, while wishing to profess Christianity, think and imagine like the pagans that the heaven is spherical.

cosmas1-5.jpgS many as ardently desire true knowledge and are lovers of the true light, and earnestly endeavour to become fellow-citizens of the saints in the age to come, who regard the Old and New Testament as in reality divine scripture, who are obedient to Moses and the Christ, who follow out to the end the principles they have adopted, who acknowledge |8 that the world was produced by God out of mere nothing, and who believe that there is a resurrection of men and a judgment, and that the righteous shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven; all these carefully examine the divine scriptures all throughout, to see whether in Moses, who wrote the account of the Creation, and in the other Prophets, they |9 contain descriptions of the places and figures of the whole creation, among which is indicated also the position of the Kingdom of Heaven, which the Lord Christ promises God will give to righteous men. And when they find the Old and New Testaments to be in mutual harmony, they abide therein firmly grounded and immovable, in nothing confounded by their adversaries. But those on the other hand who prank themselves out in the wisdom of this world, and are self-confident that by scholastic reasonings they can comprehend its figure and position, scoff at all divine scripture as a mass of fables, stigmatising Moses and the prophets, the Lord Christ and the Apostles as idle babblers,10 [117] and given over to vain delusions; while with supercilious airs, as if they far surpassed in wisdom the rest of mankind, they attribute to the heavens a spherical figure and a circular motion, and by geometrical methods and calculations applied to the heavenly bodies, as well as by the abuse of words and by worldly craft, endeavour to grasp the position and figure of the world by means of the solar and lunar eclipses, leading others into error while they are in error themselves in maintaining that such phenomena could not present themselves if the figure was other than spherical. But concerning these matters we shall not enter into any discussion just at present, since those persons sufficiently confute the one the other. But those who wish to profess Christianity, while wishing at the same time to |10 bedeck themselves with the principles, the wisdom, and the diversity of the errors of this world, and contend that one thing and another should be accepted, seem to differ nothing from a shadow which exists while the intermediate body from which it is projected is in light, but which cannot exist when that body is not in light, nay, is even obliterated by the light when the body is illuminated all round.

It is against such men my words are directed, for divine scripture denounces them, as of old it denounced the strangers sojourning in Samaria, because they feared God and burned incense and offered worship on the high places.11 Were one to call such men double-faced12 he would not be wrong, for, look you, they wish both to be with us and with those that are against us, thus making void their renunciation of Satan whom they renounced in baptism, and again running back to him. Now, such men cannot be with us at all; but they occupy a middle position, like empty houses standing high up in the air, without having either foundations in the earth below, or anything from above to hold them fast.13 For while they have as yet scarcely come by their principles they set about destroying them; and before they have yet destroyed them, they show that their end is unaccomplished, as they stand firm neither on the one side nor the other, but rather laugh at every one, and are themselves laughed at by all. In the first place, then, when arguing with them about the spherical figure, we showed that this figure was not possible, and was indeed quite inconsistent with the nature of things. Certain of them say that the heaven is a body consisting of four elements,14 but some later on superciliously |11  reconstructed it with an additional fifth new element,15 though formerly its essential constitution comprised only four elements, for they saw at a glance that the heaven could not revolve if it was composed of these. But herein again they are found to be blind even when they think that those who are sharp-sighted do not see. For since the heaven is seen to be of sundry and diverse colours, whence a power to produce heat and cold seems to be inherent in them, they say that the eyes of all are deceived by reason of their immense distance. Well, then, let any one of them who so wishes come forward and tell us: Why do the stars which, according to you are evidently fixed in an immovable sphere, not [118] apparently differ in colour and size, though their distances from us are seen to be unequal, if the centre of the earth be the point from which our eyes are directed towards them? And how is it that many of the fixed stars are equal and like to the planet we call Mars, to which a lower sphere has been assigned, and how do we in like manner see not a few of them to be like the planet Jupiter? But |12 further, we do not even see the heaven itself to be of one and the same colour, for, if it were asked from whence can we surmise that the cloud-like concretions which you have named the galaxy, and which you have so designated simply because of the difference of their colour, have derived their peculiar appearance, while the surface on which the ray of vision strikes is uniform? and if I replied that these were proofs of the composition and mixture of different elements, no one, I apprehend, would dare to contradict me, even though he were a lover of falsehood, and much less if one of those who always assign the foremost place to truth. Now if the heaven has been constituted not of one single element endowed with a circular motion of its own, but of the mixture of the four elements, then it cannot well revolve. For it has been said that it must either be moved downward if the heavy element preponderate, or be carried upward if the opposite light one prevail, or must be stationary when no element is preponderant. This is certainly obvious to everybody. For no one would admit that he has ever seen the heaven move either upwards or downwards.16 It must be allowed therefore that it is firmly fixed. But should they ask: Whence are these motions that differ from the rest in an element that is simple and without qualities? since they say, and not untruly, that those bodies which they call planets revolve oppositely to the universe; and if in like manner they say that their revolution is accomplished in certain |13 times which the Creator has fixed, it is evident that they do not even deny that the planets advance from the East.17

Then being mazed with perplexing doubts, as usually happens to those who shrink from the truth, they say, on finding no way of escape, that the stars make retrogressions and pauses. But tell me, ye souls that are so ingenious in tying and untying knots, if from their very nature they have motion, how comes it that they stand still? For nothing that can thwart them enters as an element into their natural constitution. And tell me this besides, what is the force or what the necessity which imposes on them the contrary motion? And here let no one tell me that it is an ocular deception; for it is no minute distance to which they advance, seeing that they are often observed to shift their place from a sign of the zodiac that is in the rear to one in front. But what must we say of our opponents when passing on to the operations of the stars themselves, they reach the very height of absurdity, all unconscious that they themselves stand still or move backward, and are but a sorry set of good-for-nothing rascals? Now anyone would say that the star previously seen in Aries, but at present appearing in Pisces, was not in the house of Mars, but in that of Jupiter, and that it [119] makes movements, not such as they babble about when it is in Aries, but those which they ascribe to it in its transit through Pisces. But if they do not admit the retrograde motion of the planets which is apparent, whence then or wherefore is their course in both directions? They will perhaps in reply assign as the cause those invisible epicycles which they have assumed as vehicles on which, as they will insist, the planets are borne along. But they will |14 be in no better case from this invention, for we shall ask: Why have they need of vehicles? Is it because they are incapable of motion? Then, if so, why should you assert them to be animated, and that too even with souls more than usually divine? Or is it that they are capable? The very idea is, methinks, ridiculous. And why have not the moon and the sun their epicycles? Is it that they are not worthy on account of their inferiority? But this could not be said by men in their sober senses. Was it then from the scarcity of suitable material the Creator could not construct vehicles for them? On your own head let the blasphemy of such a thought recoil.

Cease, O ye wiseacres! prating worthless nonsense, and learn at last though late to follow the divine oracles and not your own baseless fancies. For, tell us, how ye think that the fixed stars move in an opposite direction to the universe? Is such a motion theirs only or that of the sphere in which they are placed? Then, if it is theirs, how do they traverse unequal orbits in equal time? And how comes it that of the stars in the galaxy not one has ever gone outside of it, nor any of those outside is seen nearer it or within it? But if one should say that it is the sphere which moves in the opposite direction, then it will be found that at the same time it moves oppositely to itself. But who can imagine a greater absurdity than this? Thus they do their best to prevent anyone surpassing them in their effrontery----or rather, let me say, in impiety, since they do not blush to affirm that there are people who live on the under surface of the earth. What then, should some one question them and say: Is the sun to no purpose carried under the earth? these absurd persons will, on the spur of the moment, without thinking, reply that the people of the Antipodes are there----men carrying their heads downwards, and rivers having a position opposite to the rivers here! thus taking in hand to turn every thing |15 upside down rather than to follow the doctrines of the truth, in which there are no futile sophisms, but which are plain and easy and full of godliness, while they procure salvation for those who reverently consult them.

But you will most effectually rebuke them if you say: Why does that sphere of yours not revolve from the north to the south, or from some other quarter to its opposite? And do not tell me, in answer, that such seemed better to the Maker of the world, for my 18 .... But how can you [120] deem that you speak consistently with the nature of things in supposing that the whole heaven is in motion and describes a circle, without also supposing that outside of it there is either some other space or body, even though it were imaginary. For it is impossible any thing can move apart from the four elements, but must move either in earth, or in water, or in air, or in fire, whether it is transferred from place to place into the infinite, or whether it always revolves in the same place. But if the heaven as it revolves passes into the infinity of space, we must suppose that beyond it there is an infinite earth into which it rolls, when noiselessly leaving what is behind it; but if one of the other three elements be supposed, in not one of them is the sphere adapted to roll and rotate; nay, were it to be shot into any of them, a whizzing noise would attend the transition. But if, again, it rolls and rotates always in the same spot without moving from place to place, then it must be upheld by supports like a turner's lathe, or an artificial globe, or on an axis like a machine or a waggon. And if so, then we must again inquire by what the supports and axles are themselves upheld, and so on ad infinitum. And tell me, pray, how are we to suppose the axis passes through the middle of the earth, and of what material it consists.

When these problems then concerning the nature of |16 things are discussed, there remains the conclusion, as we said before, that the heaven is fixed and does not revolve. But even in supposing that the earth is in the middle of the universe, as its centre, you immediately give the deathblow to your own theory when you repeat that the middle is below, for it is impossible that the same thing can at once both be in the middle and below, for the middle is the middle between up and down, or between right and left, or between before and behind. Why do you then, when beleaguered with difficulties, utter absurdities contrary to nature, in opposition to scripture? For being in terror lest any one should pose you with this question: How can this unspeakable weight of the earth be held suspended by the air and not fall down? you have invented stones of things that are not true, but strange; and, reversing the order of things, give out that the middle is below; so that if any should suppose that instead of the earth, fire was the middle, you would then say that the middle was above instead of below, seeing that the tendency of fire is upward. To me, therefore, they seem to subvert the first by means of the second, and the second by means of the first. But if they say that the air because it surrounds the earth equally on all sides, is pushed on by the universe, and that the earth remains immovable, and swerves neither to the one side nor the other, why do men 19 and the irrational animals that live on land or fly in the air not move along with it, while all of them cleave the air in walking and in traversing it, and in going on high. And not only is it incapable of resisting these, but it cannot even sustain the weight of the lightest inanimate things, such as the shortest of feathers and the smallest of straws, but all of them cut it, it is so attenuated and so rare, and they outstrip it according to the force with which they are propelled. How then can we receive such false theories? |17 

But should one wish to examine more elaborately the question of the Antipodes, he would easily find them to be old wives' fables. For if two men on opposite sides placed the soles of their feet each against each, whether they chose to stand on earth, or water, or air, or fire, or any other kind of body, how could both be found standing upright? The one would assuredly be found in the natural upright position, and the other, contrary to nature, head downward.20 Such notions are opposed to reason, and alien to our nature and condition. And how, again, when it rains upon both of them, is it possible to say that the rain falls down upon the two, and not that it falls down to the one and falls up to the other, or falls against them, or towards them, or away from them. For to think that there are Antipodes compels us to think also that rain falls on them from an opposite direction to ours; and any one will, with good reason, deride these ludicrous theories, which set forth principles incongruous, ill-adjusted, and contrary to nature.

And if one should examine that other sophism of theirs, namely, that the earth is inflated with air, and that earthquakes occur when the pent-up air shakes the earth violently, he would be amazed at the imposture and the contradiction in their statements. For if the earth when equally pressed by the whole air stands unshaken and unswerving, then, when inflated it ought to be all the heavier in that quarter, and to swerve to a side, after the example of man which they adduce. For not only does a man shake and tremble when attacked with |18 flatulency, but he trembles when seized with terror, and when overcome with wine, and pinched with cold, and when his blood boils with anger, and when he is old and imbecile, but when he reels under the effects of flatulency death results. Why then does not the earth also, which according to them is inflated with air, not collapse and lose its proper place? And why, again, do they further say that Egypt, because its soil is porous and its furrows allow the air to escape without violent shocks, is not subject to earthquakes, while in point of fact earthquakes have been of frequent occurrence in that country, and so violent as to overthrow cities and level them with the ground: and not only so, but even in the times of the Greeks, when Alexander, and Seleucus, and Antiochus, and Ptolemy ruled and reigned, they had recourse to the assistance of philosophers----Aristotle and his like----and frequently gave practical effect to what they advised? And when Antioch was being founded by Seleucus 21 and Antiochus, how was it that the philosophers were not able to point out that the country there was not safe from earthquakes, but on the [122] contrary exposed to their frequent visitations? And this we say from having seen that this city has been repeatedly overthrown by earthquakes; and not Antioch only but Corinth also, which has close at her hand the mob of the philosophers.

But if we should care to examine yet another of their opinions----that in which they say and try to prove by illustrations----that rain is produced from vapour drawn up |19 by heat into the atmosphere, in the same way, say they, as the bath draws up vapour from the heat, and lets it fall in drops; and just as a cupping-glass draws up moisture by means of tow and fire, so too does the sun draw up vapour, and in course of time lets it fall in drops, whence rain is produced. One cannot but marvel at such wisdom as this, imposing, as it does by its speciousness, upon the multitude. For since the bath derives its heat not from above but from below, how can it be said to draw up, and npt rather to push up? So too in the case of a caldron: it receives its heat not from above but from below, and in both instances the vapours are pushed up by the heat, and in the rebound, due in the one case to the roof and in the other to the lid, they fall in drops. Similar is the case of the cupping-glass, which, did not this instrument itself constrain nature and suck up moisture, would never have sucked it up at all,22 no, not even if fire and tow had been applied ten thousand times over. But further, when one thrusts a damp faggot into the fire, moisture is to such a degree pushed by the heat that both moisture and smoke are expelled from the other end of the faggot. And when one has kindled a fire on the ground he sees the moisture in the faggots conveyed upwards by the smoke, not drawn up by what is above but pushed up by the heat of the fire. Nay, more, if one washes a garment and spreads it on the ground, and if, when it has been dried by the sun, he lifts it up, he will find the moisture which has been expelled from it by the heat impressed on the ground in the very |20 shape of the garment. In like manner, if one places a hot piece of meat on a trencher he will see the moisture discharged in both directions, both upwards and downwards, the heat being intermediate, for above he sees the steam mounting upwards, and below he sees the trencher bathed in moisture on which the meat has impressed its own shape; whence it appears that heat does not draw up, as these sages tell us, but rather pushes up.

But when we propose a new question to them: Why is it that in the Thebaid, where the ground is parched up by the heat, the moisture is not drawn up and turned into rain for that country? they defend themselves by saying that it is a moderate and not an excessive heat that causes the drawing up. To this we shall give a very summary reply: And how happens it, we shall ask, that beyond the Thebaid, in Ethiopia, where the heat is far greater, there are frequent copious downfalls of rain? And how can they say, those many and tip-top wise men, that the sun has the power of drawing upwards, and assert also quite confidently that in the course of his revolution he becomes heated by friction, while they will not entertain the supposition that the heat is in him by nature. But more: when they allow that the air is moist and hot, what need have [123] those wiseacres to resort to sophistry and say that the moisture is drawn up from elsewhere, when up above they have the heat and moisture at the same spot? But if one should ask them about one particular element as it is in itself, that is, should ask them to show its distinctive quality, they immediately find themselves at a loss, and attribute two qualities to one single element and say: Earth is dry and cold; water, cold and moist; air, moist and warm; fire, warm and dry; so that, being beleaguered with difficulties, they assign eight qualities to the four elements. But at times they say that all the qualities exist in each of the elements. Once more, therefore, they |21 contradict their own words, by ascribing not four but only two qualities to each of the four elements. I marvel accordingly at those most excellent men when they attribute to water coldness and humidity, and to the air humidity and heat. How do they say that water, that is, the cold and moist, congeals and becomes ice in winter-time? Wherefrom comes that extreme cold which converts it into ice? For if they shall say that the departure of the sun naturally produces this effect, why does it not produce the same effect on the air, which is naturally warm, and at the same time moist, but makes it, on the contrary, extremely cold? And how does the cold itself----that is, water----not make the air----that is, the moist----freeze, but, on the contrary, it is the latter which makes the former freeze, as we actually see? Now though I have many things more to say about this question and the examples which they erroneously adduce in favour of their view of it, I curb myself, for I feel ashamed of the foolishness of what is said by them, and consider what has already been said on this subject sufficient.

There is, however, another sophism held by these wise men which I am especially anxious to deal with, and will forthwith proceed to discuss. They say that the heaven which they call a body contains the whole world, and stoutly maintain that outside of it nothing whatever exists; and yet they define angels and demons and souls, which are parts of the world as uncircumscribed, neither containing the heaven, nor contained by the heaven, not understanding what they say, since that which neither contains nor is contained is never by any possibility seen among things that are. If then these things be as they say, let them tell us with respect to their own soul whether it is, or is not. And if they say it is not, then to their own shame and disgrace they assume themselves to be soulless. But if they say that it exists, let them tell us whether it is |22 in them or is not in them. If they reply that it is not in them, they answer not less shamelessly and foolishly than they did before. But if they reply that the soul is in them, we must ask them a further question: As the body is circumscribed by the heaven, why is not the soul also circumscribed? And if, as they say, it illuminates the body without being circumscribed along with it, the question arises, where is it when it illuminates the body? since it is impossible that, being a created thing, it should not exist with things created. And if they say it exists somewhere [124] within the heaven, then it is again circumscribed by the body itself of the heaven, although it was represented by them as uncircumscribed. But if they make it exist outside the heaven, they, in the first place, confute themselves; in the next place, it will either be in a part of the heaven and occupy but a small part of it, or it will be in the whole of it, in which case it will circumscribe the heaven and will be found having form like a bodily substance; and this a spherical form embracing and limiting the sphere. But if, again, they say that as being uncircumscribed it pervades all things both within and without, let them not blind themselves to the fact that they arc both introducing polytheism and imagining an equality with God. For this property pertains to none except the uncreated Deity who created and fashioned the universe. So then, professing themselves to be wise, they become fools, as says the blessed Paul the Apostle, having changed the glory of the uncircumscribed Deity to their own created souls, thus appropriating to themselves the glory due to God. They must therefore in every way be avoided. For, saith the Apostle, from those turn away who hold an outward form of godliness but deny the power thereof.

[Footnotes have been moved to the end and renumbered]

1. 1 The numerals in the margin indicate the pages in Montfaucon's edition of Cosmas in the Nova Collectio Patrum.  [Online edition: placed in square brackets.  Material in red is not in the printed text.  The summary of contents is found in the manuscripts so has been added from a Greek critical edition, although its exact position is doubtful]

2. 1 This work on Cosmography is one of the lost treasures of antiquity. Its loss appeared to Montfaucon one to be deplored even with tears.

3. 2 Katagrafai\. The Latin version erroneously renders this by paragraphi.

4. 3 Gr. ska&rifon. See Sketch No. 6 in the Appendix, and for the stars, Sketch No. 9.

5. 1 Tw~n e1cwqen, lit. of those without the Church.

6. 2 9Ellhnikw~n. The Greek-speaking Jews used #Ellhn, Graecus, and some of its derivatives, in the sense of pagan, gentile, idolater, apparently because the Greeks were the most prominent Gentile people with which they were acquainted. This signification passed into the works of Christian authors, the Greeks, properly so-called, being designated by the term #Elladikoi/ or Graikoi/.

7. 3 Qeofikh~, Qeo&file/ te kai\ Xristo&file. These were official titles. The superlative of the first, qeofile/statoj, was applied to the Emperor, bishops, deacons and monks. In the Greek church it is now applied only to epi/skopoi.

8. 1 Aristotle from the circularity of the earth's shadow in eclipses inferred the rotundity of the earth.

9. 1 To this title Cosmas has prefixed the following: "The notes (paragrafai\) which occur in this work have been inserted for the clearer exposition of the text (tou~ keime/nou). The reader should therefore read first the text and then the notes." As Cosmas in this book seeks to confute the system of astronomy called the Ptolemaic----because Ptolemy, though not its founder, was its chief exponent----it may be of service if we remind the reader of the main outlines of that system. It assumed that the earth was the Centre of the universe, and that the heavenly bodies revolved round it in perfect circles and at a uniform rate of motion. Such phenomena as were found to be inconsistent with these assumptions were explained by means of subsidiary hypotheses. The belief that the earth was the centre of the universe seemed to accord with the relation in which the primary elements of which the material world was thought to be composed stood to each other. Thus earth, as being the stablest element, held the lowest place and supported water, above which was placed air, and above that again, fire, while ether was supposed to extend indefinitely above the others. In or beyond the ether were certain heavens, each of which contained a crystalline sphere, whereto was attached a heavenly body, which by the revolution of its crystalline sphere was made to move round the earth. When it was discovered that the planets move sometimes from west to east, sometimes from east to west, and for some time remain stationary at the point where progression ends and retrogression begins, the ancient astronomers were greatly puzzled, and to account for these irregularities in the planetary movements invented the hypothesis of epicycles. This doctrine is explained as follows in the article on the Ptolemaic System of Astronomy in Chambers's Encyclopaedia: " The acceleration of the sun on one side, and retardation on the other side of his orbit, is only apparent, and results from the earth not being in the centre of his sphere, c (see fig.), but at E, and consequently his motion appears to be slowest at P and quickest at R.


"The alternate progression and regression of the planets was accounted for by supposing them to move, not directly with their crystallines, but in a small circle whose centre was a fixed point in the crystalline, and which revolved on its axis as it was carried round with the latter; thus (fig.) the planet was carried round the small circle A B D, as that circle was carried round P Q R (now supposed to represent the planetary crystalline). The planet, while in the outer portion of its small circle, would thus have a forward and in the inner portion a backward motion. The larger circle was called an eccentric and the smaller an epicycle"

10. 1 Gr. spermolo&gouj. "The word", says Dr. Bloomfield in his annotated edition of the Greek New Testament, "was used properly of those small birds which live by picking up scattered seeds; but metaphorically of those paupers who frequented the market-places, and lived by picking up any scattered or refuse produce; and generally of persons of abject condition, without any certain means of support. Again, as the tribes of small birds which live by picking up seeds are especially garrulous, the word came to denote a prater." Though Cosmas here uses the word in its metaphorical sense, he once or twice afterwards uses it in the literal sense of a picker-up of seeds.

11. 1 See II Kings, xvii, 24-41.

12. 2 Gr. dimo&rfouj, lit. two-formed.

13. 3 An anticipation of the myth regarding Mahomet's coffin.

14. 4 The Platonists.

15. 1 Aristotle invented a term, e0ntele/xeia , to denote actuality of existence in contrast to its mere potentiality, du&namij. His followers, however, eventually came to use the term in the sense of a fifth element, namely mind, which differed entirely in its nature from the four elements of common speech. To this effect I may quote the words of Cicero: "Dicaearchus .... quemdam Phthiotam senem .... disserentem inducit, nihil esse omnino animum et hoc esse nomen totum inane .... Aristoteles .... quum quattuor nota illa genera principiorum esset complexus, e quibus omnia orerentur, quintam quamclam naturam censet esse, e qua sit mens. Cogitare enim et providere et discere .... haec et similia eorum in horum quattuor generum inesse nullo putat: quintum genus adhibet vacans nomine et sic ipsum animum e0ndele/xeian appellat novo nomine quasi quamdam continuatam motionem et perennem." (Tusc. Disp., i, 21, 22). Cicero has here confounded e0ntele/xeia with e0ndele/xeian, of which he has given the meaning correctly. Probably he had not seen the word in the written pages of Aristotle, but only heard it from the lips of Greek Peripatetics, who, like their countrymen of the present day, pronounced the letter tau~ very like de/lta.

16. 1 The Greek text, so far as I can see, must be wrongly punctuated. Ou)de\ ga_r a1nw fero&menon, ou)de\ ka&tw, ti/j o(mologh&seien e(wrake/nai pw&pote; I remove the mark of interrogation and construe the negative with tij, and not with fero&menon. The Latin version, however, follows the punctuation: Quis autem dicat se vidisse coelum nec sursum nec deorsum ferri? This rendering is inconsistent with the immediately subsequent context, where the author states his own view that the heaven is immoveable.

17. 1 This sentence ends with a clause which cannot be construed with it, but which might serve to begin the next paragraph. The clause is: 0Oura&nion te poiou&menoi porei/an = Then when making (i.e. tracing) the course of the planets through heaven.

18. 1 The hiatus has after it e0sqai fqeggo&menoj.

19. 1 The text has a0nqrw&pouj, an evident mistake for a!nqrwpoi.

20. 1 See Cicero, Acad. Prior., 2, 39, and Plutarch, 2, 869 c., on Antipodes. Nearly all the Christian Fathers held the same opinion as Cosmas abput the Antipodes; as, for instance, Lactantius, who asks: "Est quisqam tam ineptus qui credat esse homines, quorum vestigia sint superiora quam capita?" Augustin, Chrysostom, Severianus of Gabala, Beda, were likewise anti-Antipodeans.

21. 1 Antioch on the Orontes was founded by Seleucus Nicator in 300 B.C. Its first recorded earthquake occurred in 148 B.C., and it has frequently suffered since from the same cause. The one to which Cosmas here refers occurred in 526 A. D., and almost entirely destroyed the city, which, however, Justinian had rebuilt with great splendour before it was captured by Chosroes in 540 A.D. Corinth also suffered severely from this memorable earthquake.

22. 1 Gr. siku&a, which means both a cucumber and a cupping-glass. Montfaucon renders the word by the Latin cucumis, which means a cucumber but not a cupping-glass. Can he have used it in mistake for cucurbita? Charton does not give this illustration, though he gives the two which precede it. The argument is that it is the instrument ( o!rganon, i.e., the cupping-glass), which draws up the blood to the punctures, and not the heat from the wick burning inside the glass to produce a vacuum. There is an ambiguity in the statement of the argument.

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Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts