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Cosmas Indicopleustes

VI Century
The Christian Topography of Cosmas Indicopleustes combines extraordinary descriptions of the world with an unusual cosmology. Cosmas was a merchant who travelled to places like Ethiopia (525) and Ceylon (530). Although he neglected to record the name of the person who dedicated the Monumentum Aduliscum in Axum, he preserved the text of the stele and preserved a bit of history that would otherwise have been lost. He takes his cosmology from Origen. The world has the shape of the Tabernacle of Moses. In the upper part dwell the blessed. In the middle section dwell the living, and in the lower dwell the dead. The Topography relates the spread of Christianity and argues against the Ptolemaic view of the world.

The twelve volumes were published in Greek around 547. Two Medieval manuscripts exist. The book was translated into Latin in 1706 and into English in 1897.

Cosmas eventually became a monk, and fragments of his Biblical exegesis also exist. He seems to follow Theodore of Mopsuestia and Diodore of Tarsus; for this reason, some scholars believe that Cosmas may have been a Nestorian.

Karen Rae Keck


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