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Though the early Church Fathers were inclined to reject the idea of a globular earth, there were not a few among who found the theory of a circular earth an acceptable one. In illustration of the doctrine of a circular earth, terrestrial globes certainly could not have been thought of as having any practical value. The rejecting of a€?classicala€™ geography and the impetus and rationale for this theocratic trend, while not originating with Cosmas, was synthesized and exaggerated in his works. Unfortunately, the book which he devoted to a description of countries, and which would have revealed his fine powers of observation, has not survived, like all of his other works - his Astronomical Tables, Commentaries on the Psalms, on the Song of Songs, and on the Gospels. The Christian Topography contains references to nearly seventy authorities selected from among philosophers, historians, travelers, doctors of the Church, soldiers, and statesmen. In subsequent Books (II-XII) he fulfills his secondary objective, that of revealing the a€?true doctrinea€? of the universe and the eartha€™s place in it, as defined by Cosmasa€™ interpretation of the Scriptures, confirmed by the Church Fathers (Book X) and even non-Christian sources (Book XII). 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. This great dome is divided into two strata by the firmament; from the earth to the firmament is the present dispensation of angels and men containing the land, the sea and the inhabitants of the world, with the angels hovering close to the a€?roofa€? holding the sun, moon and stars which they controlled.
The sun, said Cosmas via Solomon, in rising, turns first toward the north, where it went down, and thence hastened to the place in which it arosea€?.
In all this Cosmas passed beyond the position of most of the theologians such as Lactantius (the a€?Christian Ciceroa€? of the third century) who preceded him. To illustrate this interpretive description of the earth and the universe, the Christian Topography contains, in all probability, the oldest Christian maps to have survived.
The world, as expressed by Cosmas on one of his diagrammatic maps shown here, is of course rectangular and flat, and is divided into two parts: present and antediluvian. Concerning the dimensions of the world Cosmas writes: a€?for if, on account of a miserable trade, men now try to go to the Seres, would they not much rather go far beyond, for the sake of Paradise, if there were any hope of reaching it?a€? The Seric or Silk Land, indeed, lay in the most distant recesses of India, far past the Persian Gulf, and even past the island of Ceylon.
Cosmas, like all good Christian geographers, shrank from the idea of an inhabited part of the world in the Antipodes, separated from Christianity by an ocean belt near the equator. In support of the same truth, Cosmas quotes the added testimony of Abraham, David, Hosea, Isaiah, Zachariah and Melchizedek, who clenched the case against the Antipodes - a€?For how, indeed, could even rain be described as a€?fallinga€™ or a€?descendinga€™ in regions where it could only be said to a€?come upa€™?a€? Over against these disproofs of folly and error stands the countless array of evidences for the true tabernacle theory, for the flatness and immutability of earth, founded upon Goda€™s stability, and for the shape of heaven, stretched like a skin-covering over our world, and glued to the edges of it at the horizon. Yet, after all, the Christian Topography will always be remarkable for other than the intended purposes.


Unknown artist, A sketch of Cosmasa€™ pattern of the universe, Codex Sinaiticus graecus 1186, fol. Unknown artist, A more detailed sketch of Cosmasa€™ pattern of the universe, Codex Sinaiticus graecus 1186, fol. The rejecting of a€?classicala€™ geography and the impetus and rationale for this theocratic trend, while not originating with Cosmas, was synthesized and exaggerated in his works.A  Both philosophically and cartographically Cosmasa€™ ideas were strictly dictated by his literal interpretation of the Bible.
Of these the PheisA?n [Pison] is the river of India, which some call the Indus or Ganges.A  It flows down from regions in the interior, and falls by many mouths into the Indian Sea, enjoying all of the same products as the Nile, from crocodiles to lotus flowers . With a rejection of the spherical theory of the ancients very naturally went the rejection of their globes. Some of his geographic descriptions are to be found as part of the Topographia, and a few fragments of the above writings do exist.
Comasa€™ primary objective and motivation in writing the treatise was to discredit the a€?false and heathen doctrine of a spherical eartha€?. Some of his fellow Christian writers openly declared that it did not matter so far as faith was concerned whether the earth was a sphere, a cylinder or a disc.
There is little doubt among scholars that the numerous sketches - of the world, of the northern mountains, of the Antipodes in derision and the rest - which are to be found in the 10th century Florentine manuscript copy were really drawn by Cosmas himself (or under his direction) during the sixth century; and are thus contemporary with the Madaba mosaic map (#121, Book I) and at least two centuries earlier than the map of Albi (#206), or the original sketch of the Spanish monk Beatus (#207).
The theory of such a region, found in some of the pagan writings of the early Greeks and later by the likes of Macrobius (#201), Isidore (#205) and other perpetuators of pagan thought, was impossible, according to Cosmas, on two counts.
For many centuries following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, there appears to have been in Christian Europe but little interest in the fundamental principles of geographical or astronomical science. Some of his fellow Christian writers openly declared that it did not matter so far as faith was concerned whether the earth was a sphere, a cylinder or a disc.A  But this sort of rationalizing was not good enough for Cosmas. Cosmas undertakes, with much else, to explain the symbolism of that Tabernacle in detail.A  In calling it worldly, Cosmas explained, St. Predicated upon the concept of a a€?flat eartha€? and oriented with North at the top and Paradise in the East (right) where the human race dwelt until the Flood when they were transported across the now impassable Ocean.
And so the Brahmin philosophers declared that if you stretched a cord from Sina, through Persia, to the Roman Empire, you would exactly cut the world in half. What was contained in the Scriptures found a more ready acceptance than what was to be found in a€?pagan writersa€?.


In the first place, the region, if indeed there was land there, would be uninhabitable because of the withering heat. The theories of the Greeks and the Romans respecting a spherical earth and a spherical firmament encompassing it, in illustration of which they had constructed globes, were not entirely forgotten, but such theories in general were considered to be valueless hindrances rather than helps to the theological beliefs of the new Christian era.
This extensive travel can be substantiated through examination of his detailed description of these areas.A  As a climax to this unusually broad and worldly experience Cosmas embraced Christianity, going so far as to become a religious monk to demonstrate the depth of his conversion. God had once explained to Moses on Mount Sinai exactly how the Tabernacle was to be built, and when it was found in the writings of Saint Paul that there was a passage which could be interpreted to mean that the Tabernacle was a picture of the world, it was quite natural for the Church Fathers to envision the world as a vast tabernacle: a tent with a rectangular base, twice as long as it was broad, and with an arched roof supported by four pillars. Isaiaha€™s statement, a€?It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth,a€? was regarded as one altogether adequate on which to found a theory of the form of the earth, and it was accepted by such biblical interpreters as Lactantius, Cosmas Indicopleustes, Diodorus of Tarsus, Chrysostom, Severian of Gabala, by those who were known as the Syrians, by Procopius and Decuil. Both prophets and apostles, says Cosmas, agree that the Tabernacle was a true copy of the universe, the express image of the visible world.
The GeA?n [Gihon or Nile] again, which rises somewhere in Ethiopia and Egypt, and discharges its waters into our gulf by several mouths, while the Tigris and Euphrates, which have their sources in the regions of Parsarmenia, flow down to the Persian Gulf . Isidore of Seville in the sixth century.A  Two hundred years later Virgil of Salzburg with Basil and Ambrose agreed that even though it was a delicate subject, it was not necessarily closed to the Church. Men, however, such as Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Philoponos inclined strongly toward the Aristotelian doctrine of a spherical earth. Cosmas was most emphatic on the subject.A  Pagans, he said, a€?do not blush to affirm that there are people who live on the under surface of the earth .
Isidore of Seville (#205) appears to have been a supporter of the spherical doctrine, as was also the Venerable Bede, who, in his De atura rerum, upholds the doctrine of a spherical earth on practically the same grounds as those advanced by Aristotle. But should one wish to examine more elaborately the question of the Antipodes, he would easily find them to be old wivesa€™ fables.A  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, on air or fire, or any other kind of body, how could both be found standing upright?A  The one would assuredly be found in the natural upright position, and the other, contrary to nature, head downward.




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