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The Christian Topography


The Christian Topography of Cosmas Indicopleustes was also known in Old Russia. Cosmas was a merchant who travelled to Egypt, Ethiopia and Arabia around the year 530. In spite of his nickname “Indicopleustes” (“sailor to India”), Cosmas appears not to have visited India itself and his information about this country is drawn from other people’s accounts.

The work consists of twelve chapters which contain reflections on the structure of the universe. In particular, Cosmas states that the earth is flat, likening it and the sky above to a room with a vaulted ceiling. The sky that we see consists of water, but above it is another sky invisible to us. The movement of the heavenly bodies and atmospheric phenomena are guided by angels specially appointed for that purpose. The information about the animal and plant world of the countries Cosmas discusses is equally fantastic.

Fragments from the Christian Topography are found already in thirteenth-century manuscripts, although full copies of the work have survived only from a later period.37