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Cosmas Indicopleustes, Christian Topography (1897) pp. 374-385.  Book 12

(From the Latin of Montfaucon.)

WE wish to apprise the reader that this twelfth book of Cosmas Indicopleustes which is contained in the Laurentian Codex, but in a mutilated state at the end, is not found in the Vatican Codex of the eighth or ninth century. For, as one may see in the course of perusing the work, the books which compose it were written at different times by the author, who, when he had published in the outset only five books on the figure of the world, added the sixth book, and at intervals the seventh, eighth, ninth, etc., against the champions of the opposite view, who clamoured against the work immediately after it appeared. As his opponents did not remain silent, and afterwards started new objections, Cosmas manfully, in his new books which he added to the original work, replied to those who stood out against him as best he could; and since it is probable that copies of the published books had got into circulation before he could add new books to the original, it seems to have come about that that copy, from which the text of the Vatican Codex was derived, was in the hands of the public before the twelfth book had been added. Nor will it be out of place to point out that Cosmas Indicopleustes not only added new books to those already finished, if the case so required, but even altered, added, deleted much and made marginal notes; whence it happens that the Vatican is not altogether in unison with the Laurentian Codex. For, as we have already stated, that copy, from which the Vatican text is derived, makes the beginning much shorter, whence it can be plainly seen that the copy of Cosmas, from which the Laurentian text was derived, had been revised and extended by subsequent labours of the author.



Yet another book showing that many of the old Pagan writers testify to the antiquity of the divine scriptures uttered through Moses and the prophets. And that the Greeks appear to have learned letters the last of all, and to have their unbelief with regard to the divine scriptures deeply rooted.

IN the Chaldaean books of Bêrôsus1 and certain others it is thus written: that ten kings reigned over the Chaldaeans 2242 myriads of years, but, under their tenth king Xisuthrus, as they called him, there was a great flood, and that Xisuthrus being warned by God embarked in a ship with his wife and kindred and cattle, and that having been brought over in safety, as their story goes, to the mountains of Armenia, he offered sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Gods after the flood. These writers have thus presented in a new form nearly all the account given by Moses; for men continued to live in the earth beyond [the Ocean] |376 2242 years for a course of ten generations, and, under Noah who was the tenth the flood having occurred, they passed over to this earth by means of the Ark. For Noah is he whom they call Xisuthrus. But by having changed the days into years, they asserted that those ten kings had lived 2242 myriads of years, since the number of years reckoned by Moses to have elapsed from Adam to the deluge of Noah was 2242. In like manner the philosopher Timaeus 2 also describes this earth as surrounded by the Ocean, and the Ocean as surrounded by the more remote earth. For he supposes that there is to westward an island, Atlantis, lying out in the Ocean, in the direction of Gadeira (Cadiz), of an enormous magnitude, and relates that the ten kings having procured mercenaries from the nations in this island [341] came from the earth far away, and conquered Europe and Asia, but were afterwards conquered by the Athenians, while that island itself was submerged by God under the sea. Both Plato and Aristotle praise this philosopher, and Proclus has written a commentary on him. He himself expresses views similar to our own with some modifications, transferring the scene of the events from the east to the west. Moreover he mentions those ten generations 3 as well as that earth which lies beyond the Ocean. And in a word it is evident that all of them borrow from Moses, and publish his statements as their own. |377 

For the writers of Chaldaean history as being more ancient, and living farther east, have mentioned in their works both the deluge and the building of the Tower, since they saw that Tower with their own eyes under the process of construction, being no doubt well aware that the men of that time, in fear of another flood, erected it for themselves as a place of refuge and safety. But the men of later times, when they had read Moses also, and found that Noah, in whose time the deluge occurred, was the tenth from Adam, they feigned that they also had ten kings, who had reigned 2242 myriads of years, as has already been said. Of these the first was Alorus, that is, Adam; the second Alaaprus, Seth; the third, Almêdôn, Enoch; the fourth, Ammeôn, Cainân: the fifth, Ammegalaros, Mahalaleel; the sixth, Daonus, a keeper of sheep, Jared; the seventh, Euedôrachos, Enoch; the eighth, Amempsinachus, Methuselah; the ninth, Otiortes, Lamech; the tenth, Xisuthrus, Noah. In his time they say the great flood recorded by Moses occurred.

The writers again of Egyptian history, namely, Manethô,4 and Chaerêmôn,5 Apollonius surnamed Molôn,6 |378 Lysimachus7 and Apiôn the Grammarian8 mention Moses and the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. For, as being Egyptians and the historians of Egypt, they also agree in their relations of local transactions, and traduce Moses as a promoter of sedition, who stirred up a mob of rascally beggars and lepers,9 and say that these had gone away to Mount Sinai and Jerusalem, and were called Jews. And in a word the Chaldaeans and Egyptians, as being older nations than the Greeks, testify in a manner to divine scripture, asserting that both the deluge in the days of Noah did occur, that a Tower was built, and that there was a departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. But the Greeks, who are later than these, and were later in learning the art of writing, and who are settled, far away from the east, in the regions of the west, and live far remote both from Judaea and from Egypt, knew nothing about these events, either by seeing them or hearing about them. [342] Wherefore even unto this day they refuse to believe both |379 the Old and the New Testament, thinking that what they relate is fabulous.

But the Chaldaeans and the Medes and Persians, having a somewhat wider knowledge, were instructed by the building of the Tower, and the deluge, and by what happened in the case of Hezekiah and Jonah, and by the Captivity, and by Daniel and the Three Children, and also partly by the writings themselves. In like manner also the Egyptians were instructed by the affairs of Joseph and of Moses, and by the people of Israel, and these nations were thus better prepared for a ready acceptance of Christianity. Even the Greeks, however, did believe later on through the Apostles, when they saw the wonders which they wrought. And when still later again signs ceased, and time rolled on, you will find Greeks who have believed, and have been baptized, lapsing, nevertheless, many of them into unbelief, and ignoring the Old and the New Testament, that is, divine scripture, as persons who have not long had the root of religion and the foundation of faith deeply implanted. Wherefore in their writings they have not mentioned, as the early Chaldaeans and Egyptians have done, anything about the deluge and the building of the Tower, and the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, and about the first historian, Moses. But though they regard themselves as very superior persons and the wisest and foremost of men, they are nevertheless from their swelling vanity ignorant of many things. Wherefore one of the Egyptians, whose name was Solomon, said to Plato: The Greeks are always children, and no Greek is ever old, nor is there any learning among you that is of hoar antiquity.10 Yet some, for instance Dius and Menander, |380 who translated the antiquities of the Tyrians into the Greek language, in the works they composed bear testimony to Solomon and the Jews; and further, the whole, I may almost say, of Ethiopia, and the regions to the south of it, bear testimony to divine scripture. But the Greeks alone, who are wise in their own conceit, know not wherein their salvation lies. Timaeus alone, who has been already mentioned, drawing from what source I know not, but perhaps from the Chaldaeans, recast the story of those ten kings, feigning that they came from the earth beyond the Ocean into the island of Atlantis, which he says was submerged below the sea, and that taking its inhabitants as mercenaries, and arriving in this earth, they conquered Europe and Asia----all which is a most manifest invention, for as he could not point out the island, he gave out that God had consigned it to a watery grave.

But those Greeks already mentioned who are admired for their wisdom, when at a late period they had acquired letters and had become possessed of laws, imagined that they alone had rained wisdom upon the world. I refer to their Lycurguses and their Solons and their Teucers of [343] the Locrians, and all the rest of them, who are but men of yesterday, if put in comparison with the renowned Moses, in whose time not so much even as the name of Law 11 was known among the Greeks. Homer is my witness, who nowhere in his poetry uses the word. For there was not |381 in his days such a thing, but the people were governed by the best judgments and the commands of their kings; and from that time till long afterwards, they continued to use unwritten customs, and to alter many of them from time to time according to circumstances. For the Lacedemonians and Cretans conducted education by the training of the habits and not by oral instruction, but the Athenians and nearly all the other nations prescribed by law what ought to be done, while neglecting to accustom the people to conform in practice to the law. Yet one nation after another made a gradual advance to a fixed and authoritative code of laws, not imposed from the beginning like that of Moses of old, who educated his nation in the knowledge of letters and of fixed law, being the first who showed both by word and deed the firm and permanent nature of the law and of letters, until, after a long course of time, he conducted the nations, guided and guarded by the firm nature of the law, to the predicted Lord Christ and his teaching.

The Phoenicians accordingly, being next neighbours to the Jews and having learned letters from them, both wrote inscriptions earlier than the Greeks,12 and prepared the Greeks to learn letters; for Cadmus, taking the letters of the alphabet from Tyre, carried them into Greece. Let not the Greeks then show any supercilious pride, as if they had been the first to invent any thing new of benefit to the world, seeing that they have borrowed from others letters and laws and the notion of the sphere, and astronomy |382 and astrology. For as it was late before they made a figure in the world, they imagined the world to be eternal; having been taught by others to regard the heaven as a sphere, they, as if they were the first who held this opinion, claimed as a discovery of their own the laws of astronomy; and although they were taught letters by others, they suppose themselves to be the oldest and earliest writers: although they have been taught by others to frame laws, they have depicted themselves as the legislators of old times, and founders of just government; although they have received a copious language and an elegant mode of speech from the bounty of God, yet, being unthankful to God the Giver, they are disobedient to His words; and while they have received everything from God and their predecessors, they set them aside, and with swaggering insolence ascribe everything to themselves. For, contending against the divine words, which say: He that established the heaven as a vault,13 these most superior persons cry out in opposition and say: "It is not so, for it is spherical, and this is manifest from the eclipses which we have already adduced." But further, when they hear the resurrection preached to them, they pronounce this to be impossible, for how, say they, can one who has been used up to form [344] countless bodies in succession, rise up? And, to be brief, they attack with sophistries the Giver of their speech in their endeavour to overthrow the doctrines of His Church. And yet He has not left them without a witness to Himself, that He was working for their good and taking thought for it beforehand, for He manifested to them some tokens of His goodness, some four hundred years or more 14 before the coming of Christ, in the days of Alexander the Macedonian, long after the Trojan war, when the Greeks were still |383 flourishing. Let me give an instance of this: When Alexander the Macedonian was passing by Jerusalem in prosecution of his war against Darius, the High Priest of the Jews, arrayed in the robes of his office, came forth to meet him, whereupon Alexander dismounted from his horse and in a very kindly manner embraced him. And when his attendants reproached him for so doing and said: Why hast thou done so? he excused himself and said: When I set out at first from Macedonia, a man dressed in this style was seen by me in a dream who said to me: Go forth and conquer. The result was that the King himself offered sacrifices to God and bestowed many gifts on the Temple, and accorded many privileges to the country of the Jews.15

In subsequent times Ptolemy surnamed Philadelphus, after having made careful inquiry from Tryphon the Phalerean16 about the Jewish books, and learned the truth concerning them, earnestly solicited them from the High Priest Eleazar, to whom as well as to the Temple he sent many presents. These books he received along with seventy elderly men, who translated them from the Hebrew into the Greek tongue, and he deposited them on the shelves of his own library. This also was a work of divine providence, that the translation had been prepared before the coming of Christ, lest, if it were done afterwards in the days of the Apostles, it would be exposed to general suspicion, as if they had interpreted what had been said of old by the prophets both concerning Christ and the calling of the Gentiles in a way to suit their own predilections. |384 When Ptolemy Physcôn 17 again had conquered the Jews, and wished to destroy those here in Alexandria by means of his elephants, but God had unexpectedly turned the rage of the animals against his soldiery, he was taught to revere God, and he honoured thereafter with sacrifices and oblations of gifts Him who was the true God, and His people, namely, the Jews. And other kings of the Macedonian empire there were who invited them to be their allies in war; while others, again, who preferred to war against them and held them under subjection for a long time afterwards, witnessed Providence turning to work in their favour, and aroused for their help, and even saw themselves conquered by men who were insignificant and few in number.

And to speak briefly they were trained by wars and miracles and dreams and their sacred books, and were thus taught to know Him who was truly God, Him whom the Jews revere and worship, in order that they also might be [345] the better prepared for the reception of Christianity, so that, at the time when our Lord sojourned upon earth, many nations of Greece, seeing the signs wrought by the Apostles, assented to the faith of Christ, confessing His resurrection and His ascension into heaven. But now, after a long lapse of time and the cessation of signs, they have fallen into a sort of oblivion of that faith, and have reverted to the former superstition, declaring it impossible that there can be a resurrection of the dead and an ascent into heaven. Wherefore you find them observing baptism, and yet thinking that the heaven has a spherical form, in order that the resurrection of their bodies and their ascension into heaven may be denied. These men one will mostly |385 find discussing philosophy with the Pagans alone, and setting forth eclipses as arguments to prove the world of a spherical figure, as if that were a divine doctrine, in this themselves deceived while they deceive others. Wherefore we, by undertaking to exhibit the figures and the places of the whole world, and the revolution of the heavenly bodies, controvert their views from divine scripture, doing our best by means of all these 18 * * *  


[Footnotes moved to the end and renumbered]

1. 1 Cosmas seems to have derived his knowledge of the works of the historians whom he cites in this book mainly from Josephus.

Berosus was a priest of Belus at Babylon. He was born in the reign of Alexander the Great, and in that of Antiochus Theos wrote in the Greek language the history of Babylonia. This work, which includes notices of the history of Chaldaea, Assyria and Media, is now lost, but some fragments of it: have been preserved in Josephus, Eusebius, and some of the Christian Fathers. Berosus was acquainted with the Jewish scriptures, and hence his statements are often in agreement with those of the Old Testament.

2. 1 Timaeus the Locrian was a Pythagorean philosopher, and is said to have been one of Plato's teachers. In the dialogue which bears his name, Plato puts into his mouth, on account of his deep knowledge of physics and astronomy, a long and learned discourse on the origin of the universe and the formation of man. It is not Timaeus, however, who in that dialogue delivers the myth about "the island Atlantis which was larger than Libya and Asia put together," but Critias. See chap. vi. of the Dialogue.

3. 2 The Timaeus merely states that in the Atlantic island there was formed a powerful league of kings, but their exact number is not specified as Cosmas would have us believe.

4. 1 Manethô, who flourished in Egypt during the reign of the first Ptolemy and survived till that of Philadelphus, was, like Berôsus, a priest, and like him, wrote a history of his own country based upon its priestly records. As many fabulous stories were circulated by other writers under his name, his work, which was written in Greek, and gave an account of the religion, history and chronology of the Egyptians, sank into discredit, and it was not until quite recent times that his authority as an historian has been restored, the inscriptions on the Egyptian monuments having been found to confirm such portions of his works as have come down to our times.

5. 2 Chaerêmôn, who flourished in the earlier part of the first century of our aera, and was by birth an Alexandrian, was chief librarian of the famous Alexandrian library, and was also one of Nero's preceptors. He wrote a work on the history of Egypt, in which, according to Josephus, he advanced wilful falsehoods. Only one or two fragments of this work have been preserved.

6. 3 This is the famous rhetorician of Rhodes, who went to Rome, where he pleaded causes and had the honour of giving instructions in rhetoric to Cicero and to Julius Caesar. In one of his works, mentioned by Josephus, he wrote against the Jews. Not one of his writings is extant.

7. 1 Lysimachus was an Alexandrian grammarian who flourished during the latter half of the second century. Josephus cites a work called 'Aiguptiaka&, which is supposed to have been written by him.

8. 2 Apiôn, who was a native of Oasis, but wished to be considered an Alexandrian, taught rhetoric at Rome in the reigns of Tiberius and Claudius. He was so loquacious and so boastful of himself that the former of these emperors was wont to call him the cymbalum mundi. Among the numerous works which he wrote was one, highly valued, upon Egypt, in which he frequently attacked the Jews. He attacked them also in a separate work, entitled Against the Jews, and of this the contents are known from the reply made by Josephus. The largest fragment of his writings is that which has been preserved by Aulus Gellius, containing the story of Androcles and the lion.

9. 3 Gr. plh~qoj tw~n a)gurtw~n kai\ lelwbhme/nwn. This is Manethô's description of the Israelites. See Josephus, Contra Apion. i, 28.

10. 1 Cosmas must here be quoting the Timaeus of Plato from memory, for he misrepresents what is there stated----namely, that the charge advanced against the Greeks of being always children was made to Solon by an Egyptian priest. It is well known that Solon, after his legislation had been adopted, withdrew from Athens for ten years, and that one of the countries which he visited during that time was Egypt, where he conversed with two learned priests, Psenophis of Heliopolis and Sonchis of Sais. It seems singular that Cosmas should have converted a name so well known as that of Solon into Solomon. Had he only a hearsay knowledge of the dialogue?

11. 1 Gr. no&moj. The laws of Solon were called no&moi, those of Draco qesmoi/.

12. 1 One of the earliest known Greek inscriptions is that which is to be seen in Nubia near Abu Simnel. It was made in the reign of Psamatik II, King of Egypt, by his generals Apollonius and Amasis, and its date is about 595 B.C. Kadmos, according to Mr Sayce, is certainly Phoenician. The question has been settled by a cuneiform tablet, which informs us that Qadmu was the name of the "god". See The Academy, 22nd September, 1894, p. 217.

13. 1 Isai. xl, 23.

14. 2 Not more but less by about 70 years.

15. 1 This story is now discredited, as is also that which immediately follows concerning the Septuagint, of the origin of which little or nothing is known for certain. Both stories are taken from Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews.

16. 2 Tryphon is evidently a slip of memory on Cosmas's part for Demetrius,

17. 1 Physcôn (so called from his obesity) was the seventh sovereign of the Ptolemaic dynasty, and reigned from B.c. 170 to B.C. 117. Cosmas has copied the story here related of him from Josephus, Contra Apion. 11, 5.

18. 1 The last leaf of the Florentine MS. is wanting. Hence the abrupt breaking off in the middle of a sentence.

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