Cosmas was born in the early 6th century in Alexandria of the Byzantine province of Egypt. He was lucky to live at the period where Byzantium was a world power under the reign of the notorious emperor Justinian. He was a merchant and later a monk, he became famous because of his Topografia Christiania(Christian Topography) a series of 12 books in which he recorded a variety of information which derived from different fields of science or religion.His books were all written in Koine Greek.
Many scholars doubt about the existence of a person called Cosmas. They even question the fact that Christian topography was written by only one author. There is also a theory that the author's name(Cosmas) derives from the contents of the books (World=Cosmos)
The commercial pursuits of Cosmas carried him into seas and countries far remote from his home. Thus he tells us that he had sailed upon three of the great gulfs which run up into the earth from the ocean, namely, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and Persian Gulf. He sailed also upon that part of the Erythraean Sea which beyond Cape Guardafui stretches southward toward the outlying ocean, which in those days was regarded with terror and held to be unnavigable on account of the violent currents and dense and dismal fogs in which it was thought to be enveloped. When the ship which carried Cosmas was approaching this dread region of currents and fogs, a storm gathered overhead, and flocks of albatrosses, like birds of ill omen, hovered on the wing high above the mast. Dismay seized alike the passengers and the crew, and amidst outcries of "port the helm," the course of the vessel was reversed and she headed northwards.Cosmas does not say whether in the course of this voyage he reached India, which was his destination when he embarked. |
If he did not, he must have made a second and more successful attempt; for no one, we think, who reads his eleventh book, in which he describes the island of Ceylon and the ports, commerce, and animals of India, can doubt that he writes about these places from personal knowledge of them
One of the most interesting and instructive parts of the Topography is that in which Cosmas relates what he had heard and seen in the course of his travels in Ethiopia. By the name of Ethiopia he designates in a general way the vast region which stretches southward from Egypt down towards the equator; and from an incidental remark which he drops when treating of the Adulitic inscription on the throne, we learn that he had traversed it almost throughout its length and its breadth. Like Herodotus of old, he was ever athirst after knowledge, and when he was unable to visit places which lay in the vicinity of his route, he made inquiries about them from such persons as knew them and could be trusted to report things truly.
The capital of Ethiopia at that time was Axum, an important centre of commerce, and also of religion and learning. It was one of the places which Cosmas, in pursuit of his calling, visited, and from one or two of his statements we may infer that he was well received at Court, and was permitted by the King, who professed the Christian faith and could speak Greek, to travel freely through his dominions.
The seaport of Axum was Adule or Adulis, the modern Zulá or Thulla, situated near Annesley Bay and distant from the capital about one hundred and twenty miles or an eight days' journey. Cosmas found himself here in the year 525 A.D., at which time Elesboas, the King of Axum, was preparing an expedition against the Homerites in Arabia. Here, at the request of the Governor, Cosmas, along with his friend Menas, a monk of the monastery at Raithu, copied the famous Greek inscriptions on the marble tablet and the basanite throne, which lay together outside the town on the road which led to Axum.
Among other parts of Ethiopia which our traveller visited we may include the Aromatic country that great projection on the east of the African Continent which terminates in Cape Guardafui. His description of this district (which supplied the Egyptians of old with their spices for embalming the dead), and of its products and its foreign trade, shows that it must have come from the pen of an eye-witness. He may also have proceeded to the north-west, and visited the kingdom of Meroe (now Khartum), for in that direction lay the seats of several tribes mentioned in the inscription on the throne. Montfaucon, in his Preface, credits him with the discovery, in the Abyssinian province called Agau, of the true source of the Nile. It was not, however, the source of the main stream which he discovered, but that of the Blue Nile, which, a millennium afterwards, was rediscovered by the Portuguese, and more recently by the Scottish traveller Bruce. There was still another interesting locality which the traveller tells us he visited, and this lay on the other side of the Red Sea----the Desert, namely, of Sinai, where he found, strewn among the sands, fragments of rock covered with inscriptions which he took to have been carved by the Israelites when they were wandering in that wilderness.
Cosmas, when all his travels were over, returned to Alexandria, perhaps after paying a visit to Jerusalem; and, abandoning the secular life, retired to the seclusion of the cloister, where he devoted his leisure to the composition of works on descriptive geography, cosmography, and Scriptural exegesis. Of these, the Christian Topography alone is extant. The loss of the geographical treatise, as Montfaucon well says, is to be deplored with tears. It has been conjectured that the geographical passages in the Topography, as, for instance, the description of Ceylon in the eleventh book, are extracts from that treatise.
|The number 11 depicts two Athenian Pagans with their characteristic outfit.|
From 12 to 19 .We see depictions of the tabernacle which contained the ark of covenant(the Jewish graal) from indoors and outdoors.
http://www.tertullian.org , wikipedia.org