The Christian Topography of Cosmas Indicopleustes


The Christian Topography of Cosmas Indicopleustes is a literary monument of Byzantine origin. The book was written in the sixth century by the monk Cosmas, whose sobriquet, Indicopleustes, points to an earlier career as a merchant and traveler. The work was widely disseminated in translation in Russia, where it had a long manuscript tradition and was read and transcribed for centuries. Among the Old Believers (dissenters from Russian Orthodox reforms in the mid-17th century), the work remains popular to the present day. In terms of content, the composition is a medieval encyclopedia of a unique character. It contains knowledge of both a theological and a natural philosophical or scientific character, and describes, from the perspective of Christian dogma, human understanding of the surrounding world: the structure of the universe, the geography of the world, the nature of humanity, the animal world, and so forth. Manuscripts of the work as a rule were illustrated. This copy contains many colorful miniatures illustrating the book’s themes. The manuscript, which dates from the early 19th century, is from the collections of the Institute of History of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (II SO RAN) in Novosibirsk, Russia, and was acquired in Vostochno-Kazakhstanskaia Oblast (part of present-day Kazakhstan). It was digitized in the early 2000s as part of the Meeting of Frontiers project of the Library of Congress and partner institutions in the Russian Federation, the United States, and Germany.

Last updated: June 30, 2016