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The Cosmography of Aethicus Ister
Edition, Translation, and Commentary

M. Herren (ed.)
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CXIX+360 p., 2 b/w ill., 160 x 250 mm, 2011
ISBN: 978-2-503-53577-7
Languages: English, Latin
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One of the most skilful forgeries of the Middle Ages, the Cosmography of Aethicus Ister has puzzled scholars for over 150 years, not least because of its challenging Latinity. Written at a western centre in the first part of the eighth century, the work purports to be a heavily censored epitome made by St. Jerome of a “cosmography” by an Istrian philosopher named Aethicus. This writer, who is otherwise unknown, describes a flat-earth universe resembling that of Cosmas Indicopleustes, then gives an eye-witness account of his travels to the “isles of the gentiles” in the North and East. There he encounters not only savage races, but also monsters, Amazons, and other figures of mythology. Alexander the Great also figures prominently by immuring the “unclean races,” who will escape to ravage the world at the coming of the Anti-Christ. Not all is fiction. The author’s observations on volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis will interest the scientific reader. The last part deals in coded fashion with contemporary events in the eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, and may provide a clue to the author’s origins. The present volume offers a new critical text, the first translation, and a detailed commentary covering every aspect of the work. 

Michael W. Herren is Distinguished Research Professor of Classics emer. at York University, and the editor/translator of the Hisperica Famina, Aldhelm’s prose works, and the poems of John Scottus Eriugena.    

Review

"Resümierend bleibt festzuhalten, dass dieser rätselhafte Text, der die Forschung mit Sicherheit auch weiter vor kaum zu lösende Probleme stellen wird, nun wenigstens durch eine zuverlässige Edition, die Texteingriffe nicht scheut, eine leicht lesbare Übersetzung und ausführliche Erläuterungen gut erschlossen ist." (Christian Schwaderer, in: H-Soz-u-Kult, H-Net Reviews, October, 2011)

"With this volume, Professor Herren has brought the studies of the Cosmography to a new level. His masterful interpretation of the text opens new directions of inquiry, and it may generate useful debates. The book also makes important contributions to a broad range of questions, from the fine points of early medieval Latin to the history of scientific thought to the practices of editing difficult texts. (...) a significant milestone in the study of the Cosmography." (Natalia Lozovsky, in The Medieval Review 13.04.01)

"The latin translation can be read with pleasure on its own, without reference to the Latin, as it surely will be by students of medieval geography, ethnology, and travel literature. (...) [The] edition represents a huge step forward: it is a major contribution to our understanding of early Medieval Latin philology and literature." (Michael Lapidge, in The Journal of Medieval Latin, 22, 2012, p. 311)

"(...) it must be said that Herren has greatly advanced the study of Aethicus and that no future edition should appear without both a translation, and a commentary to justify it." (Leogranc Holford-Strevens, in Peritia, 22-23, 2011-2012, p. 368-384)

"Mit seiner Edition der Kosmographie und ihrer Übersetzung hat der Herausgeber eine bemerkenswerte Grundlage für die weitere intensive Beschäftigung mit dem Text geschaffen. Es darf als sicher gelten, dass der Band vor allem durch die Übersetzung zahlreiche interessierte Leser und Benutzer jenseits des kleinen Kreises von Spezialisten, die sich bislang mit ihm beschäftigten, finden wird. Und vielleicht werden so künftig weitere Rätsel entschlüsselt, die das Werk und seinen Autor umgeben." (Andreas Fischer, in: Sehepunkte, 13 (2013), Nr. 9)

Interest Classification:
Classics, Ancient History, Oriental Studies
Latin literature
Early Christian & Patristic Latin literature

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