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Cosmas Indicopleustes


Christian Topography 11,7[]

Original Greek[]

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Τοῦτο τὸ ζῷον καλεῖται μονόκερως. Οὐκ ἐθεασάμην δὲ αὐτό· στήλας δὲ αὐτοῦ χαλκᾶς ἀνατιθεμένας ἐν τῇ Αἰθιοπίᾳ ἐν οἴκῳ τετραπύργῳ βασιλικῷ τέσσαρας ἑώρακα, διὸ καὶ οὕτως κατέγραψα. Φασὶ δὲ περὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι φοβερόν ἐστι καὶ ἀκαταμάχητον ἐν τῷ κέρατι ἔχον τὴν ὅλην ἰσχύν· καὶ ἡνίκα δόξῃ παρὰ πολλῶν διώκεσθαι καὶ καταληφθῇ, εἰς κρημνὸν ἐφάλλεται καὶ ῥίπτει ἑαυτὸν ἐκ τοῦ ὕψους, καὶ κατερχόμενον ἀντιστρέφεται, καὶ τὸ κέρας δέχεται τὴν ὅλην ὁρμήν, καὶ ἀβλαβὲς διαμένει. Τοιαῦτα δὲ καὶ ἡ θεία Γραφὴ διηγεῖται περὶ αὐτοῦ λέγουσα· «Σῶσόν με ἐκ στόματος λεόντων, καὶ ἀπὸ κεράτων μονοκερώτων τὴν ταπείνωσίν μου», καὶ πάλιν· «Καὶ ὁ ἠγαπημένος ὡς υἱὸς μονοκερώτων»· καὶ πάλιν ἐν ταῖς εὐλογίαις τοῦ Βαλαάμ, αἷς εὐλόγησε τὸν Ἰσραήλ, φησὶν ἐκ δευτέρου· «Οὕτως ὁ Θεὸς ὡδήγησεν αὐτὸν ἐξ Αἰγύπτου, ὡς δόξαν μονοκέρωτος», αὐτῷ διὰ πάντων ἰσχὺν καὶ πεποίθησιν καὶ δόξαν μαρτυροῦσα τῷ ζῴῳ.

English Translation (J. W. McCrindle, 1909)[]

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This animal is called the unicorn, but I cannot say that I have seen him. But I have seen four brazen figures of him set up in the four-towered palace of the King of Ethiopia. From these figures I have been able to draw him as you see. They speak of him as a terrible beast and quite invincible, and say that all his strength lies in his horn. When he finds himself pursued by many hunters and on the point of being caught, he springs up to the top of some precipice whence he throws himself down and in the descent turns a somersault so that the horn sustains all the shock of the fall, and he escapes unhurt. And scripture in like manner speaks concerning him, saying, "Save me from the mouth of lions, and my humility from the horns of unicorns." And again: "And he that is beloved as the son of unicorns;" and again in the blessings of Balaam wherewith he blessed Israel, he says for the second time: "God so led him out of Egypt even as the glory of the unicorn;" thus bearing complete testimony to the strength, audacity, and glory of the animal.

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