Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Cosmas of Prague

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Bohemian historian, b. about 1045, at Prague, Bohemia; d. there, 21 October, 1125. He belonged to a knightly family, received his first instruction in the schools of Prague, and studied grammar and dialectics at Liège under the direction of a renowned master named Franco. At Liège he acquired good literary taste and that acquaintance with the classics which is evident throughout his work. While still young he entered ecclesiastical life at Prague, but was not ordained priest until 11 June, 1099, at Gran, Hungary. In due time he became a member of the cathedral chapter of St. Vitus in Prague, and ultimately its dean. According to a general custom of the age, while still a minor cleric, he was married to one Bozetecha, by whom he had a son named Henry or Zdic, afterwards Bishop of Olmütz. With the Bishops of Prague, Gebhard, Cosmas, and Hermann, he was on terms of great intimacy, and often accompanied them on their travels; he likewise enjoyed the esteem and the confidence of the rulers of Bohemia. Cosmas wrote in Latin a "Chronica Bohemorum", or historia of Bohemia from the earliest times to 1125. The work consists of three books; the first brings the narrative to 1038, the second to 1092, the third to 1125. For the early part he relied almost exclusively on popular tradition, since there was no previous work on the subject. For the other parts he drew from the testimony of eyewitnesses, from his own experience, or from monuments and written documents. As an historian, Cosmas is generally truthful and conscientious; he distinguishes between what is certain and what is based only on rumours or tradition. The style is pleasing, and the character-sketches are vivid. Owing to these qualities, and also to the fact that he was the first writer of Bohemian history, he is called the Herodotus of Bohemia. The work was edited repeatedly: Freher, "Scriptores rerum bohemicarum" (Hanover, 1602, 1607, 1620); Mencke, "Scriptores rerum Germ.: Saxon." (Leipzig, 1728), I; Pelzl and Dobrowsky; "Scriptores rerum bohemicarum" (Prague, 1783); Koepke, "Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script." (Hanover, 1851), IX; also in Migne, P.L., CLXVI; Emler and Tomek, "Fontes rerum bohemicarum" (Prague, 1874), II.

KOEPKE, Prolegomena to his edition of Cosmas in Mon. Germ. Hist., and MIGNE, P.L.; BOROWY in Kirchenlex. (Freiburg im Br., 1884), III; POTTHAST, Bibliotheca medii oevi (Berlin, 1896), I; CHEVALIER, Bio-bibl. (Paris, 1905), I.

FRANCIS J. SCHAEFER