Hic sunt dracones : The Geography and Cartography of Monsters

Authored by: Chet Van Duzer

The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous

Print publication date:  August  2013
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781409407546
eBook ISBN: 9781315241197
Adobe ISBN: 9781351894326


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In this chapter I will address Western ideas about the geographical distribution of monsters, and also the reflection of these ideas on maps, 1 from ancient Greece to the end of the sixteenth century. As almost no maps survive from classical antiquity, the emphasis in references to cartography will naturally fall on the medieval and Renaissance periods. Following a brief discussion of the belief that monsters were generated by extremes of climate, which tended to occur in regions distant from Europe, I will examine the pronounced tendency to locate monsters at the edges of the earth. Yet there are also “monsters among us,” that is, monsters said to be located near where the writer or cartographer lived. I will discuss some examples of monsters of this type, and the characteristics that distinguish them from distant monsters. Finally I will give some examples of the transport of monsters from the edges of the earth to the center, which confirm the prevalence of monstrous habitations in distant regions.

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