Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 22, 2013

Here Be Dragons

I am a map nerd! I have loved and collected maps since I was a kid. In August of last year, I visited the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George in Madaba, Jordan to see one of the oldest maps in the world. The 6th century map at the church is a mosaic made up of more than a million small square-cut stones carefully laid onto the floor of the church. It is regarded as the oldest surviving original cartographical depiction of the Holy Land.

This week, I was more than excited to learn that an Austrian collector had found what may be the oldest globe to depict the New World. Dated 1504, the globe is engraved in intricate detail on an ostrich egg the size of a grapefruit. Locations on the globe are labeled in Latin. But perhaps the most intriguing notation on the fragile little globe are the Latin words Hic Sunt Dracones, engraved above the coast of Southeast Asia.

Oldest Globe
The words Hic Sunt Dracones are translated “Here Be Dragons.” Thomas Sander of the Washington Map Society said, “In early maps, you would see images of sea monsters; it was a way to say there’s bad stuff out there.” We don’t know who engraved the map on the ostrich egg, but Sanders thinks that it was someone from Leonardo Da Vinci’s time. This unknown cartographer, possibly commissioned by an Italian noble family, consolidated knowledge from travelers of his day and made the globe.

The ostrich egg globe was accurate only for a short time. As explorers continued to go beyond the boundaries of familiar places, they gathered new information that helped cartographers to update their maps. Little by little, intrepid explorers ventured into the habitation of dragons only to discover that there were no sea monsters there, only new lands to explore. And little by little, the depictions of sea monsters began to disappear from our maps.

There is a geography to each of our lives, a map of sorts that defines the farthest we’ve ever been and the most we’ve ever done. Beyond those familiar boundaries lies the habitation of dragons — the uncharted and unfamiliar and frightening places. Fear of encountering dragons can immobilize us and keep us from making new discoveries about ourselves and the world at large. We will, however, never redefine the geography of our lives until we are willing to confront the dragons.

My personal prayer is that I would always have the courage to go beyond — to venture into the habitation of dragons. Only then will the words Hic Sunt Dracones begin to fade from the map of my own life. Only then will I make new discoveries about myself and about the world around me. And only then will those who come after me be inspired to do the same. May we always have the courage to do what it takes to redefine the geography of our lives. Go beyond where you are and venture into the habitation of dragons.


  1. That was great, Omar. Glad I wandered into your room today. 🙂

    • Thanks, Robin. Trust you are doing well. Blessings.

      • Doing great! Don’t forget to visit next time you are in Virginia.

      • Will do, my friend. Thanks for your service to the kingdom.

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