Antillia the island of the seven cities
Pedro de Medina, writer Spanish of the sixteenth century, reports that, in a Ptolemy offered to Pope Urban VI, who reigned from 1378 to 1389, he noticed the island Antilia which bore the legend next :
"Isla insula Antilia, aliquando a Lusitanis est inventa, sed modo quando quaeritur, non invenitur".
It is likely that this is only one of those additional maps that scholars added to Ptolemy's manuscripts, as and when geographical discoveries, in order to somehow update their favorite author, because we do not find the island Antilia marked on any of the maps dating from the 14th century. It is true that we still wanted to find Antilia on the map drawn up in 1367 by Pizzigani. We can indeed distinguish on an island very to the west in the Atlantic on which two statues appear with the following mention:
"Hae sunt statuae quae stant ante ripas Antilliae, quarum quae in fundo ad securandos homines navigantes, quare est fusum ad ista maria quousque possint navigare, and foras porrecta statua est mare sorde quo non possint intrare nautae".
But Pizzigani's menu is difficult to read. Ad ripas Antilliae reads just as well as Ad ripas Atullio, and even Ad ripas istius insulae. It is therefore not in the 14th century that we find the Antilia mentioned with precision.
The first certain indication of Antilia is fixed at the year 1414, when, according to Behaim, a Spanish ship approached for the first time this island and made it known to Europe. From then on, Antilia appears on almost all maps. Jean-Antoine Letronne in a series of articles on the book by Alexander of Humboldt Critical examination of the history of the geography of the New Continent and the progress of nautical astronomy in the 15th and 16th centuries centuries, indicates in Journal of the scientists of the Institut de France, confirms the term Antillia appears on nautical charts and world maps after the fourteenth century.
The island of Antilia is indicated in particular on the globe of Martin Behaim (1491-1493), on the map of Paolo Toscanelli (1468), that of the Genoese Bartolomeo Pareto, drawn up in 1455 and published by Andrés, the world map of Fra Mauro in 1457 and the map of Andrea Benincasa drawn up in 1476, as well as on the Atlas of Andrea Bianco (1436) published by Formaleoni in 1789. The map of Vinland (1434) indicates an island called "Antilia" located north of 'another island called "Branzilæ Island".
The nautical chart of Pizzigano (1424) also indicates a red-colored island named “Antilia”. It is found on the Portulan Ancônitain of 1474, preserved at the library Grand Ducal of Weimar, and on that of the Genoese Beccaria or Becclaria kept in the library of Parma.
The Florentine mathematician Toscanelli, who was the correspondent of Columbus and confirmed him in his resolution to seek the West route to India, had carefully drawn a map of the journey to be undertaken in that direction, and Antilia appeared there as a station. intermediary on the road from Lisbon to India by the west. In the letter that accompanied this map, he speaks of Antilia as a known country:
“From the Antilia island that you know, to the very noble island of Cippangu, etc. ".
Unfortunately Toscanelli's map is lost, and it is almost impossible to accurately assess the distances set by the Florentine scholar.
However, a globe drawn up a few years later by Behaim, and which is believed to be a reproduction of Toscanelli's map, positions Antilia under the 33rd West longitude. Ortelius and Mercator still draw it in their atlases. In general all these maps give it a rectangular shape, and make it a country about as large as Spain.
The ribs are described with great appearance of accuracy. We find the same details as in these imaginary lands of the North Pole or the South Pole that were drawn with so much care in the atlases until the 18th century. So from the 14th century all sailors believed in the existence of Antilia.
Antilia will disappear from the maps when the New World is discovered. If today this name still applies to an entire archipelago, it is the effect of pure geographical coincidence. Columbus, Oviedo, Acosta, Gomara and the first Spanish historians of America never speak of Antilia. The world maps added according to custom to the editions of Ptolemy do not mention it any more. On the maps of Juan de la Cosa or Ribeira there is no trace of the name of the Antilles.
In the Italian collection of All the Islands of the World by Benedetto Bordone, in the Isolario by Porcacchi, in the Cosmography of André Thevet, in the Description of the Indies by Herrera, the name of Antilles never appears.
The archipelago which bears this name today is referred to as Lucayes, Caraibes, or even Camercanes. Without doubt Pierre Martyr d'Anghiera had already proposed this name in his Decades, and Amerigo Vespucci, the only time he cites Columbus, also speaks of Antilia, but, despite this double authority, the name of Antilles, for still a whole century, was to be unknown. It was only from the seventeenth century that the great celebrity of the maps of Wytfliet and Ortelius, which, no doubt by memory of erudition, had revived this name, fixed forever on the maps of America.
The Antilia was therefore only one myth geographical, but in which we ceased to believe much sooner than we had done for the island of Saint Brandan. Only, by a singular coincidence, no land today bears the name of the saint Irish, while the beautiful archipelago in the Mexican Sea retained the name that was not definitively assigned to it until long after its discovery. This myth, whatever its fortune, therefore proves, once again, how deeply the belief in the existence of islands or continents in the Atlantic Ocean was engraved in people's minds.