1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Antilia
ANTILIA or Antillia, sometimes called the Island of the Seven Cities (Portuguese Isla das Sete Cidades), a legendary island in the Atlantic ocean. The origin of the name is quite uncertain. The oldest suggested etymology (1455) fancifully connects it with the name of the Platonic Atlantis, while later writers have endeavoured to derive it from the Latin anterior (i.e. the island that is reached “before” Cipango), or from the Jezirat al Tennyn, “Dragon’s Isle,” of the Arabian geographers. Antilia is marked in an anonymous map which is dated 1424 and preserved in the grand-ducal library at Weimar. It reappears in the maps of the Genoese B. Beccario or Beccaria (1435), and of the Venetian Andrea Bianco (1436), and again in 1455 and 1476. In most of these it is accompanied by the smaller and equally legendary islands of Royllo, St Atanagio, and Tanmar, the whole group being classified as insulae de novo repertae, “newly discovered islands.” The Florentine Paul Toscanelli, in his letters to Columbus and the Portuguese court (1474), takes Antilia as the principal landmark for measuring the distance between Lisbon and the island of Cipango or Zipangu (Japan). One of the chief early descriptions of Antilia is that inscribed on the globe which the geographer Martin Behaim made at Nuremberg in 1492 (see Map: History). Behaim relates that in 734—a date which is probably a misprint for 714—and after the Moors had conquered Spain and Portugal, the island of Antilia or “Septe Cidade” was colonized by Christian refugees under the archbishop of Oporto and six bishops. The inscription adds that a Spanish vessel sighted the island in 1414. According to an old Portuguese tradition each of the seven leaders founded and ruled a city, and the whole island became a Utopian commonwealth, free from the disorders of less favoured states. Later Portuguese tradition localized Antilia in the island of St Michael’s, the largest of the Azores. It is impossible to estimate how far this legend commemorates some actual but imperfectly recorded discovery, and how far it is a reminiscence of the ancient idea of an elysium in the western seas which is embodied in the legends of the Isles of the Blest or Fortunate Islands.