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  • Strange Maps: '...many of the islands pictured here in the western Atlantic Ocean are quite clearly some of the many phantom islands that for a long time were recorded on maps, but were never more than legends. One such example is Hy-Brasil, probably one of the islands pictured closest to Ireland.

    Another phantom island, mentioned on this map, is Antillia, also known as the Island of Seven Cities or St Brendan’s Island, and often used as a synonym for the Isles of the Blessed or the Fortunate Islands. The muddled legends of Antillia have been around since at least Plutarch’s time (ca. 74 AD). Its name might be a corruption of Atlantis; or a derivation of anterioris insula, Latin for an island located ‘before’ Cipangu; or a transformation of Jazeerat at-Tennyn, Arabic for ‘Island of the Dragon’. Toscanelli on his map uses Antillia as the main marker for measuring distance between Portugal and Cipangu.

    The reference to Sete Ciudades (‘Seven Cities’) is reminiscent of an Iberian legend of seven bishops fleeing the Arab conquest of the peninsula and founding a city each on the island, which became a sort of Utopian commonwealth. Some claim the legend of Antillia represents an earlier discovery of the islands that eventually became known as… the Antilles. Improving nautical knowledge eventually led Antillia to disappear from maps, but the legends surrounding it continued to inspire explorers for a long time – e.g. the ‘Seven Cities’, that were sought in the Southwest of the US or even posited on Cape Breton Island in Canada.'

    June 3, 2009