If I knew about this, I’d forgotten:

Antillia (or Antilia) is a phantom island that was reputed, during the 15th-century age of exploration, to lie in the Atlantic Ocean, far to the west of Portugal and Spain. The island also went by the name of Isle of Seven Cities (Ilha das Sete Cidades in Portuguese, Isla de las Siete Ciudades in Spanish).

It originates from an old Iberian legend, set during the Muslim conquest of Hispania c. 714. Seeking to flee from the Muslim conquerors, seven Christian Visigothic bishops embarked with their flocks on ships and set sail westwards into the Atlantic Ocean, eventually landing on an island (Antilha) where they founded seven settlements.

The island makes its first explicit appearance as a large rectangular island in the 1424 portolan chart of Zuane Pizzigano. Thereafter, it routinely appeared in most nautical charts of the 15th century. After 1492, when the north Atlantic Ocean began to be routinely sailed, and became more accurately mapped, depictions of Antillia gradually disappeared. It nonetheless lent its name to the Spanish Antilles.

I learned about it from this post at Poemas del río Wang, where you will find the usual mix of stories, information, and gorgeous photos.


  1. The Seven Cities of Cibola were said to have been founded by Christian bishops fleeing south from the Muslim sweep across North Africa, Cibola being the same word as modern Sahelia. Or so the story goes. The legend has been productively recycled. Other unaccountably vanished Atlantic islands include Hy-Brasil in many variant spellings, and Estotiland. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few. Atlantis and Lyonesse have vanished, but their loss has been accounted for.

  2. One source to do with some of this might be Lester Sprague de Camp, who wrote of lost continents. Science fiction authors are excellent sources and it might be him or someone else (help!) who wrote about false and fickle islands. I’ve remembered another one, Drogeo. As my brain cells randomly fire, others may come to light.

  3. squiffy-marie von bladet says

    I’ve been there it’s rubbish.

  4. Drogeo?

  5. I can’t help with false or fickle islands, but Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut has a perfectly rectangular island that this post immediately reminded me of. Although in the book, I think the island is supposed to mirror a model someone made on a coffee table, and that’s why it’s rectangular…

  6. Estoty is of course the northern part of North America in the world of Antiterra, in which Nabokov’s Ada is set. It is divided into “Russian” Estoty in the west and “French” Estoty (also known as Canady) in the east, though both areas are a constituent part of the United States of the Americas, which stretch from the North Pole to Patagony. That large country in the northern part of Eurasia is of course known as Tartary.

  7. January First-of-May says

    I wonder whether California/Califerne (are they even the same place?) ever had an “Atlantic island” stage before being clearly solidified as a Pacific island (and with later exploration, a Pacific peninsula, which it remains to this day – though also including areas not part of the peninsula).


  1. […] Hat reports on the mythical island of Antillia, a phantom island reputed in late medieval Europe to lie far to […]

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