“Beyond the pillars of Hercules, it is reported that certain Carthaginian merchants discovered an island in the Atlantic, which had never before been inhabited except by beasts. This island was not many days sail from the continent, was entirely covered over with trees, and abounded in all the usual productions of nature, having a considerable number of navigable rivers. Finding this a beautiful country, possessing it fertile soil and salubrious atmosphere, these Carthaginians began to people it; but the senate of Carthage, offended with this procedure, passed a decree forbidding any person to go to that island under pain of death, and they ordered all those who had already gone there to be slain; meaning thereby to prevent all other nations from acquiring any knowledge of the place, lest some other and more powerful state might take possession, to the detriment of their liberty and commercial interest.”
Oviedo had no just grounds for asserting that this island must have been Hispaniola or Cuba. As he was ignorant of Latin, he was obliged to take such interpretation of this story as he could procure from some other person, who certainly was very ill qualified for the task, since the Latin text has been altered and misinterpreted in several particulars. This may have misled Oviedo, and induced him to believe that the foregoing quotation referred to some island in the West Indies. In the Latin text we do not read of the Carthaginian merchants going out of the straits of Gibraltar as Oviedo writes. Neither is it said that the island was extensive, or its trees large, but only that it was much wooded. Nor do we find that the rivers were wonderful, or the soil fat, or that the island was more remote from Africa than from Europe; but merely that it was remote from the continent. It is not said in the original that any towns were built here, and indeed it is not likely that these traders should build much; neither is the place said to have become famous, as we see on the contrary that the Carthaginians were careful to prevent its fame from spreading among the nations. Thus the translator being ignorant, led Oviedo to believe quite a different story from the reality.
It is quite ridiculous to suppose that Carthaginian merchants could possibly be carried so far out of their way as Hispaniola or Cuba; neither could they have arrived at either of those islands without meeting with the many other islands which surround them. It is more probable that the island discovered by the Carthaginians was one of the Azores; for though Ferrarius speaks of navigable rivers, he might possibly have written ad navigandum instead of potandum, and have thereby corrupted the meaning of his author, that the island had plenty of streams fit for drinking, into abundance of rivers adapted for navigation. Oviedo falls into a similar error in supposing this island of the Carthaginians to have been the same with that mentioned by Seneca in his fourth book; where he tells us that Seneca speaks of an island named Atlantica, which was entirely or mostly drowned in the time of the Peloponnesian war; and of which island Plato likewise makes mention in his Timaeus: But we have already dwelt too long on these fables.