NOTE 7.—The term “India” became very vague from an early date. In fact, Alcuin divides the whole world into three parts, Europe, Africa, and India. Hence it was necessary to discriminate different Indias, but there is very little agreement among different authors as to this discrimination.
The earliest use that I can find of the terms India Major and Minor is in the Liber Junioris Philosophi published by Hudson, and which is believed to be translated from a lost Greek original of the middle of the 4th century. In this author India Minor adjoins Persia. So it does with Friar Jordanus. His India Minor appears to embrace Sind (possibly Mekran), and the western coast exclusive of Malabar. India Major extends from Malabar indefinitely eastward. His India Tertia is Zanjibar. The Three Indies appear in a map contained in a MS. by Guido Pisanus, written in 1118. Conti divides India into three: (1) From Persia to the Indus (i.e. Mekran and Sind); (2) From the Indus to the Ganges; (3) All that is beyond Ganges (Indo-China and China).
In a map of Andrea Bianco at Venice (No. 12) the divisions are—(1) India Minor, extending westward to the Persian Gulf; (2) India Media, “containing 14 regions and 12 nations;” and (3) India Superior, containing 8 regions and 24 nations.
Marino Sanuto places immediately east of the Persian Gulf “India Minor quae et Ethiopia.”
John Marignolli again has three Indias: (1) Manzi or India Maxima (S. China); (2) Mynibar (Malabar); (3) Maabar. The last two with Guzerat are Abulfeda’s divisions, exclusive of Sind.
We see that there was a traditional tendency to make out Three Indies, but little concord as to their identity. With regard to the expressions Greater and Lesser India, I would recall attention to what has been said about Greater and Lesser Java (supra, chap. ix. note 1). Greater India was originally intended, I imagine, for the real India, what our maps call Hindustan. And the threefold division, with its inclination to place one of the Indies in Africa, I think may have originated with the Arab Hind, Sind, and Zinj. I may add that our vernacular expression “the Indies” is itself a vestige of the twofold or threefold division of which we have been speaking.
The partition of the Indies made by King Sebastian of Portugal in 1571, when he constituted his eastern possessions into three governments, recalled the old division into Three Indias. The first, INDIA, extending from Cape Gardafui to Ceylon, stood in a general way for Polo’s India Major; the second MONOMOTAPA, from Gardafui to Cape Corrientes (India Tertia of Jordanus); the third MALACCA, from Pegu to China (India Minor). (Faria y Souza, II. 319.)