Herodotus in the 5th century BC, however, objected to the unity of Egypt being split into Asia and Africa ("Libya") and took the boundary to lie along the western Border of Egypt, regarding Egypt as part of Asia.
300 BC, 201 BC
Eratosthenes, in the 3rd century BC, noted that some geographers divided the continents by rivers (the Nile and the Don), thus considering them "islands".
Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the West Indies in 1492, sparking a period of European exploration of the Americas.
In 1501, Amerigo Vespucci and Gonçalo Coelho attempted to sail around what they considered the southern end of the Asian mainland into the Indian Ocean, passing through Fernando de Noronha.
From the 16th century the English noun continent was derived from the term continent land, meaning continuous or connected land and translated from the Latin terra continens.
On return to Europe, an account of the voyage, called Mundus Novus ("New World"), was published under Vespucci's name in 1502 or 1503, although it seems that it had additions or alterations by another writer.
Continent in years
Within a few years, the name "New World" began appearing as a name for South America on World maps, such as the Oliveriana (Pesaro) map of around 1504–1505.
In 1507 Martin Waldseemüller published a world map, Universalis Cosmographia, which was the first to show North and South America as separate from Asia and surrounded by water.
1601, 1700, 1745
It was not applied only to very large areas of land—in the 17th century, references were made to the continents (or mainlands) of Isle of Man, Ireland and Wales and in 1745 to Sumatra.
1601, 1700, 1727, 1752
In the mid-17th century, Peter Heylin wrote in his Cosmographie that "A Continent is a great quantity of Land, not separated by any Sea from the rest of the World, as the whole Continent of Europe, Asia, Africa." In 1727, Ephraim Chambers wrote in his Cyclopædia, "The world is ordinarily divided into two grand continents: the old and the new." And in his 1752 atlas, Emanuel Bowen defined a continent as "a large space of dry land comprehending many countries all joined together, without any separation by water.
Europeans discovered Australia in 1606, but for some time it was taken as part of Asia.
Continent in decades
By the middle of the 18th century, "the fashion of dividing Asia and Africa at the Nile, or at the Great Catabathmus [the boundary between Egypt and Libya] farther west, had even then scarcely passed away".
From the late 18th century, some geographers started to regard North America and South America as two parts of the world, making five parts in total.
By the late 18th century, some geographers considered it a continent in its own right, making it the sixth (or fifth for those still taking America as a single continent).
Overall though, the fourfold division prevailed well into the 19th century.
From the mid-19th century, atlases published in the United States more commonly treated North and South America as separate continents, while atlases published in Europe usually considered them one continent.
Continent in centuries
In 1813, Samuel Butler wrote of Australia as "New Holland, an immense island, which some geographers dignify with the appellation of another continent" and the Oxford English Dictionary was just as equivocal some decades later.
Antarctica was sighted in 1820 during the First Russian Antarctic Expedition and described as a continent by Charles Wilkes on the United States Exploring Expedition in 1838, the last continent identified, although a great "Antarctic" (antipodean) landmass had been anticipated for millennia.
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