The name Pelasgians (from
Ancient Greek_gr. Πελασγοί, "Pelasgoí", singular Πελασγός, "Pelasgós" [ [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%2380420 Pelasgos, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus] ] ) was used by some ancient Greek writers to refer to populations that preceded the Hellenesin Greece. During the period known as Classical Greeceenclaves under that name resided in several locations of mainland Greece, Crete, and other regions of the Aegean. They spoke one or more languages that at the time were identifiably not Greek, even though some ancient writers described the Pelasgians as Greeks. A tradition also survived that large parts of Greece once had been Pelasgian but had Hellenized. These parts generally fell within the ethnic domain now attributed to speakers of ancient East Greek, who called themselves or were called Ionians.
The classification of the Pelasgian language(s), known only from non-Greek elements within Greek, the extent to which Pelasgian was a single language, and the relationship(s) of Pelasgians to prehistoric Hellenes are long-standing questions that have not received definitive answers. The field of study looks forward to additional evidence that may fill in the gaps. Many past and current theories exist. Some of them are colored by contemporary nationalist issues [Smith, Anthony D. "Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History", 2002, p. 82, ISBN-10: 0745626599. "Besides, does it really matter for the creation of nations? Objective historicity may be important in the long run, but for the mass of the population a narrative must have emotive `resonance' as much as 'truth-content'."] and therefore are not objective or are not phrased in objective language. This article presents the mainstream theories and something of the long history of the theories.
Archaeological excavations during the 20th century have unearthed artifacts in areas traditionally inhabited by the Pelasgians (i.e.
Thessaly, Attica, and Lemnos). Archaeologists have described Pelasgian material culture as " Neolithic" (i.e. Seskloand Dimini), " Middle Helladic" (i.e. Minyans) and even " Late Helladic" (i.e. Myceneans). The sites discovered so far possess material evidence indicating that the Pelasgians were either a proto-Greek tribe(s) or at least a tribe(s) akin to the Greeks.
Overall "Pelasgian" has come to mean more broadly all the
autochthonousinhabitants of the Aegean lands and their culture before the advent of the Greek language. [cite web|title=Pelasgian|work=The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition|date=2000|url=http://www.bartleby.com/61/50/P0155000.html|accessdate=2008-01-15] This is not an exclusive meaning, but other senses require identification when meant.
etymologyof the ethnonym"Pelasgoí" (Pelasgians) is uncertain.
An ancient etymology links "pelasgos" to "pelargos" "stork" and postulates that the Pelasgians were migrants like storks, possibly from
Egypt, where they nest. [Strabo refers to this in "Geography" Book V, Section II, Part 4.] Aristophanesdeals effectively with this etymology in his comedy "the Birds." One of the laws of "the storks" in the satirical cloud-cuckoo-land (punning on the Athenian belief that they were originally Pelasgians) is that grown-up storks must support their parents by migrating elsewhere and conducting warfare. [Line 1355 and following.]
Murray summarizes the derivation from pelas gē, "neighboring land:" [cite book|first=Gilbert|last=Murray|authorlink=Gilbert Murray|title=The Rise of the Greek Epic|publisher=Oxford University Press|date=1960|location=new York|pages=Page 43|id=LC60-13910]
If Pelasgoi is connected with πέλας, 'near', the word would mean 'neighbor' and would denote the nearest strange people to the invading Greeks...
Julius Pokorny[cite web|title=Indogermanisches Etymologisches Woerterbuch|url=http://www.indoeuropean.nl/cgi-bin/startq.cgi?flags=endnnnl&root=leiden&basename=%5Cdata%5Cie%5Cpokorny|pages=pages 831-832|publisher=Leiden University:Department of Comparative Indo-European Linguistics Search on the page numbers.] derives Pelasgoi from "*pelag-skoi" ("Flachlandbewohner", or "flatland-inhabitants"); specifically, "Bewohner thessalischen Ebene" ("Inhabitants of the Thessalian plain"). The Indo-European root is *plāk-, "flat." [The derivation in English can be found at cite web|title=plāk-|url=http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE411.html|publisher=The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition|date=2000] Pokorny details a previous derivation, which appears in English at least as early as Gladstone's "Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age" of 1858. [Volume I, page 213.] If the Pelasgians were not Indo-Europeans, the name in this derivation must have been assigned by the Hellenes. The ancient Greek word for sea, "pelagos", comes from the same root, *plāk-, as the Doric word "plagos", "side" (which is flat), appearing in "*pelag-skoi". Klein therefore simply interprets the same reconstructed form as "the sea men", where the sea is the flat. [cite book|first=Ernest|last=Klein|title=A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language|publisher=Elsevier Publishing Company|location=Amsterdam|date=1966|id=LC 65-13229|pages=Under Pelasgian and Pelagic]
This interpretation does not require the Indo-Europeans to have had a word for sea, which living on the inland plains (if they did) they are likely to have lacked. On encountering the sea they simply used the word for plain, "the flat." The flatlanders also could acquire what must have been to the Hellenes a
homonym, "the sea men". Best of all, if the Egyptians of the Late Bronze Age encountered maritime marauders under this name they would have translated as " Sea peoples".
Literary analysis has been going on since
Classical Greece, when the writers of those times read the previous works on the subject. No definitive answers were ever forthcoming by this method; rather, it served to define the problems better. The method perhaps reached a peak in the Victorian erawhen new methods of systematic comparison began to be applied in philology. Typical of the era is the long and detailed study of William Ewart Gladstone, [cite book|first=W.E.|last=Gladstone|authorlink=William Ewart Gladstone|title=Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age: in Three Volumes|publisher=University of Oxford Press|location=Oxford|date=1858 The Pelasgians are covered especially in Volume I. Downloadable Google Books.] who among his many talents was a trained classicist. All the evidence presented in this section is covered in Gladstone. Until further ancient texts come to light not much new can be said. The most likely source of progress continues to be archaeology and the related sciences.
Pelasgians first appear in the poems of
Homer: those who are stated to be Pelasgians in the " Iliad" are among the allies of Troy. In the section known as the "Catalogue of Trojans", they are mentioned between mentions of the Hellespontine cities and the Thracians of south-eastern Europe (i.e., on the Hellespontine border of Thrace). [Book II lines 840-843. The camp at Troyis mentioned in Book X lines 428-429.] Homer calls their town or district "Larisa" [Not the same as the Thessalian Larissa. Many towns of the name existed.] and characterises it as fertile, and its inhabitants as celebrated for their spearsmanship. He records their chiefs as Hippothousand Pylaeus, sons of Lethus son of Teutamus.
Odyssey" mentions some Pelasgians in Crete. [Book XIX, lines 175-177.]
The "Iliad" also refers to "Pelasgic Argos", [Book II lines 681-684.] which is most likely to be the plain of
Thessaly, [The location is never explicitly given. Gladstone (Volume I, pages 100-105) shows by process of elimination that it must be in the north of Thessaly.] and to "Pelasgic Zeus", living in and ruling over Dodona, [Book XVI lines 233-235.] which must be the oracular one in Epirus. However, neither passage mentions actual Pelasgians; Myrmidons, Hellenes and Achaeans specifically inhabit Thessaly and the Selloi are around Dodona. They all fought on the Greek side.
Hesiodcalls the oracular Dodona, identified by reference to "the oak," the "seat of Pelasgians", [cite book|first=A.W.|last=Mair|title=Hesiod: the Poems and Fragments: Done into English Prose with Introduction and Appendices|publisher=The Clarendon Press|location=Oxford|date=1908|pages=page 100 Fragment 236 Downloadable Google Books.] clarifying Homer's Pelasgic Zeus. He mentions also that Pelasgus( Ancient Greek: Πελασγός, the eponymousancestor of the Pelasgians) was the father of Lycaon (king of Arcadia). [Mair, page 88, Fragment 71.]
Asius of Samos describes
Pelasgusas the first man, born of the earth. [cite book|first=James Cowles|last=Prichard|authorlink=James Cowles Prichard|title=Researches Into the Physical History of Mankind: Third Edition: Volume III: Containing Researches into the History of the European Nations|location=London|publisher=Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper|date=1841|pages=page 489 Downloadable Google Books.]
Aeschylus' play "The Suppliants" the Danaids fleeing from Egyptseek asylum from King Pelasgus of Argos, which he says is on the Strymonincluding Perrhaebia in the north, the Thessalian Dodona and the slopes of the Pindus mountainson the west and the shores of the sea on the east; [Lines 249-259.] that is, a territory including but somewhat larger than classical Pelasgiotis. The southern boundary is not mentioned; however, Apis is said to have come to Argos from Naupactus"across" (peras), [Lines 262-263.] implying that Argos includes all of east Greece from the north of Thessaly to the Peloponnesian Argos, where the Danaids are probably to be conceived as having landed. He claims to rule the Pelasgians and to be the "child of Palaichthon ('ancient earth') whom the earth brought forth."
The Danaids call the country the "Apian hills" and claim that it understands the "karbana audan" [Lines 128-129.] (
accusative case, and in the Dorian dialect), which many translate as "barbarian speech" but Karba (where live the "Karbanoi") is in fact a non-Greek word. They claim to descend from ancestors in ancient Argos even though they are of a "dark race" ("melanthes ... genos"). [Lines 154-155.] Pelasgus admits that the land was once called Apia but compares them to the women of Libyaand Egypt[Lines 279-281.] and wants to know how they can be from Argos on which they cite descent from Io.
In a lost play by Aeschylus, "Danaan Women", he defines the original homeland of the Pelasgians as the region around
Mycenae. Strabo, "Geography" Book V section 2.4. ( [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Strabo/5B*.html LacusCurtius] )] Sophoclesin a fragment of a missing play, "Inachus", [cite book|first=Wilhelm|last=Dindorf|title=ΣΟΦΟΚΛΗΣ: Sophoclis Tragoediae Superstites et Deperditarum Fragmenta: Editio Secunda Emendatior|publisher=Oxford University Press|location=Oxford|date=1849|pages=page 352 Fragment 256 Downloadable Google Books.] presents Inachus as the elder in the lands of Argos, the Heran hills and among the Tyrsenoi Pelasgoi, an unusual hyphenated noun construction, "Tyrsenians-Pelasgians". Interpretation is open, even though translators typically make a decision, but Tyrsenians may well be the ethnonym " Tyrrhenoi". Euripidescalls the inhabitants of Argos "Pelasgians" in his play entitled "Orestes". [cite web|author=Euripides|coauthors=E.P. Coleridge (Editor)|title=Orestes|publisher=Tufts University: The Perseus Project|url=http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0116&query=card%3D%2330&layout=&loc=866|pages=line 857|accessdate=2008-01-21] [cite web|title=Orestes|url=http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0116&query=card%3D%2333&layout=&loc=898|pages=line 933] In a lost play, "Archelaus", he says that Danauson coming to reside in the city of Inachus( Argos) formulated a law that the Pelasgians were now to be called Danaans.
Hecataeus of Miletusin a fragment from "Genealogiai" states that the clan (genos) descending from Deucalionruled Thessalyand that it was called Pelasgia from king Pelasgus. [cite book|first=Rud. Henr.|last=Klausen|title=Hecataei Milesii Fragmenta: Scylacis Caryandensis Periplus|publisher=impensis G. Reimeri|location=Berolini|date=1831|pages=Fragment 224 page 140 Downloadable Google Books.] A second fragment says that Pelasgus was the son of Zeusand Niobeand that his son Lycaon founded a dynasty of kings of Arcadia. [Klausen Fragment 375 page 157.]
A fragment from the writings of
Acusilausasserts that the Peloponnesians were called Pelasgians after Pelasgus, a son of Zeusand Niobe. [Mentioned in Apollodorus, "Library", Book II section 1.]
HellanicusFragment 7 from "Argolica" concerns itself with one word in one line of the "Iliad", [Book III line 75.] "horse-nourishing", applied to the Peloponnesus. What is said about it is reported by different authors and all accounts differ. The explanation is trivial and mythical but all accounts agree Hellanicus said the term "Argeia (gē)" or Argolisonce applied to all Peloponnesus and that Pelasgus and his two brothers received it as an inheritance from their father, named either Triopas, Arestōr or Phorōneus. Pelasgus built the citadel Larissa of Argoson the Erasinusriver, whence the name Pelasgic Argos (of the Peloponnesus), but later resettled inland, built Parrhasia and named the region or caused it to be named Pelasgia, to be renamed Arcadiawith the coming of the Greeks. [cite book|first=Fridericus Guilielmus (original Editor)|last=Sturz|coauthors=Gulielmus Canter (2nd edition editor)|title=Hellanici Lesbii Fragmenta: Edition Altera Aucta et Emendata|location=Lipsiae|publisher=sumtibus C.H.F. Hartmanni|date=1826|pages=49-51 Greek and Latin text. Downloadable Google Books.]
According to Fragment 76, of the "Phoronis", [Sturz and Canter (1826) pages 108-109.] from Pelasgus and his wife Menippe came a line of kings: Phrastōr, Amyntōr, Teutamides and Nasas (kings of Pelasgiotis in Thessaly). The Pelasgians under Nasas "rose up" (anestēsan) against the Hellenes (who presumably had acquired Thessaly) and departed for
Italywhere they first took Crotona and then founded Tyrrhenia. The conclusion is inescapable that Hellanicus believed the Pelasgians of Thessaly (and indirectly of Peloponnesus) to have been the ancestors of the Etruscans.
Herodotusof Halicarnassuswrote: [Herodotus (translated by G. C. Macaulay). "The Histories". Spark Educational Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1593081022, page 20.]
What language however the Pelasgians used to speak I am not able with certainty to say. But one must pronounce judging by those that still remain of the Pelasgians who dwelt in the city of Creston above the Tyrsenians, and who were once neighbors of the race now called Dorian, dwelling then in the land which is now called Thessaliotis, and also by those that remain of the Pelasgians that who settled at Plakia and Skylakē in the region of the Hellespont, who before that had been settlers with the Athenians, and of the natives of the various other towns which are really Pelasgian, though they have lost the name. If one must pronounce judging by these, the Pelasgians used to speak a Barbarian language. If therefore all the Pelasgian race was such as these, then the Attic race, being Pelasgian, at the same time changed and became Hellenic, unleart also its language. For the people of Creston do not speak the same language with any of those who dwell about them, nor yet do the people of Plakia, but they speak the same language as each other. By this it is proved that they still keep unchanged the form of language which they brought with them when they migrated to these places.
In any case, Herodotus alludes to other districts where Pelasgian peoples lived on under changed names;
Samothrace["Histories". [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126&layout=&loc=2.51.0 Book II, Section 51] . The text allows two interpretations, that Pelasgians were indigenous there or that they had been resettled by Athens.] and "the Pelasgian city of Antandrus" ["Histories". [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126&layout=&loc=7.42.1 Book VII, Section 42] .] in the Troadprobably provide instances of this. He mentions that there were Pelasgian populations on Lemnosand Imbros. ["Histories". [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126&layout=&loc=5.26.1 Book V, Section 26] .] Those of Lemnos he represents as being of Hellespontine Pelasgians who had been living in Athens but whom the Athenians resettled on Lemnos and then found it necessary to reconquer. ["Histories". Book VI, Sections 137-140.] Herodotus also mentions the Cabeiri, the gods of the Pelasgians, whose worship gives an idea of where the Pelasgians once were.
Overall, Herodotus was convinced that the Hellenic population descended from the Pelasgians: [Herodotus (translated by G. C. Macaulay). "The Histories". Spark Educational Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1593081022, page 20.]
As for the Hellenic race, it has used ever the same language, as I clearly perceive, since it first took its rise; but since the time when it parted off feeble at first from the Pelasgian race, setting forth from a small beginning it has increased to a great number of ethnic groups, and chiefly because many Barbarian races have been added to it besides. Moreover, it is true, as I think, of the Pelasgian race also, that so far as it remained Barbarian it never made any great increase.
He states that the Pre-Hellenic Pelasgians of Athens were called Cranai [ [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0126&query=section%3D%233768&word=Pelasgians Book VIII section 44] .] and that the Pelasgian population among the
Ioniansof the Peloponnesuswere the Aegialian Pelasgians. [ [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0126&query=section%3D%233768&word=Pelasgians Book VII section 94] .]
Thucydidesstates that: ["The Peloponnesian War" Book I Chapter I Section 3.]
Before the time ofHe regards the Athenians as having lived in scattered independent settlements in
Hellen, son of Deucalion, ... the country went by the names of the different tribes, in particular of the Pelasgian. It was not till Hellen and his sons grew strong in Phthiotis, and were invited as allies into the other cities, that one by one they gradually acquired from the connection the name of Hellenes; though a long time elapsed before that name could fasten itself upon all. Atticabut at some time after Theseusthey changed residence to Athens, which was already populated. A plot of land below the Acropolis was called "Pelasgian" and was regarded as cursed, but the Athenians settled there anyway. [Book II Chapter VI Sections 16-17.]
In connection with the campaign against
AmphipolisThucydides mentions that several settlements on the promontory of Actē were home to: [Book IV Chapter XIV Section 109.]
... mixed barbarian races speaking the two languages. There is also a small Chalcidian element; but the greater number are Tyrrheno-Pelasgians once settled in
Lemnosand Athens, and Bisaltians, Crestonians and Eonians; the towns all being small ones.
Ephorusbuilding on a fragment from Hesiod that attests to a tradition of an aboriginal Pelasgian people in Arcadia, developed a theory of the Pelasgians as a people living a military way of life (stratiōtikon bion) "and that, in converting many peoples to the same mode of life, they imparted their name to all," meaning "all of Hellas". They colonized Crete and extended their rule over Epirus, Thessaly and by implication over wherever else the ancient authors said they were, beginning with Homer. The Peloponnesus was called Pelasgia. [The fragment expressing these views can be found in Strabo, "Geography", Book V section 2.4.]
In his "
Description of Greece", Pausanias mentions the Arcadianswho state that Pelasgus(along with his followers) was the first inhabitant of their land. [Pausanias. "Description of Greece", [http://www.theoi.com/Text/Pausanias8A.html 8.1.4] - "The Arcadians say that Pelasgus was the first inhabitant of this land. It is natural to suppose that others accompanied Pelasgus, and that he was not by himself; for otherwise he would have been a king without any subjects to rule over. However, in stature and in prowess, in beauty and in wisdom, Pelasgus excelled his fellows, and for this reason, I think, he was chosen to be king by them. Asius the poet says of him:– "The godlike Pelasgus on the wooded mountains Black earth gave up, that the race of mortals might exist. Asius, unknown location."] Upon becoming king, Pelasgus was responsible for inventing huts, sheep-skin coats, and a diet consisting of acorns. Moreover, the land he ruled was named "Pelasgia". [Pausanias. "Description of Greece", [http://www.theoi.com/Text/Pausanias8A.html 8.1.5] - "Pelasgus on becoming king invented huts that humans should not shiver, or be soaked by rain, or oppressed by heat. Moreover; he it was who first thought of coats of sheep-skins, such as poor folk still wear in Euboea and Phocis. He too it was who checked the habit of eating green leaves, grasses, and roots always inedible and sometimes poisonous."] [Pausanias. "Description of Greece", [http://www.theoi.com/Text/Pausanias8A.html 8.1.6] - "But he introduced as food the nuts of trees, not those of all trees but only the acorns of the edible oak. Some people have followed this diet so closely since the time of Pelasgus that even the Pythian priestess, when she forbade the Lacedaemonians to touch the land of the Arcadians, uttered the following verses:– "In Arcadia are many men who eat acorns, Who will prevent you; though I do not grudge it you." It is said that it was in the reign of Pelasgus that the land was called Pelasgia."] When Arcasbecame king, Pelasgia was renamed " Arcadia" and its inhabitants (the Pelasgians) were renamed "Arcadians". [Pausanias. "Description of Greece", [http://www.theoi.com/Text/Pausanias8A.html 8.4.1] - "After the death of Nyctimus, Arcas the son of Callisto came to the throne. He introduced the cultivation of crops, which he learned from Triptolemus, and taught men to make bread, to weave clothes, and other things besides, having learned the art of spinning from Adristas. After this king the land was called Arcadia instead of Pelasgia and its inhabitants Arcadians instead of Pelasgians."] Pausanias also mentions the Pelasgians as responsible for creating a wooden image of Orpheusin a sanctuary of Demeterat Therae, [Pausanias. "Description of Greece", [http://www.theoi.com/Text/Pausanias3B.html 3.20.5] - "Between Taletum and Euoras is a place they name Therae, where they say Leto from the Peaks of Taygetus . . . is a sanctuary of Demeter surnamed Eleusinian. Here according to the Lacedaemonian story Heracles was hidden by Asclepius while he was being healed of a wound. In the sanctuary is a wooden image of Orpheus, a work, they say, of Pelasgians."] as well as expelling the Minyans and Lacedaemonians from Lemnos. [Pausanias. "Description of Greece", [http://www.theoi.com/Text/Pausanias7A.html 7.2.2] - "This was the third expedition sent out from Greece under kings of a race different from that of the common folk. The earliest was when Iolaus of Thebes, the nephew of Heracles, led the Athenians and Thespians to Sardinia. One generation before the Ionians set sail from Athens, the Lacedaemonians and Minyans who had been expelled from Lemnos by the Pelasgians were led by the Theban Theras, the son of Autesion, to the island now called after him, but formerly named Calliste."]
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Dionysius of Halicarnassusin several pages gives a synopticinterpretation of the Pelasgians based on the sources available to him then: ["Roman Antiquities, Book 1, 17" ( [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Dionysius_of_Halicarnassus/1B*.html LacusCurtius] ).]
Afterwards some of the Pelasgians who inhabited Thessaly, as it is now called, being obliged to leave their country, settled among the Aborigines and jointly with them made war upon the Sicels. It is possible that the Aborigines received them partly in the hope of gaining their assistance, but I believe it was chiefly on account of their kinship; for the Pelasgians, too, were a Greek nation originally from the Peloponnesus ...He goes on to add that the nation wandered a great deal. They were originally natives of "Achaean Argos" descended from Pelasgus, the son of
Zeusand Niobe. They migrated from there to Haemonia (later called Thessaly), where they "drove out the barbarian inhabitants" and divided the country into Phthiotis, Achaia and Pelasgiotis, named after Achaeus, Phthius and Pelasgus, "the sons of Larissa and Poseidon." Subsequently "... about the sixth generation they were driven out by the Curetesand Leleges, who are now called Aetolians and Locrians ...."
From there the Pelasgians dispersed to
Crete, the Cyclades, Histaeotis, Boeotia, Phocis, Euboea, the coast along the Hellespontand the islands, especially Lesbos, which had been colonized by Macarson of Crinacus. Most went to Dodonaand eventually being driven from there to Italythen called Saturnia. They landed at Spinaat the mouth of the Po River. Still others crossed the Apennine Mountainsto Umbriaand being driven from there went to the country of the Aborigenes. These consented to a treaty and settled them at Velia. They and the Aborigenes took over Umbria but were dispossessed by the Tyrrhenians.
The author continues to detail the tribulations of the Pelasgians and then goes on to the Tyrrhenians, whom he is careful to distinguish from the Pelasgians.
Ovidsaid: [Ovid, "Metamorphoses, Book 12.1" ( [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0028&layout=&loc=12.7 Perseus (Tufts University)] )]
Sadly his father, Priam, mourned for him, not knowing that young Aesacus had assumed wings on his shoulders, and was yet alive. Then also Hector with his brothers made complete but unavailing sacrifice, upon a tomb which bore his carved name. Paris was absent. But soon afterwards, he brought into that land a ravished wife, Helen, the cause of a disastrous war, together with a thousand ships, and all the great Pelasgian nation.
Here, when a sacrifice had been prepared to Jove, according to the custom of their land, and when the ancient altar glowed with fire, the Greeks observed an azure colored snake crawling up in a plane tree near the place where they had just begun their sacrifice. Among the highest branches was a nest, with twice four birds--and those the serpent seized together with the mother-bird as she was fluttering round her loss. And every bird the serpent buried in his greedy maw. All stood amazed: but Calchas, who perceived the truth, exclaimed, “Rejoice Pelasgian men, for we shall conquer; Troy will fall; although the toil of war must long continue--sothe nine birds equal nine long years of war.” And while he prophesied, the serpent, coiled about the tree, was transformed to a stone, curled crooked as a snake.
Strabo dedicates a section of his "Geography" to the Pelasgians, relating both his own opinions and those of prior writers. Of his own opinions he says:
As for the Pelasgi, almost all agree, in the first place, that some ancient tribe of that name spread throughout the whole of Greece, and particularly among the Aeolians of Thessaly.He defines Pelasgian Argos as being "between the outlets of the
PeneusRiver and Thermopylaeas far as the mountainous country of Pindusand states that it took its name from Pelasgian rule. He includes also the tribes of Epirusas Pelasgians (based on the opinions of "many"). Lesbosis named Pelasgian. Caerewas settled by Pelasgians from Thessaly, who called it by its former name, Agylla. Pelasgians also settled around the mouth of the Tiber Riverin Italyat Pyrgiand a few other settlements under a king, Maleos. [Book V, 2.8.]
In the absence of certain knowledge about the identity (or identities) of the Pelasgians, various theories have been proposed. Some of the more prevalent theories supported by scholarship are presented below. Since Greek is classified as an Indo-European language, the major question of concern is whether Pelasgian was an Indo-European language.
Pelasgian as pre-Indo-European
One major theory uses the name "Pelasgian" to describe the inhabitants of the lands around the
Aegean Seabefore the arrival of proto-Greekspeakers as well as traditionally identified enclaves of descendants that still existed in Classical Greece. The theory derives from the original concepts of the philologist Paul Kretschmer, whose views prevailed throughout the first half of the 20th century and are still given some credibility today.
Though Wilamowitz-Moellendorff wrote them off as mythical, the results of archaeological excavations at
Çatalhöyükby James Mellaart(1955) and F. Schachermeyr (1979) led them to conclude that the Pelasgians had migrated from Asia Minor to the Aegean basin in the 4th millennium BC. In this theory a number of possible non-Indo-European linguistic and cultural features are attributed to the Pelasgians:
*Groups of apparently non-Indo-European loan words in the
Greek language, borrowed in its prehistoric development.
*Non-Greek and possibly non-Indo-European roots for many Greek place names in the region, containing the consonantal strings "-nth-" (e.g.
Corinth, Probalinthos), or its equivalent "-ns-" (e.g. Tiryns); "-tt-", e.g. in the peninsula of Attica, Mounts Hymettusand Brilettus/Brilessus, LycabettusHill, the demeof Gargettus, etc.; or its equivalent "-ss-": Larissa, Mount Parnassus, the river names Kephissos and Ilissosetc.
*Certain mythological stories or deities that seem to have no parallels in the mythologies of other Indo-European peoples.
*Non-Greek inscriptions throughout the Mediterranean, such as the
Lemnos stele. George Grotesummarizes the theory as follows: [Grote, George. "A History of Greece; from the Earliest Period to the Close of the Generation Contemporary with Alexander the Great". John Murray, 1870 (Original from Oxford University).]
There are, indeed, various names affirmed to designate the ante-Hellenic inhabitants of many parts of Greece — the Pelasgi, the
Leleges, the Curetes, the Kaukones, the Aones, the Temmikes, the Hyantes, the Telchines, the Boeotian Thracians, the Teleboae, the Ephyri, the Phlegyae, &c. These are names belonging to legendary, not to historical Greece — extracted out of a variety of conflicting legends by the logographers and subsequent historians, who strung together out of them a supposed history of the past, at a time when the conditions of historical evidence were very little understood. That these names designated real nations may be true but here our knowledge ends.
The poet and mythologist
Robert Gravesasserts that certain elements of that mythology originate with the native Pelasgian people (namely the parts related to his concept of the White Goddess, an archetypical Earth Goddess) drawing additional support for his conclusion from his interpretations of other ancient literature: Irish, Welsh, Greek, Biblical, Gnostic, and medieval writings. [Graves, Robert. "The Greek Myths". Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd., 1964.]
According to the "Iliad",
Lemnoshas no Pelasgians, but a Minyan dynasty. [Homer. "Iliad", 7.467; 14.230.]
Some Georgian scholars (including M.G. Tseretheli, R.V. Gordeziani, M. Abdushelishvili, and Dr.
Zviad Gamsakhurdia) connect the Pelasgians with the Iberian-Caucasian cultures of the prehistoric Caucasus, known to the Greeks as Colchis.
Pelasgian as non-Hellenic Indo-European
In western Anatolia, many
toponyms with the "-ss-" infix derive from the adjectival suffix also seen in cuneiform Luwian and some Palaic; the classic example is Bronze Age Tarhuntassa(loosely, "City of the Storm God Tarhunta"), and later Parnassusmay be related to the Hittite word "parna-" or "house". These elements have led to a second theory, that Pelasgian was to some degree an Anatolian language.
Vladimir Georgievasserted that the Pelasgians were Indo-Europeans, with an Indo-European etymology of "pelasgoi" from "pelagos", "sea" as the Sea People, the PRŚT of Egyptian inscriptions, and related them to the neighbouring Thracians. He proposed a soundshift model from Indo-European to Pelasgian. [V. Georgiev. "La toponymie ancienne de la péninsule balkanique et la thèse mediterannée" Sixth International Onomastic Congrees, Florence-Pisa, April 1961 (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences), 1961, noted in M. Delcor, "Jahweh et Dagon (ou le Jahwisme face à la religion des Philistins, d'après 1 Sam. V)" "Vetus Testamentum" 14.2 (April 1964, pp. 136-154), p. 142 note.]
Johann Georg von Hahnin his 1854 "Albanesische Studien" identified the Pelasgian language with "Ur-Albanian". This "Pelasgian theory" of Albanian origins was shared by some other 19th-century authors, but it is totally rejected by modern archaeological and historical circles.
Previously undiscovered Indo-European
A. J. Van Windekens (1915—1989) offered rules for an unattested hypothetical Indo-European Pelasgian language, selecting vocabulary for which there was no Greek etymology among the names of places, heroes, animals, plants, garments, artifacts, social organization. ["Le Pélasgique" (1952) and "Études pélasgique" (1960).]
Documentary evidence of the Pelasgians of Pelasgiotis is at least as early as 150-130 BC, when an inscription written in the Thessalian koinon dialect on a fragment of a marble stele at
Larissain Thessalyrecords that on request of the consulQuintus Caecilius Metellus, son of Quintus, "friend and benefactor of our country (ethnei hēmōn)" in return for services rendered by him, his family and the S.P.Q.R., the Thessalian Leaguedecreed to send 43,000 coffers of wheat to Rome, to be taxed from different regions under the league. The Pelasgiōtai and the Phthiōtai are to provide 32,000 while the Histiōtai and Thessaliōtai must provide the remaining 11,000, with 25% going to the army, all in different months. [cite web|title=Central Greece: Thessaly: Larisa: SEG 34:558|lines 16-56|work=Searchable Greek Inscriptions|publisher=The Packard Humanities Institute|date=2007|url=http://epigraphy.packhum.org/inscriptions/main?url=oi%3Fikey%3D296631%26region%3D3%26subregion%3D9%26bookid%3D172%26caller%3Dsearch%26start%3D2682%26end%3D2689|format=html|accessdate=2008-01-24]
Early 20th century
During the early 20th century, archaeological excavations conducted by the Italian Archaeological School and by the American Classical School on the Athenian
Acropolisand on other sites within Attica revealed Neolithic dwellings, tools, pottery and skeletons from domesticated animals (i.e. sheep, fish). All of these discoveries showed significant resemblances to the Neolithic discoveries made on the Thessalian acropolises of Sesklo and Dimini. These discoveries help provide physical confirmation of the literary tradition that describes the Athenians as the descendants of the Pelasgians, who appear to descend continuously from the Neolithic inhabitants in Thessaly. Overall, the archaeological evidence indicates that the site of the Acropolis was inhabited by farmers as early as the 6th millennium BCE. Procopiou says: [cite book|first=Angelo|last=Procopiou|coauthors=Edwin Smith|title=Athens: City of the Gods from Prehistory to 338 B.C.|location=New York|publisher=Stein and Day|date=1964|pages=pages 21-22]
Some forty years ago excavations on the Athenian Acropolis and on other sites in Attica brought to light many indications of neolithic life - dwellings, vases, tools, skeletons of sheep - which confirmed the traditions recorded by Herodotus that the Athenians were descended from the Pelasgians, the neolithic inhabitants of Thessaly. Indeed the neolithic vases of Attica date from the earliest neolithic age (5520–4900) like the ceramics from the Thessalian acropolis of Sesclos, as well as from the later neolithic age (4900–3200) like those from the other Thessalian acropolis of Dimini...The search for traces of the neolithic age on the Acropolis began in 1922 with the excavations of the Italian Archaeological School near the Aesclepium. Another settlement was discovered in the vicinity of the Odeion of Pericles where many sherds of pottery and a stone axe, both of Sesclos type, were unearthed. Excavations carried out by the American Classical School near the Clepshydra uncovered twenty-one wells and countless pieces of handmade pottery, sherds of Dimini type, implements of later Stone Age and bones of domestic animals and fish. The discoveries reinforced the theory that permanent settlement by farmers with their flocks, their stone and bone tools and ceramic utensils had taken place on the rock of the Acropolis as early as the sixth millennium.
It should be noted though that contrary to what Procopiou and Angelo suggest about the results of the American excavations near the Clepsydra, Sara Imerwahr in the definitive publication of the prehistoric material unequivocally states that no Dimini-type pottery was unearthed. [Immerwahr, Sara Anderson. "The Athenian Agora". "The Neolithic and Bronze Ages", Vol. 13, 1971, p. 19. "It is the Late Neolithic period that provides most of our parallels, yet, curiously, the striking Dimini-type painted wares of Thessaly are completely lacking, and there is only one small recognisable sherd of the related Mattpainted ware of Central and Southern Greece."]
In August and September of 1926, members of the Italian School of Archaeology conducted trial excavations on the island of Lemnos. A short account of their excavations appeared in the "Messager d'Athénes" for
January 3, 1927. The overall purpose of the excavations was to shed light on the island's "Etrusco-Pelasgian" civilization. The excavations were conducted on the site of the city of Hephaisteia (i.e. Palaiopolis) where the Pelasgians, according to Herodotus, surrendered to Miltiades of Athens. There, a Tyrrhenian necropolis (ca. 9th-8th centuries BC) was discovered revealing bronze objects, pots, and over 130 ossuaries. The ossuaries contained distinctly male and female funeral ornaments. Male ossuaries contained knives and axes whereas female ossuaries contained earrings, bronze pins, necklaces, gold-diadems, and bracelets. The decorations on some of the gold objects contained spirals of Mycenean origin, but had no Geometric forms. According to their ornamentation, the pots discovered at the site were from the Geometric period. However, the pots also preserved spirals indicative of Mycenean art. The results of the excavations indicate that the Tyrrhenians or Pelasgians of Lemnos were a remnant of a Mycenean population. Professor Della Seta reports: [Heffner, Edward H. "Archaeological News: Notes on Recent Archaeological Excavations and Discoveries; Other News" (July-December 1926). "American Journal of Archaeology". Vol. 31, No. 1 (January 1927), pp. 99-127. Refer to pages 123-124. "Professor Della Seta, with several members of the Italian School, carried out during August and September a trial excavation in the island of Lemnos, a short account of which appeared in the "Messager d'Athénes" for January 3, 1927, the chief object of these researches being to throw light on the "Etrusco-Pelasgian" civilization of the island. The excavations were conducted on the site of the city of Hephaisteia the Pelasgian inhabitants of which, according to Herodotos, yielded to Miltiades when he conquered Lemnos for Athens. This city, now called Palaiopolis, had considerable importance during the Greek and Roman régimes, and the necropolis belonging to the fifth century B.C. was found to contain many Attic lekythoi, while two great Roman buildings with columns, dating from the second and third centuries A.D., were also discovered. But the most important discovery was that of the Tyrrhenian necropolis, which yielded not only a rich series of pots and bronze objects but also provided material valuable for the study of the civilization and religion of the Tyrrhenians. The burials were of the incineration type, and more than one hundred and thirty ossuaries were found. At the bottom of the ossuary along with the burned bones were heaped up the funerary ornaments, differing for men and for women. The men were given an axe and a knife, while the women had their personal adornments,-bracelets, earrings and, in a great number of cases, pins of bronze. In seven ossuaries gold objects were found, i.e. rings and earrings of various shapes. One of these ossuaries yielded a complete set of female ornaments of gold-diadem, earrings, bracelets and necklace. Some of the gold objects are decorated with spirals of Mycenaean origin, but they have no Geometric forms; the pots also, judging from their ornamentatipn, seem to belong to the Geometric period, but sometimes they preserve the spirals of Mycenaean art. Mr. Della Seta summarizes the results as follows: "The lack of weapons of bronze, the abundance of weapons of iron, and the type of the pots and the pins give the impression that this necropolis belongs to the ninth or eighth century B.C. That it did not belong to a Greek population, but to a population which, in the eyes of the Hellenes, appeared barbarous, is shown by the weapons. The Greek weapon, dagger or spear, is lacking; the weapons of the barbarians, the axe and the knife, are common. Since, however, this population . . . preserves so many elements of Mycenaean art, the Tyrrhenians or Pelasgians of Lemnos may be recognized as a remnant of a Mycenaean population."]
"The lack of weapons of bronze, the abundance of weapons of iron, and the type of the pots and the pins gives the impression that the necropolis belongs to the ninth or eighth century B.C. That it did not belong to a Greek population, but to a population which, in the eyes of the Hellenes, appeared barbarous, is shown by the weapons. The Greek weapon, dagger or spear, is lacking: the weapons of the barbarians, the axe and the knife, are common. Since, however, this population . . . preserves so many elements of Mycenaean art, the Tyrrhenians or Pelasgians of Lemnos may be recognized as a remnant of a Mycenaean population."
Late 20th century
During the 1980s, the Skourta Plain project identified Middle Helladic and Late Helladic sites on mountain summits near the plains of
Skourta. These fortified mountain settlements were, according to tradition, inhabited by Pelasgians up until the end of the Bronze Age. Moreover, the location of the sites is an indication that the Pelasgian inhabitants sought to "ethnically" (a fluid term according to [http://www.globaled.org/nyworld/materials/greek2.html Foreigners and Barbarians] [ [http://www.globaled.org/nyworld/materials/greek2.html Foreigners and Barbarians (Adapted from Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks) - The American Forum for Global Education, 2000] "The status of being a foreigner, as the Greeks understood the term does not permit any easy definition. Primarily it signified such peoples as the Persians and Egyptians, whose languages were unintelligible to the Greeks, but it could also be used of Greeks who spoke in a different dialect and with a different accent. Notable among this latter category were the Macedonians, whom many Greeks regarded as semibarbaric, as the following judgement upon Philip 11 of Macedon by the Athenian politician Demosthenes indicates: He's so far from being a Greek or having the remotest connection with us Greeks that he doesn't even come from a country with a name that's respected. He's a rotten Macedonian and it wasn't long ago that you couldn't even buy a decent slave from Macedon. (Third Philippic 31) Prejudice toward Greeks on the part of Greeks was not limited to those who lived on the fringes of the Greek world. The Boeotians, inhabitants of central Greece, whose credentials were impeccable, were routinely mocked for their stupidity and gluttony. Ethnicity is a fluid concept even at the best of times. When it suited their purposes, the Greeks also divided themselves into Ionians and Dorians. The distinction was emphasized at the time of the Peloponnesian War, when the Ionian Athenians fought against the Dorian Spartans. The Spartan general Brasidas even taxed the Athenians with cowardice on account of their Ionian lineage. In other periods of history the Ionian-Dorian divide carried much less weight."] ) and economically distinguish themselves from the Mycenaean Greeks who controlled the Skourta plain. French reports: [cite journal|last=French|first=E.B.|title=Archaeology in Greece 1989-90|journal=Archaeological Reports|issue=36| pages=2–82|date=1989-1990 Refer to page 35 under "Skourta Plain project.]
The fourth and final season of the survey of the Skourta plain was conducted in 1989 by M. and M.L.Z. Munn (ASCS). "Explorations begun in 1985 and 1987 were extended into new parts of the plain and surrounding valleys, so that by now a representative portion (approximately 25%) of most of the inhabitable areas of the three koinotites of Pyli, Skourta, and Stefani have been examined intensively. 66 sites were discovered or studied for the first time in the course of this highly productive season, yielding a total of 120 premodern sites studied by our survey since 1985. The survey should have identified all major settlement sites (over 5 ha) and a representative sample of smaller sites in the study area. A summary of the chief conclusions to be drawn from the four seasons can be made. ... MH settlement is established on two summits overlooking the plain ..., one of which, Panakton ..., becomes the most substantial LH site in the area. A fortified MH settlement is also established on a peak in rugged country beyond the NE edge of the plain ..., between the Mazareika and Vountima valleys, in which other settlements are established in the LH era .... The remoteness of this NE sector, and the great natural strength of the MH site and a nearby LH IIIC citadel ..., suggest that the inhabitants of these glens and crags sought to protect and separate themselves from peoples beyond the peaks that surrounded them, perhaps because they were ethnically distinct and economically more or less independent of the Myc Greeks who dominated the plains. Traditions of Pelasgians in these mountains at the end of the BA raise the possibility that these may have been Pelasgian sites. Once abandoned, in the LH IIIC or PG eras, most of these sites in the NE sector are not again inhabited for well over a millennium. Elsewhere, within the more accessible expanse of the Skourta plain itself, LH settlements are established on many sites which are later again important in the C era ...."
Names of the Greeks
Pelasgian Creation Myth
Additional bibliographyThese references include both mainstream scholarship and fringe theories.
* Akaki Urushadze. "The Country of the Enchantress Media". Tbilisi, 1984, p. 25 (in Russian and English).
Alexander Fol. "Trakijskijat orfizam". Sofia, 1986.
* Aristeidē P. Kollia. "Arvanites kai hē katagōgē tōn Hellēnōn : historikē, laographikē, politistikē, glōssologikē episkopisē". Athens: [A.P. Kollias] , 1985.
* Dhimiter Pilika."Pellasget origjina jone mohuar". Tirana, 2005.
* Donald A. Mackenzie. "Myths of Crete and Pre-Hellenic Europe", 1917 ( [http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/moc/index.htm Reviewed] ).
* E. J. Furnee. "Vorgriechisch-Kartvelisches: Studium zum ostmediterranen Subtrat nebst einem Versuch zu einer neuen pelasgischen Theorie". Leuven-Louvian, 1979.
* F. Schachermeyr. "Die Ägäische Frühzeit. Forschungsbericht über die Ausgrabungen im letzten Jahrzehnt und über ihre Ergebnisse für unser Geschichtsbild. Bd. I. Die Vormykenischen Perioden des Griechischen Festlandes und der Kykladen". Vienna, 1979.
* Giuseppe Catapano. "Thot Parlava Albanese". Rome: Bardi, 1988.
* J. A. R. Munro. '"Pelasgians and Ionians." "The Journal of Hellenic Studies", 1934 (JSTOR).
* J. L. Myres. "A History of the Pelasgian Theory." "The Journal of Hellenic Studies", 1907.
* J. Melaart. "The Neolithic of the Near East". London, 1975.
* Jean Faucounau. "Les Origines Grecques à l'Age de Bronze". Paris, 2005.
* Jean Faucounau. "Les Proto-Ioniens : histoire d'un peuple oublié". Paris, 2001.
* M. G. Abdushelishvili. "The genesis of the aboriginal population of the Caucasus in the light of anthropological data". Tokyo, 1968.
* Marchiano Stanislao. "I Pelasgi e la loro lingua" (1888).
* Mathieu Aref. "Albanie (Histoire et Langue): Ou l'incroyable odyssée d'un peuple préhellénique" (2003).
* Mathieu Aref. "Grèce: (Mycéniens = Pélasges) ou la solution d'une énigme" (2004).
Milan Budimir. "Pelasto - Slavica" (1956).
* Milan Budimir. "The Greeks and Pelasti" (1950).
* Nermin Vlora Falaschi. "L'Etrusco lingua viva". Rome: Bardi, 1989.
Nicolae Densusianu. "Dacia Preistorica". Bucharest, 1913.
* Rismag Gordeziani. "Pre-Grecian and Georgian". Tbilisi, 1985 (in Georgian, German summary).
* Robert d'Angély. "Des Thraces & des Illyriens à Homère". Nicariu, Corsica: Cismonte è Pumonti, c. 1990.
* Robert d'Angély. "Grammaire albanaise comparée". Paris: Solange d'Angély, 1998.
* Robert d’Angély. "L’Enigme". Vėll. I Les Pélasges, 1990 France; Vėll. II Des Thraces et des Illyriens ą Homčre, 1990 France; Vėll. III Des Etrusques ą l'Empire Byzantin, 1991 France; Vėll. IV De l’Empire ottoman - Les Albanais- De l’Epire, 1991 France; Vėll. V Les secrets des Epitaphes, 1991 France.
* Robert J. Buck. "A History of Boeotia." University of Alberta, 1979. ISBN 088864051X
* Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. "Athens: Its Rise and Fall." Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1419108085
* Vladimir Georgiev. "Trakite i tehnijat ezik". Sofia, 1977.
* Zacharie Mayani. "The Etruscans Begin to Speak". London: Souvenir Press, 1961.
* [http://www.pantheon.org/articles/p/pelasgians.html Encyclopedia Mythica - Pelasgians]
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