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The name Pelasgians (Greek: Πελασγοί, Pelasgoí, singular Πελασγός, Pelasgós) was used by some ancient Greek writers to refer to populations that preceded the Hellenes in Greece, "a hold-all term for any ancient, primitive and presumably autochthonous people in the Greek world."[1] In general, "Pelasgian" has come to mean more broadly all the autochthonous inhabitants of the Aegean lands and their cultures before the advent of the Greek language.[2] This is not an exclusive meaning, but other senses require identification when meant. During the classical period, enclaves under that name survived in several locations of mainland Greece, Crete and other regions of the Aegean. Populations identified as "Pelasgian" spoke a language or languages that at the time Greeks identified as not Greek, even though some ancient writers described the Pelasgians as Greeks. A tradition also survived that large parts of Greece had once been Pelasgian before being Hellenized. These parts generally fell within the ethnic domain that by the fifth century was attributed to those speakers of ancient Greek who were identified as Ionians.

The classification of the Pelasgian language(s), known only from non-Greek elements in Ancient Greek and detectable in some placenames, even whether or not Pelasgian was a single language, and the relationship 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, which compromise their objectivity.[3]

Archaeological excavations during the 20th century have unearthed artifacts in areas traditionally inhabited by the Pelasgians, like Thessaly, Attica and Lemnos. Archaeologists excavating at Sesklo and Dimini have described Pelasgian material culture as Neolithic; others have related to Pelasgians material culture that is "Middle Helladic" and even the "Late Helladic" culture of Mycenaean Greece, where the corpus of brief inscriptions are already in an early form of Greek. Even the linking of archaeological material evidence to linguistic culture is called into question by Walter Pohl and other modern students of ethnogenesis.[4]



Much like all other aspects of the "Pelasgians", their ethnonym (Pelasgoi) is of extremely uncertain provenance and etymology. Michel Sakellariou collects fifteen different etymologies proposed for it by philologists and linguists during the last 200 years, though he admits that "most...are fanciful".[5]

An ancient etymology, dismissed by modern understanding of linguistics, links pelasgos to pelargos "stork" and postulates that the Pelasgians were migrants like storks, possibly from Egypt, where they nest.[6] Aristophanes deals effectively with this etymology in his comedy the Birds. One of the laws of "the storks" in the satirical cloud-cuckoo-land, playing upon the Athenian belief that they were originally Pelasgians, is that grown-up storks must support their parents by migrating elsewhere and conducting warfare.[7]

Gilbert Murray summarizes the derivation from pelas gē, "neighboring land:"[8]

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[9] derives Pelasgoi from *pelag-skoi (Flachlandbewohner, or "flatland-inhabitants"); specifically, Bewohner der thessalischen Ebene ("Inhabitants of the Thessalian plain"). The Indo-European root is *plāk-, "flat."[10] Pokorny details a previous derivation, which appears in English at least as early as William Gladstone's Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age, 1858.[11] 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. Ernest Klein therefore simply interprets the same reconstructed form as "the sea men", where the sea is the flat.[12]

Klein's 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 evidence

Map of Pelasgians and Pelasgus.

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 era when 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,[13] who among his many talents was a trained classicist. All the evidence presented in this section is covered in the article on 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).[14] Homer calls their town or district "Larisa"[15] and characterises it as fertile, and its inhabitants as celebrated for their spearsmanship. He records their chiefs as Hippothous and Pylaeus, sons of Lethus son of Teutamus, thus giving all of them names that were Greek or so thoroughly Hellenized that any foreign element has been effaced.

In the Odyssey Odysseus, affecting to be Cretan himself, instances Pelasgians among the tribes in the ninety cities of Crete, "language mixing with language side by side."[16]

The Iliad also refers to "Pelasgic Argos",[17] which is most likely to be the plain of Thessaly,[18] and to "Pelasgic Zeus", living in and ruling over Dodona,[19] 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.

Post-Homer poets

Plain of Thessaly, to the west of classical Pelasgiotis, but in the original range of the Pelasgians. The Pindus Mountains are visible in the background. The river is the Peneus.

Later Greek writers offered little unanimity over which sites and regions were "Pelasgian".

Hesiod calls the oracular Dodona, identified by reference to "the oak," the "seat of Pelasgians",[20] clarifying Homer's Pelasgic Zeus. He mentions also that Pelasgus (Ancient Greek: Πελασγός, the eponymous ancestor of the Pelasgians) was the father of Lycaon (king of Arcadia).[21]

Asius of Samos describes Pelasgus as the first man, born of the earth.[22]

In Aeschylus' play The Suppliants the Danaids fleeing from Egypt seek asylum from King Pelasgus of Argos, which he says is on the Strymon including Perrhaebia in the north, the Thessalian Dodona and the slopes of the Pindus mountains on the west and the shores of the sea on the east;[23] 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),[24] 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[25] (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).[26] Pelasgus admits that the land was once called Apia but compares them to the women of Libya and Egypt[27] 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.[28]

Sophocles in a fragment of a missing play, Inachus,[29] 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.

Euripides calls the inhabitants of Argos "Pelasgians" in his play entitled Orestes.[30][31] In a lost play, Archelaus, he says that Danaus on coming to reside in the city of Inachus (Argos) formulated a law that the Pelasgians were now to be called Danaans.[28]


Hecataeus of Miletus in a fragment from Genealogiai states that the clan (genos) descending from Deucalion ruled Thessaly and that it was called Pelasgia from king Pelasgus.[32] A second fragment says that Pelasgus was the son of Zeus and Niobe and that his son Lycaon founded a dynasty of kings of Arcadia.[33]

A fragment from the writings of Acusilaus asserts that the Peloponnesians were called Pelasgians after Pelasgus, a son of Zeus and Niobe.[34]


Larissa of Argos.

Hellanicus Fragment 7 from Argolica concerns itself with one word in one line of the Iliad,[35] "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 Argolis once 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 Argos on the Erasinus river, 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 Arcadia with the coming of the Greeks.[36]

According to Fragment 76, of the Phoronis,[37] 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 Italy where 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.


Herodotus of Halicarnassus wrote:[38]

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, unlearnt 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[39] and "the Pelasgian city of Antandrus"[40] in the Troad probably provide instances of this. He mentions that there were Pelasgian populations on Lemnos and Imbros.[41] 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.[42] 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:[38]

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[43] and that the Pelasgian population among the Ionians of the Peloponnesus were the Aegialian Pelasgians.[44]


Thucydides states that:[45]

Before the time of 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.

He regards the Athenians as having lived in scattered independent settlements in Attica but at some time after Theseus they 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.[46]

In connection with the campaign against Amphipolis Thucydides mentions that several settlements on the promontory of Actē were home to:[47]

 ... mixed barbarian races speaking the two languages. There is also a small Chalcidian element; but the greater number are Tyrrheno-Pelasgians once settled in Lemnos and Athens, and Bisaltians, Crestonians and Eonians; the towns all being small ones.


The historian Ephorus building 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.[48]


In his Description of Greece, Pausanias mentions the Arcadians who state that Pelasgus (along with his followers) was the first inhabitant of their land.[49] 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".[50][51] When Arcas became king, Pelasgia was renamed "Arcadia" and its inhabitants (the Pelasgians) were renamed "Arcadians".[52] Pausanias also mentions the Pelasgians as responsible for creating a wooden image of Orpheus in a sanctuary of Demeter at Therae,[53] as well as expelling the Minyans and Lacedaemonians from Lemnos.[54]

Dionysius of Halicarnassus

Dionysius of Halicarnassus in several pages gives a synoptic interpretation of the Pelasgians based on the sources available to him then:[55]

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 Zeus and 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 Curetes and 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 Hellespont and the islands, especially Lesbos, which had been colonized by Macar son of Crinacus. Most went to Dodona and eventually being driven from there to Italy then called Saturnia. They landed at Spina at the mouth of the Po River. Still others crossed the Apennine Mountains to Umbria and being driven from there went to the country of the Aborigines. 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.


Ovid said:[56]

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--so the 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:[28]

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 Peneus River and Thermopylae as far as the mountainous country of Pindus and states that it took its name from Pelasgian rule. He includes also the tribes of Epirus as Pelasgians (based on the opinions of "many"). Lesbos is named Pelasgian. Caere was settled by Pelasgians from Thessaly, who called it by its former name, Agylla. Pelasgians also settled around the mouth of the Tiber River in Italy at Pyrgi and a few other settlements under a king, Maleos.[57]


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

Unknown provenance

One major theory uses the name "Pelasgian" to describe the inhabitants of the lands around the Aegean Sea before the arrival of proto-Greek speakers 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 Çatalhöyük by 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 Hymettus and Brilettus/Brilessus, Lycabettus Hill, the deme of Gargettus, etc.; or its equivalent "-ss-": Larissa, Mount Parnassus, the river names Kephissos and Ilissos etc.
  • 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 Grote summarizes the theory as follows:[58]

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 Graves asserts 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.[59]


According to the Iliad, Lemnos has no Pelasgians, but a Minyan dynasty.[60]


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 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 Parnassus may 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.


In 1919, N. Giannopoulos published an inscription from Pharsalos (Thessaly) supposedly containing terms in "Pelasgian". Werner Peek, a prominent epigrammist, published his analysis of the inscription in 1938 and concluded that the language inscribed was Greek.[61]


Vladimir I. Georgiev asserted 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.[62]


In 1854, an Austrian diplomat and Albanian language specialist, Johann Georg von Hahn, identified the Pelasgian language with "Ur-Albanian. This theory is entirely rejected by contemporary archaeological and historical circles, but retains staunch support among Albanian nationalists.[63]

Previously undiscovered Indo-European

Following Vladimir I. Georgiev,[64] who placed Pelasgian as an Indo-European language "between Albanian and Armenian"[65] 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.[66] His 1952 essay was critically received.[67]

Inscriptional attestations

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 Larissa in Thessaly records that on request of the consul Quintus 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 League decreed 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.[68]


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 Acropolis and 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. Prokopiou says:[69]

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 Sesklo 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 Prokopiou suggests 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.[70]


In August and September 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:[71]

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 Foreigners and Barbarians[72]) and economically distinguish themselves from the Mycenaean Greeks who controlled the Skourta plain. French reports:[73]

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 ...

See also


  1. ^ Apollonius Rhodius (trans. Peter Green). The Argonautika (Expanded Edition). University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 0520253930, p. 223 (Commentary on I.987).
  2. ^ "A member of a people living in the region of the Aegean Sea before the coming of the Greeks": "Pelasgian". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  3. ^ Smith, Anthony D. Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History. Wiley-Blackwell, 2001, p. 82, ISBN 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'."
  4. ^ Pohl, "Aux origines d'une Europe ethnique. Transformations d'identités entre Antiquité et Moyen Age". Annales HSS 60 (2005): 183-208, and Pohl, "Conceptions of Ethnicity in Early Medieval Studies" Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings, Lester K. Little and Barbara H. Rosenwein, eds. (Blackwell), 1998, pp. 13-24. (On-line text).
  5. ^ Sakellariou, Michael B. Peuples prehelleniques d'origine indo-europeennee. Ekdotike Athenon, 1977, pp. 101-104.
  6. ^ Strabo refers to this in Geography Book 5, Section 2, Part 4.
  7. ^ Aristophanes. The Birds, 1355ff.
  8. ^ Murray, Gilbert (1960). The Rise of the Greek Epic. new York: Oxford University Press. p. 43. LC60-13910. 
  9. ^ "Indogermanisches Etymologisches Woerterbuch". Leiden University:Department of Comparative Indo-European Linguistics. pp. pages 831-832.  Search on the page numbers.
  10. ^ The derivation in English can be found at "plāk-". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. 
  11. ^ Gladstone, William Ewart. Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age (Volume I). Oxford University Press, 1858, p. 213.
  12. ^ Klein, Ernest (1966). A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Company. Under Pelasgian and Pelagic. LC 65-13229. 
  13. ^ Gladstone, W.E. (1858). Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age: in Three Volumes. Oxford: University of Oxford Press.  The Pelasgians are covered especially in Volume I.
  14. ^ Homer. Iliad, Book 2, Lines 840-843. The camp at Troy is mentioned in Book 10, Lines 428-429.
  15. ^ Not the same as the Thessalian Larissa. Many towns of the name existed.
  16. ^ Homer. Odyssey, Book 19, Lines 175-177 (Robert Fagles' translation).
  17. ^ Homer. Iliad, Book 2, Lines 681-684.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Homer. Iliad, Book 16, Lines 233-235.
  20. ^ Mair, A. W. (1908). Hesiod: The Poems and Fragments: Done into English Prose with Introduction and Appendices. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. p. 100, Fragment 236. 
  21. ^ Mair, p. 88, Fragment 71.
  22. ^ Prichard, James Cowles (1841). Researches Into the Physical History of Mankind: Third Edition: Volume III: Containing Researches into the History of the European Nations. London: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper. p. 489. 
  23. ^ Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 249-259.
  24. ^ Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 262-263.
  25. ^ Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 128-129.
  26. ^ Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 154-155.
  27. ^ Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 279-281.
  28. ^ a b c Strabo. Geography, Book 5, Section 2.4.
  29. ^ Dindorf, Wilhelm (1849). ΣΟΦΟΚΛΗΣ: Sophoclis Tragoediae Superstites et Deperditarum Fragmenta: Editio Secunda Emendatior. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 352, Fragment 256. 
  30. ^ Euripides. Orestes, Line 857.
  31. ^ Euripides. Orestes, Line 933.
  32. ^ Klausen, Rud. Henr. (1831). Hecataei Milesii Fragmenta: Scylacis Caryandensis Periplus. Berolini: impensis G. Reimeri. Fragment 224 page 140. 
  33. ^ Klausen, Fragment 375, p. 157.
  34. ^ Mentioned in Apollodorus, Library, Book 2, Section 1.
  35. ^ Hellanicus. Argolica, Book 3, Line 75.
  36. ^ Sturz, Fridericus Guilielmus (original Editor); Gulielmus Canter (2nd edition editor) (1826). Hellanici Lesbii Fragmenta: Edition Altera Aucta et Emendata. Lipsiae: Sumtibus C. H. F. Hartmanni. pp. 49–51. 
  37. ^ Sturz and Canter (1826), pp. 108-109.
  38. ^ a b Herodotus (translated by G.C. Macaulay). The Histories. Spark Educational Publishing, 2004, p. 20, ISBN 1593081022.
  39. ^ Herodotus. Histories, Book 2, Section 51. The text allows two interpretations, that Pelasgians were indigenous there or that they had been resettled by Athens.
  40. ^ Herodotus. Histories, Book 7, Section 42.
  41. ^ Herodotus. Histories, Book 5, Section 26.
  42. ^ Herodotus. Histories, Book 6, Sections 137-140.
  43. ^ Herodotus. Histories, Book 8, Section 44.
  44. ^ Herodotus. Histories, Book 7, Section 94.
  45. ^ Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War, 1.1 (Section 3).
  46. ^ Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War, 2.6 (Sections 16-17).
  47. ^ Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War, 4.14 (Section 109).
  48. ^ The fragment expressing these views can be found in Strabo, Geography, 5.2.4.
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  50. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 8.1.5.
  51. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 8.1.6.
  52. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 8.4.1.
  53. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 3.20.5.
  54. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 7.2.2.
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  61. ^ Cadogan, Gerald and Caskey, John Langdon. The End of the Early Bronze Age in the Aegean. BRILL, 1996, p. 94. [Footnote] "The supposed 'Pelasgian' words in an inscription from Pharsalos in Thessaly, first published by Giannopoulos (1919: 50-51), are read as Greek by Peek (1938: 20-27)." See also: Giannopoulos, N.I. (1919) "Φαρσάλου Άντρον Επιγεγραμμένον." ArchEph: 49–53; Peek, Werner. (1938) "Metrische Inschriften". Mnemosynon Theodor Wiegand, (Munich): 14–42.
  62. ^ Georgiev, Vladimir. 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.
  63. ^ Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers and Bernd Jürgen Fischer, editors of Albanian Identities: Myth and History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2002), present papers resulting from the London Conference held in 1999 entitled "The Role of Myth in the History and Development of Albania". The "Pelasgian" myth of Albanians as the most ancient community in southeastern Europe is among those explored in Noel Malcolm's essay, "Myths of Albanian National Identity: Some Key Elements, As Expressed in the Works of Albanian Writers in America in the Early Twentieth Century". The introductory essay by Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers establishes the context of the "Pelasgian Albanian" mythos, applicable to Eastern Europe generally, in terms of the longing for a stable identity in a rapidly opening society.
  64. ^ Georgiev (1937) and Vorgriechische Sprachwissenshaft (Sofia, 1941).
  65. ^ Georgiev 1941:63, qoted in H. M. Hoenigswald's review in Language 19.3 (July - September 1943) p. 270.
  66. ^ Le Pélasgique: essai sur une langue indo-européenne préhéllenique (1952) and Études pélasgiques (1960).
  67. ^ As, for example, in Gordon Messing's extended review, criticizing point-by-point, in Language 30.1 (January - March 1954), pp. 104-108.
  68. ^ "Central Greece: Thessaly: Larisa: SEG 34: 558: Lines 16-56" (html). Searchable Greek Inscriptions. The Packard Humanities Institute. 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  69. ^ Prokopiou, Angelos; Edwin Smith (1964). Athens: City of the Gods from Prehistory to 338 B.C.. New York: Stein and Day. pp. 21–22. OCLC 1016679. 
  70. ^ 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."
  71. ^ 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.
  72. ^ Foreigners and Barbarians (Adapted from Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks) - The American Forum for Global Education, 2000.
  73. ^ French, E.B. (1989-1990). "Archaeology in Greece 1989-90". Archaeological Reports (36): 2–82.  Refer to page 35 under Skourta Plain project.

Additional bibliography

These 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 (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. France 1990-91: vol. I Les Pélasges; II Des Thraces et des Illyriens ą Homčre; III Des Etrusques ą l'Empire Byzantin, IV De l'Empire ottoman - Les Albanais- De l'Epire,; V Les secrets des Epitaphes.
  • Robert J. Buck. A History of Boeotia. University of Alberta, 1979. ISBN 0-88864-051-X
  • Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. Athens: Its Rise and Fall. Kessinger Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-4191-0808-5
  • Vladimir Georgiev. Trakite i tehnijat ezik. Sofia, 1977.
  • Zacharie Mayani. The Etruscans Begin to Speak. London: Souvenir Press, 1961.

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