), one of the four races into which the Hellenes are usually divided.
In the heroic age they are found in that part of Thessaly in which Phthia and Hellas were situated, and also in the eastern part of Peloponnesus, more especially in Argos and Sparta. Argos was frequently called the Achaean Argos (Ἄργος Ἀχαιϊκόν, Hom. Il. 9.141
) to distinguish it from the Pelasgian Argos in Thessaly; but Sparta is generally mentioned as the head-quarters of the Achaean race in Peloponnesus. Thessaly and Peloponnesus were thus the two chief abodes of this people; but there were various traditions respecting their origin, and a difference of opinion existed among the ancients, whether the Thessalian or the Peloponnesian Achaeans were the more ancient. They were usually represented as descendants of Achaeus, the son of Xuthus and Creusa, and consequently the brother of Ion and grandson of Hellen. Pausanias (7.1
) related that Achaeus went back to Thessaly, and recovered the dominions of which his father, Xuthus, had been deprived; and then, in order to explain the existence of the Achaeans in Peloponnesus, he adds that Archander and Architeles, the sons of Achaeus, came back from Phthiotis to Argos, married the two daughters of Danaus, and acquired such influence at Argos and Sparta, that they called the people Achaeans after their father Achaeus. On the other hand, Strabo in one passage says (p. 383), that Achaeus having fled from Attica, where his father Xuthus had settled, settled in Lacedaemon and gave to the inhabitants the name of Achaeans.
In another passage, however, he relates (p. 365), that Pelops brought with him into Peloponnesus the Phthiotan Achaeans, who settled in Laconia.
It would be unprofitable to pursue further the variations in the legends; but we may safely believe that the Achaeans in Thessaly were more ancient than those in Peloponnesus, since all tradition points to Thessaly as the cradle of the Hellenic race.
There is a totally different account, which represents the Achaeans as of Pelasgic origin.
It is preserved by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1.17), who relates that Achaeus, Phthius, and Pelasgus were sons of Poseidon and Larissa; and that they migrated from Peloponnesus to Thessaly, where they divided the country into three parts, called after them Achaia, Phthiotis and Pelasgiotis.
A modern writer is disposed to accept this tradition so far, as to assign a Pelasgic origin to the Achaeans, though he regards the Phthiotan Achaeans as more ancient than their brethren in the Peloponnesus. (Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece,
vol. i. p. 109, seq.)
The only fact
known in the earliest history of the people, which we can admit with certainty, is their existence as the predominant race in the south of Thessaly, and on the eastern side of Peloponnesus. They are represented by Homer as a brave and warlike people, and so distinguished were they that he usually calls the Greeks in general Achaeans or Panachaeans (Π̓αναχαιοί Il. 2.404
In the same manner Peloponnesus, and sometimes the whole of Greece, is called by the poet the Achaean land. (Ἀχαιΐς γαῖα, Hom. Il. 1.254
, Od. 13.249
.) On the conquest of Peloponnesus by the Dorians, 80 years after the Trojan war, the Achaeans were driven out of Argos and Laconia, and those who remained behind were reduced to the condition of a conquered people. Most of the expelled Achaeans, led by Tisamenus, the son of Orestes, proceeded to the land on the northern coast of Peloponnesus, which was called simply Aegialus (Αἰγιαλός
) or the “Coast,” and was inhabited by Ionians.
The latter were defeated by the Achaeans and crossed over to Attica and Asia Minor, leaving their country to their conquerors, from whom it was henceforth called Achaia. (Strab. p. 383; Paus. 7.1
; Pol. 2.41; comp. Hdt. 1.145
The further history of the Achaeans is given under ACHAIA
The Achaeans founded several colonies, of which the most celebrated were Croton and Sybaris. [CROTON; SYBARIS.]