, Adj. Πελασγικός
), an ancient race, widely spread over Greece and the coasts and islands of the Aegean sea in prehistoric times. We also find traces of them in Asia Minor and Italy.
I. The Pelasgians in Greece.
The earliest mention of the Pelasgi is in Homer (Hom. Il. 2.681
), who enumerates several Thessalian tribes as furnishing a contingent under the command of Achilles, and among them “those who dwelt in Pelasgian Argos.” Homer also speaks of Epirus as a chief abode of the Pelasgi; for Achilles addresses Zeus as Δωδωναῖε, Πελασγικέ.
.) And this agrees with Hesiod's description of Dodona as the “seat of the Pelasgi.” (Fragm.
xviii.) So in the Supplices
of Aeschylus, the king declares himself to be ruler of the country through which the Algus and the Strymon flow, and also of the whole of the land of the Perrhaebi, near the Paeonians, and the Dodonean mountains, as far as the sea. (Suppl.
250, seq.). Herodotus tells us he found traces of the Pelasgi at Dodona, where he says they worshipped all the gods, without giving a name to any (2.52). Compare his mythic account of the two priestesses at Dodona (2.56) with Homer's description of the Selli. (Il. 16.234
Strabo (v. p.221
, C.) says: “Nearly all are agreed about the Pelasgi, that they were an ancient tribe (φῦλον
) spread over the whole of Hellas, and especially by the side of the Aeolians in Thessaly.... And that part of Thessaly is called Pelasgian Argos, which extends from the coast between the outlet of the Peneius and Thermopylae as far as the mountain range of Pindus, because the Pelasgians were masters of that region.” 1
We also hear of the Pelasgi in Boeotia, where they dwelt for a time, after having, in conjunction with the Thracians, driven out the Aones, Temmices, Leleges and Hyantes.
Afterwards they were, in their turn, driven out by the former inhabitants, and took refuge at Athens under Mt. Hymettus, part of [p. 2.562]
the city being called after their name. (Strab. ix. p.401
.) And Attic historians speak of their residence there, and say that on account of their migratory disposition they were called Πελαργοί
(storks) by the Attic people. (Strab. v. p.221
This is the character generally given to the Pelasgi, and it is curious to find Herodotus (1.56
) contrasting the stationary habits of the Pelasgians, with the love of wandering exhibited by the Hellenic Dorians. For even his own account of the Pelasgi disproves his general statement; since they could not have existed in so many different quarters as he assigns to them without several migrations, or--which he nowhere asserts--an almost universal extension over Greece and its dependencies.
It is true that he says (2.56) that Hellas was formerly called Pelasgia, and Thucydides speaks (1.3) of the name Hellas being of comparatively recent date, and of the Pelasgic name being the most prevalent among the tribes of Greece; but this does not account for the Pelasgi being found in Asia (Hom. Il. 10.429
), and for their having introduced Egyptian rites into Greece. (Hdt. 2.51
.) Their sojourn in Attica is related by Herodotus, who says (6.137) that they had a portion of ground under Mt. Hymettus assigned them as a reward for their services in building the wall of the Acropolis at Athens. From this Hecataeus said they were driven. out by the Athenians from envy, because their land was the best cultivated. The Athenians, however, says Herodotus, ascribe their expulsion to their licentious conduct. Thucydides also (2.17) mentions the Pelasgic settlement beneath the Acropolis, and the oracle relating to it.
In the passages above quoted Herodotus speaks of the Pelasgi as of foreign extraction.
In another passage (8.44) he tells us that the Athenians were formerly Pelasgians, and were so called, with the surname of Cranai. They were called successively Cecropidae, Erechtheidae and Iones.
Strabo (xiii. p.621
) mentions a legend that the inhabitants of Mt. Phricion near Thermopylae made a descent upon the place where Cyme afterwards stood, and found it in the possession of Pelasgians, who had suffered from the Trojan War, but were nevertheless in possession of Larissa, which was about 70 stades from Cyme.
We find traces of the Pelasgi in several parts of the Peloponnese. Herodotus (1.146
) speaks of Arcadian Pelasgians, and (7.94) tells us that the Ionians in Achaea were formerly called Pelasgian Aegialeans (or Pelasgians of the coast). After Danaus and Xuthus came to Peloponnesus, they vere called Ionians, from Ion, son of Xuthus.
In the passage of Aeschylus before referred to (Suppl.
250) Argos is called Pelasgian; the king of Argos is also called ἄναζ Πελασγῶν
(5.327), and throughout the play the words Argive and Pelasgian are used indiscriminately. So, too, in the Prometheus Vinctus (5.860), Argolis is called “the Pelasgian land.” In a fragment of Sophocles (Inachus) the king is addressed as. lord of Argos and of the Tyrrheni Pelasgi.
Strabo (vii. p.321
) speaks of Pelasgians taking possession of part of the Peloponnese, along with other barbarous tribes, and (v. p. 221) says that Ephorus, on Hesiod's authority, traces the origin of the Pelasgi to Lycaon, son of Pelasgus, and that he declares his own opinion to be that they were originally Arcadians, who chose a military life, and, by inducing many others to join them, spread the name far and wide, both among the Greeks and wherever they happened to come. “The Arcadian divine or heroic pedigree,” says Mr. Grote (Hist. Greece,
vol. i. ch. ix.), “begins with Pelasgus, whom both Hesiod and Asius considered as an indigenous man, though Arcesilaus the Argeian represented him as brother of Argos and son of Zeus by Niobe, daughter of Phoroneus: this logographer wished to establish a community of origin between the Argeians and the Arcadians.” For the legend concerning Lycaon, son of Pelasgus, and his fifty sons, see Grote's Greece,
vol. i. p. 239, note.
According to Dionysius, Lycaon, son of Pelasgus, lived eighteen generations before the Trojan War (lib, i. p. 30, ed. Reiske); and the migration of the Oenotians under Oenotrus, son of Lycaon, in the next generation, is, in the words of Pausanias (8.3
, quoted by Niebuhr), “the earliest colony, whether of Greeks or barbarians, whereof a recollection has been preserved.”
) gives the popular legend current among the Arcadians, that Pelasgus was the first man born there; on which he observes naïvely: “But it is likely that other men were also born with Pelasgus; for how could he have reigned without subjects?” According to this legend Pelasgus is a regular mythic hero, surpassing all his contemporaries in stature and wisdom, and teaching them what to choose for food and what to abstain from.
The use of beech-mast, which the Pythian oracle (Hdt. 1.66
) ascribed to the Arcadians, was taught them by Pelasgus. His descendants became numerous after three generations, and gave their names to various districts and many towns in Greece. Pausanias also speaks of Pelasgians coming from Iolcos to Pylos, and driving out the eponymic founder (4.36.1).
Dionysius adopts the Achaean legend, viz. that the first abode of the Pelasgi was Achaic Argos.
There they were autochthons, and took their name from Pelasgus. Six generations afterwards they left Peloponnesus, and migrated to Haemonia, the leaders of the colony being Achaeus, and Phthius, and Pelasgus, sons of Larissa and Poseidon.
These three gave names to three districts, Achaea, Phthiotis, and Pelasgiotis. Here they abode for five generations, and in the sixth they were driven out of Thessaly by the Curetes and Leleges, who are now called Locrians and Aetolians, with whom were joined many others of the inhabitants of the district of Mt. Parnassus, led by Deucalion (1.17. p. 46). They dispersed in different directions: some settled in Histiaeotis, between Olympus and Ossa; others in Boeotia, Phocis, and Euboea; the main body, however, took refuge with their kinsmen in Epirus, in the neighbourhood of Dodona (1.18).
We now come to
II. The Pelasgians in the Islands of the Aegean.
Homer (Hom. Od. 19.175
) mentions the Pelasgi (called δῖοι,
as one of the five tribes in Crete, the remaining four being the Achaeans, Eteocretes, Cydones, and Dorians (called τριχάϊκες
). See Strabo's comment on this passage (v. p. 221), and x. pp. 475, 476), where two different explanations of the epithet τριχάϊκες
) speaks of Pelasgi living in Samothrace, where they performed the mysteries called Samothracian orgies.
Lemnos and Imbros were also inhabited by them (5.26). So also Strabo (v. p.221
), quoting Anticleides. Thucydides (4.109
) speaks of the Tyrrheni Pelasgi, who occupied Lemnos; and Pausania [p. 2.563]
(7.2.2) says the Pelasgians drove out the Minyans and Lacedaemonians from Lemnos.
The perpetrators of the Lemnian massacre were Pelasgians. (Hdt. 6.138
; compare Pind. Pyth. Od.
4.448 [252, Bkh.]; Orph. Arg.
5.470; Stanley, Comm. in Aesch. Choëph.
Herodotus also reckons the inhabitants of seventeen islands on the coast of Asia as belonging to the Pelasgian race (7.95).
According to Strabo (xiii. p.621
) Menecrates declared the whole coast of Ionia, beginning at Mycale, to be peopled by Pelasgi, and the neighbouring islands likewise: “and the Lesbians say they were under the command of Pylaeus, who was called by the poet the leader of the Pelasgi, and from whom their mountain was called Pylaeum. And the Chians say their founders were Pelasgi from Thessaly.”
) says that the first Pelasgian colony was led by Macar to Lesbos, after the Pelasgi had been driven out of Thessaly.
Diodorus Siculus (5.81) gives a different account of this colony.
He says that Xanthus, the son of Triopus, chief of the Pelasgi from Argos, settled first in Lycia, and afterwards crossed over with his followers into Lesbos, which he found unoccupied, and divided among them.
This was seven generations before the flood of Deucalion. When this occurred Lesbos was desolated, and Macareus, grandson of Zeus (according to Hesiod), occupied it a second time, and the island received its name from his son-in-law. Scymnos of Chios (quoted by Kruse, Hellas
) speaks of Pelasgians being in Sciathos and Scyros.
We next come to
III. The Pelasgians in Asia.
On this point we have Homer's authority that there were Pelasgians among the Trojan allies, ranked with Leleges, Caucōnes, and Lycians, and called δῖοι.
.) One of these was killed by Ajax, in the battle over the body of Patroclus,--Hippothous, son of Lethus. (Il. 17.288
Herodotus speaks (7.42) of Antandros as a Pelasgian city, and afterwards (7.95) says that the Aeolians were formerly called Pelasgians by the Hellenes, and that when they fought against the Greeks they wore Hellenic armour.
Strabo (v. p.221
) quotes Homer's statement that the neighbours of the Cilicians in the Troas were Pelasgians, and that they dwelt about Larissa. (Il. 2.841
This name probably signifies a fortress built on a precipice or overhanging rock, and is an indication, wherever it occurs, of the presence of Pelasgi.
There were several places of the same name in Greece and two or three in Asia Minor, which are enumerated by Strabo (ix. p.440
, xiii. p. 620).
According to this geographer most of the Carians were Leleges and Pelasgi. They first occupied the islands, then the sea-coast.
He argues, from Homer's expression “the tribes of Pelasgians” (Il. 2.840
), that their number was considerable.
) says that the Pelasgi, on being driven out of Thessaly, crossed over into Asia, and acquired many cities on the sea-coast.
Two cities were in existence in the time of Herodotus, namely, Scylace and Placie, on the Propontis, which he believed to be Pelasgian cities, and which, he ;says (1.57), spoke similar dialects, but unlike their neighbours.
That dialect was, on Herodotus's testimony, not Greek, but resembling the dialect of the Crotoniatae, or rather Crestonians, a tribe among the Edones in Thrace.
“Bishop Thirlwall, competing this passage with another, in which Herodotus is enumerating the dialects that prevailed among the Ionian Greeks, and uses the same terms, infers from the comparison that ; the Pelasgian language which Herodotus heard on the Hellespont and elsewhere sounded to him a strange jargon; as did the dialect of Ephesus to a Milesian, and as the Bolognese does to a Florentine” (vol. i. p. 53). “Mr. Grote differs from Bishop Thirlwall in his estimate of these expressions of Herodotus, who, he thinks, must have known better than any one whether a language which he heard was Greek or not, and concludes that Herodotus pronounces the Pelasgians of his day to speak a substantive language differing from Greek; but whether differing from it in a greater or less degree (e. g. in the degree of Latin or of Phoenician), we have no means of deciding” (vol. i. pp. 351--353).
Heeren (Ancient Greece,
p. 38, note) has some remarks on Herodotus's opinion respecting the language spoken by the Pelasgians in his day, in which he seems to raise an imaginary difficulty that he may have the pleasure of overthrowing it.
Before quitting the coasts of the Aegean, it is necessary to quote Thucydides's observation (4.109), that “the Pelasgian race is said to be the most widely prevalent in the Chalcidic peninsula and in the adjoining islands;” and the legend preserved by Athenaeus (xiv. p. 639), “that Thessaly was, in the time of Pelasgus, suddenly converted by an earthquake from a vast lake into a fertile plain, irrigated by the Peneius, the waters of which bee fore had been shut in by mountains.”
The latter is a poetical version of a geological truth, which, though not falling within the province of history, recommends itself at once to the notice of the geographer.
IV. The Pelasgians in Italy.
Legendary history has connected the Pelasgic race with more than one portion of the Italic peninsula.
The name Oenotria, by which the southern part of Italy was formerly known (see Aristotle, Aristot. Pol. 7.10
) suggests an affinity between the early inhabitants of that country and the Arcadian Pelasgians.
The name Tyrrheni or Tyrseni, which we have seen is used identically with that of Pelasgi, suggests another link. Innumerable legends, which furnished logographers with the subject-matter of their discourse. connected the Umbrians, the Peucetians, and other tribes in the north of Italy and on the coast of the Adriatic with the Pelasgians from Epirus and Thessaly. Some of these are given by Strabo.
He quotes Anticleides to the effect that some of the Lemnian Pelasgians crossed over into Italy with Tyrrhenus, son of Atys (v. p. 221). Again, ie quotes Hieronymus's assertion, that the Thessalian Pelasgians were driven out from the neighbourhood of Larissa by the Lapithae, and took refuge in Italy (ix. p. 443).
Pausanias's account of the Pelasgian colony led by Oenotrus has already been given. Dionysius (1.11
. p. 30) confirms it, saying “Oenotrus son of Lycaon led a colony into Italy seventeen generations before the Trojan War.” According to Dionysius, a colony of Pelasgians came over from Thessaly and settled among the Aborigines, with whom they waged war against the Sicels (1.17. p. 45.)
Another body came from the neighbourhood of Dodona, whence, finding the territory unable to support [p. 2.564]
them, they crossed over in ships to Italy, called Saturnia, in obedience to the oracle.
The winds bore them to Spines, on one of the mouths of the Po, where they established themselves, and by the help of their fleet acquired great power. They were, however, eventually driven out by an insurrection of the neighbouring barbarians, who were in turn overpowered by the Romans (1.18). The Pelasgians thence migrated inland, crossed the Apennines, and entered the country of the Umbrians, who bordered on the Aborigines, and extended over a great part of Italy, being a numerous and powerful people. Here they established themselves for some time, and took some small towns from the Unibrians; but, being overpowered by them, they removed into the country of the Aborigines. When they came to Cotyle, they recognised the spot where the oracle had told them they were to offer up a sacrifice to Jupiter, Pluto, and Phoebus. On this they invited the Aborigines, who came to attack them, to join alliance with them; which invitation they, being hard pressed by the Siculi, accepted, and gave the Pelasgi Velia to dwell in.
The latter then helped the Aborigines to conquer Crotona in Umbria, and to drive the Sicels out of their land. Together they founded several cities. Caere, Agylla, Pisa, Saturnium, and others, which were taken by the Tyrrhenians. Dionysius says that Phalerium and Fescennia retained in his time certain faint traces of the old Pelasgic population, especially in the weapons of war--viz. Argolic spears and shields--and the institution of fetials, and other religious rites.
There was a temple of Hera at Falerium, exactly like that at Argos, where were similar sacrifices, and similar priestesses, canephori. and choruses of maidens.
The Pelasgi also occupied parts of Campania, driving out the Aurunci, and founded Larissa and other cities. Some of these remained, after undergoing many changes of inhabitants, in Dionysius's time. Of Larissa there was no memorial save the name, and this was not commonly known ; but its site was not far from Forum Popilii. (Plin. Nat. 3.15
.) They took many cities from the Sicels, too, and established their power along the coast and inland.
The Pelasgi, having driven out the Sicels, increased in power and extent of territory. Eventually, however, they incurred the anger of the gods, and suffered various penalties at their hands. On consulting the oracle, they were told that they had neglected to perform their oaths, in not sacrificing their first-born as well as the fruits of the field. Myrsilus tells this story, adding that the Pelasgi were soon dispersed in different directions, some returning to Greece, and others remaining in Italy by the friendly intervention of the Aborigines. They were a warlike race, and acquired great skill in naval matters from their residence with the Tyrrhenians. On this account they were often invited by other nations to serve as auxiliaries, and were called by the names Tyrrheni and Pelasgi indiscriminately (1.18--23).
Respecting the former name he says that it was given them on account of the forts, τύρσεις,
which they built. Hellanicus of Lesbos says that the Tyrrheni, formerly called Pelasgi, received the name which they bear after their arrival in Italy. For the counter-theory of Myrsilus see Dionys. A. R. 1.28
Dionysius thinks all are mistaken who hold the Tyrrheni and the Pelasgi to be the same race.
He thinks no argument can be drawn from the fact of their names being used indiscriminately, as that was very common, e. g., in the case of the Trojans and Phrygians. Moreover, the Greeks called all Italians--Latins, Umbrians, Ausones, &c.--Tyrrhenians. Even Rome was believed by many to be a Tyrrhene city. Dionysius quotes Herodotus (1.57
) in support of his opinion that the Pelasgians and Tyrrhenians are not of the same origin.
It would be a wonderful thing, he says, if the Crotoniatae spoke the same dialect as the Placieni on the Hellespont, both being Pelasgians, but should not speak the same dialect as the Tyrrhenians, if they were also Pelasgi. For the contrary of the proposition--if ὁμογλῶσσοι,
--holds good: i. e. if ἀλλογλῶσσοι,
If the case were reversed, there might be a show of reason for believing them of the same origin; for it might be said that distance had obliterated early traces of resemblance: but when they are so near each other as the Crotoniatae and Tyrrheni this supposition is untenable (1.29).
Hence Dionysius believes the Pelasgians and Tyrrhenians to be distinct.
He sums up all by saying that those Pelasgians who survived the final dispersion and ruin of the race existed among the Aborigines, and their descendants helped them and other tribes to build Rome (1.30).
It is unnecessary to remark the difference between Crotona in Umbria and Creston in Thrace, which Dionysius unsuspectingly passes over.
The above somewhat lengthy extracts have been made from his Roman Antiquities, because they give us a very fair specimen of the way in which scattered traditions were dressed up in a quasi-historical garb, and decked out with any stray evidence which local names or language might supply.
The common native tradition of the Latins only testifies to an immigration of so called Aborigines, not to any mixture of Pelasgi with them. On the other hand, another, which has received the testimony of Varro, and which agrees in other respects with the narration of Dionysius, speaks of an immigration of Pelasgians, but says nothing of Aborigines mixed with or allied with them. Certain Roman historians have combined these two traditions in a different way to that of Dionysius, making the Aborigines, namely, declare themselves to be one and the same people with the Pelasgians.
This, for instance is, without any doubt, the meaning of Cato's assertion that the Aborigines came over into Italy many generations before the Trojan War, out of Achaia; for so he named the old Pelasgic Greece by the common appellation of his time. (Schwegler, Römische Gesch.
3.2.) We find the same tradition of a Pelasgic immigration into Latium confirmed by many other testimonies. Pliny declares that writing was brought into Latium by the Pelasgi.
It is a question, however, whether by these Pelasgi he means those who came out of Thessaly and Dodona, or the Arcadians of Evander.
Other traditions assert the name of Rome to be Pelasgian, and derive the Saturnalia from a feast originally instituted by the Pelasgians who settled on the Saturnian hill.
“ In other parts of Italy we stumble repeatedly,” says Schwegler, “on the same wide-extended name. Thus, it is said that the Hernici were descended from the Pelasgi. Picenum also is said to have been occupied by the Pelasgi. Report also says that the towns of Nuceria, Herculaneum, and Pompeii were founded by them, or that they dwelt there for a certain time. Other instances have been already given of towns and districts with which legendary history has associated the name of the Pelasgi.” [p. 2.565]
In short, the whole of Italy was, if we are to believe the authorities adduced, inhabited in ancient times by the Pelasgians.
In later times they appear as vassals of the Italiots; the common fate of original races that have been subjugated.
Upon these and similar traditions Niebuhr has grounded a hypothesis, which at present is generally received, and against which conclusive objections can only be raised from the side of comparative philology.
According to Niebuhr,the Pelasgians were the original population, not only of Greece, but also of Italy.
There was a time, he said, when the Pelasgians, formerly perhaps the most widely-spread people in Europe, inhabited all the countries from the Arnus and Padus to the Bosporus; not as wandering tribes, as the writers of history represent it, but as firmly-rooted, powerful, honourable people.
This time lies, for the most part, before the beginning of our Grecian history. However, at the time that the genealogists and Hellanicus wrote, there were only insulated, dispersed, and scattered fragments of this immense nation,--as of the Celtic race in Spain--like mountain summits, which stand out like islands when the lowlands have been changed by floods into a lake.
These sporadic Pelasgic tribes did not seem to these logographers to be fragments and relics, but colonies that had been sent out and had migrated, like the equally scattered colonies of the Hellenes. Hence the numerous traditions about the expeditions and wanderings of the Pelasgi. All these traditions are without the slightest historical value. They are nothing but a hypothesis of the logographers, framed out of the supposition that those scattered colonies of the Pelasgi had arisen and were produced by a series of migrations.
There is nothing historical about them, except, indeed, the fact which lies at the bottom of the hypothesis, namely, the existence in later times of scattered Pelasgic tribes,--a fact which, however, implies much more the original greatness and extension of the Pelasgic nation. If the Pelasgians vanish gradually as historical times begin, the cause of this is, that they were transformed into other nations. Thus, in Greece they became gradually Hellenised, as a nation which, in spite of all distinction, was actually related to the Hellenes ; and even in Italy they form a considerable portion of the later tribes of the peninsula which owed their origin in the main to the mixture of races.
The half-Greek element which the Latin language contains, is, according to this view of Niebuhr's, Pelasgic, and owes its origin to the Pelasgian portion of the Latin nation, which Niebuhr and K. O. Müller (Etrusker
) agree in finding in the Siculians.
This hypothesis of Niebuhr's, generally received as it is, wants, nevertheless, a sound historical foundation.
It has received at the hands of Schwegler (Röm. Gesch.
) a careful examination, and is condemned on the following grounds:--
The absence of any indigenous name for the Pelasgians in Italy.
The evident traces of Roman writers on the subject having obtained their information from the Greek logographers.
The contradictory accounts given by different writers of the migrations of the Pelasgians, according as they follow Hellanicus and Pherecydes or Myrsilus.
The absence of any historical monument of the Pelasgi in Italy, whether literary or of another kind.
It only remains to make a few general observations on the evidence for the existence of the Pelasgi, and on the views taken by modern writers on the subject.
Authorities on the Pelasgi
The modern authorities on the Pelasgi in Greece are : Larcher, Chronologie d'Herodote, ch. viii. pp. 215--217; K. O. Müller Etrusker, vol. i. Einleitung, ch. ii. pp. 75---100 Kruse, Hellas, vol. i. p. 398--425; Mannert. Geographic. part viii. introduction, p. 4; Thirlwall, History of Greece, ch. ii.; Grote, vol. i. ch. ix., vol. ii. ch. ii. sub finem.
The latter historian treats of the Pelasgi as belonging not to historical, but legendary Greece.
He says, “Whoever has examined the many conflicting systems respecting the Pelasgi,--from the literal. belief of Cluvier, Larcher, and Raoul-Rochette, to the interpretative and half-incredulous processes applied by abler men, such as Niebuhr, or O. Müller, or Dr. Thirlwall,--will not be displeased with my resolution to decline so insoluble a problem. No attested facts are now present to us--none were present to Herodotus or Thucydides even in their age--on which to build trustworthy affirmations respecting the ante-Hellenic Pelasgians; and, when such is the case, we may without impropriety apply the remark of Herodotus respecting one of the theories which he had heard for explaining the inundation of the Nile by a supposed connection with the ocean--that the man who carries up his story into the invisible world, passes out of the range of criticism.” (Vol. ii. p. 345.)
Those who think Mr. Grote's way of disposing of the question too summary, will find it treated with great patience and a fair spirit of criticism by Bishop Thirlwall The point on which he and Mr. Grote differ--namely, the question whether the language of the Pelasgi was a rough dialect of the Hellenic, or non-Hellenic--has been already referred to.
As we possess no positive data for determining it, it is needless to do more than. refer the reader to the passages quoted. Respecting the architectural remains of the Pelasgi in Greece, a very few words will suffice. The Gate of the Lions at Mycenae, mentioned by Pausanias (2.15-16), is the only monument of the plastic art of Greece in prehistoric times.
The walls of Tiryns, of polygonal masonry, appear to be of equal antiquity, and are ascribed to the Cyclopes. [MYCENAE] These bear a strong resemblance to the Tyrrheno-Pelasgic remains in Italy, specimens of which are given in Dempster's Etruria Regalis, v. g. the walls of Cosa, Segnia (Segni) and Faesulae (Fiesole). And a small amount of evidence is thereby afforded in favour of Niebuhr's theory of an original Pelasgic population existing in the peninsulas of Greece and Italy.
But this is much diminished by the fact, that similar remains are found in parts of Asia Minor where no. traces exist of any Pelasgic traditions. And we are obliged therefore to fall back upon the view first adopted by A. W. Schlegel, that the peninsulas of Greece and Italy were successively peopled by branches of one original nation, dwelling once upon a time in the central part of Western Asia, and. speaking one language, out of which, by successive modifications, sprang the different Greek and Italian, dialects.
The authorities on the Pelasgians in Italy are Niebuhr (H. R. vol. i. p. 25, Tr.); Müller, Etrusker (quoted above); Lanzi, Saggio di Lingua Etrusca, &c., Flor. 1824; Lepsius, über die Tyrrhen. Pelasger in Etrurien, Leipz. 1842; Steub, über die. [p. 2.566]Urbewohner Rätiens, &c., 1843; Mommsen, Unteritalischen Dialecte, 1850; Prichard, Natural History of Man, vol. 3.4; Heffter, Geschichte der Latein Sprache, p. 11; G. C. Lewis, Credibility of early Roman History, vol. i. p. 282; and Schwegler, as quoted above.
The last-mentioned historian, after a careful review of all that ancient and modern authorities have said on the subject, agrees with Mr. Grote in concluding that there is no historical foundation for the commonly received traditions about the Pelasgi.
He says: “The traditional image of the Pelasgic race, everywhere driven out, nowhere settling themselves for good,--of the race which is everywhere and nowhere, always reappearing, and vanishing again without leaving any trace,--the image of this gipsey nation is to me so strange, that we must entertain doubts as to its historic existence.”
After they became a powerful nation in Italy, the tradition, which Dionysius follows, tells us that they suddenly dispersed.
This in itself strange; but, were any other conclusion of the Pelasgian migrations invented, we should have to point out Pelasgians in Italy, which is impossible. Nothing remains of them but a few names of places, which are manifestly Greek. Lepsius thought an inscription found at Agylla was Pelasgic, but Mommsen (Unterit. Dial.
p. 17) says it is nothing but old Etruscan.
It is not difficult to account for the prevalence of traditions relating to Pelasgi in Italy. Schwegler has ably analysed the causes of this, and disproved on historical and linguistic grounds the views of Niebuhr and O. Müller, which they set up in opposition to the Roman grammarians.
There is considerable doubt, as he remarks, in what light we are to regard the name
Pelasgi,--whether in that of an ethnographic distinction, or in that of an epithet = autochthones
We have both in Greek and Latin words resembling it sufficiently in form to warrant this supposition,--v. g. Παλαίος, Παλαίχθων,
The change from λ
is so common as to need no illustration, and the termination--γος
is nearly the same as--cus.
These remarks, though they apply with considerable force to the indiscriminate use of the word Pelasgian as applied to Italian races, need not affect the statement of Herodotus concerning the townships of Scylace, Placie, and Creston, which were accounted in his time Pelasgic, and spoke a different language from their neighbours.
That the name Pelasgi once indicated an existing race we may fairly allow; but we cannot form any historical conception of a people whom Herodotus calls stationary and others migratory, and whose earliest abode was between the mountains of Ossa and Olympus, and also
in Arcadia and Argolis. On the whole we can partly appreciate Niebuhr's feelings when he wrote of the Pelasgi,--“The name of this people is irksome to the historian, hating as he does that spurious philology which raises pretensions to knowledge concerning races so completely buried in silence.” (Rom. Hist.
i. p. 26, Transl.)
If the Pelasgi have any claims on our attention above other extinct races, it is not because they have left more trustworthy memorials of their existence, but because they occupy so considerable a space in the mythic records of Greece and Italy. [G.B