In Greek mythology, Pelasgus (Ancient Greek: Πελασγός) was the eponymous ancestor of the Pelasgians, the mythical inhabitants of Greece who established the worship of the Dodonaean Zeus, Hephaestus, the Cabeiri, and other divinities. In the different parts of the country once occupied by Pelasgians, there existed different traditions as to the origin and connection of Pelasgus. The ancient Greeks even used to believe that he was the first man.
Inachid Pelasgoí of Argos
In Argos, several Inachid kings were also called Pelasgus. One, the brother to Apis both sons of Phoroneus, is said to have founded the city of Argos in Peloponnesus, to have taught the people agriculture, and to have received Demeter, on her wanderings, at Argos, where his tomb was shown in later times. Another was believed to have been a son of Triopas and Sois, and a brother of Iasus, Agenor, and Xanthus. Also known as Pelasgus was Gelanor, he welcomed Danaus and the Danaides when they fled from Aegyptus. According to others, again, Pelasgus was a son of Arestor, and grandson of Iasus, and immigrated into Arcadia, where he founded the town of Parrhasia.
In The Suppliants
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, Dodona and the slopes of the Pindus mountains on the west and the shores of the sea on the east; that is, a territory including or north of the Thessalian Pelasgiotis. The southern boundary is not mentioned; however, Apis is said to have come to Argos from Naupactus "across" (peras), 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, 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). Pelasgus admits that the land was once called Apia but compares them to the women of Libya and Egypt and wants to know how they can be from Argos on which they cite descent from Io.
Pelasgus of Arcadia
According to the Arcadian tradition, he was either an autochthon, or a son of Zeus by Niobe (and in the latter case brother of Argus). The Oceanide Meliboea, the nymph Cyllene, or Deianeira, became by him the mother of Lycaon of Arcadia.
Pelasgus of Thessaly
In Thessaly, Pelasgus was described as the father of Chlorus, and as the grandfather of Haemon, or as the father of Haemon, and as the grand father of Thessalus, or again as a son of Poseidon and Larissa, and as the founder of the Thessalian Argos.
He is also said to have been the ancestor of the Tyrrhenians through the following lineage: Pelasgus - Phrastor - Amyntor - Teutamides - Nanas. In the latter's reign, the Pelasgians were believed to have left Greece and to have settled in a new land that later came to be named Tyrrhenia.
Pelasgus and Troy
In the Iliad, Homer characterizes the Pelasgians as brave fighters. To fight the war, they migrated from the Balkan peninsula into Asia Minor. The Pelasgians fought against the tribes of Greeks in the war of Troy. Pelasgus fought alongside the Dardanians and other allies defending the walls of the city of Troy.
- Pausanias 1. 14. § 2, 2. 22. § 2 ; Scholia on Euripides Orestes 920 ; Eustathius on Homer. p. 385 ; comp. pelasga.
- Scholia on Euripides Orestes 1642 ; Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Parrhasia.
- Aeschylus, Suppliant Women (ed. Herbert Weir Smyth, Ph. D.)
- I am Pelasgus, offspring of Palaechthon, whom the earth brought forth, and lord of this land; and after me, their king, is rightly named the race of the Pelasgi, who harvest the land.Of all the region through which the pure Strymon flows, on the side toward the setting sun, I am the lord.There lies within the limits of my rule the land of the Perrhaebi, the parts beyond Pindus close to the Paeonians, and the mountain ridge of Dodona; the edge of the watery sea borders my kingdom. I rule up to these boundaries. The ground where we stand is Apian land itself, and has borne that name since antiquity in honor of a healer. For Apis, seer and healer,the son of Apollo, came from Naupactus on the farther shore and purified this land of monsters deadly to man, which Earth, defiled by the pollution of bloody deeds of old, caused to spring up--plagues charged with wrath, an ominous colony of swarming serpents. Of these plagues Apis worked the cure by sorcery and spells to the content of the Argive land, and for reward thereafter earned for himself remembrance in prayers. Now that you have my testimony, declare your lineage and speak further--yet our people do not take pleasure in long discourse. -Greek text- τοῦ γηγενοῦς γάρ εἰμ´ ἐγὼ Παλαίχθονος ἶνις Πελασγός, τῆσδε γῆς ἀρχηγέτης. ἐμοῦ δ´ ἄνακτος εὐλόγως ἐπώνυμον γένος Πελασγῶν τήνδε καρποῦται χθόνα. καὶ πᾶσαν αἶαν, ἧς δί´ ἁγνὸς ἔρχεται Στρυμών, τὸ πρὸς δύνοντος ἡλίου, κρατῶ. ὁρίζομαι δὲ τήν τε Περραιβῶν χθόνα, Πίνδου τε τἀπέκεινα, Παιόνων πέλας, ὄρη τε Δωδωναῖα· συντέμνει δ´ ὅρος ὑγρᾶς θαλάσσης· τῶνδε τἀπὶ τάδε κρατῶ. αὐτῆς δὲ χώρας Ἀπίας πέδον τόδε πάλαι κέκληται φωτὸς ἰατροῦ χάριν. Ἆπις γὰρ ἐλθὼν ἐκ πέρας Ναυπακτίας ἰατρόμαντις παῖς Ἀπόλλωνος χθόνα τήνδ´ ἐκκαθαίρει κνωδάλων βροτοφθόρων, τὰ δὴ παλαιῶν αἱμάτων μιάσμασι χρανθεῖς´ ἀνῆκε γαῖα μηνεῖται ἄκη δρακονθόμιλον δυσμενῆ ξυνοικίαν. τούτων ἄκη τομαῖα καὶ λυτήρια πράξας ἀμέμπτως Ἆπις Ἀργείᾳ χθονὶ μνήμην ποτ´ ἀντίμισθον ηὕρετ´ ἐν λιταῖς. ἔχουσα δ´ ἤδη τἀπ´ ἐμοῦ τεκμήρια γένος τ´ ἂν ἐξεύχοιο καὶ λέγοις πρόσω. μακράν γε μὲν δὴ ῥῆσιν οὐ στέργει πόλις.
- Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 249-259.
- Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 262-263.
- Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 128-129.
- (accusative case, and in standard choral Doric dialect)
- Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 154-155.
- Aeschylus. The Suppliants, Lines 279-281.
- Strabo. Geography, Book V, Section 2.4.
- Pausanias 2. 14. § 3, 8. 1. § 2; Hesiod in Bibliotheca 2. 1. § 1.
- Apollodorus 2. 1. 1; 3. 8. § 1 ; Hyginus Fabulae 225 ; Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1. 11, 13.
- (Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Haimonia; Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius 3. 1089; Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1. 17. 3)
- (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1. 17. 3; Eustathius on Homer p. 321; comp. Clinton, Fast. Hell. vol. 1. p. 9, &c.)
- Hellanicus in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 1. 28. 3
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.