Romans: Dionysios on Roman origins, Italic peoples, and legends of Greek and Pelasgian migrations to Italy (late first century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Romans: Dionysios on Roman origins, Italic peoples, and legends of Greek and Pelasgian migrations to Italy (late first century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified May 8, 2024,

Ancient author: Dionysios of Halikarnassos (late first century BCE), Roman Antiquities 1.2-44, 89-90; 2.49; 3.32; 5.37; 7.70-73 (link)

Comments: We know very little about the Greek author Dionysios (or: Dionysius) beyond what he tells us: that he is from Halikarnassos in western Asia Minor (in Caria / Karia; modern Bodrum, Turkey), that he went to Italy at the end of the Roman civil war (in late 30 or 29 BCE), and that he spent twenty-two years (he claims) studying Roman things (1.7). Dionysios also reveals that the first part of his Roman Antiquities was written in 7 BCE (1.3).

What’s far more important for those interested in ethnic rivalries and ethnographic culture is that the entire work begins by asserting that the Romans are, in fact, the most successful power ever, putting them at the top of a hierarchy that includes substantial peoples of the past such as the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, and Macedonians, but even Greeks such as Athenians and Spartans. No one, Dionysios claims, approaches the Romans for achievements. (Dionysios knows some Greeks might immediately object here, by the way).

But there’s a twist that immediately becomes evident in the opening pages that are presented below: the Romans are, in fact, Greeks! And added to that is that the Greeks are in some ways really Pelasgians, or largely indistinguishable from that legendary people. Numerous other Italic and other peoples come into the complicated web. The result is that the entire first section of Dionysios’ narrative is about convoluted traditions and stories about migrations and dispersions of the most ancient Greeks (beginning with Arkadians) and Pelasgians to Italy (before the Trojan war, often placed by ancient authors around 1200 BCE). Ultimately, Romans themselves (who went through a variety of name-changes) are the end product of a long line of Pelasgian and Greek migrating and civilizational achievements. This is still evident today (his today), he says, in the very ancestral customs of the Romans, which are really Greek customs.  So there’s a sense in which the Greeks still win even under Roman domination.

I believe that this is the longest discourse about migration stories and legends from any one ancient author (drawing on numerous other named Greek and Roman authors), so it very much belongs under the category of migration and diasporas. At times Dionysios actually engages in active theorizing regarding the nature and methods of migration as well. But this is also a fascinating glimpse into how an elite Greek who was enthusiastic about Roman domination (there were others, as you may know from the likes of Strabo on this site) might attempt to engage in describing the origins and customs of the Romans to a Greek audience – in a somewhat edgy way for other ancient Greeks, though.

Dionysios ends his first book by underlining how the Romans, moreso than others, resisted barbarizing to the practices of countless Italic peoples and instead at first maintained their Greek ancestral traditions.

An additional passage from book 7 illustrates how Dionysios continues his argument regarding the Greek origins of Roman customs in a way that tries to distance the Romans from any influence by local (Umbrian, Ligurian) “barbarians.” Interpreting the components of an unnamed Roman festival through the lense of Homer’s descriptions of early Greek rites is the main ammunition. He adds to his arguments the point that if the Romans were in fact barbarian in origin (rather than Greek as Dionysios would have it) then clearly everyone in the Roman empire would be “barbarized” by now (on the -ize terms for acculturation, see also the post of Medizing at this link).

Works consulted: E.J. Bickerman, “Origines gentium,” Classical Philology 47 (1952): 65–81 (link); I. Peirano, “Hellenized Romans and Barbarized Greeks: Reading the End of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae,” Journal of Roman Studies 100 (2010): 32–53 (link).

This post is part of the Italic peoples series:

  • Thucydides on Sikelians (Sicilians) and Sikanians (link)
  • Antiochos on migrations of peoples to and in Italy (link)
  • Theopompos on Tyrrhenians (Etruscans) (link)
  • Klearchos on Iapygians (link)
  • Cato, Livy, and Florus on Samnites and Sabines (link)
  • Diodoros on Tyrrhenians (link), on Ligurians (link), and on Sikelians and Sikanians (link)
  • Strabo on Latins, Sabines, Samnites, and Lucanians (link) and on Ligurians (link)
  • Dionysios on Latins, Sikelians, Umbrians, and others (link)
  • Plutarch on Tyrrhenians (link)
  • Dio Cassius (link coming soon)


[Focus on the Romans as the greatest empire]

(1.2) That I have in fact chosen a noble, lofty and useful subject to many will not, I think, require any lengthy argument, at least for those who are not utterly unacquainted with universal history. For if anyone pays attention to the successive supremacies (hēgemoniai) both of cities and of peoples (ethnē), as accounts of them have been handed down from times past, then if anyone, surveying them individually and comparing them together, wishes to determine which of them obtained the widest dominion and performed the most brilliant achievements both in peace and war, he will find that the supremacy of the Romans has far surpassed all those that are recorded from earlier times, not only in the extent of its dominion and in the splendor of its achievements – which no account has appropriately celebrated yet – but also in the length of time during which it has endured down to our day.

[Comparison with dominion of foreign powers of Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Macedonians]

The empire (archē) of the Assyrians, ancient as it was and running back to legendary times, held control over only a small part of Asia. That of the Medes, after overthrowing the Assyrian empire and obtaining a still wider dominion, did not hold it long, but was overthrown in the fourth generation. The Persians, who conquered the Medes, did in fact finally become masters of almost all Asia. But when the Persians attacked the peoples of Europe also, they did not reduce many of them to submission and they did not continue in power much more than two hundred years. The Macedonian dominion, which overthrew the might of the Persians, did exceed all its predecessors in the extent of its control. Yet even it did not flourish long but began to decline after Alexander’s death [in 323 BCE] because it was immediately partitioned among many commanders from the time of the successors (Diadochi). Although after their time it was able to go on to the second or third generation, it was still weakened by its own dissensions and finally destroyed by the Romans.​ But even the Macedonian power did not subjugate every country and every sea. It neither conquered Libya, with the exception of the small portion bordering on Egypt, nor subdued all of Europe. In the north it advanced only as far as Thrace and in the west down to the Adriatic sea.

[Comparison with dominion of other Greek powers: Athenians, Spartans]

(1.3) So we see that the most famous of the earlier supremacies of which history has given us any account were overthrown after attaining great strength and might. As for the Greek powers, it is not fitting to compare them to those just mentioned, since they gained neither magnitude of empire nor duration of eminence equal to theirs. For the Athenians ruled only the sea coast, during the space of sixty-eight years and their control did not even extend over all that, but only to the part between the Euxine [Black sea] and the Pamphylian seas, when their naval supremacy was at its height. When the Lakedaimonians were masters over the Peloponnesos and the rest of Greece, they advanced their rule as far as Macedonia, but were stopped by the Thebans before they had held it quite thirty years.

[Rome’s superior dominion and conquest of peoples]

But Rome rules every country that is not inaccessible or uninhabited, and Rome is mistress of every sea, not only of that which lies inside the Pillars of Herakles [Straits of Gibralter] but also of the [Atlantic] Ocean, except that part of it which is not navigable. Rome is the first and the only recorded in all time that ever made the risings and the settings of the sun the boundaries of its dominion. Nor has Rome’s supremacy been of short duration, but more lasting than that of any other city or kingdom. For from the very beginning, immediately after its founding, Rome began to draw the neighbouring peoples, which were both numerous and warlike, and continually advanced, subjugating every rival. And it is now seven hundred and forty-five years from the foundation down to the consul­ship of Claudius Nero, consul for the second time, and of Calpurnius Piso, who were chosen in the one hundred and ninety-third Olympiad [7 BCE].

From the time that Rome mastered the whole of Italy it was emboldened to aspire to govern all humankind. After forcing the Carthaginians, whose maritime strength was superior to that of all others, out of the sea and subduing Macedonia, which until then was reputed to be the most powerful people on land, she no longer had as rival any people either barbarian or Greek. In my day it is already the seventh generation that Rome has continued to hold control over every region of the world, and there is no people, as I may say, that disputes Rome’s universal dominion or protests against being under its rule. However, I do not know what else to say to prove my statement that I have neither made choice of the most trivial of subjects nor proposed to treat of mean and insignificant deeds, but that I am undertaking to write not only about the most illustrious city but also about brilliant achievements that no person could point to elsewhere. . . [several sections on other histories of Rome and on sources omitted].

(1.8) I begin my history, then, with the most ancient legends, which the historians before me have omitted as a subject difficult to be cleared up with diligent study. I also bring the narrative down to the beginning of the First Punic War, which fell in the third year of the one hundred and twenty-eighth Olympiad [265 BCE]. . . .

[Origins of the people of the Romans]

[Sikelians and the original ancestors of the Romans]

(1.9) This city, mistress of the whole earth and sea, which the Romans now inhabit, is said to have had as its earliest occupants the barbarian Sikelians (Sikeloi), a native people (ethnos). As to the condition of the place before their time, no one can certainly say whether it was occupied by others or uninhabited. But some time later the “Aborigenes” (aborigenes; or: original ancestors of the Romans) gained possession of it, having taken it from the occupants after a long war. These people had previously lived on the mountains in unwalled villages and scattered groups. But when the Pelasgians, with whom some other Greeks had united, assisted the Aborigenes in the war against their neighbours, they drove the Sikelians out of this place, they built walls for many towns, and they attempted to subjugate all the country that lies between the two rivers, the Liris and the Tiber. These rivers spring from the foot of the Apennine mountains, the range by which all Italy is divided into two parts throughout its length, and at points about eight hundred stadia from one another discharge themselves into the Tyrrhenian sea, the Tiber to the north, near the city of Ostia, and the Liris to the south, as it flows by Minturnae, both these cities being Roman colonies.

[Change of name from “Aborigenes” to “Latins” to “Romans”]

And these people remained in this same place to live. They were never driven out by any others; but, although they continued to be one and the same people, their name was changed twice. Till the time of the Trojan war they preserved their ancient name of “Aborigines.” But under their king Latinus, who reigned at the time of that war, they began to be called “Latins.” Then when Romulus founded the city named after himself sixteen generations after the taking of Troy, they took the name which they now bear [i.e. “Romans”]. And in the course of time they attempted to raise themselves from the smallest people to the greatest and from the most obscure to the most illustrious. They did this not only by their humane reception of those who were looking for a home among them, but also: by sharing the rights of citizen­ship with all who had been conquered by them in war after a brave resistance; by permitting all the slaves who were manumitted among them to become citizens; and, by disdaining no condition of men from whom the community might reap an advantage. Now above everything else they did this by their form of communal organization (politeuma) which they fashioned out of their many experiences, always extracting something useful from every occasion.

[Variant views of authors on the Aborigenes and their origins]

(1.10) There are some authors who affirm that the Aborigines, from whom the Romans are originally descended, were indigenous (autochthones) to Italy, a descent group (genos) which came into being spontaneously. (I call “Italy” all that peninsula which is bounded by the Ionian Gulf and the Tyrrhenian sea and, thirdly, by the Alps on the land side). These authors say that they were first called Aborigines because they were the founders of the families of their descendants, or, as we should call them, “founders of a descent group” (genearchai) or “those who were born first” (prōtogonoi).

Others claim that certain wandering, homeless people, coming together out of many places, met one another there by chance and lived together for defensive purposes, living by banditry (lēsteia) and grazing their herds. And these writers change their name, also, to one more suitable to their condition, calling them “Aberrigenes” (Wandering-descent-group) [from Latin aberrare, “to wander”], to show that they were wanderers. In fact, according to these people, the tribe (phylē) of the Aborigines would seem to be no different from those the ancients called “Lelegians” (Leleges). For this is the name they generally gave to the homeless and mixed peoples who had no fixed abode which they could call their country.

Still others have a story to the effect that they were colonists sent out by those Ligurians who are neighbours of the Umbrians. For the Ligurians inhabit not only many parts of Italy but some parts of the Celtic region (Keltikē) as well. However, it is not known which of these lands is their homeland, since nothing certain is said of them further.

[Achaian Greek origins for the Aborigenes and hence the Latins and Romans]

(1.11) But the most learned of the Roman historians, among whom is Porcius Cato [ca. 234–149 BCE], who compiled with the greatest care the Origins of the Italian cities, Gaius Sempronius [ca. 140 BCE] and a great many others say that they were Greeks from among those who once lived in Achaia, and that they migrated many generations before the Trojan war. But they do not go on to indicate either the Greek tribe (phlylē) to which they belonged or the city from which they came, or the date or the leader of the colony. Nor do they indicate what caused them to leave their mother country. Furthermore, although these authors are following a Greek legend, they have cited no Greek historian as their authority.

[Arkadians from the Peloponnesos: Peuketians / Aizeians / Lykaonians / Oinotrians]

It is uncertain, therefore, what the truth of the matter is. But if what they say is true, the Aborigines can be a colony of no other people but of those who are now called Arkadians [from the central Peloponnesos], because these were the first of all the Greeks to cross the Ionian gulf under the leader­ship of Oinotros the son of Lykaon and to settle in Italy. This Oinotros was the fifth from Aezeios and Phoroneus, who were the first kings in the Peloponnesos. For Niobe was the daughter of Phoroneus, and Pelasgos was the son of Niobe and Zeus, it is said. Lykaon was the son of Aezeios and Deianira was the daughter of Lykaon; Deianira and Pelasgos were the parents of another Lykaon, whose son Oinotros was born seventeen generations before the Trojan expedition. This, then, was the time when the Greeks sent the colony into Italy. Oinotros left Greece because he was dissatisfied with his portion of his father’s land. Since as Lykaon had twenty-two sons, it was necessary to divide Arkadia into as many shares. For this reason Oinotros left the Peloponnesos, prepared a fleet, and crossed the Ionian gulf with Peuketios, one of his brothers. They were accompanied by many of their own people – for this people is said to have been very populous in early times – and by as many other Greeks as had less land than was sufficient for them. Peuketios landed his people above the Iapygian promontory, which was the first part of Italy where they landed, and they settled there. From Peuketios the inhabitants of this region were called Peuketians. But Oinotros with the greater part of the expedition came into the other sea that washes the western regions along the coast of Italy. At the time it was called the Ausonian sea, from the Ausonians who lived beside it, but after the Tyrrhenians became masters at sea its name was changed to that which it now bears.

(1.12) There Peuketios found plenty of land that was suitable for herds and for farming but, for the most part, unoccupied. Even areas that were inhabited were not thickly populated. He cleared out barbarians from some of this land and built small towns contiguous to one another on the mountains, which was the customary manner of habitation in use among the ancients. All the land he occupied, which was very extensive, was called Oinotria, and all the people under his command Oinotrians, which was the third name they had borne. For in the reign of Aizeios they were called Aizeians, when Lykaon succeeded to the rule, Lykaonians, and after Oinotros led them into Italy they were for a while called Oinotrians.

What I say is supported by the testimony of Sophokles [fifth century BCE], the tragic poet, in his drama entitled Triptolemos; for he there represents Demeter as informing Triptolemos how large a tract of land he would have to travel over while sowing it with the seeds she had given him. For, after first referring to the eastern part of Italy, which reaches from the Iapygian promontory to the Sicilian strait, and then touching upon Sicily on the opposite side, she returns again to the western part of Italy and enumerates the most important peoples that inhabit this coast, beginning with the settlement of the Oinotrians. But it is enough to quote merely the iambics in which he says: “And after this, – first, then, upon the right, / Oinotria wide-outstretched and Tyrrhenian gulf, / And next the Ligurian land will welcome you.”

Also, Antiochos of Syracuse [ca. 420 BCE], a very early historian, in his account of the settlement of Italy, when enumerating the most ancient inhabitants in the order in which each of them held possession of any part of it, says that the first who are reported to have inhabited that country are the Oinotrians. His words are these: “Antiochos the son of Xenophanes wrote this account of Italy, which comprises all that is most credible and certain out of the ancient accounts. This country, which is now called Italy, was formerly possessed by the Oinotrians.” Then he relates in what manner they were governed and says that in the course of time Italos came to be their king, after whom they were named Italians; that this man was succeeded by Morges, after whom they were called Morgetians, and that Sikelos, being received as a guest by Morges and setting up a kingdom for himself, divided the people. After which he adds these words: “Thus those who had been Oinotrians became Sikelians, Morgetians, and Italians.”

[Origin of the Oinotrian descent group]

(1.13) Now let me also show the origin of the Oinotrian descent group (genos), offering as my witness another of the early historians, Pherekydes of Athens [ca. 465 BCE]. He was a genealogist inferior to no one. He expresses himself in this way about the kings of Arkadia: “Lykaos was born to Pelasgos and Deianira. Lykaos married Kyllene, a Naiad nymph, after whom mount Kyllene is named.” Then, having given an account of their children and of the places each of them inhabited, he mentions Oinotros and Peuketios, in these words: “Oinotros, after whom are named the Oinotrians who live in Italy, and Peuketios, after whom are named the Peuketians who live on the Ionian gulf.”

Such, then, are the accounts given by the ancient poets and writers of legends concerning the places of habitation and the origin of the Oinotrians. On their authority I assume that if the Aborigines were in reality a Greek people, according to the opinion of Cato, Sempronius and many others, they were descendants of these Oinotrians. For I find that the Pelasgians and Cretans (or: Cretans) and the other peoples that lived in Italy came there afterwards. Nor can I find that any other expedition more ancient than this came from Greece to the western parts of Europe. I am of the opinion that the Oinotrians, besides making themselves masters of many other regions in Italy, some of which they found unoccupied and others but thinly inhabited, also seized a portion of the country of the Umbrians, and that they were called Aborigines from their dwelling on the mountains (for it is characteristic of the Arkadians to be fond of the mountains), in the same manner as at Athens some are called Hyperakriorians, and others Paralians. But if any are naturally slow in giving credit to accounts of ancient matters without due examination, let them be slow also in believing the Aborigines to be Ligurians, Umbrians, or any other barbarians. Furthermore, let them suspend their judgment till they have heard what remains to be told and then determine which opinion out of all is the most probable.

[Cities of the Aborigenes]

(1.14) Among the cities first inhabited by the Aborigines few remained in my day. Most of them are abandoned, as they have been destroyed both by wars and other disasters. These cities were in the Reatine territory, not far from the Apennine mountains, as Terentius Varro writes in his Antiquities [ca. 50s BCE], the nearest being one day’s journey distant from Rome. I will enumerate the most celebrated of them, following his account. Palatium, twenty-five stadia distant from Reate [Rieti, Italy] (a city that was still inhabited by Romans down to my time), near the Quintian Way. Tribula, about sixty stadium-lengths from Reate and standing upon a low hill. Suesbula, at the same distance from Tribula, near the Ceraunian mountains. Suna, a famous city forty stadia from Suesbula; in it there is a very ancient temple of Mars. Mefula, about thirty stadium-lengths from Suna; its ruins and traces of its walls are pointed out. Orvinium, forty stadium-lengths from Mefula, a city as famous and large as any in that region; for the foundations of its walls are still to be seen and some tombs of venerable antiquity, as well as the circuits of burying-places extending over lofty mounds; and there is also an ancient temple of Minerva built on the summit.

At the distance of eighty stadium-lengths from Reate, as one goes along the Curian Way past mount Coretus, stood Corsula, a town but recently destroyed. There is also pointed out an island, called Issa, surrounded by a lake. The Aborigines are said to have lived on this island without any artificial fortification, relying on the marshy waters of the lake instead of walls. Near Issa is Maruvium, situated on an arm of the same lake and distant forty stadium-lengths from what they call the Septem Aquae.

Again, as one goes from Reate by the road towards the Listine district, there is Batia, thirty stadium-lengths distant; then Tiora, called Matiene, at a distance of three hundred stadium-lengths. In this city, they say, there was a very ancient oracle of Mars, the nature of which was similar to that of the oracle which legend says once existed at Dodona. Only there a pigeon was said to prophesy, sitting on a sacred oak, whereas among the Aborigines a heaven-sent bird, which they call picus and the Greeks “dryokolaptēs” (woodpecker), appearing on a pillar of wood, did the same. Twenty-four stadium-lengths from the above mentioned city stood Lista, the mother-city of the Aborigines, which at a still earlier time the Sabinians had captured by a surprise attack, having set out against it from Amiternum [about 9km from l’Aquila, Italy] by night. Those who survived the taking of the place, after being received by the Reatines, made many attempts to retake their former home, but being unable to do so, they consecrated the country to the gods, as if it were still their own, invoking curses against those who might enjoy the produce from it.

(1.15) Seventy stadium-lengths from Reate stood Cutilia [near Cittaducale, Italy], a famous city, beside a mountain. Not far from it there is a lake [Lago di Paterno], four hundred feet in diameter, filled by everflowing natural springs and, it is said, bottomless. Since this lake has something divine about it, the inhabitants of the country look upon it as sacred to Victory. Surrounding it with a palisade, so that no one may approach the water, they keep it inviolate, except at certain times each year when those whose sacred office it is go to the little island in the lake and perform the sacrifices required by custom. This island is about fifty feet in diameter and rises not more than a foot above the water. It is not fixed and it floats about in any direction as the wind gently wafts it from one place to another. A plant grows on the island like the flowering rush and also certain small shrubs, a phenomenon which to those who are unacquainted with the works of nature seems unaccountable and a marvel second to none.

[Aborigenes’ wars with barbarian peoples, especially Sikelians, and methods of colonization]

(1.16) The Aborigines are said to have settled first in these places after they had driven out the Umbrians. And making excursions from there, they warred not only upon the barbarians in general but particularly upon the Sikelians, their neighbours, in order to dispossess them of their lands. First, a sacred group of young men went out, consisting of a few who were sent out by their parents to seek a livelihood. This is a custom which I know many barbarians and Greeks have followed. For whenever the population of any of their cities increased to such a degree that the produce of their lands no longer sufficed for them all; or whenever the earth, damaged by unseasonable changes of the weather, brought forth her fruits in less abundance than usual; or, whenever any other occurrence of a similar kind, either good or bad, introduced a necessity of lessening their numbers, they would dedicate to some god or other all the men born within a certain year, and providing them with arms, would send them out of their country. If, in fact, this was done by way of thanksgiving for populousness or for victory in war, they would first offer the usual sacrifices and then send forth their colonies under happy auspices. But if, having incurred the wrath of lower spirits (daimonia), they were seeking deliverance from the evils that beset them, they would perform much the same ceremony, but sorrowfully and begging forgiveness of the youths they were sending away. And those who departed, feeling that from then on they would have no share in the land of their fathers but must acquire another, looked upon any land that received them in friendship or that they conquered in war as their country. And the god to whom they had been dedicated when they were sent out seemed generally to assist them and to prosper the colonies beyond all human expectation.

In following this custom, therefore, some of the Aborigines also at that time, as their places were growing very populous (for they would not put any of their children to death, looking on this as one of the greatest of crimes), dedicated to some god or other the offspring of a certain year. When these children were grown into men they sent them out of their country as colonists. After leaving their own land, they were continually plundering the Sikelians. And as soon as they became masters of any places in the enemy’s country the rest of the Aborigines, also, who needed lands now each attacked their neighbours with greater security and built various cities, some of which are inhabited to this day: Antemnae, Tellenae, Ficulea, which is near the Corniculan mountains, as they are called, and Tibur, where a quarter of the city is even to this day called the Sikelian quarter. Among all their neighbours they harassed the Sikelians most. From these quarrels there arose a general war between the peoples more important than any that had occurred previously in Italy, and it went on extending over a long period of time.

[Pelasgians, Greek kinship, and early colonization]

(1.17) Afterwards some of the Pelasgians who inhabited Thessaly, as it is now called, being obliged to leave their country, settled among the Aborigines and joined them in making war against the Sikelians. It is possible that the Aborigines received the Pelasgians partly in the hope of gaining their assistance, but I believe it was mainly on account of their kinship. For the Pelasgians, too, were a Greek people originally from the Peloponnesos. They were unfortunate in many ways but particularly in wandering much and in having no fixed settlement. For they first lived in the neighbourhood of the Achaian Argos, as it is now called, being natives of the country, according to most accounts. They received their name originally from Pelasgos, their king. Pelasgos was the son of Zeus, it is said, and of Niobe the daughter of Phoroneus. As the legend goes, Niobe was the first mortal woman Zeus had relations with. In the sixth generation afterwards, leaving the Peloponnesos, they departed for the country which was then called Haimonia and now Thessaly. The leaders of the colony were Achaios, Phthios and Pelasgos, the sons of Larisa and Poseidon. When they arrived in Haimonia they drove out the barbarian inhabitants and divided the country into three parts, naming them after their leaders: Phthiotis, Achaia and Pelasgiotis. After they had remained there five generations, during which they attained to the greatest prosperity while enjoying the produce of the most fertile plains in Thessaly, about the sixth generation they were driven out of it by the Kouretians and Lelegians, who are now called Aitolians and Lokrians, and by many others who lived near Parnassos, their enemies being commanded by Deukalion, the son of Prometheus and Klymene, the daughter of Oceanus.

(1.18) Dispersing themselves in their flight, some went to Crete (or: Crete), others occupied some of the islands called the Kyklades (or: Cyclades), some settled in the region called Hestiaiotis near Olympos and Ossa, others crossed into Boiotia, Phokis and Euboia. Some, passing over into Asia, occupied many places on the coast along the Hellespont and many of the adjacent islands, particularly the one now called Lesbos, uniting with those who composed the first colony that was sent there from Greece under Makar son of Krinakos. But the majority of them, turning inland, took refuge among the inhabitants of Dodona, their kinsmen, against whom, as a sacred people, none would make war; and there they remained for a reasonable time. But when they perceived they were growing burdensome to their hosts, since the land could not support them all, they left it in obedience to an oracle that commanded them to sail to Italy, which was then called Saturnia.

After preparing a great many ships, they set out to cross the Ionian gulf, endeavouring to reach the nearest parts of Italy. But as the wind was in the south and they were unacquainted with those regions, they were carried too far out to sea and landed at one of the mouths of the Po called the Spinetic mouth. In that very place they left their ships and such of their people as were least able to bear hardships, placing a guard over the ships. Their purpose was that, if they did not prosper, they might still have a way to retreat. Those who were left behind there surrounded their camp with a wall and brought in plenty of provisions in their ships. When their affairs seemed to prosper satisfactorily, they built a city and called it by the same name as the mouth of the river.

These people attained to a greater degree of prosperity than any others who lived on the Ionian gulf because they had the mastery at sea for a long time. Out of their revenues from the sea they used to send tithes to the god at Delphi, which were among the most magnificent sent by any people. But later, when the barbarians in the neighbourhood made war upon them in great numbers, they deserted the city. These barbarians in the course of time were driven out by the Romans. This is how that part of the Pelasgians that was left at Spina perished.

[Pelasgians’ relations with Umbrians and with Aborigenes]

(1.19) Those, however, who had turned inland crossed the mountainous part of Italy and came to the territory of the Umbrians who were neighbours to the Aborigines. (The Umbrians inhabited many other parts of Italy also and were an exceedingly great and ancient people.) At first the Pelasgians made themselves masters of the lands where they first settled and took some of the small towns belonging to the Umbrians. But when a great army came together against them, they were terrified at the number of their enemies and escaped to the country of the Aborigines. And these, seeing fit to treat them as enemies, made haste to assemble out of the places nearest at hand, in order to drive them out of the country. But the Pelasgians luckily chanced to be encamped at that time near Cutilia, a city of the Aborigines beside the sacred lake. Observing the little island circling round in it and learning from the captives (which they had taken in the fields) the name of the inhabitants, they concluded that their oracle was now fulfilled. For this oracle, which had been delivered to them in Dodona and which Lucius Mallius [ca. 200 BCE], no obscure man, says he himself saw engraved in ancient characters upon one of the tripods standing in the precinct of Zeus, was as follows: “The Sikelians went forth seeking Saturnian land, / Aborigines’ Cotyl, too, where floats an isle; / With these men mingling, to Phoibos [Apollo] send a tithe, / And heads to Kronos’ son, and send to the parent a man.”

[Pelasgians settle and make a treaty with the Aborigenes and eject the Sikelians]

(1.20) When, therefore, the Aborigines advanced with a large army, the Pelasgians approached unarmed with olive branches in their hands. Telling the Aborigenes of their own fortunes, the Pelasgians requested that they accept the Pelasgians in a friendly manner to stay with them. The Pelasgians assured them that they would not be troublesome, since the lower spirit itself was guiding them into this one particular country according to the oracle, which they explained to them. When the Aborigines heard this, they resolved to obey the oracle and to gain these Greeks as allies against their barbarian enemies, for they were hard pressed by their war with the Sikelians. They accordingly made a treaty with the Pelasgians and assigned to them some of their own lands that lay near the sacred lake. Most of these lands were marshy and are still called “Velia,” in keeping with the ancient form of their language. . . . [omitted sentence regarding formation of words in Greek].

Since the land was not sufficient to support everyone, later a considerable portion of the Pelasgians prevailed on the Aborigines to join them in an expedition against the Umbrians. Marching out, they suddenly fell upon and captured Croton, a rich and large city of theirs. And using this place as a stronghold and fortress against the Umbrians, since it was sufficiently fortified as a place of defence in time of war and had fertile pastures lying round it, they made themselves masters also of a great many other places and with great enthusiasm assisted the Aborigines in the war they were still engaged in against the Sikelians, till they drove them out of their country. Together with the Aborigenes, the Pelasgians settled many cities, some of which had been previously inhabited by the Sikelians and others which they built themselves. Among these are Caere, then called Agylla, and Pisae, Saturnia, Alsium and some others, of which they were later on dispossessed by the Tyrrhenians.

[Survival of Greek / Pelasgian customs in the newly acquired colonies]

(1.21) But Falerii [about 50km northeast of Rome] and Fescennium [near modern Corchiano] were even down to my day inhabited by Romans and preserved some small remains of the Pelasgian people, though they had earlier belonged to the Sikelians. In these cities there survived for a very long time many of the ancient customs formerly in use among the Greeks, such as the fashion of their arms of war, like Argolic bucklers and spears. Whenever they sent out an army beyond their borders, either to begin a war or to resist an invasion, certain holy men, unarmed, went ahead of the rest bearing the terms of peace. Similar, also, were the structure of their temples, the images of their gods, their purifications and sacrifices and many other things of that nature.

But the most conspicuous monument which shows that those people who drove out the Sikelians once lived at Argos is the temple of Juno at Falerii, built in the same fashion as the one at Argos. Here, too, the manner of the sacrificial ceremonies was similar, holy women served the sacred precinct, and an unmarried girl, called the “basket-bearer” (kanēphoros) performed the initial rites of the sacrifices. There were also choruses of virgins who praised the goddess in the songs of their country. These people also gained a considerable portion of the Campanian plains, as they are called, which supply not only very fertile pasturage but most pleasing prospects as well, having driven the Auronissians [otherwise unknown, perhaps intended as Auruncians], a barbarous people, out of part of them. There they built various other cities and also Larisa, a camp they named after their mother-city in the Peloponnesos. Some of these cities were standing even to my day, having often changed their inhabitants. But Larisa has been long deserted and shows to the people of today no other sign of its ever having been inhabited but its name, and even this is not generally known. It was not far from the place called Forum Popilii. They also occupied a great many other places, both on the coast and in the interior, which they had taken from the Sikelians.

[Sikelians colonize the island of Sicily, ejecting others (before the Trojan war)]

(1.22) The Sikelians, being fought by both the Pelasgians and the Aborigines, found themselves incapable of making resistance any longer, and so, taking with them their wives and children and such of their possessions as were of gold or silver, they abandoned all their country to these foes. Then, turning their course southward through the mountains, they proceeded through all the lower part of Italy, and being driven away from every place, they at last prepared rafts at the strait and, watching for a downward current, passed over from Italy to the adjacent island. It was then occupied by the Sikanians, an Iberian people. The Sikanians, fleeing from the Ligurians, had just lately settled there and had caused the island, previously named Trinacria, from its triangular shape, to be called Sicania, after themselves. There were very few inhabitants in it for so large an island, and the majority of it was not yet unoccupied. Accordingly, when the Sikelians landed there they first settled in the western parts and afterwards in several others. From these people the island began to be called Sicily.

[Debates among authors regarding timing in relation to the Trojan war]

In this manner the Sikelian people left Italy, according to Hellanikos of Lesbos [ca. late fifth century BCE], in the third generation before the Trojan war, and in the twenty-sixth year of the priesthood of Alkyone at Argos. But Hellanikos says that two Italian expeditions passed over into Sicily, the first consisting of the Elymians, who had been driven out of their country by the Oinotrians, and the second, five years later, of the Ausonians, who fled from the Iapygians. Hellanikos mentions the king of the latter group was Sikelos, from whom both the people and the island got their name.

But according to Philistos of Syracuse [early fourth century BCE], the date of the crossing was the eightieth year before the Trojan war [ca. 1263 BCE] and the people who passed over from Italy were neither Ausonians nor Elymians, but Ligurians, whose leader was Sikelos. This Sikelos, he says, was the son of Italos and in his reign the people were called Sikelians, and he adds that these Ligurians had been driven out of their country by the Umbrians and Pelasgians. Antiochos of Syracuse [ca. 420 BCE] does not give the date of the crossing. But he says the people who migrated were the Sikelians, who had been forced to leave by the Oinotrians and Opikans, and that they chose Straton as leader of the colony. But Thucydides [ca. 411 BCE] writes that the people who left Italy were the Sikelians and those who drove them out were the Opikans, and that the date was many years after the Trojan war. Such, then, are the reports given by credible authorities concerning the Sikelians who changed their place of settlement from Italy to Sicily.

[Further migrations of the Pelasgians]

(1.23) The Pelasgians, after conquering a large and fertile region, taking over many towns and building others, made great and rapid progress, becoming populous, rich and in every way prosperous. Nevertheless, they did not long enjoy their prosperity, but at the moment when they seemed to all the world to be in the most flourishing condition they were faced with divine misfortunes. Some of them were destroyed by disasters inflicted by lower spirits, others by their barbarian neighbours. But the vast majority of them were again dispersed throughout Greece and the country of the barbarians. If I attempted to give a detailed account of them, it would make a very long story. Though a few of them remained in Italy through the care of the Aborigines.

[Disasters happen to the Pelasgians (or Tyrrhenians according to Myrsilos)]

The first cause of the desolation of their cities seemed to be a drought which destroyed the land, when neither any fruit remained on the trees till it was ripe, but dropped while still green. Nor did such of the seed grains as sent up shoots and flowered stand for the usual period till the ear was ripe, nor did sufficient grass grow for the cattle. Some of the water was no longer fit to drink, others receded during the summer, and others were totally dried up. Similar misfortunes happened to the offspring of both cattle and human women. For they either had miscarriages or died at birth, some by their death also destroying their mothers. And if any got safely past the danger of the delivery, they were either maimed or defective or, being injured by some other accident, were not fit to be reared. The rest of the people, also, particularly those in the prime of life, were afflicted with many unusual diseases and uncommon deaths.

But when they asked the oracle what god or divinity they had offended to be afflicted in this way and by what means they might hope for relief, the god replied that, although they had obtained what they desired, they had neglected to pay what they had promised, and that the things of greatest value were still due from them. For the Pelasgians in a time of general scarcity in the land had vowed to offer to Zeus, Apollo and the Kabeiroi tithes from all of their future increases. But when their prayer had been answered, they set apart and offered to the gods the promised portion of all their fruits and cattle only, as if their vow had related only to them. This is the account related by Myrsilos of Lesbos [early third century BCE], who uses almost the same words as I do now, except that he does not call the people Pelasgians, but Tyrrhenians, of which I will give the reason a little later.

[Apollo orders for human offerings, and mass migrations]

(1.24) When they heard the oracle which was brought to them, they were at a loss to guess the meaning of the message. While they were confused, one of the elders who guessed the sense of the message, told them they had quite missed its meaning if they thought the gods complained about them without reason. They had in fact given to the gods all the first-fruits in the right and proper manner from their material things, but from human offspring, a thing of all others the most precious in the sight of the gods, the promised portion still remained due. If, however, the gods received their just share of this [human offspring] also, the oracle would be satisfied. There were, in fact, some who thought that he spoke correctly, but others felt that there was treachery behind his words. And when some one proposed to ask the god whether it was acceptable to him to receive tithes of human beings, they sent their messengers a second time, and the god ordered them to do so.

At this point strife arose among them concerning the manner of choosing the tithes, and those who had the government of the cities first quarrelled among themselves and afterwards the rest of the people held their civic leaders in suspicion. And there began to be disorderly emigrations, such as might well be expected from a people driven forth by a frenzy and madness inflicted by the hand of lower spirits. Many households disappeared entirely when part of their members left because their relations who departed were unwilling to be separated from their dearest friends and remain among their worst enemies. These, therefore, were the first to migrate from Italy and wander around Greece and many parts of the barbarian world.

But after them others had the same experience, and this continued every year. For the rulers in these cities ceased not to select the first-fruits of the youth as soon as they arrived at manhood, both because they desired to render what was due to the gods and also because they feared uprisings on the part of lurking enemies. Many, also, under specious pretences were being driven away by their enemies through hatred. As a result, there were many emigrations and the Pelasgian descent group (genos) was scattered over most of the earth.

[Achievements of the Pelasgians / Tyrrhenians]

(1.25) Not only were the Pelasgians superior to many in warfare, as the result of their training in the midst of dangers while they lived among war-like peoples, but they also rose to the highest proficiency in seaman­ship, by reason of their living with the Tyrrhenians. Necessity, which is quite sufficient to give daring to those who want to make a living, was their leader and director in every dangerous enterprise, so that wherever they went they conquered without difficulty. And the same people were called by the rest of the world both “Tyrrhenians” and “Pelasgians,” the former name being from the country out of which they had been driven and the latter in memory of their ancient origin. I mention this so that no one, when he hears poets or historians also call the Pelasgians “Tyrrhenians,” may wonder how the same people got both these names.

So with regard to them, Thucydides has a clear account of the Thracian Akte and of the cities situated in it, which are inhabited by men who speak two languages. Concerning the Pelasgian people these are his words: “There is also a Chalkidian element among them, but the largest element is Pelasgian, belonging to the Tyrrhenians who once inhabited Lemnos and Athens.” And Sophokles makes the chorus in his drama Inachos speak the following anapaestic verses: “O mother-city Inachos, of ocean begot, / that sire of all waters, you rule with might / over the Argive fields and Hera’s hills / and Tyrrhene Pelasgians also.”

For the name of Tyrrhenia was then known throughout Greece, and all the western part of Italy was called by that name, the several peoples of which it was composed having lost their distinctive appellations. The same thing happened to many parts of Greece also, and particularly to that part of it which is now called the Peloponnesos. For it was after one of the peoples that inhabited it, namely the Achaian people, that the whole peninsula also, in which are comprised the Arkadian, the Ionian and many other peoples, was called Achaia.

(1.26) The time when the diasters began to happen to the Pelasgians was about the second generation before the Trojan war [imagined to be ca. 1200 BCE in some cases]; and they continued to occur even after that war, till the people was reduced to very small numbers. For, with the exception of Croton [modern Crotone], the important city in Umbria, and any others that they had founded in the land of the Aborigines, all the rest of the Pelasgian towns were destroyed. But Croton long preserved its ancient form, having only recently changed both its name and inhabitants. It is now a Roman colony, called Corthonia (or: Cortona). After the Pelasgians left the country their cities were seized by the various peoples which happened to live nearest them in each case, but mainly by the Tyrrhenians, who made themselves masters of the largest part and the best cities.

[Tyrrhenians and their origins]

As regards these Tyrrhenians, some declare them to be natives (autochthones) of Italy, but others call them immigrants (epēlydes). Those who make them a native people say that their name was given them from the forts, which they were the first of the inhabitants of this country to build. This is because covered buildings enclosed by walls are called by the Tyrrhenians as well as by the Greeks “tyrseis” (towers). So they will have it that they received their name from this circumstance in the same way the Mossynokians in Asia [i.e. in Pontos, as discussed by Xenophon, Anabasis 5.4, at this link] did, because they also live in high wooden defensive structures resembling towers, which they call “mossynoi.”

[Lydian connection for Tyrrhenians]

(1.27) But those who relate a mythical account about their having come from a foreign land say that Tyrrhenos, who was the leader of the colony (apoikia), gave his name to the people, and that he was a Lydian by birth, from the district formerly called Maionia, and migrated in ancient times. They add that he was the fifth in descent from Zeus. They say that the son of Zeus and Ge was Manes, the first king of that country [Maionia]. Manes’ son by Kallirrhoe daughter of Oceanus was Kotys. Kotys had two sons Asies and Atys by Halie daughter of earth-born Tyllos. From the Atys came Lydos and Tyrrhenos by Kallithea daughter of Choraios. Lydos, they continue, remaining there, inherited his father’s kingdom, and from him the country was called Lydia.

[Legends of migration by Maionians in Lydia to the area inhabited by Umbrians]

But Tyrrhenos, who was the leader of the colony, conquered a large portion of Italy and gave his name to those who had taken part in the expedition. Herodotos, however, says that Tyrrhenos and his brother were the sons of Atys son of Manes, and that the migration of the Maionians to Italy was not voluntary [Herodotos, Inquiries 1.94, at this link]. For they say that in the reign of Atys there was a shortage of food in the country of the Maionians. The inhabitants, inspired by love of their homeland, contrived many methods to survive this disaster. One day they would allow themselves just a moderate amount of food and the next day they would fast. But, as the problem continued, they divided the people into two groups and cast lots to determine which should go out of the country and which should stay in it. One of the sons of Atys stayed, the other group left. And when the lot fell to that part of the people which was with Lydos to remain in the country, the other group departed after receiving their share of the common possessions. Landing in the western parts of Italy where the Umbrians lived, they remained there and built the cities that still existed even in his time.

[Variants in the legends about Tyrrhenians by different authors]

(1.28) I am aware that many other authors also have given this account of the Tyrrhenian descent group, some in the same terms, and others changing the character of the colony and the date. For some have said that Tyrrhenos was the son of Herakles by Omphale, the Lydian. Coming into Italy, he dispossessed the Pelasgians of their cities, though not all of the cities but only those that lay beyond the Tiber toward the north. Others declare that Tyrrhenos was the son of Telephos and that after the taking of Troy he came into Italy. Xanthos of Lydia [ca. 450 BCE] was as well acquainted with ancient history as anyone and may be regarded as an authority second to none on the history of his own country. Yet Xanthos neither names Tyrrhenos in any part of his history as a ruler of the Lydians nor knows anything of the landing of a colony of Maionians in Italy. Nor does he make the least mention of Tyrrhenia as a Lydian colony, though he takes notice of several things of less importance. Xanthos says that Lydos and Torebos were the sons of Atys. After dividing the kingdom they had inherited from their father, they both remained in Asia and, from them, the peoples over which they reigned received their names. Xanthos’ words are these: “From Lydos are sprung the Lydians, and from Torebos the Torebians. There is little difference in their language and even now each people scoffs at many words used by the other, even as do the Ionians and Dorians.”

Hellanikos of Lesbos [late fifth century BCE] says that the Tyrrhenians, who were previously called Pelasgians, received their present name after they had settled in Italy. These are his words in the Phoronis: “Phrastor was the son of Pelasgos, their king, and Menippe was the daughter of Peneus; his son was Amyntor, Amyntor’s son was Teutamides, and the latter’s son was Nanas. In his reign the Pelasgians were driven out of their country by the Greeks. After leaving their ships on the river Spines in the Ionian gulf, they took Kroton, an inland city. Proceeding from there, they colonized the country now called Tyrrhenia.”

But the account Myrsilos [early third century BCE] gives is the reverse of that given by Hellanikos. He says that after the Tyrrhenians had left their own country, they were in the course of their wanderings called “pelargoi” from their resemblance to the birds (“storks”) of that name, since they swarmed in flocks both into Greece and into the barbarian lands. They also built the wall around the citadel of Athens which is called the Pelargic wall.

[Dionysios’ view: Tyrrhenians and Pelasgians are not the same]

(1.29) But in my opinion everyone who takes the Tyrrhenians and the Pelasgians to be one and the same people are mistaken. It is no wonder they were sometimes called by one another’s names, since the same thing has happened to certain other peoples also, both Greeks and barbarians: for example, to the Trojans and Phrygians who lived near each other. Actually, many have thought that those two peoples were just one people, differing in name only not in fact. And the peoples in Italy have been confused under a common name quite as often as any peoples anywhere. For there was a time when the Latins, the Umbrians, the Ausonians and many others were all called Tyrrhenians by the Greeks. This is because the remoteness of the countries inhabited by these peoples makes their exact distinctions obscure to those who lived at a distance.

[Linguistic argument regarding relationships between peoples]

And many of the historians have taken Rome itself for a Tyrrhenian city. I am persuaded, therefore, that these peoples changed their name along with their place of abode. Yet I cannot believe that they both had a common origin, for this reason, among many others, that their languages are different and preserve not the least resemblance to one another. “For neither the Krotonians,” says Herodotos [Inquiries 1.57], “nor the Plakians agree in language with any of their present neighbours, although they agree with each other. It is also clear that they preserve the fashion of speech which they brought with them into those regions.” However, one might be amazed that, although the Krotonians had a speech similar to that of the Plakians, who lived near the Hellespont, since both were originally Pelasgians, it was not at all similar to that of the Tyrrhenians, their nearest neighbours. For if kinship (syggenes) is to be regarded as the reason why two peoples speak the same language, the contrary [i.e. lack of kinship] must, of course, be the reason for their speaking a different one, since surely it is not possible to believe that both these conditions arise from the same cause. Even though it might reasonably happen, on the one hand, that men of the same people who have settled at a distance from one another would, as the result of associating with their neighbours, no longer preserve the same fashion of speech, it is still not at all reasonable that men sprung from the same descent group and living in the same country should not in the least agree with one another in their language.

[Tyrrhenians not a colony of the Lydians]

(1.30) For this reason, therefore, I am persuaded that the Pelasgians are a different people from the Tyrrhenians. And I do not believe, either, that the Tyrrhenians were a colony of the Lydians. For they do not use the same language as the latter, nor can it be alleged that, though they no longer speak a similar tongue, they still retain some other indications of their mother country. For they neither worship the same gods as the Lydians nor make use of similar laws or institutions, but in these very respects they differ more from the Lydians than from the Pelasgians. In fact, those probably come nearest to the truth who declare that the people migrated from nowhere else, but was native to the country, since it is found to be a very ancient people and to agree with no other either in its language or in its manner of living. And there is no reason why the Greeks should not have called them by this name, both from their living in towers and from the name of one of their rulers.

[Romans’ term for Tyrrhenians is “Etruscans”, and alternate self-identification]

The Romans, however, give Tyrrhenians other names: from the country they once inhabited, named Etruria, they call them “Etruscans,” and from their knowledge of the ceremonies relating to divine worship, in which they excel others, they now call them, rather inaccurately, Tuscans, but formerly, with the same accuracy as the Greeks, they called them Thyoscoians. Their own name for themselves, however, is the same as that of one of their leaders, Rasenna [perhaps Tarasenna; i.e. self-identifying as Rasennians or Tarasennians]. In another book I will show what cities the Tyrrhenians founded, what forms of government they established, how great power they acquired, what memorable achievements they performed, and what fortunes attended them.

As for the Pelasgian people, however, those who were not destroyed or dispersed among the various colonies (for a small number remained out of a great many) were left behind as fellow citizens of the Aborigines in these parts, where in the course of time their posterity, together with others, built the city of Rome. Such are the legends told about the Pelasgian descent group.

[Arkadians’ further migrations to Italy in connection with quarrels, and the settlement of the village that would become Rome]

(1.31) Soon after, another Greek expedition landed in this part of Italy, having migrated from Pallantion, a city of Arkadia, about the sixtieth year before the Trojan war [imagined to be ca. 1243 BCE], as the Romans themselves say. This colony had for its leader Euandros, who is said to have been the son of Hermes and a local nymph of the Arkadians. The Greeks call her Themis and say that she was inspired, but the writers of the early history of Rome call her, in the native language, Carmenta. The nymph’s name would be in Greek Thespiodos or “prophetic singer,” because the Romans call songs carmina, and they agree that this woman, possessed by divine inspiration, foretold to the people in song the things that would happen. This expedition was not sent out by the common consent of the people. Rather, a quarrel arose within the People and the faction which was defeated left the country of their own accord.

It happened to be that the kingdom of the Aborigines had been inherited at that time by Faunus, a descendant of Mars, it is said. This was a man of prudence as well as energy, whom the Romans in their sacrifices and songs honour as one of the gods of their country. This man received the Arkadians, who were but few in number, with great friendship and gave them as much of his own land as they desired. As Themis by inspiration kept on advising them, the Arkadians chose a hill not far from the Tiber river, which is now near the middle of the city of Rome. By this hill they built a small village sufficient for the complement of the two ships in which they had come from Greece. Yet this village [later to be Rome] was ordained by fate to excel in the course of time all other cities, whether Greek or barbarian, not only in its size, but also in the majesty of its empire and in every other form of prosperity, and to be celebrated above them all as long as mortality will endure. They named the town Pallantion after their mother-city in Arkadia; now, however, the Romans call it Palatium, time having obscured the correct form.

This name has given occasion for many to suggest absurd etymologies. 32 But some writers, among them Polybios of Megalopolis, related that the town was named after Pallas, a lad who died there; they say that he was the son of Herakles and Lauinia, the daughter of Euandros, and that his maternal grandfather raised a tomb to him on the hill and called the place Pallantion, after the boy. But I have never seen any tomb of Pallas at Rome nor have I heard of any drink-offerings being made in his honour nor been able to discover anything else of that nature. Yet this family has not been left unremembered or without those honours with which divine beings are worshipped by men. For I have learned that public sacrifices are performed yearly by the Romans to Euandros and to Carmenta in the same manner as to the other heroes and minor deities. I have also seen two altars that were erected, one to Carmenta under the Capitoline hill near the Porta Carmentalis, and the other to Euandros by another hill, called the Aventine, not far from the Porta Trigemina. But I know of nothing of this kind that is done in honour of Pallas.

As for the Arkadians, when they had joined in a single settlement at the foot of the hill, they proceeded to adorn their town with all the buildings to which they had been accustomed at home and to erect temples. First they built a temple to the Lykaian Pan by the direction of Themis (for to the Arkadians Pan is the most ancient and the most honoured of all the gods), when they had found a suitable site for the purpose. This place the Romans call the Lupercal, but we should call it Lykaion.

[Greek, Arkadian origins of, and continuity with, Roman rites]

Now, it is true, since the district around the sacred precinct has been united with the city, it has become difficult to guess the ancient nature of the place. Nevertheless, at first, we are told, there was a large cave under the hill overarched by a dense wood. Deep springs issued from beneath the rocks, and the glen adjoining the cliffs was shaded by thick and lofty trees.​ In this place they raised an altar to the god and performed their traditional sacrifice, which the Romans have continued to offer up to this day in the month of February, after the winter solstice, without altering anything in the rites then performed. The manner of this sacrifice will be related later. Upon the summit of the hill they set apart the precinct of Victory and instituted sacrifices to her also, lasting throughout the year, which the Romans performed even in my time.

(1.33) The Arkadians have a legend that this goddess was the daughter of Pallas, the son of Lykaon, and that she received those honours from humankind which she now enjoys at the desire of Athena, with whom she had been raised. For they say that Athena, as soon as she was born, was handed over to Pallas by Zeus and that she was reared by him till she grew up. They built also a temple to Demeter [Roman equivalent would be Ceres], to whom by the ministry of women they offered sacrifices without wine, according to the custom of the Greeks, rites that remain unchanged until our time. Moreover, they assigned a precinct to the Poseidon Hippos (who rides a horse) [Neptune would be the equivalent Roman god] and instituted the festival called by the Arkadians Hippokrateia and by the Romans Consualia, during which it is customary among the latter for the horses and mules to rest from work and to have their heads crowned with flowers.

They also consecrated many other precincts, altars and images of the gods and instituted purifications and sacrifices according to the customs of their own country, which continued to be performed down to my day in the same manner. Yet I should not be surprised if some of the ceremonies by reason of their great antiquity have been forgotten by their posterity and neglected. However, those that are still practised are sufficient proofs that they are derived from the customs formerly in use among the Arkadians, of which I will speak more at length elsewhere.

[Arkadians’ contributions to civilization at the village that would become Rome]

The Arkadians are said also to have been the first to introduce into Italy the use of Greek letters, which had lately appeared among them, and also music performed on such instruments as lyres, trigons and flutes (because their predecessors had used no musical invention except shepherd’s pipes). They are said also to have established laws; to have transformed the way of life from the prevailing savage (thēriōdēs) form of existence to a state of civilization (hēmerotēs); and, likewise, to have introduced technical skills (technai) and professions (epitēdeumata) and many other things conducive to the public good. For these reasons, they have been treated with great consideration by those who had received them. This was the next Greek people after the Pelasgians to come into Italy and to take up a common residence with the Aborigines, establishing itself in the best part of Rome.

[Subsequent immigration of Peloponnesians in Herakles’ army, and settlement of future Capitoline hill]

(1.34) A few years after the Arkadians another Greek expedition came into Italy under the command of Herakles, who had just returned from the conquest of Iberia and of all the region that extends to the setting of the sun. It was some of his followers who, begging Herakles to dismiss them from the expedition, remained in this region and built a town on a suitable hill, which they found at a distance of about three stadium-lengths from Pallantion. This is now called the Capitoline hill, but by the men of that time the Saturnian hill, or in Greek the hill of Kronos. The greater part of those who stayed behind were Peloponnesians: those from Pheneus [near modern Archaia Feneos, Greece] and Epeans from Elis [near modern Amaliada], who no longer had any desire to return home, since their country had been destroyed in the war against Herakles. There was also a small Trojan element mingled with these, consisting of prisoners taken from Ilion in the reign of Laomedon, at the time when Herakles conquered the city. I am of the opinion that all the rest of the army who were either tired out or troubled by their wanderings obtained their dismissal from the expedition and remained there.

As for the name of the hill, some think it was an ancient name, as I have said, and that consequently the Epeans were especially pleased with the hill through memory of the hill of Kronos in Elis. This is in the territory of Pisa near the river Alpheus. Regarding it as sacred to Kronos, the Eleans assemble together at stated times to honour it with sacrifices and other signs of reverence. But Euxenos, ​an ancient poet, and some others of the Italian mythographers think that the name was given to the place by the men from Pisa themselves, from its likeness to their hill of Kronos, that the Epeans together with Herakles erected the altar to Kronos [here an equivalent of Saturn] which remains to this day at the foot of the hill near the ascent that leads from the Forum to the Capitol, and that it was they who instituted the sacrifice which the Romans still performed even in my time, observing the Greek ritual. But from the best guesses I have been able to make, I find that even before the arrival of Herakles in Italy this place was sacred to Kronos [i.e. Saturn] and was called by the people of the country the Saturnian hill. Also, all the rest of the peninsula which is now called Italy was consecrated to this god, being called Saturnia​ by the inhabitants, as may be found stated in some Sibylline prophecies and other oracles delivered by the gods. And in many parts of the country there are temples dedicated to this god. Certain cities bear the same name by which the whole peninsula was known at that time, and many places are called by the name of the god, particularly headlands and eminences.

[Italians and Italos the founder]

(1.35) But in the course of time the land came to be called Italy, after a ruler named Italos. This man, according to Antiochos of Syracuse,​ was both a wise and good prince, and persuading some of his neighbours by arguments and subduing the rest by force, he made himself master of all the land which lies between the Napetine and Scylacian bays, which was the first land, he says, to be called Italy after Italos. When he had gained posession of this district and had many subjects, he immediately wanted the neighbouring peoples and brought many cities under his rule. He says further that Italos was an Oinotrian by birth. But Hellanikos of Lesbos says that when Herakles was driving Geryon’s cattle to Argos and had come to Italy, a calf escaped from the herd and in its flight wandered the whole length of the coast. Then, swimming across the intervening strait of the sea, came into Sicily. Herakles, following the calf, inquired of the inhabitants wherever he came if anyone had seen it anywhere, and when the people of the island, who understood only a little Greek and used their own speech when indicating the animal, called it vitulus (the name by which it is still known), he, in memory of the calf, called all the country it had wandered over Vitulia. And it is no wonder that the name has been changed in the course of time to its present form, since many Greek names have met with a similar fate. But whether, as Antiochos says, the country took this name from a ruler, which perhaps is more probable, or, as Hellanikos believes, from the bull, it is still at least clear from both their accounts that in Herakles’ time, or a little earlier, it received this name. Before that it had been called Hesperia and Ausonia by the Greeks and Saturnia by the natives, as I have already stated.

[Italy as the best and most fertile country in the world]

(1.36) There is another mythical account related by the inhabitants, to the effect that – before the reign of Zeus [i.e. Jupiter] – Kronos [Saturn] was lord in this land and that the celebrated manner of life in his reign, abounding in the produce of every season, was enjoyed by none more than them. And, in fact, if anyone, setting aside the fabulous part of this account, will examine the merit of any country from which humankind received the greatest enjoyments immediately after their birth, whether they sprang from the earth, according to the ancient tradition, or came into being in some other manner, he will find none more beneficent to them than this. For, to compare one country with another of the same extent, Italy is, in my opinion, the best country, not only of Europe, but even of all the rest of the world. Yet I am not unaware that I will not be believed by many when they reflect on Egypt, Libya, Babylonia and any other fertile countries that exist. But I, for my part, do not limit the wealth derived from the soil to one sort of produce, nor do I feel any eagerness to live where there are only rich arable lands and little or nothing else that is useful. But I consider that the best country is the most self-sufficient and generally stands least in need of imported commodities. And I am persuaded that Italy enjoys this universal fertility and diversity of advantages beyond any other land. . . [extensive discussion of the fertility and produce of Italy omitted].

[Further stories regarding Herakles, the Peloponesians, the Aborigenes and others in Italy who participate in originally Greek practices]

[Kakos the bandit story and the origin of Roman rituals]

(1.39) Among the stories told concerning Herakles, some are largely legend and some are nearer the truth. The legendary account of his arrival is as follows: Herakles, being commanded by Eurystheus, among other labours, to drive Geryon’s cattle from Erytheia​ to Argos, performed the task and having passed through many parts of Italy on his way home, came also to the neighbourhood of Pallantion in the country of the Aborigines. Finding plenty of excellent grass for his cattle there, he let them graze. Becoming tired, he lay down and slept. At that point a bandit of that region, named Kakos (“Evil”), chanced to come upon the cattle feeding with no one protecting them and longed to possess them. But seeing Herakles lying there asleep, he imagined he could not drive them all away without being discovered and at the same time he perceived that the task was no easy one, either. So he secreted a few of them in the cave hard by, in which he lived, dragging each of them there by the tail backwards. This might have destroyed all evidence of his theft, as the direction in which the oxen had gone would be at variance with their tracks. Herakles, then, arising from sleep soon afterwards, and having counted the cattle and found some were missing, was for some time at a loss to guess where they had gone. Supposing them to have strayed from their pasture, he sought them up and down the region. Then, when he failed to find them, he came to the cave. Even though he was deceived by the tracks, he felt that he should search the place nonetheless. But Kakos stood before the door, and when Herakles inquired after the cattle, denied that he had seen them, and when the other desired to search his cave, would not suffer him to do so, but called upon his neighbours for assistance, complaining of the violence offered to him by the stranger. And while Herakles was puzzled to know how he should act in the matter, he hit upon the expedient of driving the rest of the cattle to the cave. In this way, when those inside heard the lowing and perceived the smell of their companions outside, they bellowed to them in turn and thus their lowing betrayed the theft. Kakos, therefore, when his thievery was brought to light, put himself upon his defence and began to call out to his fellow herdsmen. But Herakles killed him by smiting him with his club and drove out the cattle. When he saw that the place was well adapted to the harbouring of evil-doers, he demolished the cave, burying the bandit under its ruins. Then, having purified himself in the river from the murder, he erected an altar near the place to Zeus [identified with Jupiter] the Discoverer, which is now in Rome near the Porta Trigemina. He also sacrificed a calf to the god as a thank-offering for the finding of his cattle. This sacrifice the city of Rome continued to celebrate even down to my day, observing in it all the ceremonies of the Greeks just as he instituted them.

(1.40) When the Aborigines and the Arkadians who lived at Pallantion learned of the death of Kakos and saw Herakles, they thought they were very fortunate in being rid of the former, whom they detested for his banditry. They were struck with awe at the appearance of the latter, in whom they seemed to see something divine. The poorer among them, plucking branches of laurel which grew there in great plenty, crowned both him and themselves with it; and their kings also came to invite Herakles to be their guest. But when they heard from him his name, his lineage and his achievements, they recommended both their country and themselves to his friendship. Euandros, who had even before this heard Themis relate that it was ordained by fate that Herakles, the son of Zeus [Jupiter] and Alkmena, changing his mortal nature, should become immortal by reason of his virtue, as soon as he learned who the stranger was, resolved to forestall all humankind by being the first to propitiate Herakles with divine honours. He quickly erected an improvised altar and sacrificed upon it a calf that had not known the yoke, having first communicated the oracle to Herakles and asked him to perform the initial rites. And Herakles, admiring the hospitality of these men, entertained the common people with a feast, after sacrificing some of the cattle and setting apart the tithes of the rest of his booty. After he had first expelled some lawless people from a large district belonging to the Ligurians and to some others of their neighbours, he gave the district to their kings who very much wanted to rule the district. It is furthermore reported that he asked the inhabitants, since they were the first who had regarded him as a god, to perpetuate the honours they had paid him by offering up every year a calf that had not known the yoke and performing the sacrifice with Greek rites. It is reported that he himself taught the sacrificial rites to two of the distinguished families so that their offerings might always be acceptable to him.

Those who were then instructed in the Greek ceremony, they say, were the Potitians and the Pinarians, whose descendants continued for a long time to have the superintendence of these sacrifices, in the manner he had appointed, the Potitians presiding at the sacrifice and taking the first part of the burnt-offerings, while the Pinarians were excluded from tasting the inwards and held second rank in those ceremonies which had to be performed by both of them together. It is said that this disgrace was fixed upon them for having been late in arriving. Even though they had been ordered to be present early in the morning, they did not come till the entrails had been eaten.

Today, however, the superintendence of the sacrifices no longer devolves on these families, but slaves purchased with the public money perform them. For these reasons this custom was changed and how the god manifested himself concerning the change in his ministers, I will relate when I come to that part of the history.​

The altar on which Herakles offered up the tithes is called by the Romans the Greatest Altar [i.e. Ara maxima].​ It stands near the place they call the Cattle Market​ [Forum borarium] and no other is held in greater veneration by the inhabitants. For upon this altar oaths are taken and agreements made by those who wish to transact any business unalterably and the tithes of things are frequently offered there pursuant to vows. However, in its construction it is much inferior to its reputation. In many other places also in Italy precincts are dedicated to this god and altars erected to him, both in cities and along highways. One could hardly find any place in Italy in which the god is not honoured. Such, then, is the legendary account that has been handed down concerning him.

[Story of Herakles’ civilizing military campaign in and around Italy and conquering of Kakos the barbarian leader]

(1.41) But the story which comes nearer to the truth and which has been adopted by many who have narrated his deeds in the form of history is as follows: Herakles, who was the greatest commander of his age, marched at the head of a large force through all the country that lies on this side of the Ocean, destroying any despotisms that were grievous and oppressive to their subjects, or communities that outraged and harmed the neighbouring cities, or organized bands of men who lived in the manner of savages and lawlessly put strangers to death. In their place he established lawful monarchies, well-ordered governments and humane and sociable modes of life.

Furthermore, Herakles mingled barbarians with Greeks, and inhabitants of the inland with dwellers on the sea coast, groups which up till then had been distrustful and unsocial in their dealings with each other. He also built cities in desert places, turned the course of rivers that overflowed the fields, cut roads through inaccessible mountains, and contrived other means by which every land and sea might lie open to the use of all humankind.

Herakles also came into Italy not alone nor just with a herd of cattle (for neither does this country lie on the road of those returning from Iberia to Argos nor would he have been deemed worthy of so great an honour merely for passing through it). Instead, he was at the head of a great army, after he had already conquered Iberia, in order to subjugate and rule the people in this region. He was obliged to stay there in Italy a considerable time both because of the absence of his fleet, due to stormy weather that detained it, and because not all the peoples of Italy willingly submitted to him.

Besides the other barbarians, the Ligurians, a numerous and warlike people seated in the passes of the Alps, endeavoured to prevent his entrance into Italy by force of arms, and in that place so great a battle was fought by the Greeks [accompanying Herakles as commander] that all their missiles gave out in the course of the fighting. This war is mentioned by Aischylos, among the ancient poets, in his Prometheus Unbound. Prometheus is represented there as foretelling to Herakles in detail how everything else was to happen to him on his expedition against Geryon and in particular recounting to him the difficult struggle he was to have in the war with the Ligurians. The verses are these: “And you will come to Liguria’s dauntless host, / Where no fault you will find, bold though you are, / With the fray: it is fated that your missiles will all fail.”

(1.42) After Herakles had defeated this people and gained the passes, some delivered up their cities to him of their own accord, particularly those who were any other Greek extraction or who had no considerable forces. However, most of them were reduced by war and siege.

Among those who were conquered in battle, they say, was Kakos, who is celebrated in the Roman legend, an exceedingly barbarous chieftain reigning over a savage people, who had set himself to oppose Herakles. Kakos was established in the protected areas and on that account was a pest to his neighbours. He, when he heard that Herakles lay encamped in the plain nearby, equipped his followers like bandits and, making a sudden raid while the army lay sleeping, he surrounded and drove off as much of their things as he found unguarded. Afterwards, being besieged by the Greeks, he not only saw his forts taken by storm, but was himself slain amid his fastnesses.

When his forts had been demolished, those who had accompanied Herakles on the expedition (these were some Arkadians with Euandros, and Faunus, king of the Aborigines) took over the districts nearby, each group for itself. It may also be guessed that those of the Greeks who remained there, that is, the Epeans and the Arkadians from Pheneus, as well as the Trojans, were left to guard the country. For among the various measures of Herakles that indicated the qualities of the true general, none was more worthy of admiration than his practice of carrying along with him for a time on his expeditions the prisoners taken from the captured cities. Then, after they had cheerfully assisted him in his wars, he settled them in the conquered regions and granted them the riches he had gained from others. It was because of these accomplishments that Herakles gained the greatest name and renown in Italy, and not because of his passage through it, which was attended by nothing worthy of veneration.

(1.43) Some say that he also left sons by two women in the region now inhabited by the Romans. One of these sons was Pallas, whom he had by the daughter of Euandros, whose name, they say, was Lavinia; the other, Latinus, whose mother was a certain Hyperborean girl whom he brought with him as a hostage given to him by her father and preserved for some time untouched. But while he was on his voyage to Italy, he fell in love with her and got her pregnant. And when he was preparing to leave for Argos, he married her to Faunus, king of the Aborigines. For this reason, Latinus is generally looked upon as the son of Faunus, not of Herakles. Pallas, they say, died before he arrived at puberty. But Latinus, upon reaching manhood succeeded to the kingdom of the Aborigines. When he was killed in the battle against the neighbouring Rutulians, without leaving any male issue, the kingdom devolved on Aeneas the son of Anchises, his son-in-law. But these things happened at other times.

(1.44) After Herakles had settled everything in Italy according to his desire and his naval force had arrived in safety from Iberia, he sacrificed to the gods the tithes of his booty and built a small town named after himself​ in the place where his fleet lay at anchor. This is now occupied by the Romans, and lying as it does between Neapolis and Pompeii, has at all times Etruria havens. After gaining fame and glory and receiving divine honours from all the inhabitants of Italy, Herakles set sail for Sicily. Those who were left behind by him as a garrison to dwell in Italy and were settled around the Saturnian hill lived for some time under an independent government. However, not long afterwards they adapted their manner of life, their laws and their sacred rites for the gods to those of the Aborigines, even as the Arkadians and, still earlier, the Pelasgians had done. They also shared in the same government with them, so that in time they came to be looked upon as of the same people with them.

Now let this suffice concerning the expedition of Herakles and concerning the Peloponnesians who remained behind in Italy. [No kidding]. . . [omitted many sections].

[Conclusion about the origin of the Romans, their relation to other peoples, and the dangers of barbarizing]

(1.89) Such, then, are the facts concerning the origin of the Romans which I have been able to discover a reading very diligently many works written by both Greek and Roman authors. From now on, then, let the reader forever renounce the views of those who make Rome a retreat of barbarians, fugitives and vagabonds, and let him confidently affirm it to be a Greek city. This will be easy for someone to do when a person shows that it is at once the most hospitable and friendly of all cities, and when he bears in mind that the Aborigines were Oinotrians, and these in turn Arkadians; when a person remembers those who joined with them in their settlement, the Pelasgians who were Argives by descent and came into Italy from Thessaly; and, moreover, when a person recalls the arrival of Euandros and the Arkadians, who settled around the Palatine hill, after the Aborigines had granted the place to them, as well as the Peloponnesians, who, coming along with Hercules, settled upon the Saturnian hill and, finally, those who left the Troad and were intermixed with the earlier settlers. For one will find no people that is more ancient or more Greek than these.

However, the mixing of barbarians with Romans, by which the city forgot many of its ancient institutions, happened at a later time. And it may well seem a cause of wonder to many who reflect on the natural course of events that Rome did not become entirely barbarized after receiving the Opicians, Marsians, Samnites, Tyrrhenians, Bruttians and many thousands of Umbrians, Ligurians, Iberians and Gauls, alongside countless other peoples, some of whom came from Italy itself and some from other regions and differed from one another both in their language and habits. For their very ways of life, diverse as they were and thrown into turmoil by such dissonance, might have been expected to cause many innovations in the ancient order of the city.

For many others by living among barbarians have in a short time forgotten all their Greek heritage, so that they neither speak the Greek language nor observe the customs of the Greeks nor acknowledge the same gods nor have the same equitable laws (by which most of all the spirit of the Greeks differs from that of the barbarians) nor agree with them in anything else whatever that relates to the ordinary social interactions. Those Achaians who are settled near the Euxine sea [Black sea] are a sufficient proof of my contention because, even though they were originally Eleans, a most Greek people, they are now the most savage of all barbarians.

(1.90) The language spoken by the Romans is neither utterly barbarous nor absolutely Greek, but a mixture, as it were, of both, the greater part of which is Aiolic. The only disadvantage they have experienced from their intermingling with these various peoples is that they do not pronounce all their sounds properly. But all other indications of a Greek origin they preserve beyond any other colonists. For it is not merely recently, since they have enjoyed the full tide of good fortune to instruct them in the amenities of life, that they have begun to live in a civilized manner. Nor is it merely since they first aimed at the conquest of countries lying beyond the sea, after overthrowing the Carthaginian and Macedonian empires, but rather from the time when they first joined in founding the city, that they have lived like Greeks. And they do not attempt anything more illustrious in the pursuit of virtue now than formerly. I have countless things to say about this subject and can adduce many arguments and present the testimony of credible authors. However, I reserve all this for the account I plan to write of about their civic organization (politeia).​ I will now resume the thread of my narrative, after prefacing to the following book with a recapitulation of what is contained in this book.


[Sabines and their supposed Spartan origin]

But Zenodotos of Troizen, a . . . historian, relates that the Umbrians, a native people (ethnos authigenes), first lived in the Reatine territory, as it is called. Being driven from there by the Pelasgians, they came into the country which they now inhabit and, changing their name with their place of habitation, they went from being called Umbrians to being called Sabines (Sabines).

However, Porcius Cato says that the Sabine people received its name from Sabus, the son of Sancus, a divinity of that country, and that this Sancus was by some called Jupiter Fidius. Cato also says that: their first place of abode was a certain village called Testruna, situated near the city of Amiternum; the Sabines made an incursion at that time from Testruna into the Reatine territory, which was inhabited by the Aborigines together with the Pelasgians; they took their most famous city, Cutiliae, by force of arms and occupied it; and, sending colonies out of the Reatine territory, they built many cities, in which they lived without fortifying them, among others the city called Cures. Cato further states that the country they occupied was about two hundred and eighty stadium-lengths away from the Adriatic sea and a little less than a thousand stadium-lengths from the Tyrrhenian sea.

There is also another account given of the Sabines in the native histories, to the effect that a colony of Lakedaimonians [Spartans] settled among them at the time when Lykourgos, being guardian to his nephew Eunomos, gave his laws to Sparta. For the story goes that some of the Spartans, disliking the severity of his laws and separating from the rest, left the city entirely, and after being carried through a vast stretch of sea, made a vow to the gods to settle in the first land they should reach, because a longing came over them for any land whatsoever. Finally, they reached that part of Italy which lies near the Pomentine plains and they called the place where they first landed Foronia, in memory of their being carried through the sea. They built a temple owing to the goddess Foronia, to whom they had addressed their vows. This goddess, by the alteration of one letter, they now call Feronia. And some of them, setting out from there, settled among the Sabines. It is for this reason, they say, that many of the habits of the Sabines are Spartan, particularly their fondness for war and their frugality and a severity in all the actions of their lives. But this is enough about the Sabine people.


[Shared festival customs of the Sabines and Latins and a connection with clashes between Sabines and Romans]

(3.32) After​ this war [between the Romans and the Fidenates, imagined to take place in the seventh century BCE] another arose against the Romans on the part of the Sabine people (ethnos), the beginning and occasion of which was following. There is a sanctuary, honoured in common by the Sabines and the Latins, that is held in the greatest reverence and is dedicated to a goddess named Feronia. Some of those who translate this name into Greek call her Anthophoros (“Flower Bearer”), others call her Philostephanos (“Lover of Garlands”) and still others call her Persephone. To this sanctuary people used to resort from the neighbouring cities on the appointed days of festival, many of them performing vows and offering sacrifice to the goddess and many with the purpose of trading during the festive gathering as merchants, artisans and farmers. This is where they held fairs that were more celebrated than in any other places in Italy.

At this festival some Romans of considerable importance happened to be present on a certain occasion and were seized by some of the Sabines, who imprisoned them and robbed them of their money. And when an embassy was sent concerning them, the Sabines refused to give any satisfaction, but retained both the persons and the money of the men whom they had seized, and in their turn accused the Romans of having received the fugitives of the Sabines by establishing a sacred asylum (of which I gave an account in the preceding book).​ As a result of these accusations the two peoples became involved in war, and when both had taken the field with large forces a pitched battle occurred between them. Both sides continued to fight with equal fortunes until night parted them, leaving the victory in doubt. During the following days both of them, upon learning the number of the dead and wounded, were unwilling to hazard another battle but left their camps and retired. They let that year pass without further action, and then, having increased their forces, they again marched out against one another . . . [omitted further details of the Sabine-Roman war].


[Sabines engaging in tactics of banditry and further clashes with Romans]

(5.37) . . . In the consulships of Marcus Valerius and Publius Postumius [placed ca. 503 BCE] another war awaited the Romans, this one stirred up by their nearest neighbours. It began with acts of banditry (lēstēria) and developed into many important engagements. However, it ended in an honourable peace in the third​ consul­ship after this one, having been carried on during that whole interval without intermission. For some of the Sabines, deciding that the community was weakened by the defeat the community had received from the Tyrrhenians and would never be able to recover its ancient prestige, attacked those who came down into the fields from the strongholds by organizing groups of bandits, and they caused many injuries to the farmers. For these acts the Romans, sending an embassy before resorting to battle, sought satisfaction and demanded that for the future the Sabines should commit no lawless acts against those who cultivated the land. After receiving and arrogant answer, they declared war against them. . . [omitted remainder of details of the war].


[Digression contining Dionysios’ argument about the Greek origin of Roman customs]

[Early Roman festival actually evidence of Greek colonial origins]

(7.70) Since I have come to this part of my history, I believe I should not to omit mention of the rites performed by the Romans on the occasion of this festival. [Dionysios never names this ostensibly very ancient festival]. I do this, not in order to render my narration more agreeable by dramatic embellishments and flowery descriptions, but to win credence for an essential matter of history, namely, that the peoples (ethnē) which joined in founding the city of Rome were Greek colonies sent out from the most famous places, and not, as some believe, barbarians and homeless. (2) For I promised at the end of the first book, which I composed and published concerning their origin,​ that I would demonstrate this thesis by countless proofs, by citing time-honoured customs, laws and institutions which they preserve down to my time just as they received them from their ancestors. For I believe that it is not enough that those who write the early histories of particular lands should relate them in a trustworthy manner as they have received them from the inhabitants of the country. Instead, these accounts also require for their support numerous and indisputable testimonies, if they are to appear credible.

[Centrality of customs relating to the gods as a sign of ethnic origins]

Among such testimonies I am convinced that the first and the most valid of all evidence are the ceremonies connected with the established worship of the gods and lower spirits which are performed in each community. These both the Greeks and barbarian world have preserved for the greatest length of time and have never thought it appropriate to make any innovation in them, being restrained from doing so by their fear of anger from the spirits.

This has been the experience of the barbarians in particular, for many reasons which this is not the proper occasion for mentioning. No lapse of time has so far cause either the Egyptians, the Libyans, the Gauls, the Scythians, the Indians, or any other barbarian people (ethnos) whatever to forget or transgress anything relating to the rites of their gods. The exception is when some of them have been subdued by a foreign power and compelled to exchange their own institutions for those of their conquerors.

[Romans not originally barbarians, with the likes of Umbrians or Ligurians of Italy in mind]

Now it has not been the fate of the Roman community ever to experience such a misfortune, but it always gives laws to others. (5) If, therefore, the Romans had been originally barbarians, they would have been so far from forgetting their ancestral rites and the established customs of their country, by which they had attained to so great prosperity, that they would even have made it to the interest of all their subjects as well to honour the gods according to the customary Roman ceremonies. Furthermore, nothing could have hindered the whole Greek world, which is now subject to the Romans for already the seventh generation,​ from being barbarized if the Romans had indeed been barbarians.

[Quintus Fabius Pictor as the source]

(7.71) Anyone else might have assumed that the ceremonies now practised in the city were enough even by themselves to afford no slight indication of the ancient observances. But for my part, in case anyone should hold this to be weak evidence – according to that improbable assumption that after the Romans had conquered the whole Greek world they would gladly have scorned their own customs and adopted the better ones in their stead – I will adduce my evidence from the time when they did not as yet possess the supremacy over Greece or dominion over any other country beyond the sea. I will cite Quintus Fabius [Pictor, third century BCE historian] as my authority, without requiring any further confirmation. For he is the most ancient of all the Roman historians and offers proof of what he asserts, not only from the information of others, but also from his own knowledge.

[Description of the Roman / Greek festival, not influenced by Italian barbarians like Umbrians or Ligurians]

This festival, therefore, the Roman senate ordered to be celebrated, as I said before,​ pursuant to the vow made by the dictator Aulus Postumius [ca. 496 BCE] when he was upon the point of giving battle to the Latins, who had revolted from the Romans and were endeavouring to restore Tarquinius to power. They ordered five hundred minae of silver to be expended every year upon the sacrifices and the games, a sum the Romans laid out on the festival till the time of the Punic war. During these holidays not only were many other observances carried out according to the customs of the Greeks, in connection with the general assemblies, the reception of strangers, and the cessation of hostilities, which it would be a big –task to describe, but also those relating to the procession, the sacrifice, and the games – these are sufficient to give an idea of those I do not mention – which were as follows:

[Procession of contestants]

(7.72) Before beginning the games the principal magistrates conducted a procession in honour of the gods from the Capitol through the Forum to the Circus Maximus. Those who led the procession were, first, the Romans’ sons who were nearing manhood and were of an age to bear a part in this ceremony, who rode on horseback if their fathers were entitled by their fortunes to be knights, while the others, who were destined to serve in the infantry, went on foot, the former in squadrons and troops, and the latter in divisions and companies, as if they were going to school. This was done in order that strangers might see the number and beauty of the youths of the community who were approaching manhood. These were followed by charioteers, some of whom drove four horses across, some two, and others rode unyoked horses. After them came the contestants in both the light and the heavy games, their whole bodies naked except their loins. This custom continued even to my time at Rome, as it was originally practised by the Greeks. However, it is now abolished in Greece, since the Lakedaimonians [Spartans] have put an end to it. The first man who undertook to strip and ran naked at Olympia, at the fifteenth Olympiad, was Akanthos the Lakedaimonian. Before that time, it seems, all the Greeks had been ashamed to appear entirely naked in the games, as Homer, the most credible and the most ancient of all witnesses, shows when he represents the heroes as wrapping up their loins. At any rate, when he is describing the wrestling-match of Aias and Odysseus​ at the funeral of Patroklos, he says: “And then the two with loins well wrapped stepped forward / Into the lists” [Homer, Iliad 23.685]. He makes this even clearer in the Odyssey upon the occasion of the boxing-match between Iros and Odysseus, in these verses: “He spoke, and all approved; Odysseus then / His rags wrapped around his loins, and showed his thighs / So fair and stout; broad shoulders too and chest / And brawny arms there stood revealed” [Odyssey 18.66-69]. And when he introduces the beggar as no longer willing to engage but declining the combat through fear, he says: “They spoke, and Iros’ heart was sorely stirred; / Yet even so the suitors​ wrapped his loins By force and led him forward” [Odyssey 18.74-75]. So it is clear that the Romans, who preserve this ancient Greek custom to this day, did not learn it from us afterwards nor even change it over time, as we have done.

[Bands of dancers]

(5) The contestants were followed by numerous bands of dancers arranged in three divisions, the first consisting of men, the second of youths, and the third of boys. These were accompanied by flute-players, who used ancient flutes that were small and short, as is done even to this day, and by lyre-players, who plucked ivory lyres of seven strings and the instruments called barbita.​ The use of these has ceased in my time among the Greeks, though traditional with them, but is preserved by the Romans in all their ancient sacrificial ceremonies. (6) The dancers were dressed in scarlet tunics wrapped with bronze cinctures, wore swords suspended at their sides, and carried spears of shorter than average length. The men also had bronze helmets adorned with conspicuous crests and plumes. Each group was led by one man who gave the figures of the dance to the rest, taking the lead in representing their warlike and rapid movements, usually in the proceleusmatic rhythms.​

(7) This also was in fact a very ancient Greek institution – I mean the armed dance called the Pyrrhic – whether it was Athena who first began to lead bands of dancers and to dance in arms over the destruction of the Titans in order to celebrate the victory by this manifestation of her joy, or whether it was the Kouretes who introduced it still earlier when, acting as nurses to Zeus, they strove to amuse him by the clashing of arms and the rhythmic movements of their limbs, as the legend has it. (8) The antiquity of this dance also, as one native to the Greeks, is made clear by Homer, not only in many other places, but particularly in describing the fashioning of the shield which he says Hephaistos presented to Achilles. For, having represented on it two cities, one blessed with peace, the other suffering from war, in the one on which he bestows the happier fate, describing festivals, marriages, and merriment, as one would naturally expect, he says among other things: “Youths whirled around in joyous dance, with sound / Of flute and harp; and, standing at their doors, / Admiring women on the pageant gazed” [Homer, Iliad 18.494-496].​

(9) And again, in describing another Cretan band of dancers, consisting of youths and maidens, with which the shield was adorned, he speaks in this manner: “And on it, too, the famous craftsman made, / With cunning workmanship, a dancing-floor, / Like that which Daidalos in Knossos wide / For fair-haired Ariadne shaped. And there / Bright youths and many-suitored maidens danced / While laying each on other’s wrists their hands” [Homer, Iliad 18.590-594]. And in describing the dress of these dancers, in order to show us that the males danced in arms, he says: “ The maidens garlands wore, the striplings swords / Of gold, which proudly hung from silver belts” [Iliad 18.597-598]. And when he introduces the leaders of the dance who gave the rhythm to the rest and began it, he writes: “ And great the throng which stood about the dance, / Enjoying it; and tumblers twain did whirl / Amid the throng as prelude to the song” [Iliad 18.603-605].​

(10) But it is not alone from the warlike and serious dance of these bands which the Romans employed in their sacrificial ceremonies and processions that one may observe their kinship to the Greeks, but also from that which is of a mocking and irreverent nature. For after the armed dancers others marched in procession impersonating satyrs and portraying the Greek dance called sicinnis. Those who represented Silenos [drunk old man frequently accompanying Dionysos] figures were dressed in shaggy tunics, called by some chortaioi, and in mantles of flowers of every sort. The ones representing satyrs wore belts and goatskins, and on their heads manes that stood upright, with other things of like nature. These mocked and mimicked the serious movements of the others, turning them into laughter-provoking performances. (11) The triumphal entrances also show that roasting and fun-making in the manner of satyrs were an ancient practice native to the Romans, because the soldiers who take part in the triumphs are allowed to satirise and ridicule the most distinguished men, including even the generals, in the same manner as those who ride in procession in carts at Athens. The soldiers once jested in prose as they clowned, but now they sing improvised verses.​ (12) And even at the funerals of illustrious persons I have seen, along with the other participants, bands of dancers impersonating satyrs who preceded the coffin and imitated in their motions the dance called sicinnis, and particularly at the funerals of the rich. This jesting and dancing in the manner of satyrs, then, was not the invention either of the Ligurians or of the Umbrians or of any other barbarians who lived in Italy, but of the Greeks. However, I worry that it would be tiresome to some of my readers if I tried to confirm by more arguments a thing that is generally conceded.

[Musicians and carriers of sacred objects]

(13) After these bands of dancers​ came a throng of lyre-players and many flute-players, and after them the persons who carried the censers in which perfumes and frankincense were burned along the whole route of the procession, also the men who bore the show-vessels made of silver and gold, both those that were sacred owing to the gods and those that belonged to the city. Last of all in the procession came the images of the gods, carried on men’s shoulders, showing the same likenesses as those made by the Greeks and having the same dress, the same symbols, and the same gifts which tradition says each of them invented and granted to humankind. These were the images not only of Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, Neptune, and of the rest whom the Greeks reckon among the twelve gods, but also of those still more ancient from whom legend says the twelve were sprung, namely, Saturn, Ops, Themis, Latona, the Parcae, Mnemosyne, and all the rest to whom temples and holy places are dedicated among the Greeks. Also, there were images of those whom legend represents as living later, after Jupiter took over the sovereignty, such as Proserpina, Lucina, the Nymphs, the Muses, the seasons, the Graces, Liber, and the demigods whose souls after they had left their mortal bodies are said to have ascended to heaven and to have obtained the same honours as the gods, such as Herakles, Asklepios, Kastor and Pollux, Helen,​ Pan, and countless others.

(14) Yet if those who founded Rome and instituted this festival were barbarians, how could they properly worship all the gods and other divinities of the Greeks and scorn their own ancestral gods? Or let someone show us any other people besides the Greeks among whom these rites are traditional, and then let him refute this demonstration as unsound.

[Sacrifices after procession]

(15) After the procession was ended the consuls and the priests whose function it was presently sacrificed oxen. The manner of performing the sacrifices was the same as with us [Greeks]. For after washing their hands they purified the victims with clear water and sprinkled corn​ on their heads, after which they prayed and then gave orders to their assistants to sacrifice them. Some of these assistants, while the victim was still standing, struck it on the temple with a club, and others received it upon the sacrificial knives as it fell. After this they flayed it and cut it up, taking off a piece from each of the innards and also from every limb as a first-offering, which they sprinkled with grits of spelt and carried in baskets to the officiating priests. These placed them on the altars, and making a fire under them, poured wine over them while they were burning.

(16) It is easy to see from Homer‘s poems that every one of these ceremonies was performed according to the customs established by the Greeks with reference to sacrifices. For he introduces the heroes washing their hands and using barley grits, where he said: “Then washed their hands and took up barley-grains” [Homer, Iliad 1.449]. And also cutting off the hair from the head of the victim and placing it on the fire, writing this: “And he, the rite beginning, cast some hairs, / Plucked from the victim’s head, upon the fire” [Odyssey 14.422]. He also represents them as striking the foreheads of the victims with clubs and stabbing them when they had fallen, as at the sacrifice of Eumaios: “Beginning then the rite,​ with limb of oak — / One he had left when cleaving wood — he smote / The boar, which straightway yielded up his life; / And next his throat they cut and singed his hide​” [Odyssey 14.425-426]. (17) And also at taking the first offerings from the innards and from the limbs as well and sprinkling them with barley-meal and burning them upon the altars, as at that same sacrifice: “Then made the swineherd slices of raw meat, / Beginning with a cut from every limb, / And wrapping them in rich fat, cast them all / Upon the fire, first sprinkling barley-meal” [Odyssey 14.427-429].

(18) These rites I am acquainted with from having seen the Romans perform them at their sacrifices even in my time. Contented with this single proof, I have become convinced that the founders of Rome were not barbarians, but Greeks who had come together out of many places. It is possible, indeed, that some barbarians also may observe a few customs relating to sacrifices and festivals in the same manner as the Greeks, but that they should do everything in the same way is hard to believe.


73 (1) It now remains for me to give a brief account of the games which the Romans performed after the procession. The first was a race of four-horse chariots, two-horse chariots, and of unyoked horses, as has been the custom among the Greeks, both in ancient times at Olympia and down to the present. (2) In the chariot races two very ancient customs continue to be observed by the Romans down to my time in the same manner as they were first instituted. The first relates to the chariots drawn by three horses, a custom now fallen into disuse among the Greeks, though it was an ancient institution of heroic times which Homer represents the Greeks as using in battle. For running beside two horses yoked together in the same manner as in the case of a two-horse chariot was a third horse attached by a trace. This trace-horse the ancients called parēoros or “outrunner,” because he was “hitched beside” and not yoked to the others.

The other custom is the race run by those who have ridden in the chariots, a race which is still performed in a few Greek states upon the occasion of some ancient sacrifices. (3) For after the chariot races are ended, those who have ridden with the charioteers, whom the poets call parabatai and the Athenians apobatai,​ leap down from their chariots and run a race with one another the length of the stadium. And after the chariot races were over, those who contended in their own persons entered the lists, that is, runners, boxers, and wrestlers, because these three contests were in use among the ancient Greeks, as Homer shows in describing the funeral of Patroklos.

(4) In the intervals between the contests they observed a custom which was typically Greek and the most commendable of all customs, that of awarding crowns and proclaiming the honours with which they rewarded their benefactors, just as was done at Athens during the festivals of Dionysos,​ and displaying to all who had assembled for the spectacle the spoils they had taken in war. (5) But as regards these customs, just as it would not have been right to make no mention of them when the subject required it, so it would not be fitting to extend my account farther than is necessary. It is now time to return to the narrative which we interrupted.


Source of translation:  E. Cary, The Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 7 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1937-50), public domain (copyright not renewed), adapted by Harland.

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