THE SOURCES OF HELLENIC HISTORY
If all that we are destined ever to learn of primitive Hellas is to be gained from the books of her historians alone, then the amount of our knowledge will be scanty indeed, and a hope of any addition to the mysterious volumes which contain the records of her early life, will be forever precluded. All the evidences arising from Hellenic sources have been sifted, combined, and classified, with a sagacity the most profound; and the early history of Greece, as eliminated from her own writers, has reached the “ultima Thule” of fact or of positive infidelity. The ardent enquirer after truth, repulsed at the mysterious gates of this city of the dead, burns to effect an entrance within its silent gloom. In his restless zeal, he tries every avenue of hope. His courage rises with the difficulties of his enterprise, and if, like the great explorer of the tombs of Egypt, he is for a time deserted by light, he summons fresh courage to meet the emergency. Into how narrow a compass does all our knowledge shrink, of that first, that strange people the Pelasgi! It is on the very threshold of the temple of history that we are doomed to encounter this mockery of life. I shall hopefully grapple with the phantom. But first arises the thought: What means have I for varying the method of my investigation, since the progress hitherto attempted has resulted in disappointment? Can I depend upon the usual guides to historical truth? — to what kind of errors are they liable? What is the source, and what the extent, of their information? These guides are discordant in their accounts, and varying in their antiquity; so far they are to be looked upon with a cautious eye; but I shall not, on account of any external imperfection, rashly refuse to receive the information they convey, and account them wholly fabulous because I cannot comprehend the poetic machinery by which they are introduced to my notice. On the contrary, it is not improbable that they may present valuable truths, under a garb which they themselves do not suspect to be a disguise. Let us examine this. It is readily granted, that the language of a nation, is one of its most durable monuments. Its buildings may have crumbled into dust, its people may have become extinct, and all but this evidence of its existence may have passed away. The English language illustrates and the Greek confirms this assertion. Amidst the numerous dialects which compose the former, the Saxon has left by far the strongest impression upon our native tongue. The simple deduction independent of history, is clear; — that people once speaking the Saxon language lived in this island; it is then equally clear, that these were Saxons. Apply this to Greece: what is it that strikes the literary student so forcibly as this identity of structure, of vocables, and inflective power, in the Greek and Sanscrit languages? Every day adds fresh conviction — produces fresh demonstration, of this undeniable fact. The Greek language is a derivation from the Sanscrit; therefore, Sanscrit-speaking people — i.e., Indians, must have dwelt in Greece, and this dwelling must have preceded the settlement of those tribes which helped to produce the corruption of the old language; or, in other words, the people who spoke that language — i.e., the Indians, must have been the primitive settlers; or, at least, they must have colonized the country so early, and dwelt there so long, as to have effaced all dialectic traces of any other inhabitants: just as the Saxons displaced the feeble remains of the dialect of the ancient Britons, in this island, and imparted a thoroughly Saxon stamp to the genius of the English language. But, if the evidences of Saxon colonisation in this island — (I speak independently of Anglo-Saxon history) — are strong both from language and political institutions, the evidences are still more decisive in the parallel case of an Indian colonization of Greece, — not only her Language, but her Philosophy, her Religion, her Rivers, her Mountains, and her Tribes; her subtle turn of intellect, her political institutes, and above all the Mysteries of that noble land, — irresistibly prove her colonization from India. I purpose to bring forward such evidences as will effectually demonstrate the causes of an immigration that dates from so venerable an antiquity; the identical class of religionists, that spread the blessings of civilization on her shores and islands; the parent institutes and parent philosophy of Hellas, and the causes which have hitherto thrown an impenetrable gloom over her early history. I propose to show the identical localities, whence this confluence of the Oriental tribes flowed like a mighty tide towards the West and South, enriching the lands with its current of civilization. The countries through which these early colonists moved, will, I trust, be as distinctly exhibited; thus forming a complete chain of evidence from land to land. The consideration of the philosophy, poetry, history, and religion of the Pelasgian colonists — (too often gratuitously set down as barbarians, or as “savages feeding upon leaves and acorns,”) will remove many difficulties that prevent a just comprehension of the first chronicles of Greece. I trust that the same evidences which have carried conviction to my mind — the same interest that lias attended me in my researches into the origin of this ancient people, may accompany the reader in the perusal of these pages.
Who then were these Pelasgi? — who, as if to puzzle us still more, are sometimes called Pelargoi. Let us see what evidences we can obtain from the language of Greece, and if we have any, how far they are valid? Perhaps, even, this language may furnish us with no information at all? It will not. This may appear strange, but a simple course of demonstration will establish this to be the fact.
Before, however, I proceed to this point, it will be well to present an abstract of the varying effects of this investigation, produced, through the medium of Greek etymology, in the absence of Greek history. The want of positive and practical result in an inquiry conducted by the learned with much sagacity, and continued with much persevering erudition, would of itself prove the inefficiency of the process employed. One of the most ordinary derivations of the name Pelasgi, is drawn from the term “Pelagos,” the sea, intimating that they were a people who came into Greece by sea. Another etymologist finds the explanation in “Pelargoi,” storks, either from the linen dress of these ancient people, or from their wandering habits. We are referred by others to Peleg “for the source of this mysterious name. Both Miiller and Wachsmuth, preferring Pelargos as the original form of the word, derived the term from “Pelo,” to till, and “Agros,” the field. Another writer considers they were called Pelasgi from the verb pelazo; and a third thinks they were called Pelargoi from their barbarous language. We have, from these and other sources, the maximum of what can be effected by the aid of Greek mythology; but what is the practical result? Is there anything tangible or precise in any definitions hitherto given? Do we ascertain thereby the exact spot whence these people set out? the countries through which they passed? their ability to civilize the people with whom they mingled? their peculiar characteristics, political or religious? If we have not gained some such information, the practical results of our investigations are perfectly valueless, save for that wholesome mental exercise which they encourage.
We must, then, candidly conclude, that any Greek process of etymology for eliminating positive results, is here at fault. “Profound night,” observes Mannert, “rests on this portion of history: a single gleam of light alone pierces the darkness which envelopes it. On one side of the Pelasgi, many tribes of the Illyrians practised navigation, as, for example, the Phseacians of the island Scheria, afterwards Corcyra. At the head of the Adriatic, existed long-established commercial cities, and artificial canals were seen at an early period. Everything seems to intimate that, at a period of remote antiquity, the shores of the Adriatic were inhabited by civilized communities.” These are just conclusions; but they are conclusions not resulting from any vague system of etymological interpretation. There is one author, to whose valuable speculations, founded on a rare and well-directed sagacity, I bear a willing testimony. The evidences through which I have gone, based upon authorities totally different from those of the learned writer, have yet produced an aggregate, amply confirming his conjectural conclusions. It is my object, however, to form that chain of evidence by which alone the rational mind can lay hold of truth; and in lieu of generalities and vague suggestions, to present such corroborative proof as will amount to historical fact. But before we take another step in this inquiry, it will be of advantage first to probe the extent of our own ignorance, then to apply a remedy. The former I shall endeavour to effect by a few plain propositions; the latter will be found in the process adopted throughout this work.
Let it be granted that the names given to mountains, rivers, and towns, have some meaning.
Let it be granted that the language of the Name-givers expressed that meaning.
Let it be granted that the language of the Name-givers will explain that meaning.
The Greeks dwelt in a land called Greece.
They named mountains, rivers, towns, which names had a meaning.
Their language expressed that meaning.
Their language will explain that meaning.
If their language will not explain that meaning, then they, the Greeks, did not give those names; but some other nation, speaking some other language, and that other language will tell who that other nation was.
The Names given are Geographical.
The Name-givers are Historical.
The geography and history of a country must be sought either in the language of the Name-givers of that country, or in a translation of the language of the Name-givers of that country.
Let us apply this to Grecian Geography.
As a Greek, let me translate Stympha, — I cannot. Dodona, — I cannot. Cambunii Montes, — I cannot. Hellopes, — I cannot. Aithices, Bodon, — I cannot. Chaonia, Crosssea, Ithaca^ — I cannot. Phocis, Locri, Magnesia, Thesprotia, — I cannot. Corinthos, Ossa, Acarnania, — I cannot. Arcadia, Acliaia, Bceotia, Elis, Larissa, — I cannot.
The terminations iotis and is (occurring four times in the province of Thessaly only), I cannot. Mount Tymphe, Othrys, Pharsalus, I cannot. — What then can I do? If it be said that certain of these people, or certain of these places were named from men, called Chaonus, Ithacus, Magnes, Thesprotus, Corinthus, Acarnan, Pharsalus, Boeotus, then, what is the meaning of these names?
Surely an Englishman can tell the meaning of Smith, Brown, Wood, John’s-son, Green, Black, &c., and though Good, Shepherd, Wiseman, Lamb, may have no particle of the qualities which once gave these titles; the fact cannot be done away with, that the names are English, and they may be explained in English. A similar process will deal with foreign names found in this country — they must of course be sought for in a foreign language. We are, then, ignorant, let us not deny it, of the simple meaning of the name of nearly every place in Greece; and yet we flatter ourselves that we are writing what we call Classical Geographies and Grecian Histories. But now mark the perilous position to which this admission will reduce us. If we, through either the vanity or the ignorance of Greeks, are unacquainted with the original import of the Geographical nomenclature of Greece, then are we equally ignorant of the History of that period, if our Grecian informants have not, with historical facts, given us the full value of historical names.
What I have now to show is, that they have given us those names; but as those names have no signification attached; they are historically, as the earliest map of Greece is geographically j worthless; nay more, they have led, and still lead us, astray. They have told us of Pelasgoi and Pelargoi, and forthwith our literati expend their energies upon problems impossible of solution, with the feeble means at their disposal. They attempt to draw from the Greek language, a language not in existence at the Pelasgian settlement of Hellas, — a history of the origin of the Pelasgians, — a process similar to an investigation of the origin of the Saxons, by the sole aid of the English language.
What then, having confessed our ignorance of men and things in the olden times of Greece, that is, in the time of the Pelasgian race, — what then is the remedy? Simply to refer to the Pelasgian, instead of the Greek language, for solid information in lieu of fabulous commentary. Is that language still in existence? — It is. It is the Sanscrit, both pure, and in the Pali dialect: sometimes partaking of the form and substance of the Cashmirean, and very often of the structure and vocables of the old Persian. But what, it will be asked, is your proof of this? My proof is one of the most practical that can be imagined; a proof geographical and historical; establishing identity of nomenclature in the old and new country of the Greek settlers, and acquiring the power, by this language, of restoring to plain common sense the absurdities of the whole circle of Greek literature, from Hesiod and the Logographers downwards. Of these, ample evidences will be given as I proceed. These are large claims; but not inconsistent with the facts of the case. I shall proceed to illustrate these propositions by geographical evidence, beginning with an account of the positive source of the Pelasgi.
 The Thibetan likewise will be found a valuable aid.