A race of people arrived from Asia, whom the Greek authors named in general Pelasgians and Turseni, occupied the biggest part of Europe even before the migration of the Greeks, Celts and Germans to the lands of this continent.
These Pelasgians had formed in ante-Hellenic times the most extended, the most powerful and the most remarkable people, a nation who from a moral and material point of view had changed the face of archaic Europe.
The Pelasgians appear at the front of all the historic traditions, not only in Hellada and in Italy, but also in the regions from north of the Danube and the Black Sea, in Asia Minor, in Assyria and in Egypt. They represent the original type of the peoples so-called Arian, which introduced in Europe the first benefits of civilization.
We find even today the traces of their ethnographic extension, as well as their industrial activity, on the three continents of the ancient world, beginning from the mountains of Norway, to the deserts of Sahara, from the sources of the rivers Araxe and Oxus to the Atlantic Ocean.
But their political history and the history of their civilization are lost in the night of time.
The few still preserved data about the Pelasgians show this great and fine people only in the last period of its history, when its political independence had been lost almost everywhere and when its name had started to disappear. And unfortunately, even these few, fragmentary data which have remained from the Pelasgians, are transmitted by those who had conquered them, destroyed and persecuted them, and later had calumniated them.
So, the history of their epoch of flourishing, of power and territorial extension in Europe, Asia and Africa, the history of its empires and institutions, of its arts and industry, has remained buried. The political history of especially the southern Pelasgians ends with the fall of Troy. From now on all that we still hear about these Pelasgians from around the Aegean Sea, are only simple mentions of few and scattered groups, forced by their enemies to emigrate from one country to another in search of a new place to settle.
For the Greek people the Pelasgians ere the oldest people on earth. Their race seemed to them so archaic, so superior in concepts, so strong in will and deeds, so noble in mores, that the Greek traditions and poems attributed to all the Pelasgians the epithet of “divine”, dioi (Homer, Iliad, X. v. 429; Odys. XIX. v. 177; Eschyl, Suppl. v. 967; Dionysius of Halikarnassus, 1. 18, says that the Pelasgians from near Dodona were considered as saints, ieroi, and that nobody dared to go with war against them). This epithet meant people with supernatural qualities, similar to the gods’, epithet which they in truth had deserved for their moral and physical qualities.
The Greeks had lost long ago the tradition about when, how, and from where they had come to the lands of Hellada; but they had a tradition that before them another people had ruled over the land occupied by them, a people who had reclaimed the swamps, drained the lakes, created new courses for rivers, cut the mountains, connected the seas, ploughed the plains, founded cities, villages and citadels, had an inspiring religion and had erected altars and temples to the gods, and that that people were the Pelasgians.
According to the ancient Greek traditions, the Pelasgians had dwelt in the parts of Greece even before the two legendary floods which had flowed over Attica, Beotia and Thessaly, one in the times of king Ogyges, the other in the times of Deukalion (Herodotus, lib. I. c. 56; Apollodorus, Bibl. lib. VIII. 2). Therefore they had ruled over the Greek lands even before the times of Noah. (At the time of the flood of Ogyges, Phoroneus, the father of Pelasg reigned over Argos – Eusebius, Praep. Evang. X. 10. p. 489, in Fragm. Hist. gr. I. 385.8).
A branch of the Pelasgian people, the Arcadii, who inhabited the slopes and valleys at the center of the Peloponnesus, had the tradition that they had been on earth even before the moon had appeared on the sky (Apollonius Rhodius Argon. Lib. IV. v. 263-265; Ovid, Fast. Lib. II. v. 289). Regarding this important tradition, the scholiast of Apollonius Rhodius says: “It seems that the Arcadii have existed even earlier than the moon, as Eudoxus writes in his work Periodos. And Theodorus writes that the moon had appeared on the sky a little earlier than the war of Hercules with the Gigantes. Aristos of Chios and Dionysius of Chalcida say the same thing in their books about Origins” (IV. 264, in Fragm. Hist. Graec. III. 325, fragm. 4).
Finally, Ephor, one of the most diligent researcher of antiquity and a lover of truth, who had lived in the 4th century bc, writes: “The tradition tells us that the Pelasgians had been the most ancient people who had ruled over Greece” (Fragm. 54; Herodotus, lib. I.c.56; Ibid. lib. VII. 161, VIII. 44).