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The Leleges were one of the aboriginal peoples of Greece, the Aegean Sea and southwest Anatolia, who were already to be found there when the Indo-European Hellenes arrived.

It is thought that the name Leleges is not an autonym, or a name these people applied to themselves. During the Bronze Age the term lulahi was in use in the Luwian language, referring to barbarian peoples of what would become classical Caria and Lycia. "Leleges" would then be an attempt to transliterate lulahi into Greek.

According to Apollodorus the name was derived from an eponymous king named Lelex; a comparable etymology, memorializing a legendary founder, is provided by Greek mythographers for virtually every tribe of Hellenes, however.

Leleges in Anatolia
In Homer's Iliad the Leleges are allies of the Trojans (10.429), though they do not occur in the formal catalogue of allies in Book II of the Iliad, and their homeland is not specified. They are distinguished from the Carians, with whom some later writers confused them; they have a king, Altes, and a city Pedasus which was sacked by Achilles. The topographical name "Pedasus" occurs in several ancient places: near Cyzicus, in the Troad on the Satnioeis river, in Caria, as well as in Messenia, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911. Gargara in the Troad was counted as Lelegian. Alcaeus (7th or 6th century BCE) calls Antandrus in the Troad "Lelegian", but later Herodotus substitutes the epithet "Pelasgian", so perhaps the two designations were broadly synonymous for the Greeks.

Pherecydes of Leros (ca 480) attributed to the Leleges the coast land of Caria, from Ephesus to Phocaea, with the islands of Samos and Chios, placing the true Carians farther south from Ephesus to Miletus. If this statement derives from Pherecydes, both native and knowledgeable, it has great weight.

Pausanias was reminded that the temple of the Goddess at Ephesus predated the Ionian colony there, when it was rededicated to the Goddess as Artemis. He states with certainty that it antedated the Ionic immigration by many years, being older even than the oracular shrine at Dodona. He says that the pre-Ionic inhabitants of the city were Leleges and Lydians -- with a predominance of the latter -- and that, although Androclus drove out of the land all those whom he found in the upper city, he did not interfere with those who dwelt about the sanctuary. By giving and receiving pledges he put these on a footing of neutrality. These remarks of Pausanias find confirmation in the form of the cult in historic times, centering on a many-breasted icon of the "Lady of Ephesus" whom Greeks called Artemis. Other cult aspects, being in all essentials non-Hellenic, suggest the indigenous cult was taken over by the Greek settlers.

Often historians assume, as a general rule, that autochthonous inhabitants survive an invasion as an under-class where they do not retreat to mountain districts, so it is interesting to read Philippus of Theangela in the 4th century BCE refer to Leleges still surviving as serfs of the "true Carians", and even later Strabo attributes to the Leleges a distinctive group of deserted forts, tombs and dwellings which ranged (and can still be traced) from the neighborhood of Theangela and Halicarnassus as far north as Miletus, the southern limit of the "true Carians" of Pherecydes. Plutarch also implies the historic existence of Lelegian serfs at Tralles in the interior.

Leleges in Greece and the Aegean
A single passage in the fragmentary Hesiodic catalogue (Kinkel, Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta I, 136 (Leipzig, 1877) places "Leleges" in Deucalion's mythicized and archaic time in Locris in central Greece. Locris is also the refuge of some of the Pelasgian inhabitants forced from Boeotia by Cadmus and his Phoenician adventurers. But not until the 4th century BCE does any other writer place Leleges anywhere west of the Aegean. But the confusion of the Leleges with the Carians (immigrant conquerors akin to Lydians and Mysians) which first appears in a Cretan legend (quoted by Herodotus, but repudiated, as he says, by the Carians themselves) and is repeated by Callisthenes, Apollodorus and other later writers, led easily to the suggestion of Callisthenes, that Leleges joined the Carians in their (half legendary) raids on the coasts of Greece.

Herodotus (1.171) says that the Leleges were a people who in old times dwelt in the islands of the Aegean and were subject to Minos of Crete—one of the historic references that led Sir Arthur Evans to name the pre-Hellenic Cretan culture "Minoan"—and that they were driven from their homes by the Dorians and Ionians, after which they took refuge in Caria and were named Carians. Herodotus was an Ionian Greek born in Caria himself.

Meanwhile other writers from the 4th century onwards claimed to discover them in Boeotia, west Acarnania (Leucas), and later again in Thessaly, Euboea, Megara, Lacedaemon and Messenia. In Messenia they were reputed to have been immigrant founders of Pylos, and were connected with the seafaring Taphians and Teleboans of Homer, and distinguished from the Pelasgians. However, in Lacedaemon and in Leucas they were believed to be aboriginal. These European Leleges must be interpreted in connection with the recurrence of place names like Pedasus, Physcus, Larymna and Abae, both in Caria, and in these "Lelegian" parts of Greece. Perhaps this is the result of some early migration; perhaps it is also the cause of these Lelegian theories; perhaps there was a widespread pre-Indo-European culture that loosely linked these regions, a possibility on which much modern hypothesis has been constructed.

Aryan Indo-European theorists of the 19th century who inspired modern heirs:

H. Kiepert, "Über den Volksstamm der Leleges", (in Monatsber. Berl. Akad., 1861, p. 114) made the Leleges an aboriginal people and linked them to Illyrians and thus to Albanians.
K. W. Deimling, Die Leleger (Leipzig, 1862), originates them in southwest Asia Minor, and brings them thence to Greece (practically the Greek view).
G. F. Unger, "Hellas in Thessalien," in Philologus, supplement. ii. (I863), made them Phoenician
E. Curtius, History of Greece, vol.i. even distinguished a "Lelegian" phase of nascent Aegean culture.

More reading:
Leleges, Frederic P. Miller (Editor), Agnes F. Vandome (Editor), John McBrewster (Editor), Paperback, English-language edition, Pages:80, Pub by VDM Publishing House Ltd.

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