Hellanicus of Lesbos
Hellanicus of Lesbos was an ancient Greek
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

Logographer (history)
The logographers were the Greek historiographers and chroniclers before Herodotus, "the father of history". Herodotus himself called his predecessors λογοποιοί...

 who flourished during the latter half of the 5th century BC. He was born in Mytilene
Mytilene is a town and a former municipality on the island of Lesbos, North Aegean, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Lesbos, of which it is a municipal unit. It is the capital of the island of Lesbos. Mytilene, whose name is pre-Greek, is built on the...

 on the isle of Lesbos
Lesbos Island
Lesbos is a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It has an area of with 320 kilometres of coastline, making it the third largest Greek island. It is separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait....

 in 490 BC and is reputed to have lived to the age of 85. According to the Suda
The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often...

, he lived for some time at the court of one of the kings of Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

, and died at Perperene
Perperene is an ancient city in Kozak plateau which is near Bergama in Izmir province of Turkey in western Anatolia.According to ancient Greek logographer Suda of Byzantium, Hellanicus of Lesvos who was born in Mytilene on the isle of Lesvos lived in 5th century BC and died at 85 years old in...

, a city in Aeolis
Aeolis or Aeolia was an area that comprised the west and northwestern region of Asia Minor, mostly along the coast, and also several offshore islands , where the Aeolian Greek city-states were located...

 on the plateau of Kozak
- Cossack :* Kozak — a member of a traditional community of people living in Ukraine and also southern Russia....

 near Pergamon
Pergamon , or Pergamum, was an ancient Greek city in modern-day Turkey, in Mysia, today located from the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus , that became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid dynasty, 281–133 BC...

, opposite Lesbos
Lesbos Island
Lesbos is a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It has an area of with 320 kilometres of coastline, making it the third largest Greek island. It is separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait....


His work includes the first mention of the legendary founding of Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 by the Trojans
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

; he writes that the city was founded by Aeneas
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

 when accompanying Odysseus
Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

 on travels through Latium
Lazio is one of the 20 administrative regions of Italy, situated in the central peninsular section of the country. With about 5.7 million residents and a GDP of more than 170 billion euros, Lazio is the third most populated and the second richest region of Italy...

. However, he supported the idea that the Etruscans lay behind the origins of the Pelasgians
The name Pelasgians was used by some ancient Greek writers to refer to populations that were either the ancestors of the Greeks or who preceded the Greeks in Greece, "a hold-all term for any ancient, primitive and presumably indigenous people in the Greek world." In general, "Pelasgian" has come...

, an ancient Greek people who were thought to have antedated the great Achaean
Achaeans (tribe)
The Achaeans were one of the four major tribes into which the people of Classical Greece divided themselves. According to the foundation myth formalized by Hesiod, their name comes from Achaeus, the mythical founder of the Achaean tribe, who was supposedly one of the sons of Xuthus, and brother of...


Some thirty works are attributed to him—chronological, historical and episodical. Mention may be made of:
  • The Priestesses of Hera at Argon: a chronological compilation, arranged according to the order of succession of these functionaries
  • The Carneonikae: a list of the victors in the Carnean games (the chief Sparta
    Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

    n musical festival), including notices of literary events
  • An Atthis, giving the history of Attica
    Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

     from 683 to the end of the Peloponnesian War
    Peloponnesian War
    The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

     (404), which is referred to by Thucydides
    Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

     (1.97), who says that he treated the events of the years 480-431 briefly and superficially, and with little regard to chronological sequence
  • Phoronis: chiefly genealogical, with short notices of events from the times of Phoroneus
    In Greek mythology, Phoroneus was a culture-hero of the Argolid, fire-bringer, primordial king of Argos and son of the river god Inachus and either Melia, the primordial ash-tree nymph or Argia, the embodiment of the Argolid itself: "Inachus, son of Oceanus, begat Phoroneus by his sister Argia,"...

    , primordial king in Peloponnesus
    The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

  • Troica and Persica: histories of Troy and Persia.

Hellanicus authored works of chronology, geography, and history, particularly concerning Attica
Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

, in which he made a distinction between what he saw as Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 from history. His influence on the historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 of Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 was considerable, lasting until the time of Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it...

 (3rd century BC).

He transcended the narrow local limits of the older logographers, and was not content to merely repeat the traditions that had gained general acceptation through the poets. He tried to give the traditions as they were locally current, and availed himself of the few national or priestly registers that presented something like contemporary registration.

He endeavoured to lay the foundations of a scientific chronology, based primarily on the list of the Argive priestesses of Hera
Hera was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her...

, and secondarily on genealogies, lists of magistrates (e.g. the archon
Archon is a Greek word that means "ruler" or "lord", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. It is the masculine present participle of the verb stem ἀρχ-, meaning "to rule", derived from the same root as monarch, hierarchy, and anarchy.- Ancient Greece :In ancient Greece the...

s at Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

), and Oriental dates, in place of the old reckoning by generations. But his materials were insufficient and he often had recourse to the older methods.

On account of his deviations from common tradition, Hellanicus is often called an untrustworthy writer by the ancients themselves, and it is a curious fact that he appears to have made no systematic use of the many inscriptions which were ready to hand. Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Dionysius of Halicarnassus was a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric, who flourished during the reign of Caesar Augustus. His literary style was Attistic — imitating Classical Attic Greek in its prime.-Life:...

 censures him for arranging his history, not according to the natural connection of events, but according to the locality or the nation he was describing; and undoubtedly he never, like his contemporary Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

, rose to the conception of a single current of events wider than the local distinction of race. His style, like that of the older logographers, was dry and bald.

Section with references in it

He also wrote a work (mostly lost) entitled Atlantis (or Atlantias), about the daughter of the Titan Atlas
Atlas (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Atlas was the primordial Titan who supported the heavens. Although associated with various places, he became commonly identified with the Atlas Mountains in north-west Africa...

. Some of his text may have come from an epic poem which Carl Robert called Atlantis, a fragment of which may be Oxyrhynchus
Oxyrhynchus is a city in Upper Egypt, located about 160 km south-southwest of Cairo, in the governorate of Al Minya. It is also an archaeological site, considered one of the most important ever discovered...

 Papyri 11, 1359.

Further reading

  • Fragments in Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Müller
    Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Müller
    Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Müller is best known for his still-useful Didot editions of fragmentary Greek authors, especially the monumental five-volume Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum , which is not yet completely superseded by the series Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker begun by Felix...

    , Fragmenta historicorum Graecorum, i. and iv.; see among older works Ludwig Preller
    Ludwig Preller
    Ludwig Preller was a German philologist and antiquarian.Born in Hamburg, he studied at Leipzig, Berlin and Göttingen, in 1838 he was appointed to the professorship of philology at the University of Dorpat, which, however, he resigned in 1843. He afterwards spent some time in Italy, but settled in...

    , De Hellanico Lesbio historico (1840); Mure, History of Greek Literature, iv.; late criticism in H Kullmer, Hellanikos in Jahrbücher für klass. Philologie (Supplementhand, xxvii. 455 sqq.) (1902), which contains new edition and arrangement of fragments; CF Lehmann-Haupt, Hellanikos, Herodot, Thukydides, in Klio vi. 127 sqq. (1906); JB Bury, Ancient Greek Historians (1909), pp. 27 sqq.
  • Transcription of Atlantis from P.Oxy 1084 (Wikimedia Commons)
  • Transcription of Atlantis from P.Oxy 1084 (Catalogue of Paraliterary Papyri)

  • D. Ambaglio, L'opera storiografica di Ellanico di Lesbo, Pisa 1980 ISBN 8842709638

  • G. Ottone, L'Attike xyngraphe di Ellanico di Lesbo. Una Lokalgeschichte in prospettiva eccentrica. In C. Bearzot - F. Landucci (a cura di), Storie di Atene, storia dei Greci. Studi e ricerche di attidografia, Milano 2010, pp. 53-111 ISBN 978-88-343-1950-5.
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