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The Leleges (/ˈlɛlz/ LEL-i-jeez; Greek: Λέλεγες) were one of the aboriginal peoples of the Aegean littoral, distinct from the Pelasgians, the Bronze Age Greeks, the Cretan Minoans, the Cycladic Telkhines, and the Tyrrhenians. The classical Hellenes emerged as an amalgam of these six peoples. The distinction between the Leleges and the Carians (a nation living in south west Anatolia) is unclear. According to Homer, the Leleges were a distinct Anatolian tribe; However, Herodotus states that Leleges had been an early name for the Carians. The fourth-century BCE historian Philippus of Theangela, suggested that the Leleges maintained connections to Messenia, Laconia, Locris and other regions in mainland Greece, after they were overcome by the Carians in Asia Minor.

It is thought that the name Leleges is not an autonym, a name these people applied to themselves, in a long-submerged tongue. Instead, during the Bronze Age the term lulahi was in use in the Luwian language of the Hittite Empire in Anatolia: in a Hittite cuneiform inscription priests and temple servants are directed to avoid conversing with lulahi and foreign merchants. It is surmised that the reference is to strangers. According to the suggestion of Vitaly Shevoroshkin, applying the term to men of the lands that would become classical Caria and Lycia, "Leleges" would then be an attempt to transliterate lulahi into Greek.

  • H. Kiepert. "Über den Volksstamm der Leleges", (in Monatsberichte Berliner Akademie, 1861, p. 114) asserted that the Leleges were an aboriginal people and linked them to Illyrians.
  • K. W. Deimling. Die Leleger (Leipzig, 1862), places their origins in southwest Asia Minor, and brings them thence to Greece, essentially repeating the classical Greek view.
  • G. F. Unger. "Hellas in Thessalien," in Philologus, supplement. ii. (1863), made them Phoenician.
  • E. Curtius. History of Greece, (vol. i) even distinguished a "Lelegian" phase of nascent Aegean culture.


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