The ancient Greek tribes (Ancient Greek: Ἑλλήνων ἔθνη) were groups of Greek-speaking populations living in Greece, Cyprus, and the various Greek colonies. They were primarily divided by geographic, dialectal, political, and cultural criteria, as well as distinct traditions in mythology and religion. Some groups were of mixed origin, forming a syncretic culture through absorption and assimilation of previous and neighboring populations into the Greek language and customs. Greek word for tribe was Phylē (sing.) and Phylai (pl.), the tribe was further subdivided in Demes (sing. Demos, pl. Demoi) roughly matching to a clan.

The name Pelasgians was used exclusively by the ancient Greek writers, who referred to the populations they considered the ancestors of the Greeks or "pre-Hellenic". Some, mainly later ones, use it to describe purely Greek populations.

With the dominion of land passing on from one tribe to the other, cultural exchange through art and trade, and frequent alliances toward common goals, the ethnic character of the different tribes had become primarily political by the dawn of the Hellenistic period. The Roman conquest of Greece, the subsequent division of the Roman Empire into Greek East and Latin West, as well as the advent of Christianity, molded the common ethnic and political Greek identity once and for all to the subjects of the Greek world by the 3rd century AD.


Map 1: Indo-European migrations as described in The Horse, the Wheel, and Language by David W. Anthony

Greek tribes

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Map 2: The Greek/Illyrian/Thracian contact zone (Paleo-Balkan languages)

Late Bronze Age: Homeric Age of the Iliad (circa 1200 BC)


Map 3: Homeric Greece
Map 4: Greek language prehistory (2000-1000 BC), showing the complex pattern of peoples migrations and their languages and dialects
Map 5: Reconstruction of the Proto-Greek area in c. 3rd millennium BC as suggested by Vladimir I. Georgiev

Iron Age: Archaic and Classical Greece (from circa 800 BC)

Archaic and Classical Greece after Late Bronze Age collapse and Dorian Invasion

Further information: Ancient Greek dialects

Distribution of Greek dialects in Greece in the classical period.[4]
Distribution of Greek dialects in Magna Graecia (Southern Italy and Sicily) in the classical period.
Map 7: Major Greek tribes, as the ancient Greeks perceived them, based on the mythical account provided in the Catalogue of Women by pseudo-Hesiod (6th c. BC)
Map 8: Archaic Greece
Map 9: Major regions of mainland ancient Greece, and adjacent "barbarian" lands.
Map 10: Ancient Regions of Epirus and Macedon.
Map 11: Ancient Regions of West Central, North and West Greece.
Map 12: Ancient regions of Central Greece.
Map 13: Ancient Regions of Peloponnese (southern mainland Greece).
Map 14: Ancient Crete
Map 15: Ancient Macedonia


Pre-Greek and non-Greek tribes (later Hellenized)

Pre-Greek and non-Greek tribes who became hellenized and whom some of the later Greek tribes claimed descent from

See also


  1. ^ Ligorio, Orsat; Lubotsky, Alexander (2018). "Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics". De Gruyter: 1816–1831.
  2. ^ Ebert, Max (1924). Reallexikon der Vorgeschichte: unter Mitwirkung zahlreicher Fachgelehrter (in German). W. de Gruyter. pp. 219–226.
  3. ^ Euler, Wolfram (1979). Indoiranisch-griechische Gemeinsamkeiten der Nominalbildung und deren indogermanische Grundlagen (in German). Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck. ISBN 978-3-85124-550-9.
  4. ^ Roger D. Woodard (2008), "Greek dialects", in: The Ancient Languages of Europe, ed. R. D. Woodard, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 51.
  5. ^ The Illyrian Atintani, the Epirotic Atintanes and the Roman Protectorate N. G. L. Hammond, The Journal of Roman Studies Vol. 79 (1989), pp. 11-25 "There were Illyrian Amantini in Pannonia and Greek Amantes in North Epirus"
  6. ^ Wilkes, John. The Illyrians (The Peoples of Europe). Wiley-Blackwell, 1995, p. 97.
  7. ^ Mogens Herman Hansen and Thomas Heine Nielsen. An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis. Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 345.
  8. ^ Mogens Herman Hansen and Thomas Heine Nielsen. An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis. Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 338.
  9. ^ a b John Boardman and Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond. The Cambridge Ancient History Volume 3, Part 3: The Expansion of the Greek World, Eighth to Sixth Centuries B.C. Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 284.
  10. ^ Woodhouse, William John. Aetolia: Its Geography, Topography, and Antiquities. Clarendon Press, 1897, p. 70. "Ptolemy, however, makes them neighbours of the Epirot tribe of the Kassopaioi, who lived on the coast of the Ionian sea."