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Location of Phthiotis in southern Thessaly

"Though the words 'Hellenism', 'Hellenic', 'Hellenes', 'Hellas' are less familiar than the words 'Greece' and 'Greek' to the English-speaking public, they have two advantages. They are not misleading; and they are the words which, in the Greek language, the Hellenes themselves used to designate their civilization, their world, and themselves. 'Hellas' seems originally to have been the name of the region round the head of the Maliac Gulf, on the border between Central and Northern Greece, which contained the shrine of Earth and Apollo at Delphi and the shrine of Artemis at Anthela near Thermopylae (the narrow passage between sea and mountain that has been the highway from Central Greece to Northern Greece and thence to the great Eurasian Continent into which Northern Greece merges). 'Hellenes', signifying 'inhabitants of Hellas', presumably acquired its broader meaning, signifying 'members of the Hellenic society', through being used as a corporate name for the association of local peoples, the Amphictyones ('neighbours'), which administered the shrines at Delphi and Thermopylae and organized the Pythian Festival that was connected with them." (Arnold J. Toynbee: Hellenism, The History of a Civilization; Oxford University Press, 1959).

Hellenes became the name of all Greeks, but in mythical times Hellenes were those who dwelt about Alope and Trachis, and held Phthia and Hellas (territories in Thessaly), land of fair women, as they say. The people from this Thessalian region, called Myrmidons and Hellenes, sailed against Troy under the command of Achilles.

The eponymous ancestor of the Hellenes is Hellen 1, son either of Deucalion 1 (the man who survived the Flood), or of Zeus and Pyrrha 1. Deucalion 1 is one of the Three Main Ancestors, and his descendants founded and ruled mainly Thessalian cities.

The sons of Hellen 1 were Aeolus 1, Dorus 1 and Xuthus 1 (for Xuthus 1 see Achaea, Ionia, and Ion 1). The descendants of Hellen 1 became kings in several places: his grandson Deion ruled in Phocis (region bordering the Gulf of Corinth, west of Boeotia), and Deion's grandson was Arcisius, king of Ithaca and Odysseus' grandfather. Another grandson of Hellen 1 was Cretheus 1, king of Iolcus and father of Pheres 1, who reigned in Pherae and became father of Admetus 1, husband of Alcestis. Yet another grandson of Hellen 1, Amphictyon, became king of Athens, but this was a short-lived dynasty. A granddaughter of Hellen 1, Pisidice 1, is mother of Actor 1, king of Phthia before the times of Peleus and Achilles. Salmoneus, another grandson of Hellen 1, became king of Elis in the Peloponnessus.

Related sections Map of Greece

Apd.1.7.3; Apd.Ep.3.18, 3.26, 3.29, 3.30, 3.31, 4.3, 5.3, 5.8, 5.10, 5.16, 5.19, 5.21, 6.5, 6.8, 6.9, 6.11, 6.15, 6.15c; Arg.2.209; Hom.Il.2.530, 2.684; Nonn.1.125, 20.207.