1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Autochthones
|←Autocephalous||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 3
|See also Autochthones on Wikipedia, and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.|
AUTOCHTHONES (Gr. αὐτός, and χθών, earth, i.e. people sprung from earth itself; Lat. terrigenae; see also under Aborigines), the original inhabitants of a country as opposed to settlers, and those of their descendants who kept themselves free from an admixture of foreign peoples. The practice in ancient Greece of describing legendary heroes and men of ancient lineage as "earthborn" greatly strengthened the doctrine of autochthony; for instance, the Athenians wore golden grasshoppers in their hair in token that they were born from the soil and had always lived in Attica (Thucydides i. 6; Plato, Menexenus, 245). In Thebes, the race of Sparti were believed to have sprung from a field sown with dragons' teeth. The Phrygian Corybantes had been forced out of the hill-side like trees by Rhea, the great mother, and hence were called δενδροφυεῖς. It is clear from Aeschylus (Prometheus, 447) that primitive men were supposed to have at first lived like animals in caves and woods, till by the help of the gods and heroes they were raised to a stage of civilization.