|Greek and Roman Mythology > The Pygmies
which means the cubit (a cubit was a measure of about thirteen
inches), which was said to be the height of these people. They
lived near the sources of the Nile, or according to others, in
India. Homer tells us that the cranes used to migrate every
winter to the Pygmies' country, and their appearance was the
signal of bloody warfare to the puny inhabitants, who had to take
up arms to defend their cornfields against the rapacious
strangers. The Pygmies and their enemies the cranes form the
subject of several works of art.
Later writers tell of an army of Pygmies which finding Hercules
asleep made preparations to attack him, as if they were about to
attack a city. But the hero awaking laughed at the little
warriors, wrapped some of them up in his lion's-skin, and carried
them to Eurystheus.
Milton used the Pygmies for a simile, Paradise Lost, Book I:
"----------like that Pygmaean race
Beyond the Indian mount, or fairy elves
Whose midnight revels by a forest side,
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
(Or dreams he sees), while overhead the moon
Sits artibress, and nearer to the earth
Wheels her pale course; they on their mirth and dance
Intent, with jocund music charm his ear.
At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds."