The Pygmies were a nation of dwarfs, so called from a Greek word which means the cubit or 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 uses 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 arbitress, 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."