A peacock, the male peafowl

Peafowl refers to birds belonging to the Phasianidae family. Peafowl include two Asiatic species (the blue or Indian peafowl originally of India and Sri Lanka and the green peafowl of Burma, Indochina, and Java) and one African species. Males of the species are called peacocks, females are known as a peahens, and immature offspring are sometimes called peachicks.

Arguably, the appearance of the male of the Asiatic species, with its extravagant eye-spotted tail covered feathers, has become the archetypal representation of the peacock, and of peafowl generally. The peacock is also know for its piercing call.

Peafowl in Hellenic Traders[]

In 310 BC, a few days prior to their first solo trading mission, Menedemos and Sostratos learned that Himilkon, a Phoenician residing in Rhodes, had come into possession of some peafowl, specifically one peacock and five peahens.

Both cousins were intrigued by the birds, and realized that the peacock in particular, with its splendid tail feathers, might fetch a good price in Italy. After some haggling with Himilkon, they purchased the one peacock and all five peahens.[1]

While the price was steep, the cousins did profit on the peafowl during the trip.

Sostratos, who knew his Herodotos, was astonished to learn from Himilkon that the peafowl were from India; Herodotos described a number of wonders from India, but didn't list peafowl among them. Himilkon had no idea who Herodotos was, but assured the cousins that the peafowl were indeed from India.[2]


  1. Over the Wine-Dark Sea, ch. 1. e-book.
  2. Ibid.