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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Arcadia (Arkadla: Eth. Arkas, pl. Arkades, Areas, pl. Arcades), the central country
of Peloponnesus, was bounded on the E. by Argolis, on the N. by Achaia, on the
W. by Elis, and on the S. by Messenia and Laconia. Next to Laconia it was the
largest country in Peloponnesus; its greatest length was about 50 miles, its breadth
varied from 35 to 41 miles, and its area was about 1700 square miles. It was surrounded
on all sides by a ring of mountains, forming a kind of natural wall, which separated
it from the other Peloponnesian states; and it was also traversed, in its interior,
by various ranges of mountains in all directions. Arcadia has been aptly called
the Swjtieland of Greece.
The western and eastern parts of Arcadia differed considerably in
their physical features. In the western region the mountains were wild, high,
and bleak, closely piled upon one another, and possessing vallies of small extent
and of little fertility. The mountains were covered with forests and abounded
in game; and even in the time of Pausanias (viii. 23. § 9), not only wild boars,
but even bears were found in them. It was drained by the Alpheius and its tributary
streams. This part of Arcadia was thinly populated, and its inhabitants were reckoned
among the rudest of the Greeks. They obtained their subsistence by hunting, and
the rearing and feeding of cattle.
On the other hand, the eastern region is intersected by mountains
of lower elevation, between which there are several small and fertile plains,
producing corn, oil, and wine. These plains are so completely inclosed by mountains,
that the streams which flow into them from the mountains only find outlets for
their waters by natural chasms in the rocks, which are not uncommon in limestone
mountains. Many of these streams, after disappearing beneath the ground, rise
again after a greater or less interval. These chasms in the mountains were called
zerethra by the Arcadians (Strab. p. 389), and are termed katavothra by the modern
Greeks. (Leake, Morea, vol. iii. p. 55.) In these plains, enclosed by mountains,
were situated almost all the chief cities of Arcadia,--Tegea, Mantineia, Orchomenus,
Stymphalus, and Pheneus, whose territories extended along the whole eastern frontier
of Arcadia, from the borders of Laconia to those of Sicyon and Pellene, in Achaia.
Of all the productions of Arcadia the best known were its asses, which
were in request in every part of Greece. (Varr. R. R. ii. 1. § 14; Plin. viii.
43. s. 68; Plant. Asin. ii. 2. 67; Strab. p. 388; Pers. iii. 9, Arcadiae pecuaria
rudere credas. )
The principal mountains in Arcadia were: on the N. Cyllene, in the
NE. corner of the country, the highest point in the Peloponnesus (7788 feet),
which runs in a westerly direction, forming the boundary between Achaia and Elis,
and was known under the names of Crathis, Aroanius, and Erymanthus. On the W.
Lampeia and Pholoe, both of them a southern continuation of Erymanthus, and the
other mountains separating Arcadia from Elis, but the names of which are not preserved.
On the E. Lyrceius, Artemisium, Parthenium, and the range of mountains separating
Arcadia from Argolis, and connected with the northern extremity of Taygetus. In
the S. Maenalus and Lycaeus. Of these mountains an account is given under their
The chief river of Arcadia, which is also the principal river of the
Peloponnesus, is the Alpheius. It rises near the southern frontier, flows in a
northwesterly direction, and receives many tributaries. Besides these, the Styx,
Eurotas, and Erasinuis, also rise in Arcadia. Of the numerous small lakes on the
eastern frontier the most important was Stymphalus, near the town of that name.
The Arcadians regarded themselves as the most ancient inhabitants
of Greece, and called themselves proselenoi, as laying claim to an antiquity higher
than that of the moon, though some modern writers interpret this epithet differently.
(Apoll. Rhod. iv. 264; Lucian, de Astrol. c. 26; Schol. ad Aristoph. Nub. 397;
Heyne, De Arcadibus luna antiquioribus, in Opuscula, vol. ii. pp. 333--355.) They
derived their name from an eponymous ancestor Areas, the son of Zeus, though his
genealogy is given differently by different writers. (Dict. of Biogr. art. Areas.)
The Greek writers call them indigenous (autochthones), or Pelasgians, and Pelasgus
is said to have been their first sovereign. Herodotus says that the Arcadians
and Cynurians were the only two peoples in Peloponnesus who had never changed
their abodes; and we know that Arcadia was inhabited by the same race from the
earliest times of which we have any historical records. (Herod. viii. 73, and
i. 146, Arkades Pelasgoi; Xen. Hell. vii. 1. 23; Dem. de Fals. Leg. § 261; Paus.
viii. 1; Strab. p. 338.) Shut up within their mountains the Arcadians experienced
fewer changes than most of the inhabitants of Greece. They are represented as
a people simple in their habits, and moderate in their desires; and, according
to the testimony of their countryman Polybius, they retained down to his time
a high reputation among the Greeks for hospitality, kindness, and piety. He ascribes
these excellencies to their social institutions, and especially \ to their cultivatio
of music, which was supposed to counteract the harshness of character which their
i rugged country had a tendency to produce; and he attributes the savage character
of the inhabitants of Cynaetha to their neglect of music. (Pol. iv. 20, / 21.)
We know from other authorities that music formed an important part of their education;
and : they were celebrated throughout antiquity both for their love of music and
for the success with which they cultivated it. (Comp. e. g. Virg. Eel. x. 32.)
The lyre is said to have been invented in their country by Hermes. The syrinx,
also, which was the musical instrument of shepherds, was the invention of Pan,
the tutelary god of Arcadia. The simplicity of the Arcadian character was exaggerated
by the Roman poets into an ideal excellence; and its shepherds were represented
as living in a state of innocence and virtue. But they did not possess an equal
reputation for intelligence, as is shown by the proverbial expressions, Arcadici
senses, Arcadicae acres, &c.: a blockhead is called by Juvenal (vii. 160) Arcadicus
juvenis. The Arcadians were a strong and hardy race of mountaineers; and, like
the Swiss in modern Europe, they constantly served as mercenaries. (Athen. i.
p. 27; Thuc. vii. 57.)
The religion of the Arcadians was such as might have been expected
from a nation of shepherds and huntsmen. Hermes was originally an Arcadian divinity,
said to have been born on Mt. Cyllene, and brought up on Mt. Acacesius; but the
deity whom they most worshipped was his son Pan, the great guardian of flocks
and shepherds. Another ancient Arcadian divinity was Artemis, who presided over
the chase, and who appears to have been originally a different goddess from Artemis,
the sister of Apollo, though the two were afterwards confounded. (Diet. of Biog.
art. Artemis.) The worship of Zeus, surnamed Lycaeus, was also very ancient in
Arcadia, and was celebrated with human sacrifices even down to the Macedonian
period, a fact which proves that the Arcadians still retained much of their original
rude and savage character, notwithstanding the praises of their countryman Polybius.
(Theoph. ap. Porphyr. de Abstin. ii. 27; comp. Pans. viii. 38. § 7.) Despoena
daughter of Poseidon and Demeter, was likewise worshipped with great solemnity
in Arcadia. (Paus. viii. 37.)
Of the history of the Arcadians little requires to be said. Pausanias
(viii. 1, seq.) gives a long list of the early Arcadian kings, respecting whom
the curious in such matters will find a minute account in Clinton. (Fast. Hell.
vol. i. pp. 88--92.) It appears from the genealogy of these kings that the Arcadians
were, from an early period, divided into several independent states. The most
ancient division appears to have been into three separate bodies. This is alluded
to in the account of the descendants of Arcas, who had three sons, Azan, Apheidas,
and Elatus, from whom sprang the different Arcadian kings (Paus. viii. 4); and
this triple division is also seen in the geographical distributions of the Arcadians
into Azanes, Parrhasii, and Trapezuntii. (Steph. B. s. v. Azania.) In the Trojan
war, however, there is only one Arcadian king mentioned, Agapenor, the son of
Ancaeus, and descendant of Apheidas, who sailed with the Arcadians against Troy,
in 60 ships, which had been supplied to them by Agamemnon. (Hom. Il. ii. 609.)
Previous to the Trojan war various Arcadian colonies are said to have been sent
to Italy. Of these the most celebrated was the one led by Evander, who settled
on the banks of the Tiber, at the spot where Rome was afterwards built, and called
the town which he built Pallantium, after the Arcadian place of this name, from
which he came. That these Arcadian colonies are pure fictions, no one would think
of doubting at the present day; but it has been suggested that an explanation
of them may be found in the supposition that the ancient inhabitants of Latium
were Pelasgians, like the Arcadians, and may thus have possessed certain traditions
in common. (Comp. Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, vol. i. p. 86.)
On the invasion of Peloponnesus by the Dorians, the Arcadians, protected
by their mountains, maintained their independence (Herod. ii. 171 ; Strab. p.
333); but the Spartans, when their power became more fully developed, made various
attempts to obtain dominion over the Arcadian towns. Accordingly, the Arcadians
fought on the side of the Messenians in their wars against Sparta; and they showed
their sympathy for the Messenians by receiving them into their country, and giving
them their daughters in marriage at the close of the second Messenian war (B.C.
631), and by putting to death Aristocrates, king of Orchomenus, because he treacherously
abandoned the Messenians at the battle of the Treneh. (Diod. xv. 66; Pol. iv.
33; Paus. viii. 5. § 10, seq.) Since the Arcadians were not united by any political
league, and rarely acted in concert, till the foundation of Megalopolis by Epaminondas,
in B.C. 371, their history down to this period is the history of their separate
towns. It is only necessary to mention here the more important events, referring,
for details, to the separate articles under the names of these towns. Most of
the Arcadian towns were only villages, each independent of the other, but on the
eastern frontier there were some considerable towns, as has been mentioned above.
Of these by far the most important were Tegea and Mantineia, on the borders of
Laconia and Argolis, their territories consisting of the plain of Tripolitza.
It has already been stated, that the Spartans made various attempts
to extend their dominion over Arcadia. The whole of the northern territory of
Sparta originally belonged to Arcadia, and was inhabited by Arcadian inhabitants.
The districts of Sciratis, Beleminatis, Maleatis, and Caryatis, were at one time
part of Arcadia, but had been conquered and annexed to Sparta before B.C. 600.
(Grote, Hist. of Greece, vol. ii. p. 588.) The Spartans, however, met with a formidable
resistance from Tegea, and it was not till after a struggle, which lasted for
several centuries, and in the course of which the Spartans had been frequently
defeated, that Tegea at length acknowledged the supremacy of Sparta, about B.C.
560. From this time Tegea and the other Arcadian towns appear as the allies of
Sparta, and obeyed her orders as to the disposal of their military force; but
they continued to maintain their independence, and never became the subjects of
Sparta. In the Persian wars, the Arcadians fought under Sparta, and the Tegeatans
appear as the second military power in the Peloponnesus, having the place of honour
on the left wing of the allied army. (Herod. ix. 26.) Between the battle of Plataea
and the beginning of the third Messenian war (i. e. between B.C. 479 and 464),
the Arcadians were again at war with Sparta. Of this war we have no details, and
we only know that the Spartans gained two great victories, one over the Tegeates
and Argives at Tegea, and another over all the Arcadians, with the exception of
the Mantineians, at Dipaea (En Dipaeudin) in the Maenalian territory. (Herod.
ix. 35; Paus. iii. 11. § 7.) In the Peloponnesian war, all the Arcadian towns
remained faithful to Sparta, with the exception of Mantineia; but this city, which
was at the head of the democratical interest in Arcadia, formed an alliance with
Argos, and Athens, and Elis, in B.C. 421, and declared war against Sparta. The
Mantineians, however, were defeated, and compelled to renew their alliance with
Sparta, B.C. 417. (Thuc. v. 29, seq., 66, seq., 81.) Some years afterwards, the
Spartans, jealous of the power of Mantineia, razed the walls of the city, and
distributed the inhabitants among the four or five villages, of which they had
originally consisted, B.C. 385. (Xen. Hell. v. 2. 1--6; Diod. xv. 19.) The defeat
of the Spartans at the battle of Leuctra, by Epaminondas and the Thebans (B.C.
371), destroyed the Spartan supremacy in the Peloponnesus, and restored the independence
of the Arcadian towns. This victory was followed immediately by the restoration
of Mantineia, and later in the same year by the formation of a political confederation
in Arcadia. The person who took the most active part in effecting this union,
was a native of Mantineia, named Lycomedes, and his project was warmly seconded
by Epaminondas and the Boeotian chiefs. The plan was opposed by the aristocratical
parties at Orchomenus, Tegea, and other Arcadian towns, but it received the cordial
approbation of the great body of the Arcadian people. They resolved to found a
new city, which was to be the seat of the new government, and to be called Megalopolis,
or the Great City. The foundations of the city were immediately laid, and its
population was drawn from about 40 petty Arcadian townships. Of the constitution
of the new confederation we have very little information. We only know that the
great council of the nation, which used to meet at Megalopolis, was called hoi
Murioi, or the Ten Thousand. (Xen. Hell. vi. 5. 3, seq., vii. 1. § 38; Paus. viii.
27; Diod. xv. 59.) This council was evidently a representative assembly, and was
not composed exclusively of Megalopolitans; but when and how often it was assembled,
and whether there was any smaller council or not, are questions which cannot be
answered. (For details, see Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, vol. v. p. 88.) A standing
army was also formed, called Epariti (Eparitoi), consisting of 5000 men, to defend
the common interests of the confederation. (Xen. Hell. vii. 4. 34, vii. 5. § 3;
Diod. xv. 62, 67; Hesych. s. v. eporoetoi.) Supported by the Thebans, the Arcadians
were able to resist all the attempts of the Spartans to prevent the new confederacy
from becoming a reality; but they sustained one signal defeat from the Spartans
under Archidamus, in B.C. 367, in what is called the Tearless battle, although
the statement that 10,000 of the Arcadians and their Argive allies were slain,
without the loss of a single man on the Spartan side, is evidently an exaggeration.
(Plut. Ages. 33; Diod. xv. 72; Xen. Hell. vii. 1. 28, seq.) In B.C. 365, a war
broke out between the Arcadians and Eleans, in which the former were not only
successful, but took possession of Olympia, and gave to the Pisatans the presidency
of the Olympic games (364). The members of the Arcadian government appropriated
a portion of the sacred treasures at Olympia to pay their troops; but this proceeding
was warmly censured by the Mantineians, who were, for some reason, opposed to
the supreme government. The latter was supported by Tegea, as well as by the Thebans,
and the Mantineians, in consequence, were led to ally themselves with their ancient
enemies the Spartans. (Xen. Hell. vii. 4; Diod. xv. 77, seq.) Thus, the two most
powerful cities of Arcadia were again arrayed against each other, and the strength
of the new confederation was destroyed almost as soon as it was formed. The disturbed
state of Arcadia brought Epaminondas at the head of a Theban army into Peloponnesus,
in B.C. 362; and his death at the battle of Mantineia was followed by a general
peace among all the belligerents, with the exception of Sparta. In the subsequent
disturbances in Greece, we hear little of the Arcadians; and though Megalopolis
continued to be an important city, the political confederation lost all real power.
After the death of Alexander the Great, we find many of the Arcadian cities in
the hands of tyrants; and so little union was there between the cities, that some
of them joined the Achaean, and others the Aetolian, league. Thus Megalopolis
was united to the Achaean League, whereas Orchomenus, Tegea, and Mantineia, were
members of the Aetolian. (Pol. ii. 44, 46.) Subsequently, the whole of Arcadia
was annexed to the Achaean League, to which it continued to belong till the dissolution
of the league by the Romans, when Arcadia, with the rest of the Peloponnesus,
became part of the Roman province of Achaia. Like many of the other countries
of Greece, Arcadia rapidly declined under the Roman dominion. Strabo describes
it as almost deserted at the time when he wrote; and of all its ancient cities
Tegea was the only one still inhabited in his day. (Strab. p. 388.) For our knowledge
of the greater part of the country we are indebted chiefly to Pausanias, who has
devoted one of his books to a description of its cities and their remains.
The following is a list of the towns of Arcadia:
1. In Tegeatis (Tegeatis), the SE. district, Tegea with the dependent places Manthyrea,
Phylace, Garea, Corytheis.
2. In Mantinice (Mantinike), the district N. of Tegeatis, Mantineia with the dependent
places, Maera, Petrosaca, Phoezon, Nestane, Melangeia, Elymia.
3. In Stymplmalia (Stumphalia), the district N. of Mantinice, Stymphalus, Oligyrtum,
4. In Maenalia (Mainalia), so called from Mt. Maenalus, the district S. and W.
of Mantinice, and W. of Tegeatis: on the road from Megalopolis to Tegea, Ladoceia;
Haemoniae (Haimoniai), probably on the western side of Mt. Tzimbaru (Paus. viii.
3. § 3, 44. § 1; Steph. B. s. v.; Leake, Peloponnesiaca, p. 247); Oresthasium
a little to the right of the road; Aphrodisium (Aphrodision, Paus. viii. 44. §
2); Athenaeum; Asea; Pallantium. On the road from Megalopolis to Maenalus, along
the valley of the Helisson, Peraetheis (Peraitheis, Paus. viii. 3. § 4, 27. §
3, 36. § 7), Lycoa, Dipaea, Suaiatia, Maenalus. N. of Maenalus, Anemosa and Helisson.
Between Pallantium and Asea Eutea The inhabitants of most of these towns were
removed to Megalopolis on the foundation of the latter city, which was situated
in the SW. corner of Maenalia. The same remark applies to the inhabitants of most
of the towns in the districts Maleatis, Cromitis, Parrhasia, Cynuria, Eutresia.
5. In Maleatis (Maleatis), a district S. of Maenalia, on the borders of Laconia.
The inhabitants of this district, and of Cromitis, are called Aegytae by Pausanias
(viii. 27. § 4), because the Lacedaemonian town of Aegys originally belonged to
Arcadia. Malea; Leuctra or Leuctum; Phalaeseae; Scirtonium (Skirtonion, Paus.
viii. 27. § 4), of uncertain site.
6. In Cromitis (Kromitis), a district west of Maleatis, on the Messenian frontier:
Cromi or Cromsus; Gatheae; Phaedrias (Phaidrias, Paus. viii. 35. § 1), on the
road from Megalopolis to Carnasium, perhaps on the height above Neokhori. (Leake,
Peloponnesiaca, p. 236.)
7. In Parrhasia (Parrhadike, Thuc. v. 33), a district on the Messenian frontier,
N. of Cromitis and Messenia, occupying the left bank of the plain of the Alpheius:
Macareae; Daseae; Acacesium; Lycosura; Thocnia; Basilis; Cypsela; Bathos; Tra[ezus;
Acontitum and Proseis (Akontion, Proseis), both of uncertain site. (Paus. viii.
27. § 4.) The Parrhasii (Parrhasioi) are mentioned as one of the most ancient
of the Arcadian tribes. (Strab. p. 388; Steph. B. s. v. Azania.) During the Peloponnesian
war the Mantineians had extended their supremacy over the Parrhasii, but the latter
were restored to independence by the Lacedaemonians, B.C. 421. (Thuc. v. 33.)
Homer mentions a town Parrhasia, said to have been founded by Parrhasus, son of
Lycaon, or by Pelasgus, son of Arestor, which Leake conjectures to be the same
as Lycosura. (Hom. Il. ii. 608; Plin. iv. 10; Steph. B. s. v. Parrhasia.) The
Roman poets frequently us, the adjectives Parrhasius and Parrhasis as equivalent
to Arcadian. (Virg. Aen. viii. 344, xi. 31; [p. 193] Ov. Met. viii. 315.) Thus
we find Parrhasides stellae, i. e. Ursa major (Ov. Fast. iv. 577); Parrhasia dea,
i. e. Carmenta (Ov. Fast. i. 618); Parrhasia virgo, i. e. Callisto. (Ov. Trist.
ii. 190.) 8. In Phigalice, W. of Parrhasia and N. of Messenia, Phigalia.
9. In Cynuria, N. of Phigalice and Parrhasia: Lycaea (Lycoa); Theisoa; Brenthe;
Rhaeteae (Hpaaiteai), at the confluence of the Gortynius and Alpheius (Paus. viii.
28. § 3); Thyraeum; Hypsus; Gortys or Gortyna; Maratha; Buphagium; Aliphera.
10. In Eutresia (Eutresia), a district between Parrhasia and Maenalia, inhabited
by the Eutresii (Xen. Hell. vii. 1. 29), of which the following towns are enumerated
by Pausanias (viii. 27. § 3): Tricoloni (Trikolonoi, viii. 3. § 4, 35. § 6); Zoeteium
or Zoetia (Zoiteion or Zoitia, viii. 35. § 6); Charisia (Charisia, viii. 3. §
4, 35. § 5); Ptoeclerma (Ptolederma); Cnausum (Knauson); Paroreia (Paroreia, viii.
35. § 6). In Eutresia, there was a village, Scias (Skias), 13 stadia from Megalopolis;
then followed in order, northwards, Charisia, Tricoloni, Zoeteium or Zoetia, and
Paroseia; but the position of the other places is doubtful. Stephanus speaks of
a town Eutresii (s. v. Eutresis), and Hesychius of a town Eutre (s. v. Eutre);
but in Pausanias the name is only found as that of the people.
11. In Heraeatis (Heraiatis), the district in the W. on the borders of Elis, Heraea
12. In Orchomenia (Orchomenia), the district N. of Eutresia and Cynuria, and E.
of Hereatis: Orchomenus; Amilus; Methydrium; Phalanthum; Theisoa; Teuthis; Nonacris,
Callia, and Dipoena, forming a Tripolis, but otherwise unknown. (Paus. viii. 27.
§ 4.) This Nonacris must not be confounded with the Nonacris in Pheneatis, where
the Styx rose.
13. In Caphyatis (Kaphuatis), the district N. and W. of Orchomenia: Caphyae and
Nasi (Nasoi) on the river Tragus. (Paus. viii. 23. § § 2, 9.)
14. In Pheneatis (Pheneatis), the district N. of Caphyatis, and in the NE. of
Arcadia, on the frontiersof Achaia: Pheneus; Lycuria; Carye; Penteleum; Nonacris.
15. In Cleitorica (Kleitoria), the district W. of Pheneatis: Cleitor; Lusi; Paus;
Seirae (Seirai, Paus. viii. 23. § 9; nr. Dekchuni, Leake, Peloponnesiaca, p. 221),
on the frontiers of Psophidia; Leucasium (Leukasion), Mesoboa (Mesoboa), Nasi
(Nasoi), Oryx or Halus (Orux, Halous), and Thaliades (Xaliades), all on the river
Ladon. (Paus. viii. 25. § 2; Leake, Peloponnesiace, p. 229.)
16. Cynaetha with a small territory N. of Cleitoria.
17. In Psophidia (Psophidia), a district W. of Cleitoria, on the frontiers of
Elis: Psopsis with the village Tropaea.
18. In Thelpusia (Xelpusia), the district S. of the preceding, also on the frontiers
of Elis: Thelpusa and Onceium or. Onncae.
The site of the following Arcadian towns, mentioned by Stephanus Byzantinus, is
quite unknown: Allante (Allante); Anthana (Anthana); Aulon (Au_lon); Derea (Derea);
Diope (Diope); Elis (Elis); Ephyra (Ephura); Eua (Eua); Eugeia (Eugeia); Hysia
(Husia); Nede (Nede); Nestania (Nestania); Nostia. (Nostia); Oechalia (Oichalia);
Pylae (Pulai); Phorieia (Phorieia); Thenae (Xenai); Thyraeeum (Xuraion).
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
A country in the middle of the Peloponnesus, surrounded on all
sides by mountains, the Switzerland of Greece. The Achelous, the greatest river
of the Peloponnesus, rises in Arcadia. The northern and eastern parts of the country
were barren and unproductive; the western and southern were more fertile, with
numerous valleys where corn was grown. The Arcadians regarded themselves as the
most ancient people in Greece: the Greek writers call them indigenous and Pelasgians.
They were chiefly employed in hunting and in the tending of cattle, whence their
worship of Pan, who was especially the god of Arcadia, and of Artemis. They were
passionately fond of music, and cultivated it with success. The Arcadians experienced
fewer changes than any other people in Greece, and retained possession of their
country upon the conquest of the rest of the Peloponnesus by the Dorians. After
the Second Messenian War the different towns became independent republics, of
which the most important were Mantinea, Tegea, Orchomenus, Psophis, and Pheneus.
Like the Swiss, the Arcadians frequently served as mercenaries. The Lacedaemonians
made many attempts to obtain possession of parts of Arcadia, but these attempts
were finally frustrated by the battle of Leuctra (B.C. 371); and in order to resist
all future aggressions on the part of Sparta, the Arcadians, upon the advice of
Epaminondas, built the city of Megalopolis. They subsequently joined the Achaean
League, and finally became subject to the Romans.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Region of central Peloponnese.
Arcadia owes its name to the mythological hero Arcas, the son of Zeus
and the nymph Callisto. Callisto, Lycaon's daughter, had pledged to stay a virgin
and was spending her life hunting in the company of the goddess Artemis, Apollo's
sister. But Zeus fell in love with her and seduced her by taking the form of either
Artemis or her brother Apollo. From Zeus, Callisto gave birth to Arcas. But, because
she had not kept her pledge of virginity, or upon request from a jealous Hera,
Artemis killed her. Zeus, then, changed her into the constellation Ursa Major
(the great bear) and entrusted their son Arcas to Maea, Hermes' mother, who raised
Arcas succeeded Lycaon's son Nyctimus as king of the Pelasgians of
Peloponnese, who were hereafter
called Arcadians, their country being thus called Arcadia. Arcas was said to have
taught his people to grow wheat, cook bread and spin wool.
From a more historical standpoint, it seems that the inhabitants of
Arcadia didn't change much over time and resisted invasions. The population remained
for long disseminated in many small villages and it is not until the end of the
VIth and beginning of the Vth century B. C. that two cities developed in Arcadia:
Mantinea and Tegea.
Arcadia is a relatively poor and dry country in which it is hard to
grow crops. In ancient times, it was primarily a region of cattle rearing, with
herds of horses, sheep and goats, in which shepherds, under the protection of
their god Pan (whose origin can indeed be traced back to Arcadia), occupied a
leading position, unlike what was the case in the rest of Greece.
Arcadia was also a country of marshes, in basins enclosed by mountains that retained
rainwater, which constituted ideal bird-hunting grounds. Despite the harshness
of their country, the Arcadians were known for their mild manners and love of
music, which may explain why they played a leading role in Greek representation
of the origins of man. Yet, they were also good fighters and were in great demand
Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.
This extract is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.
Arcadia, Arkadia, Pelasgia
- Arcadia: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search
- Arkadia: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search
- Pelasgia: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search
- Arcadia: Perseus Lookup Tool
Map of the Union of the Arcadians