Information on the area ACHELOOS - Greek Travel Pages

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Homeric world (6)



The river is mentioned by Homer (Il. 21.194).

Gods & demigods



According to Homer, the Sirens were two (Od. 12.52), while the writers in the later times mention three or four. They dwelt between the island of Aeaea and Scylla and they beguiled with their excellent voice the sailors, whom they murdered (Od. 12.39 & 52).

   (Seirenes). The daughters of Phorcys, according to later legend of Achelous, and one of the Muses. In Homer there are two, in later writers, three, called Ligea, Leucosia, and Parthenope, or Aglaopheme, Molpe, and Thelxiepea. Homer describes them as dwelling between Circe's isle and Scylla, on an island, where they sit in a flowery meadow, surrounded by the mouldering bones of men, and with their sweet song allure and infatuate those that sail by. Whoever listens to their song and draws near them never again beholds wife and child. They know everything that happens on earth. When Odysseus sailed past, he had stopped up the ears of his companions with wax, while he had made them bind him to the mast, that he might hear their song without danger. Orpheus protected the Argonauts from their spell by his own singing. As they were only to live till some one had sailed past unmoved by their song, they cast themselves into the sea, on account either of Odysseus or of Orpheus, and were changed to sunken rocks. When the adventures of Odysseus came to be localized on the Italian and Sicilian shore, the seat of the Sirens was transferred to the neighbourhood of Naples and Sorrento, to the three rocky and uninhabited islets called the Sirenusae, the Sirenum scopuli of Vergil, or to Capri, or to the Sicilian promontory of Pelorum. There they were said to have settled, after vainly searching the whole earth for the lost Persephone, their former playmate in the meadows by the Achelous; and later legend also assigned this at the time when they in part assumed a winged shape. They were represented as great birds with the heads of women, or with the upper part of the body like that of a woman, with the legs of birds, and with or without wings. At a later period they were sometimes regarded as retaining their original character of fair and cruel tempters and deceivers. But they are more generally represented as singers of the dirge for the dead, and they were hence frequently placed as an ornament on tombs; or as symbols of the magic of beauty, eloquence, and song, on which account their sculptured forms were seen on the funeral monuments of fair women and girls, and of orators and poets-- for instance, on those of Isocrates and Sophocles. The National Museum at Athens contains several examples of stone Sirens, not as reliefs, but as separate figures; and a funeral monument of this type may be noticed on a vase in the British Museum, where the Siren is standing on a pillar and playing the lyre.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Siren Aglaope : Perseus Encyclopedia

Mythology (4)

Ancient myths

The adventures of Ulisses, The Sirens

Heracles & Achelous

It was this silt (brought down by the Achelous) which in early times caused the country called Paracheloitis, which the river overflows, to be a subject of dispute, since it was always confusing the designated boundaries between the Acarnanians and the Aetolians; for they would decide the dispute by arms, since they had no arbitrators, and the more powerful of the two would win the victory; and this is the cause of the fabrication of a certain myth, telling how Heracles defeated Achelous and, as the prize of his victory, won the hand of Deianeira, the daughter of Oeneus, whom Sophocles represents as speaking as follows: For my suitor was a river-god, I mean Achelous, who would demand me of my father in three shapes, coming now as a bull in bodily form, now as a gleaming serpent in coils, now with trunk of man and front of ox.

The horn of Amaltheia

Some writers add to the myth, saying that this was the horn of Amaltheia, which Heracles broke off from Achelous and gave to Oeneus as a wedding gift. Others, conjecturing the truth from the myths, say that the Achelous, like the other rivers, was called "like a bull" from the roaring of its waters, and also from the the bendings of its streams, which were called Horns, and "like a serpent" because of its length and windings, and "with front of ox" for the same reason that he was called "bull-faced"; and that Heracles, who in general was inclined to deeds of kindness, but especially for Oeneus, since he was to ally himself with him by marriage, regulated the irregular flow of the river by means of embankments and channels, and thus rendered a considerable part of Paracheloitis dry, all to please Oeneus; and that this was the horn of Amaltheia.

Information about the place (7)

Names of the place


In earlier times the Achelous was called Thoas.

Columbia Encyclopedia

Perseus Project index

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


   The largest river in Greece. It rises in Mt. Pindus, and flows southward, forming the boundary between Acarnania and Aetolia, and falls into the Ionian Sea opposite the islands called Echinades. It is about 130 miles in length. The god of this river is described as the son of Oceanus and Tethys, and as the eldest of his 3000 brothers. He fought with Heracles for Deianira, but was conquered in the contest. He then took the form of a bull, but was again overcome by Heracles, who deprived him of one of his horns, which, however, he recovered by giving up the horn of Amalthea. According to Ovid, the Naiads changed the horn which Heracles took from Achelous into the horn of plenty. Achelous was from the earliest times considered to be a great divinity throughout Greece, and was invoked in prayers and sacrifices. Achelous was regarded as the representative of all fresh water; hence we find in Vergil Acheloia pocula, that is, water in general. The Sirens are called Acheloiades, as the daughters of Achelous.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Beazley Archive Dictionary

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Achelous (Acheloos, Epic Acheloios). (Aspropotamo), the largest and most celebrated river in Greece, rose in Mount Pindus, and after flowing through the mountainous country of the Dolopians and Agraeans, entered the plain of Acarnania and Aetolia near Stratus, and discharged itself into the Ionian sea, near the Acarnanian town of Oeniadae. It subsequently formed the boundary between Acarnania and Aetolia, but in the time of Thucydides the territory of Oeniadae extended east of the river. It is usually called a river of Acarnania, but it is sometimes assigned to Aetolia. Its general direction is from north to south. Its waters are of a whitish yellow or cream colour, whence it derives its modern name of Aspropotamo or the White river, and to which Dionysius (432) probably alludes in the epithet argurodines. It is said to have been called more anciently Thoas, Axenus and Thestius (Thuc. ii. 102; Strab. pp. 449, 450, 458; Plut. de Fluv. 22; Steph. B. s. v.) We learn from Leake that the reputed sources of the Achelous are at a village called Khaliki, which is probably a corruption of Chalcis, at which place Dionysius Periegetes (496) places the sources of the river. Its waters are swelled by numerous torrents, which it receives in its passage through the mountains, and when it emerges into the plain near Stratus its bed is not less than three-quarters of a mile in width. In winter the entire bed is often filled, but in the middle of summer the river is divided into five or six rapid streams, of which only two are of a considerable size. After leaving Stratus the river becomes narrower; and, in the lower part of its course, the plain through which it flows was called in antiquity Paracheloitis after the river. This plain was celebrated for its fertility, though covered in great part with marshes, several of which were formed by the overflowings of the Achelous. In this part of its course the river presents the most extraordinary series of wanderings; and these deflexions, observes a recent traveller, are not only so sudden, but so extensive, as to render it difficult to trace the exact line of its bed, -and sometimes, for several miles, having its direct course towards the sea, it appears to flow back into the mountains in which it rises. The Achelous brings down from the mountains an immense quantity of earthy particles, which have formed a number of small islands at its mouth, which belong to the group anciently called Echinades; and part of the mainland near its mouth is only alluvial deposition. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. i. p. 136, seq., vol. iii. p. 513, vol. iv. p. 211; Mure, Journal of a Tour in Greece, vol. i. p. 102.) The chief tributaries of the Achelous were:- on its left, the Campylus (Kampulos, Diod. xix. 67: Medghova), a river of considerable size, flowing from Dolopia through the territory of the Dryopes and Eurytanes, and the Cyathus (Kuathos, Pol. ap. Ath. p. 424, c.) flowing out of the lake Hyrie into the main stream just above Conope:- on its right the Petitarus (Liv. xliii. 22) in Aperantia, and the Anapus (Anapos), which fell into the main stream in Acarnania 80 stadia S. of Stratus. (Thuc. ii. 82.)
  The Achelous was regarded as the ruler and representative of all fresh water in Hellas. Hence he is called by Homer (Il. xx. 194) Kreion Acheloios, and was worshipped as a mighty god throughout Greece. He is celebrated in mythology on account of his combat with Heracles for the possession of Deianeira. The river-god first attacked Heracles in the form of a serpent, and on being worsted assumed that of a bull. The hero wrenched off one of his horns, which forthwith became a cornucopia, or horn of plenty. (Soph. Trach. 9; Ov. Met. ix. 8, seq.; Apollod. ii. 7. ยง 5.) This legend alludes apparently to some efforts made at an early period to check the ravages, which the inundations of the river caused in this district; and if the river was confined within its bed by embankments, the region would be converted in modern times into a land of plenty. For further details respecting the mythological character of the Achelous, see Diet. of Biogr. and Myth. s. v.
  In the Roman poets we find Acheloides, i. e. the Sirenes, the daughters of Achelous (Ov. Met. v. 552): Acheloia Callirhoe, because Callirhoe was the daughter of Achelous (Ov. Met. ix. 413): pocula Acheloia, i. e. water in general (Virg. Geory. i. 9): Acheloius heros, that is, Tydeus, son of Oeneus, king of Calydon, Acheloius here being equivalent to Aetolian. (Stat. Theb. ii. 142.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Official Web-Sites


  The Acheloos Valley and the Delta are listed as Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive 79/409/EEC and, along with much of the Southern Pindos, they were designated for inclusion in the national Natura 2000 list. In addition, the Acheloos delta forms the Messolongi lagoons, a complex of wetland habitats constituting one of the 11 Ramsar sites in Greece. The middle and upper reaches of Acheloos have also been identified as the most important Greek habitat for the trout, Salmo trutta, a protected species under Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive. Since this fish swims upstream to spawn, the construction of large dams along its natural route is likely to have a major impact on the resident breeding population. A number of other fish species indigenous to the river are also protected by the EU Habitats Directive. Moreover, many of the neighbouring areas, naturally sustained by the river's flow are also widely accepted as being of exceptional ecological significance.

This text is cited December 2004 from the West Greece Region General Secretariat URL below, which contains images.

Ancient literary sources (1)



One, falling into the sea by the Echinadian islands, flows through Acarnania and Aetolia, and is said by Homer in the Iliad to be the prince of all rivers.

Biotopes (1)

Hellenic Ornithological Society

Subjects about the place (1)

Sights (1)

Gorges & Ravines

Acheloos gorge

The Acheloos gorge is between Raptopoulo and Vrouvianon (in Evrytania), with the Temblas bridge, built in 1904.

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