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Physical Description

Acarnania and Aitolia form the region north of the Corinthian Gulf and belong to Central Greece. The Acheloos river, the longest in Greece (225 km), rises in the Pindus mountains and flows west to the Adriatic. The river provides a natural boundary between mountainous Aitolia on the east bank in the interior and Acarnania, which borders the Adriatic and the Corinthian Gulf.

A mountain range (1515 m) occupies most of the southern portion of Acarnania. Although they occupy a peninsula, the Acarnanians have never been a seafaring people. They rely on the rich pasture land and fertile plains around Stratos and Oiniadae, an alluvial plain created by the Acheloos River. These fertile lends are the product of a combination of the temperate Mediterranean climate and a characteristically heavy rainfall. The mountain districts of Acarnania are used as grazing for sheep and goats. The classical port of Acarnania was situated in Oiniadai near the mouth of the Acheloos River. The city is land locked today, 10 km from the coast, as a result of the silting action of the river.


Neolithic pottery has been found in a cave at Astakos, and there are traces of Early and Middle Helladic occupation, and Mycenaean remains. In ancient times there were frequent border disputes between Aitolia and Acarnania, that, in 225 B.C., led to the partition of Acarnania between Aitolia and Epirus. In about 230 B.C., after the fall of the Epirote monarchy, the Acarnanians regained their independence and acquired the island of Leukas ( modern Leukas) from Epirus. The Acarnanians spoke both Doric and a northwestern Greek dialect, much like their close neighbors the Aitolians.


Stratos, the ancient capital and largest city of Acarnania, stands on a low bluff commanding the Acheloos river. The city's walls were built before 429 B.C. and embrace four parallel north-south ridges. A transverse north-south wall divides the city into two sections. All of the public buildings excepting the theater are concentrated in the west sector. In the center of the south wall is the main gate of the city, which is equipped with a defensive interior court. Beyond this court is the agora. A fourth century B.C. Doric Temple of Zeus is placed in opposition to a projecting section of the west city wall. The temple has a peripteral of 6 by 11 columns. An Ionic colonnade surrounds the cella on three sides.

Oiniadai is situated on a low ridge of hills. The harbor is on the shores of what was formerly Lake Melita, which lay to the north of the city. Its situation made it inaccessible in the wintertime, but in antiquity it was strategically important to southern Acarnania. According to legend, the city was founded by Alkmaion, son of Amphiarios, and named after the founder's son, Oineus. Oiniadai is entered through one of many gates in the closely jointed polygonal wall, which is dated to the sixth century B.C. Both the acropolis and the main gate are towards the southern end of the city. The main Gate, like many of the others in the wall, has an arched opening, an unusual feature in Greek architecture. In the center of the walled city are baths of Greek construction, and to the west lies a small theater with 27 rows of seats. To the north were the docks, which are now far from water, with well-preserved berths and slipways for ships.

Curtis Runnels

view of the Acheloos river from south

overall view from east

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