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ACHELO´US (Ἀχελῷος, Epic Ἀχελώϊος).


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 ἀργυροδίνης. It is said to have been called more anciently Thoas, Axenus and Thestius (Thuc. 2.102; Strab. pp. 449, 450, 458; Plut. de Fluv. 22; Steph. B. sub voce 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. [ECHINADES] (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 (Καμπύλος, Diod. 19.67: Medghova), a river of considerable size, flowing from Dolopia through the territory of the Dryopes and Eurytanes, and the CYATHUS (Κύαθος, Pol. ap. Ath. p. 424c.) flowing out of the lake Hyrie into the main stream just above Conope:--on its right the PETITARUS (Liv. 43.22) in Aperantia, and the ANAPUS (Ἄναπος), which fell into the main stream in Acarnania 80 stadia S. of Stratus. (Thuc. 2.82.) [p. 1.19]

The Achelous was regarded as the ruler and representative of all fresh water in Hellas. Hence he is called by Homer (Hom. Il. 20.194) Κρείων Ἀχελώϊος, 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 Deïaneira. 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. 9.8, seq.; Apollod. 2.7.5.) 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 Dict. of Biogr. and Myth. s. v.

In the Roman poets we find Acheloïdes, i. e. the Sirenes, the daughters of Achelous (Ov. Met. 5.552): Acheloïa Callirhoë, because Callirhoë was the daughter of Achelous (Ov. Met. 9.413): pocula Acheloïa, i. e. water in general (Virg. Geory. 1.9): Acheloïus heros, that is, Tydeus, son of Oeneus, king of Calydon, Acheloïus here being equivalent to Aetolian. (Stat. Theb. 2.142.)


A river of Thessaly, in the district of Malis, flowing near Lamia. (Strab. pp. 434, 450.)


A mountain torrent in Arcadia, flowing into the Alpheus, from the north of Mount Lycaeus. (Paus. 8.38.9.)


Also called PEIRUS a river in Achaia, flowing near Dyme. (Strab. pp. 342, 450.)

hide References (12 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (12):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 2.7.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.38.9
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 9
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.102
    • Homer, Iliad, 20.194
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.552
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.413
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 43, 22
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.82
    • Statius, Thebias, 2
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.67
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