previous next


ARCA´DIA (Ἀρκαδία: Eth. Ἀρκάς, pl. Ἀρκάδες, Arcas, pl. Arcădes), the central country of Peloponnesus, [p. 1.190]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 Switzerland 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 (8.23.9), 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 ζέρεθρα by the Arcadians (Strab. p. 389), and are termed katavóthra 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 Phenëus, 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. 2.1.14; Plin. Nat. 8.43. s. 68; Plant. Asin. 2.2. 67; Strab. p. 388; Pers. 3.9, “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 Pholoë, 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 respective names.

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. [ALPHEIUS] 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. [STYMPHALUS]

The Arcadians regarded themselves as the most ancient inhabitants of Greece, and called themselves προσέληνοι, as laying claim to an antiquity higher than that of the moon, though some modern writers interpret this epithet differently. (Apollon. 4.264; Lucian, de Astrol. 100.26; 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 (αὐτοχθόνες), 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. (Hdt. 8.73, and 1.146, Ἀρκάδες Πελασγοί; Xen. Hell. 7.1. 23; Dem. de Fals. Leg. § 261; Paus. 8.1; 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. 4.20, / 21.) We know from other authorities that music l 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 A they cultivated it. (Comp. e. g. Virg. Eel. 10.32.) 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 (7.160) 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. 1.27; Thuc. 7.57.)

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. (Dict. of Biog. art. Artemis.) The worship of [p. 1.191]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. 2.27; comp. Paus. 8.38.7.) Despoena daughter of Poseidon and Demeter, was likewise worshipped with great solemnity in Arcadia. (Paus. 8.37.)

Of the history of the Arcadians little requires to be said. Pausanias (8.1, 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. 8.4); and this triple division is also seen in the geographical distributions of the Arcadians into Azanes, Parrhasii, and Trapezuntii. (Steph. B. sub voce Ἀζανία.) 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. 2.609.) 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. [PALLANTIUM] 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 (Hdt. 2.171 ; 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. 15.66; Pol. 4.33; Paus. 8.5.10, 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. 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 Tripolitzá.

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 Scirātis, Beleminātis, Maleātis, and Caryātis, 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. [TEGEA] 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. (Hdt. 9.26.) 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 (Ἐν Διπαεῦδιν) in the Maenalian territory. (Hdt. 9.35; Paus. 3.11.7.) 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. 5.29, 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. 5.2. 1-6; Diod. 15.19.) [MANTINEIA] 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 [p. 1.192]from about 40 petty Arcadian townships. [MEGALOPOLIS] 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 οἱ Μύριοι, or the “Ten Thousand.” (Xen. Hell. 6.5. 3, seq., 7.1.38; Paus. 8.27; Diod. 15.59.) 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 (Ἐπάριτοι), consisting of 5000 men, to defend the common interests of the confederation. (Xen. Hell. 7.4. 34, 7.5.3; Diod. 15.62, 67; Hesych. sub voce ἐπορόητοι.) 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. 15.72; Xen. Hell. 7.1. 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. 7.4; Diod. 15.77, 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. 2.44, 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. [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:

The site of the following Arcadian towns, mentioned by Stephanus Byzantinus, is quite unknown: Allante (Ἀλλάντη); Anthana (Ἀνθάνα); Aulon (Αὐλών); Derea (Δέρεα); Diope (Διόπη); Elis (Ἦλις); Ephyra (Ἔφυρα); Eua (Εὔα); Eugeia (Εὔγεια); Hysia (Ὑσία); Nede (Νέδη); Nestania (Νεστανία); Nostia. (Νοστία); Oechalia (Οἰχαλία); Pylae (Πύλαι); Phorieia (Φορίεια); Thenae (Ξέναι); Thyraeeum (Ξυραῖον).


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: