Geography of Arcadia

Map of Arcadia and surrounding regions

Arcadia (as defined in the ancient world) is in the southern part of Greece, on the penninsula called the Mani Peloponnesos, which is almost an island except for the narrow connection at Corinth. It is surrounded by the other regions of the peninsula, occupying the central, mountainous region. It's kind of the land the other areas didn't want, so it had to fend for itself. Mountain ranges and ridges form most of the borders.

To the north of Arcadia is Achaea. The border follows the ridge of Mount Erymanthos, Mount Aroania, and Mount Cyllene, the latter being the place listed in Greek hymns for Hermes' birth place. In Greek myth, King Lycaon of Arcadia had a boar named after Mount Erymanthos, which Hercules had to capture as one of his twelve labours. And according to local legend, the River Styx has its headwaters on the slopes of Mount Aroania, now known as Mount Chelmos.

To the east, Arcadia borders Corinthia, Argolis, and Cynuria. This border runs along the ridge connecting Mount Cyllene to Mount Oligyrtus and Mount Parthenius. Mount Partenius means the Mount of the Virgin, the Virgin, of course being Athena. It's very apropos that during Philippides' famous run to Athena during the battle of Marathon, Philippides reported that Pan appeared to him on the slopes of Mount Parthenius and gave him a message to the Athenians.

In the south, Arcadia borders Laconia and Messenia. Unlike the mountainous northern and eastern borders, the southern is in the foothills of the Parnon range and Tygetos range, which stretch down south into Laconia. Between these two mountain ranges, the capital of Laconia, lies Sparta.