Conversations about Arcadia

Arcadia is home to many famous ideas and people.

In modern times, anyone with a surname ending in -poulos is usually an entrepreneur extraordinaire. Both in Greece and as the Diaspora that flowed out of Greece to make a new life in the States, Australia and Africa.

Arcadia is home to the uprising of the Greeks against the 400 year old Ottoman Rule in 1821. The bodies of the Muslims lay so thick on the ground after the massacre at Tripolitsa, now Tripolis, that the hero Kolokotronis said his horse’s hooves did not touch the earth when he entered the city in victory.

It is home to the ancient City of Megalopolis. The not so famous historian Polybius was borne there, and wrote of the growing Roman dominance of the Greek states. His art as an historian lay in trying to explain the events rather than just recounting the events.

Argos, another ancient city, which means slow, is on the coast. Slow comes from the poor soil and the time it takes to grow crops. This ancient city belonged to Agamemnon. It is connected by an aquifer to the ancient city of Mantinea forty kilometres away. These ruins lie in the plains between our village of Kakouri and Tripolis. If you could follow the underground waters from a sinkhole near Nestani (a neighbouring village) you would arrive underwater at the Dini Spring in the Argolid Gulf. Normally we stand on the end of the cliff and look out over the gulf, and you can see the fresh water clearing the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea.

In fact, legend has it that Poseidon, god of the sea, was born and left at a sheepfold near a spring. His mother hid the birth from his father, the Titan Cronus who was eating his children in fear of a revolt by them. So Poseidon was born in a landlocked plain and made his way to the sea via this underground waterway.

Arcadia is home also to Virgil’s Eclogues. He established Arcadia as a pastoral Utopia in the arts. These inspired Nicolas Poussin’s famous painting Et in Arcadia Ego:   I too am in Arcadia. The three shepherds a looking at this inscription on a tomb, one of the discussing it with a beautiful woman standing alongside.

If you look at this painting it looks as if they are looking at the tomb as the doorway to another world, in which Arcadia will be within them.

Arcadia is a fascinating place. I imagine one of these shepherds looks like someone in the family. I just cannot place them.

Shepherds of Arcadia painting by Nicolas Poussin 1630: Et in Arcadia Ego

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