Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography/Acarna'nia

ACARNA'NIA (Άκαρνανία: Άκαρνάν, -άνος, Acarnan, -ānis), the most westerly privince of Greece, was bounded on the N. by the Ambracian gulf, on the NE. by Amphilochia, on the W. and SW. by the Ionian sea, and on the E. by Aetolia. It contained about 1571 square miles. Under the Romans, or probably a little earlier, the river Achelous formed the boundary between Arcanania and Aetolia; but in the time of the Peloponnesian war, the territory of Oeniadae, which was one of the Arcananian towns, extended E. of this river. The interior of Arcanania is covered with forests and mountains of no great elevation, to which some modern writers erroneously gave the name of Crania. [Crania.] Between these mountains are several lakes and many fertile vallies. The chief river of the country is the Achelous, which in the lower part of its course flows through a vast plain of great natural fertility, called after itself the Paracheloitis. The plain is at present covered with marshes, and the greater part of it appears to have been formed by the alluvial depositions of the Achelons. Owing to the circumference, and to the river having frequently altered its channel, the southern part of the coast of Acarnania has undergone numerous changes. The chief affluent of the Achelous in Arcanania os the Anapus Άναπος), which flowed into the main stream 80 stadia S. of Stratus. There are several promontories on the coast, but of these only two are specifically named, the promontory of Actium, and that of Crithote (Κριθωτή), on the W. coast, forming one side of the small bay, on which the town of Astacus stood. Of the inland lakes, the only one mentioned by name is that of Melite (Μελίτη: Trikardho), 30 stadia long and 20 broad, N. of the mouth of the Achalous, in the territory of the Oeniadae. There was a lagoon, or salt lake, between Leucas and the Ambracian gulf, to which Strabo (p. 459) gives the name of Myrtuntium (Μυρτούντιον). Although the soil of Acarnania was fertile, it was not much cultivated by the inhabitants. The products of the country are rarely mentioned by the ancient writers. Pliny speaks of iron mines (xxxvi. 19. s. 30), and also of a pearl fishery off Actium (ix. 56). A modern traveller states that the rocks in Arcarnania indicate, in many places, the presence of copper, and he was also informed, on good authority, that the mountains produce coal and sulphur in abundance. (Journal of the Geographical Society, vol. iii. p. 79.) The chief wealth of the inhabitants consisted in their herds and flocks, which pasture in the rich meadows in the lower port of the Achelous. There were numerous islands off the western coast of Acarnania. Of these the most important were the Echinades, extending from the mouth of the Achelons along the shore to the N.; the Taphiae Insulea, lying between Leucas and Acarnania, and Leucas itself, which originally formed part of the mainland of Acarnania, but was afterwards separated from the latter by a canal. (Respecting Acarnania in general see Strab. p. 4S9, esq.; Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iii. p. 458, seq.; Fiedler, Reise durch Griechenland, vol. i. p. 158, seq.)

Amphilochia, which is sometimes reckoned a part of Acarnania, is spoken of in a separate article. [Amphilochia]

The name of Acarnania appears to have been unknown in the earliest times. Homer only calls the country opposite Ithaca and Cephallenia, under the general name of Eperius (Έπειρος), or the mainland (Strab. p. 451, sub fin.), although he frequently mentions the Aetolians.*

The country is said to have been originally inhabited by the Taphii, or Teleboae, the Leleges, and the Conies. The Taphii, or Teleboae were chiefly found in the islands off the western coast of Acarninia, where they maintained themselves by piracy. [Teleboae.] The Leleges were more widely disseminated, and were also in possession at one period of Aetolia, Locris, and other parts of Greece. [Leleges.] The Curetes are said to have come from Aetolia, and to have settled in Acarnania, after they had been expelled from the former country by Aetolus and his followers (Strab. p. 465). The name of Acarnania is derived from Acarnan, the son of Alcmaeon, who is said to have settled at the mouth of the Achelous. (Thuc ii. 102.) If this tradition is of any value, it would intimate that an Argive colony settled on the coast of Acarnania at an early period. In the middle of the 7th century

  • In the year B. C. 339, the Acarnanians, in the embassy which they sent to Rome to solicit assistance, pleaded that they had taken no part in the expedition against Troy, the ancestor of Rome, being the first time probably, as Thirlwall remarked, that they had ever boasted of the omission of their name from the Homeric catalogue. (Justin, xxviii. 1; Strab. p. 462; Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, vol. viii. pp. 119, 130.)

B.C., the Corinthians founded Leucas, Anactorium, Sollirum, and other towns on the coast. (Strab. p. 452.) The original inhabitants of the country were driven more into the interior; they never made much progress in the arts of civilised life; and even at the time of the Peloponnesian war, they were a rude and barbarous people, engaged in continual wars with their neighbours, and living by robbery and piracy. (Thuc. i. 5.) The Acarnananians, however, were Greeks, and as such were allowed to contend in the great Pan-Hellenic games, although they were closely connected with their neighbours, the Agraeans and Amphilochians on the gulf of Ambracia, who were barbarian or non-Hellenic nations. Like other rude mountaineers, the Acarnanians are praised for their fidelity and courage. They formed good light-armed troops, and were excellent slingers, They lived, for the most part dispersed in villages, retiring, when attacked, to the mountains. They were united, however, in a political League, of which Aristotle wrote an account in a work now lost. (Άκαρνάνων Πολίτεια, Strab. p. 331.) Thucydides mentions a hill, named Olpae, near the Amphilochian Argos, which the Acarnanians had fortified as a place of judicial meeting for the settlement of disputes. (Thuc. iii. 105.) The meelings of the League were usually held at Stratus, which was the chief town in Acarnania (Xen. Hell. iv. G. § 4; comp. Thuc. ii. 80); but, in the time of the Romans, the meetings took place either at Thyrium, or at Leucas, the latter of which places became, at that time, the chief city in Arcarnania. (Liv. xxxiii. 16, 17; Polyb. xxvii. 5.) At an early period, when part of Amphilochia belonged to the Acarnanians, they used to hold a public judical congress at Olpae, a fortified hill about 3 miles from Argos Amphilochia. Of the constitution of their League we have scarcely any particulars. We learn from an inscription found at Funta, the site of ancient Actium, that there was a Council and a general assembly of the people, by which decrees were passed. (Έδοξε τά βουλά καί τώ κοινώ τών Άκαρνάνων). At the head of the League there was a Stratogys (Στρατπγός) or General; and the Council had a Secretary (γραμματεύς), who appears to have been a person of importance, as in the Achaean and Aetolian Leagues. The chief priest (ίεραπόλος) of the temple of Apollo at Actium seems to have been a person of high rank; and either his name or that'of the Strategus was employed for official dates, like that of the first Archou at Athens. (Böckh, Corptus Insript. No. 1793.)

The history of the Acarnanians begins in the time of the Peloponnesian war. Their hatred against the Corinthian settlers, who had deprived them of all their best ports, naturally led than to side with the Athenians; but the immediate cause of their alliance with the latter arose from the expulsion of the Amphilochians from the town of Argos Amphilochicum by the Corinthian settlers from Ambracia, about B.C. 432. The Acarnanians espoused the cause of the expelled Amphilochians, and in order to obtain the restoration of the latter, they applied for assistance to Athens. The Athenians accordingly sent an expedition under Phormio, who took Argos, expelled the Ambriaciots, and restored the town to the Amphilochians and Acarnanians. An alliance was now formally concluded between the Acarnanians and Athenians. The only towns of Acarnania which did not join it were Oeniadae and Astacos. The Acarnanians were of great service in maintaining the supermacy of Athens in the western part of Greece, and they distinguished themselves particularly in B.C. 426, when they gained a signal victory under the command of Demosthenes over the Peloponnesians and Ambraciots at Olpae. (Thuc. iii. 105, seq.) At the conclusion of this campaign they concluded a peace with the Ambraciots, although they still continued allies of Athens (Thuc. III. 114.) In B.C. 391 we find the Acarnanians engaged in war with the Achaeans, who had taken possession of Calydon in Aetolia; they applied for aid to the Lacedaemonians who sent an army into Acarnania, commanded by Agesilaus. The latter ravaged the country, but his expedition was not attened with any lasting consequence (Xen. Hell. iv. 6) After the time of Alexander the Great the Aetolians conquered most of the towns in the west of Acarnania; and the Acarnanians in consequence united themselves closely to the Macedonian kings, to whom they remained faithful on their various vicissitudes of fortune. They refused to desert the cause of Philip in his war with the Romans, and it was not till after the capture of Leucas, their principal town and the defeat of Philip at Cynoecephalae that they submitted to the Romans. (Liv. xxxiii. 16—17.) When Antiochus III. king of Syria, invaded Greece B.C. 191, the Acarnanians were persuaded by their countryman Mnasilochus to espouse his cause; but on the expulsion of Antiochus from Greece, they came under the supremacy of Rome. (Liv. xxxvi. 11—12.) In the settlement of the aflairs of Greece by Aemilius Paulus and the Roman commissioners after the defeat of Perseus (B.C. 168), Leucas was separated from Acarnania, but no other change was made in the country. (Liv. xiv. 31.) When Greece was reduced to the form of a Roman province, it is doubtful whether Acarnania was annexed to the province of Achaia or of Epeirus, but it is mentioned at a later time as part of Epeirus, [Achaia, No. 3.] The inhabitants of several its towns were removed by Augustus to Nicopolis which he founded after the battle of Actium [Nicopolis]; and in the time of this emperor the country is described by Strabo as utterly worn out and exhausted. (Strab. p. 460.)

The following is a list of the towns of Acarnania. On the Ambracian gulf, from E. to W.; Limnaea, Echinus (Έχίνος, Steph. B. s. v.; Plin. iv. 2; Ai Vasili), Heracleia (Plin. iv. 2; Vonitza), Anactorium, Actium. On or near the west of the Ionian sea, from N. to S.: Thyrium, Palaerus, Alyzia, Sollium, Astacus, Oeniadae. In the interior from S. to N.: Old Oenia [Oeniadae], Coronta, Metropolis, Stratus, Rhyinchus (Ρύγχος), near Stratus, of uncertain site. (Pol. ap. Ath, iii. p. 95, d.); Phytia or Phoeteiae, Medeon. The Roman Itineraries mention

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Coin of Acarnania

early use road in Arcanania which led from Actium along the coast to Calydon in Aetolia.