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The Original Arcadia

– Posted in: Sustainable Gardening
The Arcadian or Pastoral State

What is Arcadia anyway – apart from the name of this business?

Arcadia is a mythical, idyllic landscape. In classical times, particularly through the Roman poet Virgil, it was described as a place of peace and innocence when people mingled with the gods in the ‘Golden Age’. 

Arcadia is portrayed as a placed of gentle countryside with rolling hills and meandering streams with shepherds pausing to play their pan pipes while tending their sheep.  It is a place of escape from the stresses and strains of a busy life in the city.  In Arcadia people did not need to work for their food, it was provided easily, directly from the countryside.

The idea of Arcadia became fashionable in Renaissance Europe with art and literature describing pastoral scenes as sort of garden paradise with hills, water and vegetation forming perfect landscapes.

The mythology of Arcadia has close parallels to the Garden of Eden – again a place of innocence and serenity where ‘the lion lays down with the lamb’ and people live care free in a garden paradise.  Each of these stories suggests a yearning or fascination for natural places, which can have a calming or even spiritual effect on people.  There are similar stories or myths around Shangri-la or Utopia or the Elysian Fields.

Arcadia is actually the name of a real place in the Peloponnese in Greece.  It is a rather hilly part of Greece that, in Classical times, was not so developed and considered more primitive. It was also strongly associated with a few of the Greek gods such as Zeus, Dionysus and Pan.  So on this basis; its unspoiled, wild landscapes were ascribed by Virgil as having special, other worldly qualities.

The name comes from one of Zeus’ many offspring called Arcas who is credited with introducing agriculture and weaving to mankind.

In the early days of European discovery of North America, the North-East coast from Maryland into Canada was named Arcadia because it had the same feel of being an unspoiled natural paradise. These days it is just one part of Canada that retains the name Acadia (without the ‘r’) but it is also where we get the word Cajun – or ‘Arcadian’.

I’m hoping we can all have access to our piece of Arcadia wherever we live.

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