Arcadia (Arkadía) is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan. In European Renaissance arts, Arcadia was celebrated as an unspoiled, harmonious wilderness.
After the collapse of the Roman power in the west, Arcadia became part of the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire. Arcadia remained a beautiful, secluded area, and its inhabitants became proverbial as herdsmen leading simple pastoral unsophisticated yet happy lives, to the point that Arcadia may refer to some imaginary idyllic paradise, immortalized by Virgil's Eclogues, and later by Jacopo Sannazaro in his pastoral masterpiece, Arcadia (1504); see also Arcadia (utopia).
After the Fourth Crusade, the area became a part of the Principality of Achaea, but was progressively recovered by the Byzantine Greeks of the Despotate of the Morea from the 1260s on, a process that lasted until the mid-14th century. The region fell into the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1460. With the exception of a period of Venetian rule in 1687–1715, the region remained under Turkish control until 1821.
The Latin phrase Et in Arcadia ego, which is usually interpreted to mean "Even in Arcadia there am I", is an example of memento mori, a cautionary reminder of the transitory nature of life and the inevitability of death. The phrase is most often associated with a 1647 painting by Nicolas Poussin, also known as "The Arcadian Shepherds". In the painting the phrase appears as an inscription on a tomb discovered by youthful figures in classical garb.
Arcadia was one of the centres of the Greek War of Independence which saw victories in their battles including one in Tripoli. After a victorious revolutionary war, Arcadia was finally incorporated into the newly created Greek state. Arcadia saw economic growth and small emigration.
In the 20th century, Arcadia experienced extensive population loss through emigration, mostly to the Americas. Many Arcadian villages lost half their inhabitants, and fears arose that they would turn into ghost towns. Arcadia now has a smaller population than Corinthia. Demographers expected that its population would halve between 1951 and the early 21st century. The population has fallen to 87,000 in 2011.
An enormous earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale range shook Megalopoli and the surrounding area in 1965. Large numbers of buildings were destroyed, leaving people homeless. Within a couple of years, the buildings were rebuilt anti-seismically. In 1967, construction began on the Megalopoli Power Plant, which began operating in 1970, producing additional electricity for southern Greece. A mining area south of the plant is the largest mining area in the peninsula and continues to the present day with one settlement moved.
In July and August 2007 forest fires caused damage in Arcadia, notably in the mountains.
In 2008, a theory proposed by classicist Christos Mergoupis suggested that the mummified remains of Alexander the Great (not his actual tomb), may in fact be located in Gortynia-Arkadia, in the Peloponnese of Greece. Since 2008, this research is ongoing and currently being conducted in Greece. The research was first mentioned on CNN International in May 2008.