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Lost in Translation: Word of the Day: Arcadia, Greece: Nymphs, Naiads and Dryads. "Et in Arcadia ego"

"Dance of Satyrs and Nymphs in Spring Landscape" Max Ernst Pietschmann
"Dance of Satyrs and Nymphs in Spring Landscape"

Max Ernst Pietschmann

Since the time of the ancients, Arcadia has been the inspiration for many poets, painters, and writers.

 Virgil, (Roman poet) aroused by Arcadia, wrote his "The Eclogues" a series of poems, set in Arcadia, Jacopo Sannazaro, Italian poet and humanist, influenced by the otherworldliness of the place, wrote his pastoral poem, Arcadia.

Mount Lykaion, Arcadia Peloponnese Greece
Mount Lykaion, Arcadia
Peloponnese Greece

In more recent times, Evelyn Waugh, chose the sub heading:

 “Et in Arcadia ego”

 for the first part of his best selling novel:

“Et in Arcadia ego” is a Latin phrase, meaning, “In Arcadia, there I am”, the “I” referring to death, the “Arcadia” referring to paradise.

Waterfalls of Lepida Parnona Mountain, Arcadia, Greece.
Waterfalls of Lepida

Parnona Mountain, Arcadia, Greece.

Arcadia was a fashionable subject for Renaissance Art, Nicholas Poussin, was so enamoured of Arcadia, he painted two versions of a painting, using the same title;

 “Et in Arcadia ego” (Les Bergerer d’ Arcardie)

Maybe the first time this Latin phrase was ever uttered!

"Et in Arcadia ego" (Les Bergerer d' Arcadie) Version I  Nicholas Poussin
"Et in Arcadia ego"
(Les Bergerer d' Arcadie)
Version I

Nicholas Poussin

"Et in Arcadia ego" (Les Bergerer d' Arcadie) Version II  Nicholas Poussin
"Et in Arcadia ego"
(Les Bergerer d' Arcadie)
Version II

Nicholas Poussin

 These superb paintings, "Et in Arcadia ego" by Poussin, show mythical shepherds, set in idyllic, pastoral scenes.

Another painting, also named "Et in Arcadia ego" was painted by Guercino, (a nickname meaning "the squinter", originally Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), Italian painter of the Bolognese school.

"Et in Arcadia ego"  Guercino
"Et in Arcadia ego"


Demis Roussos, the late renowned Greek singer, had a massive hit with his song;

 “Lovely Lady of Arcadia

So, just what and where is this Arcadia, this pastoral never land, which has raised so much enthusiasm in so many people?

The Lake of Ladonas River Arcadia, Greece.
The Lake of Ladonas River
Arcadia, Greece.

Arcadia is situated at the heart of The Peloponnese in Southern Greece, a region of green pastures, lush forests and fast flowing rivers, today, scattered with wonderful, typically Greek, small villages, dwarfed by the large town of Tripolis, the capital of Arcadia.

Pastoral Arcadia Greece
Pastoral Arcadia


Arcadia is an amazing part of mainland Greece, mountainous, the two main mountains, being, Mount Lykaion and Mount Mainalo, with forests of chestnut and oak, dissected by the rushing rivers of the Alpheios, and the Lousios, where the nymphs were said to have bathed the infant Zeus.

River Lousios. Arcadia Greece
River Lousios.


The caves of Kapsia, over three million years old, are said to have been home to the God Pan.

Caves Of Kapsia  Arcadia, Greece
Caves Of Kapsia

Arcadia, Greece

In Ancient Greece, most people lived an urban life, next to the sea, the source of their livelihood, only in the region of Arcadia, away from cities, did people live simply, in harmony with nature.

"The course of  Empire, the Arcadian or Pastoral State"  Thomas Cole
"The course of  Empire, the Arcadian or Pastoral State"

Thomas Cole

Arcadia was an idyllic place, a kind of Utopia, a Shangri La, but not created by man, Arcadia evolved naturally, an unspoiled wilderness, in Greece, said in Greek Mythology to be, the original site of "The Golden Age", an age of peace, harmony, stability and prosperity.

"Arcadia"  Thomas Eakins

Thomas Eakins

Arcadians were humble people, without hate or greed, living peacefully, as shepherds, uncorrupted by civilization.

"Arcadia. Daphnis & Chloe"  Pierre Cabanel
"Arcadia. Daphnis & Chloe"

Pierre Cabanel

In these blissful green pastures, cooled by flowing
 streams and rivers, lived Nymphs, playful, mythical creatures, cavorting amongst the forests, valleys and dells, of this unobtainable, now lost world.

"Hylas & Water Nymphs"  Henrietta Rae
"Hylas & Water Nymphs"

Henrietta Rae

Naiads, freshwater nymphs, (Saltwater nymphs are called Oceanids)
 always female, ruled over wells, springs, brooks, rivers and lakes, and had quite a reputation for being jealous little sprites.

"Nymph"  John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse

These immortal naiads, kept a look out for the young girls and women, guiding them as they reached adulthood.

Dryads were the tree nymphs, their name deriving from the Greek word for oak tree, were shy beings, who led long lives, living closely to the tree they were protecting.

"A Hamadryad"  John William Waterhouse
"A Hamadryad"

John William Waterhouse

Hamadryads, were actually tied to trees, and when the tree died, they died, if the tree blossomed, they blossomed.

"The Dryad"  Evelyn de Morgan
"The Dryad"

Evelyn de Morgan

Friends with the naiads and the dryads were the oreads, the mountain nymphs, they frolicked together or tended to their sheep, occasionally being chased by Pan, the God of nature, wilderness, fertility and spring.

 They all lived together, in the groves and glens, of mythical Arcadia.

"Les Oreades"  William Adolphe Bouguereau
"Les Oreades"

William Adolphe Bouguereau

 The Great God Pan is depicted as a satyr, with a dark hairy body, two horns on his forehead, pointed ears, a snub nose and the legs and tail of a goat, wearing a crown of pine needles.

"The Great God Pan"  Norman Wills Price
"The Great God Pan"

Norman Wills Price

The name Pan, is generally thought to come from the Greek word Pan, meaning “All” but, it is derived from the word “Paein”, the Greek for “To pasture”

"Nymphs & Satyr Pan"  William Adolphe Bouguereau
"Nymphs & Satyr Pan"

William Adolphe Bouguereau

 Not surprising then, that this blissful, magical world called Arcadia, inhabited by hedonistic nymphs, a decadent pipe playing Romeo, oh, and the odd sheep, was the inspiration for some of the most beautiful, classic poems and alluring paintings, and a veritable Paradise on Earth.

More Great Greek Words






  1. What a brilliant post for me to read the morning I wake after returning to my personal Arcadia! I think I'd heard the word but now I certainly understand. Fabulous pictures and explanation. X

    1. Thanks Yvonne, it's a wonderful story isn't it? Like something from Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream", maybe "Old Will" had read about Arcadia before writing it!
      I wonder if those beautiful nymphs still come out to play when no one's watching?

  2. I prefer to believe those nymphs do still come out to play, Susan! Great post.

    1. I thought the same thing! ;)

      Thank you for the dose of beauty, Susan.

    2. Thanks Jackie and Heather, I'm sure they're around there somewhere, oh to be a fly on the wall!

  3. Arcadia, the stuff of dreams, with its magical landscapes and myriad of dwellers, has been translated so beautifully by poets, artists and writers, making it all seem so real, to us.

    A wonderfully alluring post! Thanks for sharing!

    Poppy x

    1. Thank you Poppy!
      It's still magical today, away from the main town, Tripolis, I imagine the landscape is as it was thousands of years ago. It's a popular region for mushroom gatherers; just a bit of trivia for you!


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