Where is Arcadia? Images of Arcadia in Classical Antiquity (completed in January 2016)

Arcadia in antiquity does not conform to the modern idyll of shepherds. To the Greeks and Romans, this landscape possessed an ambivalent character. Aside from Arcadia as a real, geographically defined area within the Greek mother country, we find stereotypes of an imagined landscape starting with the Homeric epics. Arcadia can be used as a paradigm of primitivism or as a prototype of civilization: a sinister, prehistoric place, full of werewolves and man-eaters, or a landscape of venerable age, whose inhabitants were responsible for inventions crucial to mankind - and which acts as a focal point for connections proudly invoked in a variety of historical contexts. Classical images of Arcadia are far from constant, but change depending on perspective and time (Classical Antiquity, Hellenism, Imperial Rome).

The project tracks these changes, analyses its forms, causes and contexts and explains the different roles und functions of Arcadia as a landscape in the Greek and Roman culture from a comparative perspective.

At the core of analysis stands the Arcadian self-image with its specific self-ascriptions, which - in addition to the literary sources - mainly comes to light in inscriptions and coins. Subsequently, we look at the perception of Arcadia in the Greek world: which places, timeframes and paths were relevant to the Greeks and mainly the Athenians in creating their images of Arcadia? Finally, we concentrate on analysing and describing the outside perspective: how and why did the Romans bridge the spatial, temporal and linguistic distance to find their own Arcadia.

Images of Arcadia are mainly produced and negotiated in the cultural contexts of myths. Here, a past is being constructed and can be made productive for the respective political present. Depending on context, Greeks and Romans created heterotopias, mystic landscapes and various imaginary Arcadias, which could be used as an example, a chimera or possibly even as a "landscape of longing" within specific political contentions and prestigious conflicts. In the reality of antiquity, as shown in the work of the periegete Pausanias, these imaginary landscapes reflect back: the outside expectations have become visible in the real Arcadia.

Our systematic analysis of classical images of Arcadia from new perspectives will lead to new insights into the history of a landscape and the self-presentation of its inhabitants. Furthermore, the analysis is a valuable contribution to the reception of Arcadia in Greece and Rome. It emphasises Arcadia as an important reference point in the self-image of Greeks and Romans: whoever finds "his" or "her" Arcadia, speaks first and foremost about himself.