Acarnania, a district of NW Greece, bounded by the Lonian Sea, the gulf of Ambracia, and the Acheloüs river. The district is divided into three main regions:
(1) a rugged coast with small bays and small alluvial plains,
(2) a mountainous interior range that parallels the coast from north-west to south-east, and
(3) small plains between the mountains and the Acheloüs river to the east.
Although Neolithic, early Helladic, and late Helladic remains have been located near Astacus and elsewhere, evidence for widespread prehistoric settlement is lacking. Homer seems ignorant of the region except as a part of the shadowy ‘mainland’ inside Ithaca, although names like Melite and Marathus may point to Phoenician seafarers using this coast for shelter on their westward voyages. Significant Greek influence began during the 7th cent. bce when Corinth settled Anactorium, Sollium, and Leucas and when (soon thereafter?) Cephallenia settled Astacus. Thucydides (2) mentions settlements at Alyzeia, Astacus, Coronta, Limnaea, Medion, Oeniadae, Palaerus, Phytia (Phoetiae), and Stratus, some of which were surely fortified poleis (Oeniadae, Stratus, Astacus, Palaerus). At Stratus, the Acarnanians formed a loose confederacy (koinon), which primarily represented the concerns of the inland cities, and thus did not always constitute the unified will of the entire ethnos (see ethnicity). Because of its strategic position along the western sailing route to Italy, the district was involved in many wars: in the 5th cent. Athens helped expel the Corinthians from their Acarnanian colonies and successfully blocked Peloponnesian interference in the region (429–26); in the 4th cent. the Acarnanians capitulated to the Spartan king Agesilaus (in 390 or 389) and they remained Spartan allies until 375 when they joined the Second Athenian Confederacy. Acarnanians supported Boeotia in its triumph over Sparta and fought with Athens against Philip (1) II at Chaeronea. Subsequently they became dependants of Macedonia. In 314, at the instance of Cassander, the Acarnanian communities near the Aetolian border agreed to concentrate into larger cities (the largest being Stratus). Frequent frontier disputes with the Aetolians led to the partition of Acarnania between Aetolia and Epirus (c.252–50). After the fall of the Epirote monarchy, the Epirote section recovered their independence (c.230), reorganized their league, and acquired from Epirus the island of Leucas which became their new capital. They sided with Philip (3) V of Macedon against the Romans (200), and as a result, Leucas was separated from the koinon; Thyrreion (with its strong pro-Roman faction) became the new capital. Although retaining their confederacy until 31–29 bce, the region suffered severely in the intervening years, first from piracy, and then from the Roman civil wars. The cities thereafter became dependants of Nicopolis (3).
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