Arcadia, a mountainous region in central Greece, was represented in Greek and Roman mythology as an earthly paradise. It was the land of Pan, the god of woods, fields, and flocks.
Cut off from the rest of Greece by mountains, the people of ancient Arcadia could pursue their simple way of life, based on agriculture and herding, without interruption or influence from the outside world. But the land fell into decay after being conquered by the Romans.
The image of Arcadia as an ideal state of peace and simplicity has been used by poets and artists through the ages. Ancient authors such as Theocritus and Virgil* sang its praises. It appears in later works of literature such as Arcadia by the Italian poet Sanazaro and The Shepherd's Calendar by English poet Edmund Spenser. However, another English poet, William Cowper, attacked the idea of using Arcadia to symbolize an ideal state that never really existed, especially for poor country people.