HISTORY ANCIENT CITIES Located in Elis, Ancient Phigaleia is the most westerly ancient city in pARKadia. Further east along the Neda river is Eira, a Messinian mountain fortress captured by the Spartans after a siege of eleven years. Further east still in Arcadia are the ancient cities of Lykosura (said by the Roman traveller Pausanias to be the oldest city in the world), Trapezous and Megalopolis. To the west of pARKadia is Lepreo, probably the most accessible, and understandable, ancient city in the area.
Ancient Phigaleia is your destination - a mountain city famed for its excesses; its "necromancers" ('wizards') who communicated with the dead to divine the future and the legend of the nightmare originating from the cave of Demeter.
At an altitude of 860 mtres, Eira is a Messinian mountain fortress captured by the Spartans after a siege of eleven years.
Said by Pausanias to be the oldest city in the world, Lykosura is largely un-excavated, although a Sanctuary of Despoina has been uncovered near the city walls and a small museum (temporarily closed) was built to house some of the finds. Despoina, known as "the Mistress" was rumoured to have been sired by her mother (Demeter) and her brother, Poseidon.
Trapezous is named after the mythical event when the sons of Lykaion, the man who gave his name to Lykosura, set up a feast including human flesh on a "trapeze" ('table') for the god Zeus. Whereupon the enraged god threw over the table with the meal and killed Lykaion and his sons with lightning.
When it was founded in 371 BC, the ancient city of Megalopolis was the first large urbanization in rustic Arcadia spreading extensively on both banks of the river Helisson just above its junction with the sacred river Alphieos. It was the centre of the Arcadian League with a theatre which had a capacity of 20,000 visitors, making it one of the largest ancient Greek theatres.
To the west on the road connecting the sea to the mountains, is Lepreo. Linked to Ancient Phigaleia through the antics of its founder Lepreos (who died in the city in a duel with Heracles), Lepreo was the de facto capital of Triphylia, a strategically important place in antiquity. Inside the ancient city walls is a Temple of Demeter, the regional goddess of the elusive "nightmare cave". Here, as in her cave, she received offerings on a purpose-built altar.