Achelous (Acheloos, Epic Acheloios). (Aspropotamo), the largest and
most celebrated river in Greece, rose in Mount Pindus, and after flowing through
the mountainous country of the Dolopians and Agraeans, entered the plain of Acarnania
and Aetolia near Stratus, and discharged itself into the Ionian sea, near the
Acarnanian town of Oeniadae. It subsequently formed the boundary between Acarnania
and Aetolia, but in the time of Thucydides the territory of Oeniadae extended
east of the river. It is usually called a river of Acarnania, but it is sometimes
assigned to Aetolia. Its general direction is from north to south. Its waters
are of a whitish yellow or cream colour, whence it derives its modern name of
Aspropotamo or the White river, and to which Dionysius (432) probably alludes
in the epithet argurodines. It is said to have been called more anciently Thoas,
Axenus and Thestius (Thuc. ii. 102; Strab. pp. 449, 450, 458; Plut. de Fluv. 22;
Steph. B. s. v.) We learn from Leake that the reputed sources of the Achelous
are at a village called Khaliki, which is probably a corruption of Chalcis, at
which place Dionysius Periegetes (496) places the sources of the river. Its waters
are swelled by numerous torrents, which it receives in its passage through the
mountains, and when it emerges into the plain near Stratus its bed is not less
than three-quarters of a mile in width. In winter the entire bed is often filled,
but in the middle of summer the river is divided into five or six rapid streams,
of which only two are of a considerable size. After leaving Stratus the river
becomes narrower; and, in the lower part of its course, the plain through which
it flows was called in antiquity Paracheloitis after the river. This plain was
celebrated for its fertility, though covered in great part with marshes, several
of which were formed by the overflowings of the Achelous. In this part of its
course the river presents the most extraordinary series of wanderings; and these
deflexions, observes a recent traveller, are not only so sudden, but so extensive,
as to render it difficult to trace the exact line of its bed, -and sometimes,
for several miles, having its direct course towards the sea, it appears to flow
back into the mountains in which it rises. The Achelous brings down from the mountains
an immense quantity of earthy particles, which have formed a number of small islands
at its mouth, which belong to the group anciently called Echinades; and part of
the mainland near its mouth is only alluvial deposition. (Leake, Northern Greece,
vol. i. p. 136, seq., vol. iii. p. 513, vol. iv. p. 211; Mure, Journal of a Tour
in Greece, vol. i. p. 102.) The chief tributaries of the Achelous were:- on its
left, the Campylus (Kampulos, Diod. xix. 67: Medghova), a river of considerable
size, flowing from Dolopia through the territory of the Dryopes and Eurytanes,
and the Cyathus (Kuathos, Pol. ap. Ath. p. 424, c.) flowing out of the lake Hyrie
into the main stream just above Conope:- on its right the Petitarus (Liv. xliii.
22) in Aperantia, and the Anapus (Anapos), which fell into the main stream in
Acarnania 80 stadia S. of Stratus. (Thuc. ii. 82.)
The Achelous was regarded as the ruler and representative of all fresh water in Hellas. Hence he is called by Homer (Il. xx. 194) Kreion Acheloios, and was worshipped as a mighty god throughout Greece. He is celebrated in mythology on account of his combat with Heracles for the possession of Deianeira. The river-god first attacked Heracles in the form of a serpent, and on being worsted assumed that of a bull. The hero wrenched off one of his horns, which forthwith became a cornucopia, or horn of plenty. (Soph. Trach. 9; Ov. Met. ix. 8, seq.; Apollod. ii. 7. § 5.) This legend alludes apparently to some efforts made at an early period to check the ravages, which the inundations of the river caused in this district; and if the river was confined within its bed by embankments, the region would be converted in modern times into a land of plenty. For further details respecting the mythological character of the Achelous, see Diet. of Biogr. and Myth. s. v.
In the Roman poets we find Acheloides, i. e. the Sirenes, the daughters of Achelous (Ov. Met. v. 552): Acheloia Callirhoe, because Callirhoe was the daughter of Achelous (Ov. Met. ix. 413): pocula Acheloia, i. e. water in general (Virg. Geory. i. 9): Acheloius heros, that is, Tydeus, son of Oeneus, king of Calydon, Acheloius here being equivalent to Aetolian. (Stat. Theb. ii. 142.)
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
The largest river in Greece. It rises in Mt. Pindus, and flows southward, forming the boundary between Acarnania and Aetolia, and falls into the Ionian Sea opposite the islands called Echinades. It is about 130 miles in length. The god of this river is described as the son of Oceanus and Tethys, and as the eldest of his 3000 brothers. He fought with Heracles for Deianira, but was conquered in the contest. He then took the form of a bull, but was again overcome by Heracles, who deprived him of one of his horns, which, however, he recovered by giving up the horn of Amalthea. According to Ovid, the Naiads changed the horn which Heracles took from Achelous into the horn of plenty. Achelous was from the earliest times considered to be a great divinity throughout Greece, and was invoked in prayers and sacrifices. Achelous was regarded as the representative of all fresh water; hence we find in Vergil Acheloia pocula, that is, water in general. The Sirens are called Acheloiades, as the daughters of Achelous.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
In earlier times the Achelous was called Thoas.
The Acheloos Valley and the Delta are listed as Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive 79/409/EEC and, along with much of the Southern Pindos, they were designated for inclusion in the national Natura 2000 list. In addition, the Acheloos delta forms the Messolongi lagoons, a complex of wetland habitats constituting one of the 11 Ramsar sites in Greece. The middle and upper reaches of Acheloos have also been identified as the most important Greek habitat for the trout, Salmo trutta, a protected species under Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive. Since this fish swims upstream to spawn, the construction of large dams along its natural route is likely to have a major impact on the resident breeding population. A number of other fish species indigenous to the river are also protected by the EU Habitats Directive. Moreover, many of the neighbouring areas, naturally sustained by the river's flow are also widely accepted as being of exceptional ecological significance.
This text is cited December 2004 from the West Greece Region General Secretariat URL below, which contains images.
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