The ancestor and eponymic hero of the Arcadians, from whom the country and its inhabitants derived their name. He was a son of Zeus by Callisto, a companion of Artemis. After the death or the metamorphosis of his mother, Zeus gave the child to Maia, and called him Arcas.1 Arcas became afterwards by Leaneira or Meganeira the father of Elatus and Apheidas.2

According to Hyginus3 Arcas was the son of Lycaon, whose flesh the father set before Zeus, to try his divine character. Zeus upset the table (τράπεζα, trapeza) which bore the dish, and destroyed the house of Lycaon by lightning, but restored Arcas to life. When Arcas had grown up, he built on the site of his father's house the town of Trapezus. When Arcas once during the chase pursued his mother, who was metamorphosed into a she-bear, as far as the sanctuary of the Lycaean Zeus, which no mortal was allowed to enter, Zeus placed both of them among the stars.4

According to Pausanias,5 Arcas succeeded Nyctimus in the government of Arcadia, and gave to the country which until then had been called Pelasgia the name of Arcadia. He taught his subjects the arts of making bread and of weaving. He was married to the nymph Erato, by whom he had three sons, Elatus, Apheidas, and Azan, among whom he divided his kingdom. He had one illegitimate son, Autolaus, whose mother is not mentioned.

The tomb of Arcas was shown at Mantineia, whither his remains had been carried from Mount Macnalus at the command of the Delphic oracle.6 Statues of Arcas and his family were dedicated at Delphi by the inhabitants of Tegea.7



  1. Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 8.2.
  2. ibid. iii, 9.1.
  3. Fabulae, 176; Poetical Astronomy, ii, 4.
  4. Ovid. Metamorphoses ii, 410 ff.
  5. Description of Greece viii, 4.1 ff.
  6. ibid. viii, 9.2.
  7. ibid. x, 9.3.


  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.