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Arcadia was a mythical rural realm ruled by the god Pan. It was first written about by the Greek poet Theocritus in his 'Idylls' of the 3rd century BC. He described it as inhabited by shepherds, nymphs and satyrs.

This imaginary region, which was supposed to be suffused with romance, formed the context for much Renaissance pastoral poetry, drama, and later painting. A number of artists, including Poussin and Watteau, clearly drew on such themes. Arcadian subjects were also popular among Dutch artists from about the 1620s, and Rembrandt painted two pictures of his wife Saskia in Arcadian costume (one is now in the Hermitage, St Petersburg).

There is a region of Greece which is actually called Arcadia.