Late in the 6th century BCE, Arcadia was ruled by King Iasus, and the land became renowned for his athletic daughter Atalanta. A decree had been enacted that Atalanta could only marry a suitor who defeated her in a footrace, and the penalty for failure was death. After many suitors had been beaten and executed, Atalanta finally lost to Kyros of Zarax, an Olympic champion and protégé of Pythagoras. However, Kyros' victory was only facilitated by an Apple of Eden he had acquired from the ruined Temple of Aphrodite atop Arcadia's mountains.
By the following century, the region had become wealthy from its heavy export of agricultural goods, among which included wheat, various crops, and honey from its bee farms. Arcadia had the largest agricultural zones of the peninsula during this time and so was popularly named the "Breadbasket of the Peloponnese". Aside from this, animals were also a significant part of its economy, but, reflecting its rustic reputation, it was a contemporary saying that there were more animals in the capital of Tegea than there were people.
Arcadia is the central regional unit of the Peloponnese. Historically a remote, agricultural region, its land is characterized by wide, open fields and meadows. However, significant parts of the area are highlands with mountains large enough to experience blizzards in the winter.
- Arcadia is considered to be the homeland of the Greek god of wilderness, Pan. There he was also considered a god of crops and fields, and of fertility.