Limnaia was an ancient Acarnanian city, on the site of today’s Amfilochia, and specifically on the high rocky hill that rises above it. On the flat top of the hill was the acropolis, the ruins of which are preserved to this day, while on its northern slope, where today’s Amfilochia is, the houses (the lower city) were built, which were protected (east and west) by two legs of a wall that they started from the acropolis and went down approximately to the sea, where there was probably a suburb, which may have formed the residential core of the Roman polity and the subsequent Amfilochia. The city had access to Lake Amvrakia and was connected by an underground tunnel to the harbor at the mouth of the Amvrakian Gulf.was an ancient Acarnanian city, on the site of today’s Amfilochia, and specifically on the high rocky hill that rises above it. On the flat top of the hill was the acropolis, the ruins of which are preserved to this day, while on its northern slope, where today’s Amfilochia is, the houses (the lower city) were built, which were protected (east and west) by two legs of a wall that they started from the acropolis and went down approximately to the sea, where there was probably a suburb, which may have formed the residential core of the Roman polity and the subsequent Amfilochia. The city had access to Lake Amvrakia and was connected by an underground tunnel to the harbor at the mouth of the Amvrakian Gulf.


Limnaia is mentioned by the ancient Greek historians. Thucydides specifically writes, when he refers to the operations of the Spartans in the region of Western Greece: “And through Argia ions of Limnaian komen were brought in abundance. They arrive on Stratos, etc.”. Therefore in 429 BC the city had no walls yet. Later, when Polybius refers to Limnaia (251 BC), describing the campaign of Philip V against the Aetolians, the city had acquired strong walls.

Despite the scant archaeological evidence, it is considered very likely that the city had survived even after the foundation of Nicopolis, i.e. during the imperial period, as a polis administratively dependent on it. Its survival was due to its great strategic position, as the land Roman road of Apollonia-Nicopolis-Athens passed through it, a branch of which led to Aktio and Lefkada, while the sea road of the coasts of the Amvrakikos gulf passed through its port.

The castle of Limnaia seems to have been inhabited during the Byzantine years as well. Exactly when it ceased to be inhabited is unknown. During the years of Ali Pasha, however, the inhabitants of neighboring Abrakia forcibly settled there.

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Photo source:, Spiros Baracos

The ruined, today, village of Amvrakia was built in the 9th century BC. by the inhabitants of Limnaia who moved to the area to avoid the frequent pirate raids.

During the Turkish occupation it was the capital of Kaza or Vilayet of Valtos. In 1684, Amvrakia and the church of Panagia Amvrakiotissa were destroyed by the Pasha of Arta. The church and the village were rebuilt after 5 years, by the residents who returned from Limnea. In 1692, Yusuf Pasha, in one of his raids on Valtos, was defeated in Amvrakia by Anastasios Metaxas, senior inspector of Xiromeros and Valtos, and thus the village was saved.

The capital of Kaza of Valtos was definitively abandoned, after it was set on fire in 1826 by the Turkalvans, as a reprisal for the participation of the Ambrakiots in the sieges of Messolonghi. However, the church of Panagia was saved and dominates to this day among the ruins. In the forecourt of the church, the stone where St. Cosmas of Aitolos stood when he preached the Divine Word in July 1118 is preserved to this day.

The late president of the Historical-Archaeological Society of Agrinio, Thomas Bokoros, had called Amvrakia, the Mystra of Akarnania.

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Amvrakikos gulf

Amvrakikos gulf is one of the largest closed gulfs in Greece and is one of the national parks of Greece due to its ecological importance and the environmental pressures it receives. The entrance of the gulf is in the narrow passage between Aktion (from the side of Etoloakarnania) and Preveza. The bay takes its name from the ancient Amvrakia, a city built on the river Arachthos, on the site of today’s Arta. The rivers Louros and Arachthos, in the north, and the smaller river of Nissa, in the south, pour their waters into the gulf. Amfilochia is built in the mouth of Amvrakikos. Close to Amfilochia is the cape of Agios Georgios, where a lighthouse operates. Vonitsa is also another important town on the side of the road from Amfilochia to Preveza and Lefkada.

At the entrance of the bay, an underwater tunnel was built and put into use in 2002, which connects Aktio with Preveza. In the gulf and especially in the port of Amfilochia, during the summer months (especially in August), the phenomenon of phosphorescence of the sea occurs, which is due to the accumulation of micro-organisms (plankton).

πηγή φωτογραφιών: Giannis Diamantis, Κλαίρη Μουσταφέλλου, Γιώργος Ευσταθίου

Amfilochiko Argos, the surviving ruins of which are located in the “Kainourio” location in the Municipal District of Ambelaki, was the capital of the ancient state of Amfilochia. The researches of modern archaeologists indicate that Amfilochic Argos was definitely founded in times prior to the 5th century BC. The first major period of decline of the Amphilochic Argos is recorded after the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. According to the mythic tradition, Amphilochic Argos was a colony of Argos in the Peloponnese, founded either by Amphilochus after the conquest of Ilium, by Argive Fugitives under Amphilochus, son of Amphiaraus, who gave the city the name of his particular homeland (Thukyd. 2′ 68. Paus. 2′ 18,5*. Apollod. 3′ 7,7. Sef. Byz. in.l. “Amphilochios”) or by Alcmaeon, brother of Amphilochus. . which was founded after the fall of Ilium or by his brother Amphilochos Alcmaeon (“Ephoros” Strav. VII 325 ff.).

In another point of view, probably because the plain was from ancient times by the sea called Argos and was inhabited for the first time by inhabitants of the neighboring Amvrakia, a colony of the Corinthians. This is perhaps also concluded from the testimony of Thucydides according to which, many generations after the foundation of Amphilochic Argos, it settled and mixed with its inhabitants, the Ambrakiites, who were invited by the Amphilochians as “roommates” to deal with an apparently hostile danger against the country. From this coexistence, the Argives evolved, using the Doric dialect ever since, in contrast to the rest of the Amphilochians, – Epirotians by origin – who are remembered as Barbarians or if not Greeks, apparently because their dialect was incomprehensible to the other Greeks. Early on, however, the new settlers drove out the old inhabitants of the city and became sole masters of it. The Argives then placed themselves under the protection of the Acarnanians and sought the aid of the Athenians, who sent a naval force under Phormion. After his arrival, Argos was conquered, its Ambraki inhabitants were sold as slaves and Amfilochians and Acarnanians settled there together, whose relations became closer. It was probably then that they were appointed to meet in a common court located in Olpes (an ancient city near today’s Buka, location of Agrilovuni) to resolve their disputes (cf. Thukyd. C. 105, 1). In the summer of 430 BC the Ambrakiites, helped by Chaones and other Barbarians, invaded Amphilochia and became masters of the countryside, reaching as far as Argos. But they could not capture the city and returned to their homeland. (Thukyd. B’ 68,9). The same was repeated a few years later in 426 BC. The Ambracians campaigned against Argos and captured the fortified Olpes, where their forces were reinforced by the Lacedaemonian general Eurylochus. The Akarnanes and Amphilochos were then saved by the intervention of the Athenian general Demosthenes, who was entrusted with the command of the army. He first defeated the united opponents at Olpes – where Eurylochus was killed – and then the Ambrakiites at the straits of Idomeni. According to Thucydides – who describes these events in detail – Demosthenes would also achieve this conquest of Ambracia itself. But the Akarnanes and the Amphilochians, fearing any settlement there by the powerful Athenians, signed an agreement after the end of the hostilities with the Ambrakiites, whom they considered less dangerous neighbors (cf. Thucyd. III 114, 3). and reconnects with Aetolia Alliance (Polyv. KA’ 25, 3 Liv.XXXIII 3.3 K. ex.). At the same time, the plundering of the country by Perseus is mentioned. Also in the same year (189 BC) the Roman high priest, Fulvius Novilior, after the capture of Ambracia, reached Amphilochian Argos and camped near it. But he finally left the city and the rest of the country to the Aetolians – who had meanwhile accepted the peace terms of the Romans – and returned to Ambracia. The Argives and other Amphilochians remained in the Aetolian Alliance until 167 BC. whereupon they disbanded, probably forming their own autonomous political community. (cf. Aiod. XXXI 8,6 ed. Oina.). With the founding of Nicopolis by Octavian Augustus – in commemoration of their victory in 31 BC. in Aktio – the Amphilochic Argos declines and becomes deserted, because its inhabitants as well as those of other regions of N. W. Greece moved to the new city. (Old. Anthol. G’ 553). Despite all this, the capital of the Amphilochians, Argos, is also mentioned by some later writers (Plin. N&t. Idi IX, 5’Ptolem. Georg. III 14, 6).

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The Holy Monastery of Aretha or “Ta Retha”, as the locals call it, is located on a low hill of Mount Makrynoros and belongs to the province of Valtos of the Prefecture of Etoloakarnania, it is 5 km from the village of Agia Triada and 31 km north of Amfilochia. This Holy Monastery is the holiest place of pilgrimage in the region of Valtos and one of the holiest in the prefecture of Etoloakarnania with a huge clearly historical and spiritual contribution. The icon of Panagia tis Arethiotissa (The Lady of the Swamp) is considered miraculous and every year a large number of faithful-pilgrims flock to the monastery, several times even on foot, to “pay off” their prayers for the grace of Panagia.


It is a monastery built around 1400 AD. in which a female monastic order was and is based. Another piece of information known to us is that the monastery was used for the exorcism of madmen who were tied during the ceremony to one of the two pillars of the pronaus. The monastery “Ta Retha”, is an old post-Byzantine church and is the holiest place of pilgrimage in the region of Valtos and one of the holiest in the Prefecture of Etoloakarnania, with a great historical and spiritual contribution. It is a monastery built around 1400 AD. The icon of Panagia Arethiotissa, “The Lady of the Swamp”, is considered miraculous for her faithful pilgrims and visitors. From the 1960s and 1970s there was a very narrow and dirt road, which did not reach the monastery but the ravine near it. Tractors, tricycles, the old buses, but also on foot, the faithful arrived at the place of pilgrimage from the previous afternoon mainly or even two to three days earlier. It is worth mentioning that in the past, women “paying off” their prayers, for the grace of the Virgin Mary, would go to the place of worship on foot, and in fact several guards would walk barefoot, covering the distance of 20, 30, 40 and even 50 kilometers. . The holy figure of the Monastery is the hieromonk Anthimos who served it in many different periods of time until 1870, when he passed away and in the minds of the faithful Fr. Anthimos has already been canonized and in the monastery where his tomb is also located . In the monastery there are 2 reliquaries containing small pieces of Saints Procopius, Paraskevi, Tryphon, Andrew the Hermit, Anastasia, Cosmas and Damian, Panteleimon, Barbara, Nikita, Charalambous and among them also anonymous saints. The monastery has been open continuously since 1984 until today and in 2004 the road that connects the Holy Monastery with the national road Amfilochia – Ioannina at the height of Anixiatikos was widened and asphalted.

Characteristics of the Holy Monastery

Ascending towards the entrance of the monastery, you are greeted by a mosaic image and inscription with the Lady of the Swamp, Panagia Arethiotisa. Passing the entrance threshold you reach the courtyard and in front of you is the old post-Byzantine church of Panagia, dedicated to the Birth of the Virgin, whose icon is considered by believers to be very miraculous. The exact date of construction of the catholicon is not currently known, an inscription mentions the year 1742, but various scholars are sure that it is a date of renovation and not construction of the catholicon. The katholikon is an extremely rare example of post-Byzantine architecture and is of the three-nave (quadrant) cross-roofed church type with five octagonal domes. Inside the Catholic Church is the Miraculous Icon of Panagia Arethiotissa (“The Lady of the Swamp”) and is the strongest attraction for the many pilgrims and visitors to the Monastery. The interior decoration of the church with the beautiful iconostasis but also with the richly colored and original themed iconography will keep you interested for a long time. The walls of the church are covered almost entirely with frescoes of figures of saints such as Saint Barbaros, the dog-shaped Saint Christopher and Saint Sisoi. Of great interest is the mural with the zodiac, but also that of hell, in which many different figures appear. Passing into the adjacent hall of the temple, also rich in frescoes, you will notice two pillars with chains at their base.


Today Retha is a women’s monastery where you will find only the Abbess who maintains and cares for the monastery. While every year on September 8 is organized, perhaps the most important for the region, a festival and thousands of believers from all over Valto come to worship the icon of the Virgin Mary. But if you can’t be at the festival, then visit the monastery any weekend of the year, enjoy the route in the mountains of Valtos, admire its architecture as well as its rich frescoes, learn about its history and relax in an environment made of divine hand.


Ξεκινώντας από την Αμφιλοχία και οδηγώντας βόρεια, στο χωριό Ανοιξιάτικο, θα συναντήσετε μια πινακίδα που σας κατευθύνει προς την Ιερά Μονή Ρέθα ή Αρέθα. Στην ανηφορική διαδρομή για το μοναστήρι θα προσπεράσετε οικισμούς και αγροικίες, θα δείτε εικόνες από τον παραδοσιακό αγροτικό τρόπο ζωής των κατοίκων, όπως κοπάδια με πρόβατα και κατσίκια, μελίσσια και χωράφια με ελαιόδεντρα. Όσο θα ανηφορίζετε, σταματήστε να θαυμάσετε τη θέα του Αμβρακικού κόλπου από ψηλά. Αν η μέρα είναι ηλιόλουστη και ο ορίζοντας καθαρός, το βλέμμα σας θα φτάσει έως και την Πρέβεζα στην άλλη άκρη του κόλπου. Λίγο πριν από το χωριό της Αγίας Τριάδας, σχεδόν στην κορυφή του βουνού, θα προσπεράσετε τα ερείπια μια αρχαίας αταύτιστης πόλης, ενώ το τοπίο θα γίνει έντονα δασώδες. Απότομες ρεματιές πνιγμένες στη βλάστηση, η οποία μεταξύ άλλων περιλαμβάνει, πανύψηλα πλατάνια, βελανιδιές και πουρνάρια, δημιουργούν ένα σκηνικό πραγματικά παρθένας φύσης, άλλωστε η ευρύτερη περιοχή αποτελεί αναγνωρισμένο καταφύγιο άγριας ζωής πλούσιο σε ορνιθοπανίδα. Λίγα χιλιόμετρα μετά από το χωριό, μια τελευταία ανηφόρα και μπροστά σας, σε ένα πλάτωμα, εμφανίζεται το μοναστήρι με την πανύψηλη βελανιδιά στην είσοδο της περίφραξης.