The Renaissance interest in depicting Arcadian settings stemmed in part from a related desire to return to an inaccessible, idyllic utopia, often depicted as existing somewhere within the ancient world. Arcadian landscapes and their inhabitants (sparse, often shepherds) are often depicted as existing in an edenic state, uncorrupted by the influence of society and the Fall of Man. Virgil's Eclogues locate the birthplace of poetry in Arcadia, the land of Pan, and were one inspiration for Jacopo Sannazaro's bestselling poem Arcadia. First published in 1502, the poem eventually had more than 60 editions, and ushered in a new era of pastoral poetry.
Note: Arcadia is in fact a real region of Greece which is, appropriately enough, mountainous and sparsely populated:
Mt. Lykaion, Arcadia, Greece
(See also: Golden Age)