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History (6)


  The most ancient inhabitants of Elis appear to have been Pelasgians, and of the same stock as the Arcadians. They were called Caucones, and their name is said to have been originally given to the whole country; but at a later time they were found only on the northern frontier near Dyme and in the mountains of Triphylia. (Strab. viii. p. 345.) The accessibility of the country both by sea and land led other tribes to settle in it even at a very early period The Phoenicians probably had factories upon the coast; and there can be no doubt that to them the Eleians were indebted for the introduction of the byssus, since the name is the same as the Hebrew butz. We also find traces of Phoenician influence in the worship of Aphrodite Urania in the city of Elis. It has even been supposed that Elishah, whose productions reached Tyre (Ezek. xxvii. 7), is the same word as the Greek Elis, though the name was used to indicate a large extent of country; but it is dangerous to draw any conclusion from a similarity of names, which may after all be only accidental.
  The most ancient inhabitants of the country appear to have been Epeians (Epeioi), who were closely connected with the Aetolians. According to the common practice of the Greeks to derive all their tribes from eponymous ancestors, the two brothers Epeius and Aetolus, the sons of Endymion, lived in the country afterwards called Elis. Aetolus crossed over to Northern Greece, and became the ancestor of the Aetolians. (Paus. v. 1; Scymn. Ch. 475.) The name of Eleians, according to the tradition, was derived from Eleius, a son of Poseidon and Eurycyda, the daughter of Endymion. The Epeians were more widely spread than the Eleians. We find Epeians not only in Elis Proper, but also in Triphylia and in the islands of the Echinades at the mouth of the Achelous; while the Eleians were confined to Elis Proper. In Homer the name of Eleians does not occur; and though the country is called Elis, its inhabitants are always the Epeians.
  Eleius was succeeded in the kingdom by his son Augeias, against whom Hercules made war, because he refused to give the hero the promised reward for cleansing his stables. The kingdom of the Epeians afterwards became divided into four states. The Epeians sailed to the Trojan War in 40 ships, led by four chiefs, of whom Polyxenus, the grandson of Augeias, was one. (Hom. II. ii. 615, seq.) The Epeians and the Pylians appear in Homer as the two powerful nations on the western coast of Peloponnesus, the former extending from the Corinthian gulf southwards, and the latter from the southern point of the peninsula northwards; but the boundaries which separated the two cannot be determined. They were frequently engaged in wars with one another, of which a vivid picture is given in a well-known passage of Homer (Il. xi. 670, seq.; Strab. viii. pp. 336, 351). Polyxenus was the only one of the four chiefs who returned from Troy. In the time of his grandson the Dorians invaded Peloponnesus; and, according to the legend, Oxylus and his Aetolian followers obtained Elis as their share of the conquest. (Dict. of Biogr. art. Heraclidae).
  Great changes now followed. In consequence of the affinity of the Epeians and Aetolians, they easily coalesced into one people, who henceforth appear under the name of Eleians, forming a powerful kingdom in the northern part of the country in the plain of the Peneius. Some modern writers suppose that an Aetolian colony was also settled at Pisa, which again comes into notice as an independent state. Pisa is represented in the earliest times as the residence of Oenomaus and Pelops, who left his name to the peninsula; but subsequently Pisa altogether disappears, and is not mentioned in the Homeric poems. It was probably absorbed in the great Pylian monarchy, and upon the overthrow of the latter was again enabled to recover its independence; but whether it was peopled by Aetolian conquerors must remain undecided. From this time Pisa appears as the head of a confederacy of eight states. About the same time a change of population took place in Triphylia, which had hitherto formed part of the dominions, of the Pylian monarchy. The Minyae, who had been expelled from Laconia by the conquering Dorians, took possession of Triphylia, driving out the original inhabitants of the country, the Paroreatae and Caucones. (Herod. iv. 148.) Here they founded a state, consisting of six cities, and were sufficiently strong to maintain their independence against the Messenian Dorians. The name of Triphylia was sometimes derived from an eponymous Triphylus, an Arcadian chief (Polyb. iv. 77; Paus. x. 9. § 5); but the name points to the country being inhabited by three different tribes,--an explanation given by the ancients themselves. These three tribes, according to Strabo, were the Epeians, the Minyae, and the Eleians. (Strab. viii. p. 337.)
  The territory of Elis was thus divided between the three independent states of Elis Proper, the Pisatis, and Triphylia. How long this state of things lasted we do not know; but even in the eighth century B.C. the Eleians had extended their dominions as tar as the Neda, bringing under their rule the cities of the Pisatis and Triphylia. During the historical period we read only of Eleians and their subjects the Perioeci: the Caucones, Pisatans, and Triphylians entirely disappear as independent races.
  The celebration of the festival of Zeus at Olympia had originally belonged to the Pisatans, in the neighbourhood of whose city Olympia was situated. Upon the conquest of Pisa, the presidency of the festival passed over to their conquerors; but the Pisatans never forgot their ancient privilege, and made many attempts to recover it. In the eighth Olympiad; B.C. 747, they succeeded in depriving the Eleians of the presidency by calling in the assistance of Pheidon, tyrant of Argos, in conjunction with whom they celebrated the festival. But almost immediately afterwards the power of Pheidon was destroyed by the Spartans, who not only restored to the. Eleians the presidency, but are said even to have confirmed them in the possession of the Pisatis and Triphylia. (Paus. vi. 22. § 2; Strab. viii. p. 354, seq.; Herod. vi. 127.) In the Second Messenian War the Pisatans and Triphylians revolted from Elis and assisted the Messenians, while the Eleians sided with the Spartans. In this war the Pisatans were commanded by their king Pantaleon, who also succeeded in making himself master of Olympia by force, during the 34th Olympiad (B.C. 644), and in celebrating the games to the exclusion of the Eleians. (Paus. vi. 21. § 1, vi. 22. § 2; Strab. viii. p. 362; respecting the conflicting statements in the ancient authorities as to this period, see Grote, Hist. of Greece, vol. ii. p. 574.) The conquest of the Messenians by the Spartans must also have been attended by the submission of the Pisatans to their former masters. In the 48th Olympiad (B.C. 588) the Eleians, suspecting the fidelity of Damophon, the son of Pantaleon, invaded the Pisatis, but were persuaded by Damophon to return home without committing any further acts of hostility. But in the 52nd Olympiad (B.C. 572), Pyrrhus, who had succeeded his brother Damophon in the sovereignty of Pisa, invaded Elis, assisted by the Dyspontii in the Pisatis, and by the Macistii and Scilluntii in Triphylia. This attempt ended in the ruin of these towns, which were razed to the ground by the Eleians. (Paus. vi. 22. § 3, seq.) From this time Pisa disappears from history; and so complete was its destruction that the fact of its ever having existed was disputed in later times. (Strab. viii. p. 356.) After the destruction of these cities we read of no further attempt at revolt till the time of the Peloponnesian War. The Eleians now enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity.
  The Eleians remained faithful allies of Sparta in the Peloponnesian War down to the peace of Nicias, B.C. 421; but in this year a serious quarrel arose between them. It was a settled policy of the Spartans to prevent the growth of any power in Peloponnesus, which might prove formidable to themselves; and accordingly they were always ready to support the independence of the smaller states in the peninsula [p. 819] against the-greater. Accordingly, when Lepreum in Triphylia revolted from the Eleians and craved the assistance of the Spartans, the latter not only recognised its independence, but sent an armed force to protect it. The Eleians in consequence renounced the alliance of Sparta, and formed a new league with Argos, Corinth, and Mantineia. (Thuc. v. 31.) The following year (B.C. 420) was the period for the celebration of the Olympic festival; and the Eleians, under the pretext that the Spartans had sent some additional troops to Lepreum after the proclamation of the Sacred Truce, fined the Spartans 2000 minae, and, upon their refusing to pay the fine, excluded them from the festival. (Thuc. v. 49, 50.) The Eleians fought with the other allies against the Spartans at the battle of Mantineia (B.C. 418); and though the victory of the Spartans broke up this league, the ill-feeling between Elis and Sparta still continued. Accordingly, when the fall of Athens gave the Spartans the undisputed supremacy of Greece, they resolved to take vengeance upon the Eleians. They required them to renounce their authority over their dependent towns, and to pay up the arrears due from them as Spartan allies for carrying on the war against Athens. Upon their refusal to comply with these demands, king Agis invaded their territory (B.C. 402). The war lasted nearly three years; and the Eleians were at length compelled to purchase peace by relinquishing their authority not only over the Triphylian towns, but also over Lasion, which was claimed by the Arcadians, and over the other towns of the hilly district of Acroreia (B.C. 400). They also had to surrender their harbour of Cyllene with their ships of war. (Xen. Hell. iii. 2. 21-30; Diod. xiv. 34; Paus. iii. 8. § 3, seq.) By this treaty the Eleians were in reality stripped of all their political power; and the Pisatans availed themselves of their weakness to beg the Lacedaemonians to grant to them the management of the Olympic festival; but as they were now only villagers, and would probably have been unable to conduct the festival with becoming splendour, the Spartans refused their request, and left the presidency in the hands of the Eleians. (Xen. Hell. iii. 2. 30)
  Soon after the battle of Leuctra (B.C. 371), by which the Spartan power had been destroyed, the Eleians attempted to regain their supremacy over the Triphylian towns; but the latter, pleading their Arcadian origin, sought to be admitted into the Arcadian confederacy, which had been recently organised by Epaminondas. The Arcadians complied with their request (B.C. 368), much to the displeasure of the Eleians, who became in consequence bitter enemies of the Arcadians. (Xen. Hell. vi. 5. 2, vii. 1. § 26.) In order to recover their lost dominions the Eleians entered into alliance with the Spartans, who were equally anxious to gain possession of Messenia. In B.C. 366 hostilities commenced between the Eleians and Arcadians. The Eleians seized by force Lasion and the other towns in the Acroreia, which also formed part of the Arcadian confederacy, and of which they themselves had been deprived by the Spartans in B.C. 400, as already related. But the Arcadians not only recovered these towns almost immediately afterwards, but established a garrison on the hill of Cronion at Olympia, and advancing against the town of Elis, which was unfortified, nearly made themselves masters of the place. The democratical party in the city rose against the ruling oligarchy, and seized the acropolis: but they were overcome, and fled from the city. Thereupon, assisted by the Arcadians, they seized Pylus, a place on the Peneius, at the distance of about 9 miles from Elis, and there established themselves with a view of carrying, on hostilities against the ruling party in the city. (Xen. Hell. vii. 4. 13-18; Diod. xv. 77.) In the following year (B.C. 365) the Arcadians again invaded Elis, and being attacked by the Eleians between their city and Cyllene, gained a victory over them. The Eleians, in distress, applied to the Spartans, who created a diversion in their favour by invading the south-western part of Arcadia. The Arcadians in Elis now returned home in order to defend their own country; whereupon the Eleians recovered Pylus, and put to death all of the democratical party whom they found there. (Xen. Hell. vi. 4. 19-26.) In the next year (B.C. 364) the 104th celebration of the Olympic festival occurred. The Arcadians, who had now expelled the Spartans from their country, and who had meantime retained their garrison at Olympia, resolved to restore the presidency of the festival to the Pisatans, and to celebrate it in conjunction with the latter. The Eleians, however, did not tamely submit to this exclusion, and, while the games were going on, marched with an armed force into the consecrated ground. Here a battle was fought; and though the Eleians showed great bravery, they were finally driven back by the Arcadians. The Eleians subsequently took revenge by striking out of the register this Olympiad, as well as the 8th and 34th, as not entitled to be regarded as Olympiads. (Xen. Hell. vii. 4. 28-32; Diod. xv. 78.) The Arcadians now seized the treasures in the temples at Olympia; but this act of sacrilege was received with so much reprobation by several of the Arcadian towns, and especially by Mantineia, that the Arcadian assembly not only denounced the crime, but even concluded a peace with the Eleians, and restored to them Olympia and the presidency of the festival (B.C. 362). (Xen. Hell. vii. 4. 33, 34.)
  Pausanias relates that when Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, obtained the supremacy in Greece, the Eleians, who had suffered much from civil dissensions, joined the Macedonian alliance, but at the same time would not fight against the Athenians and Thebans at the battle of Chaeroneia. After the death of Alexander the Great, they renounced the Macedonian alliance, and fought along with the other Greeks against Antipater, in the Lamian War. (Paus. v. 4. § 9.) In B.C. 312 Telesphorus, one of the generals of Antigonus, seized Elis and fortified the citadel, with the view of establishing an independent principality in the Peloponnesus; but the town was shortly afterwards recovered by Ptolemaeus, the principal general of Antigonus in Greece, who razed the new fortifications. (Diod. xix. 87.)
  The Eleians subsequently formed a close alliance with their kinsmen the Aetolians, and became members of the Aetolic League, of which they were the firmest supporters in the Peloponnesus. They always steadily refused to renounce this alliance and join the Achaeans, and their country was in consequence frequently ravaged by the latter. (Polyb. iv. 5, 9, 59, seq.) The Triphylians, who exhibit throughout their entire history a rooted repugnance to the Eleian supremacy, joined the Achaeans as a matter of course. (Comp. Liv. xxxiii. 34.) The Eleians are not mentioned in the final war between the Romans and the Achaean League; but after the capture of Corinth, their country, together with the rest of Peloponnesus, became subject to Rome. The Olympic games, however, still secured to the Eleians a measure of prosperity; and, in consequence of them, the emperor Julian exempted the whole country from the payment of taxes. (Julian, Ep. 35.) In A.D. 394 the festival was abolished by Theodosius, and two years afterwards the country was laid waste with fire and sword by Alaric.
  In the middle ages Elis again became a country of some importance. The French knights at Patras invaded the valley of the Peneius, where they established themselves with hardly any resistance. Like Oxylus and his Aetolian followers, William of Champlitte took up his residence at Andrabida, in a fertile district on the right bank of the Peneius. Gottfried of Villehardouin built Glarenza, which became the most important sea-port upon the western coast of Greece; under his successors Castro Tornese was built as the citadel of Glarenza. Gastuni and Santameri were also founded about the same period. Elis afterwards passed into the hands of the Venetians, under whom it continued to flourish, and who gave to the western province of the Morea the name of Belvedere, from the citadel of Elis. It was owing to the fertility of the plain of the Peneius that the Venetians called the province of Belvedere the milk-cow of the Morea. But the country has now lost all its former prosperity. Pyrgos is the only place of any importance; and in consequence of the malaria, the coast is becoming almost uninhabited. (Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. ii. p. 16, seq.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Participation in the fights of the Greeks

Battle of Plataea


Boeotia, Arkadia & Elis (ca. 371 BC)

(...) On the other hand, after the disaster at Leuctra, when his adversaries in league with the Mantineans were murdering his friends and acquaintances in Tegea, and a coalition of all Boeotia, Arcadia and Elis had been formed, he (Agis) took the field with the Lacedaemonian forces only, thus disappointing the general expectation that the Lacedaemonians would not even go outside their own borders for a long time to come.

Catastrophes of the place

By the Athenians during the Peloponnesean war

The Athenians at once weighed anchor and continued their cruise. Touching at Pheia in Elis, they ravaged the country for two days and defeated a picked force of three hundred men that had come from the vale of Elis and the immediate neighborhood to the rescue.


Eleans' wars

  The Eleans played their part in the Trojan war, and also in the battles of the Persian invasion of Greece. I pass over their struggles with the Pisans and Arcadians for the management of the Olympian games. Against their will they joined the Lacedaemonians in their invasion of Athenian territory, and shortly afterwards they rose up with the Mantineans and Argives against the Lacedaemonians, inducing Athens too to join the alliance (420 BC)
  When Agis invaded the land, and Xenias turned traitor, the Eleans won a battle near Olympia, routed the Lacedaemonians and drove them out of the sacred enclosure; but shortly afterwards the war was concluded by the treaty I have already spoken of in my account of the Lacedaemonians (401-399 BC) (see Paus. 3.8)
  When Philip the son of Amyntas would not let Greece alone, the Eleans, weakened by civil strife, joined the Macedonian alliance, but they could not bring themselves to fight against the Greeks at Chaeroneia. They joined Philip's attack on the Lacedaemonians because of their old hatred of that people, but on the death of Alexander they fought on the side of the Greeks against Antipater and the Macedonians
  Later on Aristotimus, the son of Damaretus, the son of Etymon, became despot of Elis, being aided in his attempt by Antigonus, the son of Demetrius, who was king in Macedonia. After a despotism of six months Aristotimus was deposed, a rising against him having been organized by Chilon, Hellanicus, Lampis and Cylon; Cylon it was who with his own hand killed the despot when he had sought sanctuary at the altar of Zeus the Saviour.
Such were the wars of the Eleans, of which my present enumeration must serve as a summary.(Paus. 5.4.7-5.5.1)

This extract is from: Pausanias. Description of Greece (ed. W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., & H.A. Ormerod, 1918). Cited November 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.


War against Arcadians

  At the foot of Mount Cronius, on the north...(at Olympia), between the treasuries and the mountain, is a sanctuary of Eileithyia, and in it Sosipolis, a native Elean deity, is worshipped. Now they surname Eileithyia Olympian, and choose a priestess for the goddess every year. The old woman who tends Sosipolis herself too by an Elean custom lives in chastity, bringing water for the god's bath and setting before him barley cakes kneaded with honey.
  In the front part of the temple, for it is built in two parts, is an altar of Eileithyia and an entrance for the public; in the inner Part Sosipolis is worshipped, and no one may enter it except the woman who tends the god, and she must wrap her head and face in a white veil. Maidens and matrons wait in the sanctuary of Eileithyia chanting a hymn; they burn all manner of incense to the god, but it is not the custom to pour libations of wine. An oath is taken by Sosipolis on the most important occasions
  The story is that when the Arcadians had invaded the land of Elis, and the Eleans were set in array against them, a woman came to the Elean generals, holding a baby to her breast, who said that she was the mother of the child but that she gave him, because of dreams, to fight for the Eleans. The Elean officers believed that the woman was to be trusted, and placed the child before the army naked.
  When the Arcadians came on, the child turned at once into a snake. Thrown into disorder at the sight, the Arcadians turned and fled, and were attacked by the Eleans, who won a very famous victory, and so call the god Sosipolis. On the spot where after the battle the snake seemed to them to go into the ground they made the sanctuary. With him the Eleans resolved to worship Eileithyia also, because this goddess to help them brought her son forth unto men.
  The tomb of the Arcadians who were killed in the battle is (at Olympia) on the hill across the Cladeus to the west. Near to the sanctuary of Eileithyia are the remains of the sanctuary of Heavenly Aphrodite, and there too they sacrifice upon the altars. (Paus. 6.20.2-6)

This extract is from: Pausanias. Description of Greece (ed. W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., & H.A. Ormerod, 1918). Cited November 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.

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