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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Elis. The position of the city of Elis was the best that could have been
chosen for the capital of the country. Just before the Peneius emerges from the
hills into the plain, the valley of the river is contracted on the south by a
projecting hill of a peaked form, and nearly 500 feet in height. This hill was
the acropolis of Elis, and commanded as well the narrow valley of the Peneius
as the open plain beyond. It is now called Kaloskopi, which the Venetians translated
into Belvedere. The ancient city lay at the foot of the hill, and extended across
the river, as Strabo says that the Peneius flowed through the city (viii. p. 337);
but since no remains are now found on the right or northern bank, it is probable
that all the public buildings were on the left bank of the river, more especially
as Pausanias does not make any allusion to the river in his description of the
city. On the site of the ancient city there are two or three small villages, which
bear the common name of Paleopoli.
Elis is mentioned as a town of the Epeii by Homer (Il. ii. 615); but
in the earliest times the two chief towns in the country appear to have been Ephyra
the residence of Augeias, in the interior, and Buprasium on the coast. Some writers
suppose that Ephyra was the more ancient name of Elis, but it appears to have
been a different place, situated upon the Ladon. Elis first became a place of
importance upon the invasion of Peloponnesus by the Dorians. Oxylus and his Aetolian
followers appear to have settled on the height of Kaloskopi as the spot best adapted
for ruling the country. From this time it was the residence of the kings, and
of the aristocratical families who governed the country after the abolition of
royalty. Elis was the only fortified town in the country; the rest of the inhabitants
dwelt in unwalled villages, paying obedience to the ruling class at Elis.
Soon after the Persian wars the exclusive privileges of the aristocratical
families in Elis were abolished, and a democratical government established. Along
with this revolution a great change took place in the city of Elis. The city appears
to have been originally confined to the acropolis; but the inhabitants of many
separate townships, eight according to Strabo, now removed to the capital, and
built round the acropolis a new city, which they left undefended by walls, relying
upon the sanctity of their country. (Diod. xi. 54; Strab. viii. p. 336; Xen. Hell.
iii. 2. 27) At the same time the Eleians were divided into a certain number of
local tribes; or if the latter existed before, they now acquired for the first
time political rights. The Hellanodicae, or presidents of the Olympic games, who
had formerly been taken from the aristocratical families, were now appointed,
by lot, one from each of the local tribes; and the fluctuating number of the Hellanodicae
shows the increase and decrease from time to time of the Eleian territory. It
is probable that each of the three districts into which Elis was divided, - Hollow
Elis, Pisatis, and Triphylia, - contained four tribes. This is in accordance with
the fourfold ancient division of Hollow Elis, and with the twice four townships
in the Pisatis. Pausanias in his account of the number of the Hellanodicae says
that there were 12 Hellanodicae in Ol. 103, which was immediately after the battle
of Leuctra, when the Eleians recovered for a short time their ancient dominions,
but that being shortly afterwards deprived of Triphylia by the Arcadians, the
number of their tribes was reduced to eight. (Paus. v. 9. § § 5, 6.)
When Pausanias visited Elis, it was one of the most populous and splendid
cities of Greece. At present nothing of it remains except some masses of tile
and mortar, several wrought blocks of stone and fragments of sculpture, and a
square building about 20 feet on the outside, which within is in the form of an
octagon with niches. With such scanty remains it would be impossible to attempt
any reconstruction of the city, and to assign to particular sites the buildings
mentioned by Pausanias (vi. 23 - 26).
Strabo says (viii. p. 337) that the gymnasium stood on the side of
the river Peneius; and it is probable that the gymnasium and agora occupied the
greater part of the space between the river and the citadel. The gymnasium was
a vast inclosure surrounded by a wall. It was by far the largest gymnasium in
Greece, which is accounted for by the fact that all the athletae in the Olympic
games were obliged to undergo a month's previous training in the gymnasium at
Elis. The inclosure bore the general name of Xystus, and within it there were
special places destined for the runners, and separated from one another by plane-trees.
The gymnasium contained three subdivisions, called respectively Plethrium, Tetragonum,
and Malco: the first so called from its dimensions, the second from its shape,
and the third from the softness of the soil. In their Malco was the senate-house
of the Eleians, called Lalichium from the name of its founders: it was also used
for literary exhibitions.
The gymnasium had two principal entrances, one leading by the street
called Siope or Silence to the baths, and the other above the cenotaph of Achilles
to the agora and the Hellanodicaeum. The agora was also called the hippodrome,
because it was used for the exercise of horses. It was built in the ancient style,
and, instead of being surrounded by an. unin terrupted, series of stoae or colonnades,
its stoae were separated, from one another by streets. The southern stoa, which
consisted of a triple row of Doric columns, was the usual resort of the Hellanodicae
during the day. Towards one end of this stoa to the left was the Hellanodicaeon,
a building divided from. the agora by a street, which was the official residence
of the Hellanodicae, who received here instruction in their duties for ten months
preceding the.festival. There was another stoa in the agora called the Corcyraean
stoa, because it had been built out of the tenth of some spoils taken from the
Cor. cyraeans. It consisted of two rows of Doric columns, with a partition wall
running between them: one side was open to the agora, and the other to a temple
of Aphrodite Urania, in which was a statue of the goddess in gold and ivory by
Pheidias. In the open part of the agora Pausanias mentions the temple of Apollo
Acacesius, which was the principal temple in Elis, statues of Helios and Selene
(Sun and Moon), a temple of the Graces, a temple of Silenus, and the tomb of Oxylus.
On the way to the theatre was the temple of Hades, which was opened only once
in the year.
The theatre must have been on the slope of the acropolis: it is described
by Pausanias as lying between the agora and the Menius, which, if the name is
not corrupt, must be the brook flowing down from the heights behind Paleopoli.
Near the theatre was a temple of Dionysus, containing a statue of this god by
On the acropolis was a temple of Athena, containing a statue of the
goddess in gold and ivory by Pheidias. On the summit of the acropolis are the
remains of a castle, in the walls of which Curtius noticed some fragments of Doric
columns which probably belonged to the temple of Athena.
In the immediate neighbourhood of Elis was Petra, where the tomb of
the philosopher Pyrrhon was shown. (Paus. vi. 24. § 5.)
This extract 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
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)
Amaliada (ancient: Amalias) is a city in the western Peloponnese,
in Greece. It has 32,090 citizens (of which about 10,000 live in the city and
the rest live within Amalias). It is near the archealogical site of ancient Elis,
which was the city that held the ancient Olympic Games. It is situated on the
valley of Ilia Prefecture
and almost directly south of the Peneus
river, 80 km from Patras,
7 km form Savalia, 5 km from
Kourouta, 28 km from Pyrgos,
291 km from Athens and 5 km
from the Ionian sea. It is
ranked the second largest city in Ilia. It is the westernmost city in the Peloponnese.
It features a city square with beautiful pine trees and a fountain.
Local streets are mainly in grid order, almost running north to south and east
to west. A lake is situated in Amaliada's east side, along with a public stadium
where mainly soccer is played. Amaliada has a hospital in its southeast part and
a monastery named Agia
Frangavilla to its southeast. Amaliada has one train station (located west
of the city square) and two in the municipality.
A street in Amaliada's west side named Hiroshima is mainly dedicated
to the memory of the victims of the Hiroshima bombing before the end of World
War II. Further west are Amaliada's closest beaches of Kourouta and Palouki.
This text is cited December 2004 from the West Greece Region General Secretariat URL below, which contains image.
Perseus Encyclopedia Site Text
- Elis: Perseus Encyclopedia
Perseus Project index
- Elis: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
The city lies in the NW part of the region, in the middle of the E
Peneios plain, where the river emerges from the mountainous interior into the
plain, between the modern villages of Paliopolis and Kalyvia. In the NE section
of the city rises the hill Kaloskopi (mediaeval Belvedere) or Paliopyrgos (400
m), where the ancient acropolis was. The site was inhabited from at least as early
as the Early Helladic period and from then on through to the end of the Byzantine
period. According to some ancient philological sources, Elis in the Mycenaean
period was one of the four or five most notable towns in the realm of the Epeioi
(Il. 2.615f, 11.671f; Od. 4.635) and controlled only the area around the city.
Excavation of the site was undertaken in 1910-14, and has continued since 1960.
In the Early Helladic to Geometric period, judging by the extent of
the finds and the numerous tombs of this period, the settlement was located on
the peak of the acropolis and on its NW slope toward the Peneios, where the theater
was later placed. In the archaic period the city was extended to the SW. At that
time the Temple of Athena was probably erected on the acropolis (Paus. 6.26.2).
Numerous painted terracotta simas and stone architectural fragments indicate the
existence at that time of many monumental structures.
In the Classical and Hellenistic period the city area was extended
to surround the acropolis over an area bounded by Paliopolis to the S, the village
of Kalyvia to the W, and as far as the outskirts of the village of Bouchioti and
the banks of the Peneios. Part of the city extended to the right bank opposite.
The principal necropolis of this period was discovered SW of Kalyvia. Another
was found at the NW foot of the acropolis. The city, or at least the acropolis,
was fortified at the end of the 5th c. B.C. (Paus. 3.8.5). In 313 B.C. Telesphoros,
the general of Antigonos, refortified the acropolis (Diod. 19.74.2, 87). At its
N foot a substantial section of this wall was uncovered, and other remains of
the ancient wall have been found on the W slope. In this period were constructed
numerous civic buildings, as well as temples and shrines in the agora and the
area around, where they stood quite close together (Paus. 6.23. lf). Some of these
have been uncovered and identified by the excavations to date: the agora, including
a part of the stoa of the Hellanodikai which is Doric, with a triple colonnade,
the Hellanodikaion which is a small rectangular building to the N of the stoa,
two gymnasia and the palaestra in the W section, and in the S section of the agora
the Korkyraion or South Stoa, which is a double stoa in the Doric style. The whole
theater has been uncovered to the N of the agora. Its first phase dates to the
4th c. B.C., with alterations in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Other buildings
which Pausanias saw, but which have not yet been located, are: the Temple of Aphrodite
with a chryselephantine statue of the goddess by Phidias, the Temenos of Aphrodite
Pandemos with a statue of her with a goat by Skopas, the Temple of Hades, the
Sanctuary of Artemis Philomeirax, the Cenotaph of Achilles, the Temple of Tyche
and Sosipolis, the Temple of Silenos, etc.
In the Roman period the city extended to the E, S, and W. In the S
and W parts of the agora several new villas and baths were constructed, many on
the foundations of older, Classical buildings. These buildings are close to each
other, with rather narrow roads between and a complete water and drainage system.
In the Late Roman and Early Christian periods only a part of the city was inhabited,
while other sections, such as the agora and the area around it, were transformed
into a large cemetery, apparently after a major destruction of the city, possibly
by the Herulians (A.D. 267).
In the Byzantine period some settlement remained as indicated by an
Early Christian basilica with noteworthy mosaics which was built over the South
Stoa, and by numerous Christian graves in various parts of the ancient city. In
the Frankish period the kastro (castle) was built on the acropolis with material
from ancient buildings.
Elis: the state
The first organization of Elis into a city-state probably came about
after the Dorian invasion, according to ancient tradition under Oxylos, who at
the head of the Aitolo-Dorian tribes created the first synoecism in Elis (Ephor.
frg. 29; Strab. 463f; Paus. 5.4.1-4). After Oxylos, the name of the settlers remained
Eleians. In the 11-10th c. B.C. the state of Elis spread into the plain of the
Peneios, so-called Koile-Elis (Hollow Elis). Shortly afterwards Elis annexed neighboring
Akroreia and part of Pisa with the sanctuary of Olympia, and thereafter took over
direction of the Olympic Games. From the 26th Olympiad (676 B.C.) and throughout
the 7th c. it appears the Pisans with the help of powerful allies (Pheidon of
Argos and the Dymaians) recovered their independence and with it the management
of the Olympian sanctuary. But after the second Messenian war Elis, with Sparta
as an ally, recovered Pisa and the sanctuary (580 B.C.). After that Elis must
have annexed a part of Triphylia (Paus. 5.6.4, 6.22.4). From then to the late
Hellenistic period the boundaries of Elis appear at times as the river Neda to
the S (the boundary of Messenia), the foothills of Erymanthos and the river of
the same name to the E (the boundary of Arkadia) and the Larisos river to the
N (the boundary of Achaia). To the N and NE the boundary was the Ionian Sea. In
570 B.C. the state was reorganized and the oligarchic ruling body which had now
become more moderate, took on more members (the kingship had been abolished early,
possibly at the beginning of the 8th c.). The city of Elis was the main political
and religious center, but nevertheless the demes appear to have retained considerable
self-govemment. The peaceful existence which Elis led thereafter, its neutrality
in the quarrels of the other Greek states, the truce and the designation of the
country as sacred ground, were the cause of her prosperity and good laws (Paus.
4.28.4, 5.6.2; Polyb. 4.73.6f; Ephor. frg. 15, in Strab. 8.358, see also 8.333).
Elis took no active part in the Persian wars and participated only in the fortification
of the Isthmus in 480 B.C. (Hdt. 8.72, 9.77). In 471 B.C. a new synoecism was
achieved in Elis (Diod. 11.54; Strab. 8.336; Paus. 5.9.5), which thereafter continued
as one of the largest cities of the Peloponnesos. Under pressure of the period's
democratic tendencies the oligarchs made considerable concessions, and by degrees
lost their absolute authority to a popular government. The life of the country
was now directed entirely from Elis, with its council (boule) and assembly (demos)
and the higher officers who were elected from among all the free citizens. In
the Peloponnesian War Elis abandoned her former neutrality and the Sacred Life
she had led up to that time (Polyb. 4.73.9f) and allied herself first with Sparta,
then Athens, and later with other cities. The subsequent involvement of Elis in
the collisions of the Greek world cost her dear by invasions and plundering of
her territory and repeated fluctuations of her boundaries. In 191 B.C. the incorporation
of Elis in the Achaian League put an end to her independent political life. In
146 B.C., after the surrender of Greece to Rome, Elis was included in the Provincia
The territory of Elis was one of the most thickly settled areas in
Greece. Finds of the last decade throughout the Eleian land (Hollow Elis, Akroreia,
Pisatis, Triphylia) have brought 120 settlements to light, and surface finds have
allowed the location of 160 more sites. Nevertheless, most of these settlements
and sites, which date from the Paleolithic to the Byzantine period with no break,
must have belonged to small villages, hamlets, or isolated farms since Strabo
tells us (8.336) that the land was settled in a pattern of small villages. But
even the small settlements of the Eleia (ancient sources tell us of 49 together
with the sanctuaries) were wealthy communities although the only urban center
was the capital, Elis. This was due to the self-sufficiency of a country rich
in rivers and springs (annual rainfall 90-110 cm) and blessed with a mild climate
(temperature extremes 10°-11° C.), which pushed the Eleians into a life of agriculture
and herding rather than one of craftsmanship and trade (Polyb. 4.73.7f).
N. Yalouris, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains 4 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.