ILIS (Ancient city) ILIA - Greek Travel Pages

ILIS, Ancient city, ILIA


  The city-state of Elis developed in the northwest Peloponnese, far away from the major urban centres of the rest of Greece, and played only a limited role in the military and political events of the ancient Hellenic world. Neverthless, it remained centre-stage for hundreds of years, as quardian of the panhellenic Sanctuary of Olympia, responsible for the irreproachable preparation and organization of the Olympic Games.
  Evidence from excavations to date shows that Elis was settled, albeit as a small farming village, from the Early Helladic period (c.2800-2000 BC). In Mycenaean times (c. 1600-1100 BC) it was one of the four most important town in the region and its ingabitants, who are referred to as Epeians in the Iliad, took part in the Trojan War under the leadership of Polyxenus.
  The city of Elis was founded by Oxylus, who came from Aetolia in the 12th century BC, with the socalled Descent of the Dorians, and united all the scattered townships. Ancient tradition has nowadays been confirmed by the rich finds of the Submycenaean, Protogeometric and Geometric periods (c. 1100-700 BC) recovered from the region.
  Oxylus founded the Olympic Games when he incorporated the Sanctuary of Olympia in the city-state of Elis. The games were reorganized in the 8th century BC by his descendant King Iphitus, who signed a treaty with the kings Lycurgus of Sparta and Cleisthenes of Pisa. Under the terms of the 'Sacred Truce' the entire region of Elis was declared sacred, thus guaranteeing peace and the success of the games. In 776 BC, when the first Olympiad was held, the Eleians assumed supervision of the Sanctuary of Olympia. They forfeited this privilege to the Pisans in 668 BC but regained it, with the help of the Spartans in 580 BC.
  Henceforth the city enjoyed a great heyday, which lasted until the end of the 5th century BC. Political and other public issues were of little interest to Elis, whose chief concern was the organization of the Olympiads. The games were quinquennial, that is they were held at the end of a four-year period, most probably in mid-July. To comply with the rules, the competing athletes were obliged to come to Elis for training one month before the games commenced. They were accompanied by friends and relatives, resulting in the influx to the city of choice foreigners from the mainland and islands of Greece, as well as from the prosperous colonies in Asia Minor and Pontos, Magna Graecia and Africa.
  The importance that the Eleians attached to the organization of the Olympiads is reflected in the picture of the city's agora. The traveller Pausanias, who visited Elis in the 2nd century AD, describes gymnasia, a palaestra, stoas, temples, sanctuaries and temene (sacred precincts) but no building associated with civic life. These edifices were adorned with a host of statues and sculptures by famous artists fo antiquity. Pausanias mentions, among other monuments, the temple of Aphrodite Urania (Heavenly), with its chryselephantine statue of the goddess, a work by Pheidias; the open-air temenos of Aphrodite Pandemos (of the people), which housed a renowned bronze statue of the goddess, a work by Scopas; the temple and statue of Apollo Acesius (Healer); the temple of the Graces with the acrolithic statues of them; the temple of Silenus and the sculptural group of the god with Methe (Drunkeness).
  At its zenith the Eleian state comprised four districts: Coele (Hollow) Elis - the fertile plain where the capital of the Eleians developed -, Acroreia, Pisatis and Triphylia. The people lived in an atmosphere of peace, prosperity and lawfulness. The rich soil of the region and the mild climate favoured the development of agriculture and animal husbandry. Indeed he names Elis and Eleians (ancient Falis and Faleioi) denote the valley and the valley-dwellers respectively.
  In recent years excavations have revealed 120 settlements, while surveys have located another 200 or so sites. Most of these were probably small villages or isolated farmsteads. Only the capital, Elis, developed into a thriving urban centre. After the establishment of the democratic body politic and its second synoecism in particular (471 BC), it was reinforced considerably and became one of the largest and most populous cities in the Peloponnese. It occupied the area between the present villages of Paliopolis (or Nea Elis) in the southeast, Bouchioti (or Avgeion) in the southwest and Kalyvia in the west. The ancient acropolis was on Ayannis hill.
  Women played a significant role in the management of public affairs in Elis. According o Pausanias, there was a council of sixteen wise Eleian women, which had to its credit the reconcilation of Pisa and Elis, as well as the institution of the Heraean Games. These were panhellenic foot races for girls, held in honour of the goddess Hera and organized every four years, like the Olympics but on different dates.
  By the late 6th century BC Elis was minting its own coinage, which during the period of its peak rivalled that of other Greek cities in art and execution. There were also local pottery workshops and foundries for casting bronze statues, whose products had a very distinctive character.
  The flourishing of the Eleian state was largely due to its long-standing alliance with Spata, which was dissolved during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). In the 4th century BC the first signs of its imminent decline and the vicissitudes of the Eleians appeared. In 191 BC they joined the Archaean Confederacy, while in 146 BC they were subjugated by the Romas, becoming part of the Roman province ar Achaea. During the period of Roman rule (27 BC - AD 250) the city of Elis expanded even more. Villas and thermae, which were particularly popular among the Romans, were built, some of them upon the ruins of Classical edifices.
  In Late Roman and Early Christian times (3rd - 5th century AD) habitation was confined to just one sector of the city, while in other part a large cemetary was founded, perhaps after the destruction by the Herulians in AD 267. Decadence came when the Emperor of Byzantium Theodosius I banned the Olympic Games, in AD 393, and life in the Sanctuary of Olympia ceased. The earthquake that struck the region in the 6th century AD dealt the final blow to the Eleian state.

Xeni Arapoyanni, ed.
Translation by: Alexandra Doumas
Cited Sep 2002, from the Municipality of Amaliada information pamphlet
Xeni Arapoyanni, ed.
Translation by: Alexandra Doumas
This text is cited Sep 2002 , from the information pamphlet of Amaliada Municipality

ILIS Photo gallery

Displaying 10 out of 11 total images found for ILIS. View all.

Find within ILIS

Related Destinations
Hotels & Accommodation

Geographical Data

Type of location: Archaeological site, Acropolis, Ancient theatre
Postal Code: 27300
Postal Code: 27300
Tel +30 26220
Longitude: 21o 22' 30" E
Latitude: 37o 53' 30" N
Belonged to:
ILIA Ancient country, GREECE
Was located:
on the banks of: PINIOS River, ILIA , GREECE

GTP Headlines

Receive our daily Newsletter with all the latest updates on the Greek Travel industry.

Subscribe now!

Ferry Departures