1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Elis (city)

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ELIS, the chief city of the ancient Greek district of Elis, was situated on the river Peneus, just where it passes from the mountainous district of Acrorea into the champaign below. According to native tradition, it was originally founded by Oxylus, the leader of the Aetolians, whose statue stood in the market-place. In 471 B.C. it received a great extension by the incorporation (synoecism) of various small hamlets, whose inhabitants took up their abode in the city. Up to this date it only occupied the ridge of the hill now called Kalaskopi, to the south of the Peneus, but afterwards it spread out in several suburbs, and even to the other side of the stream. As all the athletes who intended to take part in the Olympic games were obliged to undergo a month’s training in the city, its gymnasiums were among its principal institutions. They were three in number—the “Xystos,” with its avenues of plane-trees, its plethrion or wrestling-place, its altars to Heracles, to Eros and Anteros, to Demeter and Kore (Cora), and its cenotaph of Achilles; the “Tetragonon,” appropriated to boxing exercises; and the “Maltho,” in the interior of which was a hall or council chamber called Lalichmion after its founder. The market-place was of the old-fashioned type, with porticoes at intervals and paths leading between them. It was called the Hippodrome because it was commonly used for exercising horses. Among the other objects of interest were the temple of Artemis Philomirax; the Hellanodicaeon, or office of the Hellanodicae; the Corcyrean Hall, a building in the Dorian style with two façades, built of spoils from Corcyra; a temple of Apollo Acesius; a temple of Silenus; an ancient structure supported on oaken pillars and reputed to be the burial-place of Oxylus; the building where the sixteen women of Elis were wont to weave a robe for the statue of Hera at Olympia; the temple of Aphrodite, with a statue of the goddess by Pheidias as Urania with a tortoise beneath her foot, and by Scopas as Pandemos, riding on a goat; and the shrine of Dionysus, whose festival, the Thyia, was yearly celebrated in the neighbourhood. On the acropolis was a temple of Athena, with a gold and ivory statue by Pheidias. The history of the town is closely identified with that of the country. In 399 B.C. it was occupied by Agis, king of Sparta. The acropolis was fortified in 312 by Telesphorus, the admiral of Antigonus, but it was shortly afterwards dismantled by Philemon, another of his generals. A view of the site is given by Stanhope. It is now called Palaeopolis. No traces of any buildings can be identified, the only remains visible dating from Roman times.

See Pausanias vi. 23-26; J. Spencer Stanhope, Olympia and Elis (1824), folio; W. M. Leake, Morea (1830); E. Curtius, Peloponnesus (1851–1852); Schiller, Stämme und Staaten Griechenlands; C. Bursian, Geographie von Griechenland (1868–1872); P. Gardner, “The Coins of Elis,” in Num. Chr. (1879).  (E. Gr.)