Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Elis
ELIS, or Eleia, a country of the Peloponnesus, bounded on the N. by Achaia, E. by Arcadia, S. by Messenia, and \V. by the Ionian Sea. The local form of the name was Valis, or Valeia, and its meaning, in all probability, the lowland. In its physical constitution Elis is practically one with Achaia and Arcadia,- its mountains are mere offshoots of the Arcadian highlands, and its principal rivers are fed by Arcadian springs. From Erymanthus in the north, Skollis (now known as Mavri and Santameri in different parts of its length) stretches toward the west, and Pholoe along the eastern frontier , in the south 8. prolonga- tion of Mount Lyewon bore in ancient times the names of Minthe and Lapithus, which have given place respectively to Alvena and to Kaiapha and Smerna. These mountains are well clothed with vegetation, and present a soft and pleasing appearance in contrast to the picturesque wildness of the parent ranges. They gradually sink towards the east and die off into what was one of the richest alluvial tracts in the I’eloponnesus. Except where it is broken by the rocky promontories of Chleonatas (now Chlemutzi) and Ichthys (now Katakolo), the coast lies low, with stretches of sand in the north and lagoons and marshes towards the south. During the summer months communication with the sea being established by means of canals, these lagoons yield a rich harvest of ﬁsh to the inhabitants, who at the same time, however, are almost driven from the coast by the swarms of gnats.
Elis xor’Ar; ’Hkte), Pisatis, or the territory of Pisa, and Triphylia, or the country of the three tribes. Hollow Elis, the largest and most northern of the three, was watered by the I’eneus and its tributary the Ladon, whose united stream forms the modern Gastuni. It included not only the ehampaign country originally designated by its name, but also the mountainous region of Acrorea, occupied by the offshoots of Erymanthus. lesides the capital city of Elis, it contained Cyllene, an Arcadian settlement on the sea coast, whose inhabitants worshipped Hermes under the phallic symbol, l’ylus at the junction of the I’eneus and the Laden, which, like so many other places of the same name, claimed to be the city of Nestor, and the fortiﬁed frontier town of Lasion, the ruins of which are still visible at Kuti, near the village of Kumani. The district was famous in antiquity for its cattle and horses ; and its byssus, supposed to have been introduced by the l'hoenicians, was inferior only to that of Palestine. l’isatis extended south from llollow Elis to the right bank of the Alpheus, and was divided into eight departments called after as many towns. Of these Salmone, lleraclea, Cicysion, Dyspontium, and Ifarpina are known,—_the last being the reputed burial—place of Marmax, the dehverer of Jlippodamia. From the time of the early investigators It has been disputed whether Pisa, which gave its name to the district, has ever been a city, or was only a fountain or a hill. By far the most important spot in Pisatis was the scene of the great Olympic games, on the northern bank of the Alpheus: but for details in regard to the locality, and the results of the explorations commenced in 1875, the reader must be referred to the special article Olympia. Triphylia stretches south from the Alpheus to the Neda, which forms the boundary towards Messenia. Of the nine towns mentioned by Polybius, only two attained to any considerable inﬂuence—— Lepreus and Macistus, which gave the names of Lepreatis and Macistia to the southern and northern halves of Triphylia. The former was the seat of a strongly in- dependent population, and Continued to take every opportunity of resisting the supremacy of the Eleans. In the time of Pausanius it was in a very decadent condition, and possessed only a poor brick-built temple of Demeter ; but considerable remains of its outer walls are still in existence near the village of Strovitzi, on a part of theMinthe range.
The original inhabitants of Elis were called Caucones and l’aroreatae. From traces of the worship of Venus in the city of Elis. and from the presence of such names as Same and lardanus, it is believed that the I’hcenieians had settlements in the country at a very remote period. The inhabitants of Elis ﬁrst appear in Grecian history under the title of Epeans, as setting out for the Trojan war, and they are described by Homer as living in a state of constant hostility with their neighbours the Pylians. At the close of the eleventh century b.c., the Dorians invaded the Pelopouncsus, and Elis fell to the share of Oxylus and the IEtolians. These people, umalgamating with the Epeans, formed a powerful kingdom in the north of Elis. After this many changes took place in the political distribution of the country, till at length it came to acknowledge only three tribes, each independent of the others. These tribes were the Epeans, Minyze, and Eleans. Before the end of the eighth century b.c., however, the Eleans had vanquished both their riVals, and established their supremacy over the whole country. Among the other advantages which they thus gained was the right of celebrating the Olympic games, which had formerly been the prerogative of the Pisans. The attempts which this people made to recover their lost privilege, during a period of nearly two hundred years, ended at length in the total destruction of their city by the lileans. From the time of this event (572 b.c.) till the Peloponnesiau war, the peace of Elis remained undisturbed. In that great contest Eiis sided at ﬁrst with Sparta; but that power, jealous of the increasing prosperity of its ally, availed itself of the first pretext to pick a quarrel. At the battle of Mantinea the Eleans fought against the Spartans, who, as soon as the war came to a close, took vengeance upon them by de- priving them of Triphylia and the towns of the Acrorca. The l‘lleans made no attempt to re-establish their authority over these places, till the star of Thebes rose in the ascendant after the battle of Lcuetra. It is not unlikely that they would have effected their purpose had not the Arcadian confederaey come to the assistance of the 'l‘riphylians. In 366 b.c. hostilities broke out between them, and though the Eleans were at first successful, they were soon overpowered, and their capital very nearly fell into the hands of the enemy. Unable to make head against their opponents, they applied for assistance to the Spartans, who in- vaded Arcadia, and forced the Arcadians to recall their troops from Elis. The general result of this war was the restoration of their territory to the Eleans, who were also again invested with the right of holding the Olympic games. During the Macedonian supremacy in Greece they sided with the victors, but refused to fight against: their countrymen. After the death of Alexander they renounced the Macedonian alliance. At a sub- scqucnt period they joined the xEtolian League, but persistently refused to identify themselves with the Achzeans. When the whole of Greece fell under the Roman yoke, the sanctity of Olympia secured for the Eleans a certain amount of indulgence. The games still continued to attract to the country large numbers of strangers, until they were ﬁnally put down by Theodosins in 394, two years previous to the utter destruction of the Country by the Gothic invasion under Alaric. In later times Elis fell successively into the hands of the Franks and the Venetians, under whose rule it recovered to some extent its ancient prosperity. By the latter people the province of Belvedere on the Peneus was called, in consequence of its fertility, “ the milch cow of the Morea.”
Elis, the chief city in the above country, 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 1Etolians, whose statue stood in the market-place. In 471 b.c. it received a great extension by the incorporation, or “ synoikismos,” of various small hamlets, whose inhabitants took up their abode in the city. Up to this date it only occupied the ridge of the bill now called Kalascopi, to the south of the l’eneus, but after- wards 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 pillared galleries, its avenues of plane- trees, its plethrion or wrestling—place, its altars to Hercules, to Eros and Anteros, to Demeter and Cora, and its cenotaph of Achilles ; the “ Tetragonon,” appropriated to the lighter exercises, and adorned with a statue of Zeus; and the “Maltho,” in the interior of which was a hall or council chamber called Lalichmion after its founder. Among the other objects of interest were the temple of Artemis l’hilomirax ; the Hellanodicaeum, or ofﬁce of the Hellano— dicasts ; the Corcyrean Hall, a building in the Dorian style with two facades, built of spoils from Corcyra; a temple of Apollo Acesius,‘ a temple of Silenus; an ancient struc- ture 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 Here. at Olympia; and the shrine of Dionysus, whose festival, the Thyia, was yearly celebrated in the neighbour- hood. 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.
See J. Spencer Stanhope, Olympia and Eli's, 1824, folio ; Leake, Jlorca, 1830; Curtius, Pclopmmcsus, 1851-2; Schiller, .Stc'imme and Stanton Gricchcnlmzds; Bursian, Geographic ton Gricc/wnlmm', 1868—1872.