The ancient city- state of Ilida developed in
North West Peloponnesus, far away from the big city centres of the rest of
Greece and it didn’t play an important role to the military and cultural actions
that took place. It was in the forefront however, for a long time since it
had the custody of the Greek temple of Olympia and the flawless organization
of the Olympic Games.
The findings so far have shown that the Ilida area was populated, even as
a small agricultural perish, from the Proto- Hellenic era (almost 2800-2000
B.C.). During the Mycenaean period about (1600-1100 B.C.) it was one of the
four most important attractions of the area. Its residents are referred in
Ilida as Epoioi, who took part in the Troic war, with Polixeno as their leader.
The city of Ilida was established, when Oxilos, who had come from Aitolia
in the 12th cent. B.C., united all the separate perishes. This is proven by
the various findings of sub- Mycenaean,
proto-geometrical and geometrical times (1100-700 B.C.).
Oxilos founded the Olympic Games when he embodied the Holly Temple of Olympia
in the city-state of Ilida. The games were reorganized in the 8th century
B.C. by the descendant of king Ifitos, who signed a treaty with king Likourgos
of Sparti and Kleistheni of Pissa.
With this ‘holy treaty’ the whole area was considered sacred, thus securing
peace and the success of the games. Since 776 B.C. the year when the first
Olympic Games were held, the residents of Ilia were responsible for the protection
of the Temple, which they lost in 668 B.C. and gained it back with the assistance
of the Spartans in 580 B.C.
From that point on to the end of the 5th century the city flourished. The
main target of the state was not the political, but the cultural and other
matters of the public and mostly the organization of the Olympic Games. The
games were organized every five years most possibly in July. The athletes,
according to the rules had to come to Ilida one month before the games for
workout. Friends and relatives came with them and as a result exceptional
foreigners from the main Greece and the islands, as well as rich immigrants
of Micra Asia, Pontos, Great Greece and Africa.
gave great attention to the organization of the games, which is obvious by
the picture of the city’s market. The traveler Pausanias (2nd century P.C.),
refered to the capital of Ilia, by describing gymnasiums, lodges, temples
and sanctums, but no public buildings.They were decorated by a number of statues
and sculptures made by famous artists of ancient times. Among others there
were situated the temple of Ourania Aphrodite and its golden ivory statue
made by Fidias, as well as the ground shrine of Pandimou Aphrodite, where
there is its well-known bronze statue, made by Scopas, the temple and the
statue of Apollo Acesious, the temple of the Graces, with their edge-stones
statues, the temple of Silinous and the complexion of the god with Methi.
During the period of its great rise, the state of Ilia consisted of four regions:
the Valley Ilida, the productive area where the capital of Ilia developed,
the Acroreia, the Pisatida and the Trifilia. Its residents lived in peace,
well-being and well-ruled.
The productive ground of the area and the favourable climate facilitated the
development of agriculture and cattle-farming. What is more the name of the
people and the area Ilida and Ilioi (in ancient times F-alis and F-alioi)
During the recent years 120 perishes have come to light, and the regional
surveys have revealed 200 more positions. Most of them must have been small
villages or isolated agricultural areas. Only the capital Ilida developed
into a major city centre. Especially after the establishment of democracy
and the second habilitation (471 B.C.), the city was significantly reinforced
and became one of the most important and most populated cities of Peloponnesus.
It involved the area, where the today’s villages Paliopoli in South-East,
Bouhioti in South –West and Kalivia in West are situated. The ancient acropolis
was situated in the Agiannis Hill.
most important role in the administration of the public affairs in Ilida was
played by women. According to Pausanias there was a council of “sixteen wise
women”, who made the reconciliation between Pissa and Ilida and the institution
of the Iraia. This was speed competition from girls of girls from Greece in
the honour of Ira that took place every four years, like the Olympic Games,
but on different dates.
Since the end of the 6th century, Ilida had its own currency, which competed
in quality and variety of performance with that of other Greek cities. Pieces
of art with a unique character were produced in clay and bronze laboratories.
The well-being of the city-state of Ilida was mainly due to its long term
alley with Sparti that was destroyed during the Peloponnesian War (431-404
B.C.). The first signs of the forthcoming decay and miseries of the Ilioi
were obvious by the 4th century B.C.
In 191 B.C., they became allies with the Achaioi, while in 146 B.C. they were
conquered by the Romans and became part of the roman county of Achaia. During
the Roman times (27-250 P.C.), the city developed further. Mansions and public
baths that were Roman’s favourite architectures were built, even on the foundations
of classical buildings.
In the late roman and first Christian years (3rd-5th century B.C.) the habilitation
was restricted in only one part of the city, while in other parts a big cemetery
was created, probably after the destruction of the Eroulous (267 P.C.).
The deterioration started when the Byzantine emperor Theodosius the first,
banned the organization of the Olympic games in 393 P.C. and the life of the
holly temple of Olympia came to an end. The earthquake that destroyed the
country in the 6th century P.C. meant the end of the Ilia’s state.
In the 19th century travellers spotted the city of Ilida and made a map of
the area. The first organized excavations were made by the Austrian Archaeological
Institution from 1911-1914, under the management of Otto Walter. From 1960
to today the excavation research has been continued from time to time by the
Archaeological Company. A part of the ancient city was revealed (1965-1970)
by the revenue office of pre-historic and classical archaeologies during the
works for the irrigation system of the Peneus Dam.
buildings that were revealed or located and later on identified with the Pausanias
description are the following: gymnasium that has not been excavated yet,
but seems to have the same size as the Olympia’s gymnasium (200m. long), public
baths in the west part of the market, Achilles’ shrine, Hellenodikaionas,
lodge “for the noon”, Corfu’s lodge, which was the southern border of the
market, several small sanctums, a square building with an internal yard with
columns, where the sixteen women of Ilida used to make Ira ’s veil, a part
of the Aphrodite’s shrine, another temple’s yard, a small temple and shrines,
among others Addis’s well and last but not least the theatre, in the south
part of the market.
The theatre was built in the 4th century B.C. and was reconstructed during
the Hellenic and Roman times. The stone scene with the stage and the backstage
is one of the oldest of ancient Greece. The audience didn’t sit on tiers,
but on the slopes of the theatre, just like in the theatre of Olympia. It
was approached by six stone climaxes that divided the theatre into seven tiers.
A complete sewage system prevented the theatre from the danger of flooding.
The operation of the theatre stopped after the roman times, when there was
a general decay in the city, and a cemetery was made in its position, where
tombs in the shape of rectangle, covered with tiles are found.
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