In classical antiquity, Elis was an independent state,
centred on the town Elis and included the sanctuary at Olympia, where the
Ancient Olympic Games were held between 776 BC and 394 AD. After 146 BC, Elis
was part of the province Achaea within the Roman Empire. In the Migration
Period (3rd - 4th century AD) Vandals and Visigoths rampaged through the
region. After the breakup of the Roman Empire, Elis fell under the Byzantine
In the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, crusaders from
Western Europe (traditionally referred to as Franks in southeastern Europe)
established the principality of Achaea in territory of the defeated Byzantine
Empire, including Elis. They built castles like Chlemoutsi. The principality
lasted from 1204 until 1460, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Empire ruled most of Greece until the Greek
War of Independence of 1821. The Venetian Republic controlled a few coastal
towns in the 1490s, early 16th century and from 1686 until 1715. Battlegrounds
of the Greek War of Independence in Elis include Chlemoutsi, Gastouni, Lala,
Lampeia, Pyrgos and Andritsaina.
As a part of independent Greece, Elis experienced an
economic and agricultural upswing in the first decennia after the war of
independence. Houses were built, and Pyrgos became a regional centre. Like most
of the Peloponnese, the area was unaffected during World War I. As a result of
the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), Greek refugees from Asia Minor settled into
a.o. the area around Amaliada.
World War II struck parts of Elis, houses were damaged,
leaving people homeless, and afterwards the Greek Civil War caused more
destruction and economic decline. The return to democracy after the Greek
military junta of 1967–1974, and Greece joining the European Communities in 1981
stimulated economic development and improvement of infrastructure.
The region of Ilia - Olympia has a rich history. The geographical position and natural wealth of the region has contributed to the flourishing of culture and commerce. Archaeological finds, dating from the prehistoric period, were discovered in the region. Nevertheless, the greatest peak of Ilia-Olympia dates in the 8th century BC, due to the glow of the sanctuary of Olympia, the reputation of which was massive. The year 776 BC, was a major breakthrough in the history of the area. Then, according to the tradition, the Spartan Lycurgus made an agreement with the king of Ilia Iphitos to commit ritual celebrations at Olympia. Part of the agreement was that ceasefire will prevail during these celebrations all over Greece. During the5th century BC, the reputation of Olympia was so great, that the area became a political assembly point, where philosophers and artists could find a large audience for the dissemination of their ideas.
During the Macedonian period, Ilia (Ancient Ilida) suffered from much political instability, especially after the death of Alexander the Great. In 191 B.C. the residents of Ilia joined the Achaean League, lost their political independence.
The Roman period was no less turbulent. The constant changes in the throne of the empire affected the life of the region. The sanctuary of Olympia has been particularly favored by the introducing of the roman emperors’ worship in situ. This lasted until the rise of Constantine the Great to the throne (274 AD), who adapted Christianity and threw in disgrace the sanctuary. In byzantine times, the area of Ilia did not have any particular development. In 1204 AD French and Venetian Crusaders, claiming the release of the Holy Lands, conquered most of the country and the region went to the sovereignty of the Franks. Since 1263 AD another turbulent period began, as Franks and Byzantines battled for the conquest of land.
In 1453, the fall of Constantinople resulted in the installation of the Turks in Greece. The development in the area began to recover by the installation of Ottomans (1715 AD), a wealthy turkish family, who settled in Gastouni and promoted trade. A new period of unrest began in 1770 AD. At this year, the landing of the Orlov brothers in Mani with russian fleet rouses the local population and the residents of Ilia and Achaia. Unfortunately, the movement failed and the provinces were destroyed.
After this event, a new era for Greece started.
The Friendly Society was founded in 1814 AD. Great men of Ilia participated in this Society, as Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos from Andritsaina, George Sisinis from Gastouni and Charalambos Vilaetis from Pyrgos.
Since then, a long and arduous struggle for the liberation of the Greek state commenced. The residents of Ilia showed great bravery not only by releasing their own territories but also by helping the other Greek revolutionaries.