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Elis Prefecture
Νομός Ηλείας
Location of Elis Prefecture in Greece
Location of Elis Prefecture municipalities
Country:  Greece
Capital: Pyrgos
Periphery: West Greece
Population: 198,763 (2005)Ranked 13th
Area: 2,618 km² 
(1,011 sq.mi.) Ranked 22nd
Density: 76 /km² 
(197 /sq.mi.)
Number of municipalities: 22
Number of communities: none
Postal codes: 27x xx
Area codes: 262x0
Licence plate code: ΗΑ
ISO 3166-2 code: GR-14

Ilia (Greek: Ηλεία - Ileía) is a prefecture in the western Peloponnese and in the western part of Greece. The prefecture is part of the periphery of West Greece. It covers the area of ancient Elis. Its capital is Pyrgos.



The northernmost point of Ilia prefecture is 38° 06′N, the westernmost is 22° 12′E, the southernmost is 37° 18′N, and the easternmost is 21° 54′E. The length from north to south is 100 km (60 miles), and from east-to-west is around 55 km (35 miles). Two tiny peninsulas are part of the prefecture.

Ilia is not completely congruent with ancient Elis: Lampeia belonged to ancient Arcadia, and Kalogria is now part of Achaea.

The longest river is the Alfeios. Other rivers are the Erymanthos, Pineios and Neda. Alfeios, Pineios and Neda flow into the Ionian Sea in Ilia. Less than 1% of the prefecture is open water, most of it found in artificial reservoirs and dams, in the north and east. The Pineios Dam supplies water for Northern Ilia. The water is not safe for drinking, because it contains some contaminants. A second, smaller reservoir in the river Alfeios near Olympia and Krestena supplies water to Pyrgos.

The eastern part of the prefecture is forested, with mostly pine trees in the south. There are forest preserves in Foloi and the mountain ranges of Eastern Ilia. In the north is the Strofylia forest which has pine trees. Mountain ranges include Movri (around 400 m/1,700 ft), Divri (around 1500 m), Minthe (around 1100 m), and more.

About 1/3 of the land is fertile, the rest is mountainous and not suitable for crops. Swamplands used to cover 1-1.5% of the region, especially in the Samiko area. Most of them have been drained for agricultural purposes; only 10 km² has been kept and is now protected.

Here lies the ancient ruins of Elis, Epitalion and Olympia, known for the ancient Olympic games which started in 776 BC. A museum is founded with statues that relate with the history of Olympia. Another museum is in Elis, but the size is very small. Monasteries are scattered around the region.



Ilia has a mediterranean climate, with hot, sunny summers. Temperatures over 40 °C have been recorded. The mountainous interior is colder and snow covers the mountains in winter. Ilia is more humid than eastern Peloponnese.

Natural disasters

Ilia is located in a seismically active zone, and there are several earthquakes each year. Some of the most significant earthquake to have hit the area are:

Rainy weather in 2002-2003 caused destruction of villages by mudslides, and some bridges and roads were also cut off. In February 2008, frost devastated many crops in Manolada, Nea Manolada and Kounoupeli.

In August 2007, enormous forest fires took place which led to tens of deaths and a massive environmental and economical disaster. The final toll for the prefecture was: 45 dead, 100,000 affected by the fire, 3,500 left homeless by the fire, 25,000 dead animals, 8,500 hectares of burned forests, 2,300 hectares of burned farmland.[2] The archeological site of Olympia was seriously threatened, but not damaged.


Municipality YPES code Seat (if different)
Alifeira 1701 Kallithea
Amaliada 1702
Andravida 1703
Andritsaina 1704
Figaleia 1720 Nea Figaleia
Foloi 1721 Lalas
Gastouni 1709
Iardanos 1711 Vounargo
Kastro-Kyllini 1712 Kyllini
Lampeia 1713
Lasiona 1714 Panopoulo
Lechaina 1715
Oleni 1722 Karatoulas
Olympia 1705
Pineia 1716 Simopoulo
Pyrgos 1717
Skillounta 1718 Krestena
Tragano 1719
Vartholomio 1706
Volakas 1708 Epitalio
Vouprasia 1707 Varda
Zacharo 1710

Before 2006, Ilia was divided into two provinces: Ilia Province and Olympia Province.

Ilia Province contained Hollow or Lowland Ilia and the northern part of Pisatis. It was the smallest, but most populous of the two provinces. The seat was Pyrgos. Olympia Province contained most of Pisatis and Triphylia. Its seat was Andritsaina, in the mountains, Krestena and Zacharo were the largest towns in the province.


  • 1991: 174,021, density: 65 inh./km²
  • 2001: 192,340, density: 71.74/km²
  • 2005: 198,765, density: 75.9/km²

Ilia is the second most populous prefecture of the Peloponnese, after Achaea. Between 70% to 75% of the population live on fertile lands away from the mountains.

The population of ancient Ilia (from 1000-1 BC) was in the range of 5,000 to 10,000 and reached 10,000 or 20,000 by 1 BC. The history of the population of Ilia had suffered sharp population declines during invasion from northern and Eastern Europe, plagues, a couple of wars, and poor economy. Most of the population growth above 1% occurred in the 1800s and well into the 1900s. The biggest decline to its population was probably when invaders from Northern Europe dominate Ilia and some wars as well. The population surpassed the 100,000 mark around the quarter of the 20th century and more than 150,000 in the late-20th century. Pyrgos became the largest city having the population over the 10,000 mark in the mid-20th century, and above 20,000 in the late-1980s. The population in the northwest is growing while the population is declining in the southeast and east.

The urban population is about higher than 60% and has surpassed population in the latter part of the 20th century, and rising to 70% and 80% of the population. Over the last 4,000 years, the majority of the population lived in rural areas.



The primary source of agriculture is corn, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, livestock, watermelon, melon and some vegetables. There are 3 major operating tomato factories in Savalia (Kyknos), Gastouni (Pelargos), and north of Andravida (Asteris). The most fertile land in Peloponnese is the plain that covers the northern part of Ilia and the adjacent part of Achaea.

Textiles used to be dominant in business from antiquity until the Middle Ages. In the 1950s, agriculture was the dominant occupation, except in the towns Amaliada and Pyrgos. Currently, one third of jobs in Elis is in the agricultural sector. Some of the new farmers are of Pakistani origin.


Squid, and all types of fish are common in the waters of Ilia. Fishing is mainly done in the southeastern Ionian Sea and in the Bay of Patras. Most of the production is sent into Patras, some into Athens, some elsewhere in the world (with small production) and some into the local markets of Ilia from Kyllini and Katakolo. Overfishing is a problem north of Lechaina.


In classical antiquity, Elis was an independent state, centred on the town Elis and 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 Empire.

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 1681 until 1715. Battlegrounds of the Greek War of Independence in Ilia include Chlemoutsi, Gastouni, Lala, Lampeia, Pyrgos and Andritsaina.

As a part of independent Greece, Ilia 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 Ilia, 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.



Ilia has 200 km of highways. There are no limited access freeways in the prefecture yet, but a freeway (A9) is being built between Patras and Kyparissia, planned opening 2012.

The principal highways include:


The total length of railway tracks in Ilia is around 140 km. There is a railway line from Patras to Kalamata via Pyrgos, and a branch line from Pyrgos to Olympia. Both lines are user for passenger services, and there are tens of train stations scattered around Ilia.


The port of Kyllini in the northwest is the busiest port in Ilia, with car ferries to the islands of Zakynthos and Corfu. Other ports or harbors are small in size and fit only smaller boats.


Ilia has a military airport near Andravida, north of Pyrgos. There are no public airports in the area. The nearest airport on land is in Kalamata.


Telephones became more common after the 1960s when the Hellenic Telecommunication Organization (ΟΤΕ) created hundreds of kilometres of phone lines in the region. Now nearly every household has a telephone. The ΟΤΕ built tens of towers to connect more lines for the internet, telephones, and cell phones to increase the service. Lines began around the mid-20th century to enable more people to communicate by phones in the whole of Greece. There are also several communication towers throughout the prefecture.

  • ORT (Olympiaki Radiophonio Teleorassi meaning the Olympic Broadcasting Television) serves the whole of Elia in local programming to the area. ORT is also a Polis affiliate along with Music All Day. The logo includes the five Olympic rings.

There are several local radio stations, for instance RSA (Radio Station of Amalias) from Amalias and Eleftheri Radiofonas Krestenas from Krestena. There are hundreds of transmitter towers scattered over Elia.


  • For the kings of Elis (now Ilia), see section

Sporting teams


  1. ^ "Two killed by large Greek quake". BBC. 2008-06-08. Retrieved 2008-06-08.  
  2. ^ newspaper "TA NEA"; September 3, 2007
  • I Ileia Dia Meson ton Aionon (Ilia In The Middle Of The Age) Georgios Papandreou
  • Ston Pyrgo kai stin Ileia tou 1821-1930 (Στον Πύργο και στην Ηλεία του 1821-1930 = In Pyrgos And In Ilia (1821-1930) Vyronas Davos 1996
  • Ilia Before The Revolution of 1821 (η Ηλεία πρίν την επανάσταση του 1821 = I Ileia prin tin epanastasi tou 1821) Vyronas Davos 1997
  • The Life Of The Inhabitants Of Ilia During The Turkish Rule (η ζωή των κατοίκων της Ηλείας κατα την τουρκοκρατία = I zoi ton katoikon tis Ileias kata ton tourkokratia) Vyronas Davos 1997
  • Toponmia tis Ileias (Τοπονύμια της Ηλείας = Toponym of Elis) Vyronas Davos

External links


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