Elis and Messenia. New Research

Elis and Messenia. New Research, by Xeni Arapojanni (p. 69, Olympics – Past & Present)

© 2013 Qatar Olympic & Sports Museum, Qatar Museums Authority and Prestel Verlag, Munich-London-New York.

The first five paragraphs:

Elis region

The sanctuary of Olympia, which was not only one of the ancient world’s most important religious and cultic hubs, but also the foremost of Antiquity’s Panhellenic competition sites, formed the cultural core of the Elis landscape, not only in historical, but as early as in prehistoric times. In Antiquity the Elis region was dotted with smaller communities, the historical development of which followed that of the large city state of Elis. The excavations performed over the last twenty years by the Archaeological Service have revealed an abundance of significant archaeological sites, mainly from the Mycenaean period, in the area north of the river Alpheios up to the border with Achaia. By contrast, in the wider surroundings the finds from historical periods have been fewer and only far between: for example the extensive classical-era cemetery in Stafidokampos, which was one of the satellite settlements around Elis,(1) as well as the impressive ring of fortified wall in Koryphi, known as ‘Koukouvitsa Castle’ (Fig. 2) (2), which is associated with major historical events in the region at the start of the 4th century BCE. The large Roman complex of baths in Skafidia, which had been located and known about for a long time, was investigated only recently.(3)

The real sensation, however, were the discoveries made through the excavations in the part of Elis located between the rivers Alpheios and Neda, which was known as Trifylia already in Antiquity.

As part of the programme by the Greek Ministry of Culture and Tourism on the “Upgrading of Archaeological Sites in the Wider Surroundings of Olympia”, realised between 2002 and 2004,(4) the terrain was cleaned of plant overgrowth and archaeological research was performed in the most significant fortified acropolises in the Trifylian landscape(5) as well as in the acropolises of Phigalia and Alipheira, which in ancient times belonged to the region of Arcadia.

At the acropolis of Lepreon the splendid east gate of the fortification wall was revealed with consecutive construction phases and a large walled cistern in its interior (Fig. 3). Farther in the west and inside the acropolis came the exposure of the remains of an Archaic temple with an abundance of significant finds, including votive gifts from the faithful. A long rectangular stoa with centrally positioned columns in Ionic style from Hellenistic times (Fig. 4), a large walled water reservoir from the Classical and Hellenistic periods and a section of an extraordinarily extensive Roman complex of baths were brought to light by the works inside the Acropolis of Samiko. In Platiana the ancient theatre was investigated and cleaned (Fig. 4). Foundations of homes, cisterns and public buildings were cleared in the eastern part of the acropolis. At the foot of the southeastern and the southwestern slope of the acropolis, where the village of Makistos is located today, monumental temple-shaped graves arranged in rows from the times of Macedonian rule, equipped with extremely lavish grave offerings, were excavated.(6)

A Hellenistic cemetery (2nd–3rd century BCE) with exactly the same graves was also exposed in Phigalia, at which the famous temple of Apollo Epikourios (Bassae) is located inside and outside the city walls.(7) In the ‘Kourdoubouli’ cadestral section of Phigalia, the Classical temple consecrated to Athena and Zeus Soter appears to have been a major political centre within the region (Fig. 5)(8). Remains of a small temple from the late Classical period were revealed in the village of Perivolia in the wider surroundings of ancient Phigalia on the ancient road that leads to the Apollo Temple of Bassae.(9) An impressive Classical monument was exposed in Prasidaki, Trifylia (Fig. 6): a Doric peripteral temple of Athena (6 × 13 columns) with pronaos, cella, interior double row of columns and opisthodomos. The incredible abundance of votive gifts (Fig. 7), the richly ornamented terracotta decor of the beams and the temple’s architectonic features make it one of the most significant monuments on the Peloponnese.(10)

(1) Arapojanni 1999, 155–217.

(2) Arapojanni 2007a, 14–15 figs. 24, 25

(3) Papathanasopoulos 1970, 194 table 174 b; Morgan 2007, 42.

(4) The works were performed by the 7th Ephoria of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in Olympia under the management of Xeni Arapojanni and concerned the acropolises of Lepreon, Samiko, Platiana, Alipheira, Phigalia, Koryphi along with the excavation site at Epitalion: Arapojanni 2002; Arapojanni 2003; Arapojanni 2004b; Arapojanni 2005; Arapojanni 2007a, 14–15 no. 7.

(5) Arapojanni 2007a, 5–16 figs. 1–23.

(6) Arapojanni 2002b.

(7) Arapojanni 2004a, 83–94; Arapojanni 2004b.

(8) Arapojanni 1996a, 41–47; Arapojanni 1996b, 129–137; Arapojanni 1997a, 43–49; Arapojanni 1997b, 115–120; Arapojanni 1998a, 51–53; Arapojanni 1998b, 127–128.

(9) Arapojanni 2004c, 41–51.

(10) Arapojanni 2002a, 225–228 pls. 53–56; Arapojanni 2010a, 9–20 pls. 1–12.

(continues to page 75)