Department of Greece and ancient country of the Peloponnese region; bounded on the north by Achaea, on the east by Arcadia, on the south by Messenia, and on the west by the Ionian Sea; area 2,618 sq km/1,011 sq mi; population (2001) 193,300. The capital is Pyrgos.
Elis became a department of Greece in 1899 and was divided into three districts: Hollow (or Lowland) Elis, Pisatis, and Triphylia. Hollow Elis (originally called simply Elis), where horses and cattle are bred, was the most northerly; the rivers Peneus and Ladon flowed through it, and its principal towns were Elis, Cyllene, and Pylos. Pisatis stretched south to the right bank of the River Alpheus, where Olympia stood. Triphylia extended south from the Alpheus to the northern boundary of Messenia.
Each of these three districts appears originally to have formed a separate kingdom; but by the 8th century BC Hollow Elis had established supremacy over the whole country, and acquired the right to celebrate the Olympic Games, previously hosted by Pisatis. After the Peloponnesian War, during which the Eleans had defected from the Spartan alliance, Sparta deprived them of Triphylia and the mountainous parts of Hollow Elis, together with the presidency of the games. In 366 BC war broke out between Elis and the Arcadian League. Elis appealed to Sparta for help, and recovered the whole country and its rights at Olympia. After the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, Elis allied with Macedon until after the death of Alexander the Great 323 BC, when they joined the Aetolian League. Coming eventually within the Roman province of Achaea, Elis was allowed certain privileges because of the sanctity of Olympia.