Elea is a fenced site with limited opening hours. The settlement of Elea, Chrysavgi municipality department, known as 'Castle of Veliani', is located on a naturally fortified slope at the foot of the mounts of Paramythia, above the Acheron - Kokytos valley. The settlement was founded a little before the early 4th century BC. Elea was the seat of the Thesprotian koinon from its foundation until 335 - 325 BC, when the political center of the tribe was transferred to Gitana. Public and private buildings bear witness to prosperity of the settlement. The coinage of the koinon of the Thesprotians is related with Persephone and Hades and declares that the well-known Necromanteion, the central sanctuary of Eleatis, place of worship of the gods of the netherworld, was under Elea’s influence. The settlement flourished during the Hellenistic period, but was abandoned after its devastation by the Romans in 167 BC along with the other major cities of Thesprotia. The extensive destruction layers of the excavated buildings bear witness to that effect. In more recent periods the leveled surface of the settlement was systematically cultivated and during the last few decades it was used for the stabling and pasturing of animals.
Strong polygonal fortification surrounds the settlement of Elea from the east and northeast, while sheer cliffs to the north, south and west provide natural fortification. Two main gates, one to the east and one to the west, ensured the settlement's unobstructed contact with the surrounding area, whilst a third gate has been found on the northern side of the fortification. The walls were built in the polygonal style of masonry, and limestone, which is plentiful in the region, was used as the building material. They are constructed of two parallel flanks - or faces - built with quoins, the gap between which is filled with smaller stones. The east is the best-preserved side of the fortifications. The height of the section which remains is up to 7 m, and the width reaches 4 m. At the north-eastern corner of the fortification there is a tower with a trapezoid ground plan. The wall dates from the time of the city’s foundation, a little before the mid-4th cent. BC. The north-eastern section of the settlement, even though it has not been thoroughly excavated, seems to have been very sparsely built up. The built up area was in the western half of the settlement, and was made up of zones based on the axis of one principle artery which seems to have cut across the city from the south-west to the north-east. The retaining walls divided the settlement into smaller and larger terraces, levelling the steep gradients of the plateau and also marking out blocks of buildings. At the western end of the north-eastern section of the settlement, on a high terrace, was a small temple. This was a rectangular building, divided into three rooms, the pronaos, the cella, and the adyton.
The political and commercial Agora of Elea was in the centre of the flat section of the settlement, south of the main road, and covered an area of 3000 sq. m. Initially it took the form of an open square, formed of three successive terraces, with a small height difference between them which, in Hellenistic times (3rd - 2nd century BC), was bordered by at least three stoas on its eastern, western and northern sides. Other buildings were gradually built near the stoas, which were used for public purposes or for storing the public goods of the city. Numerous foundations of private houses have been discovered and partially studied, both around the Agora and in the north-western part of the settlement. Most of them were comprised of 4-6 rooms, while some of the structures may have also had a second floor. A large part of the ground floor was taken up by rooms with large storage pithoi, whilst other rooms were used for the inhabitants other activities, such as weaving. In a few cases, the presence of clay tubs (louteres) confirms the existence of bathrooms.
(Dr. Yannis Papadopoulos, with the support of the Laskaridis Foundation.)