Ilia (Modern Greek: Ηλεία - Ileía, also Elia) is a prefecture in the Western Peloponnese and in Western portion of Greece. The prefecture is part of the periphery of West Greece. It covers the area of ancient Elis, and was formerly a department. Its capital is Pyrgos.
Ilia used to cover (not as a prefecture, department or a province) as far north as the western cape of Araxos before boundaries were changed, and Neo Vouprasía were part of Ilia. Its original boundary were what is now Móvri-Larissoú line in Achaea (Achaia). Lambeia belong to Arcadia in ancient times. And portions of modern Ilia belonged to ancient Arcadia. The prefecture excludes what is now New Vouprasía, Kalógria, and includes Lambeia and parts of former Arcadia. Its present day boundary is at Neda River, going a little East of Andrítsaina, Erymanthus River, Dívri, west of Scollis, and ends between Manoláda and Kalógria with green forests bordering Larissos River.
Swamplands used to cover about 1% to 1.5 (one-and-a-half) percent of the region, especially in the Samiko area. Draining of swamp waters expanded farming by about another 1% and subtracting swamplands only to the present-day deltas of the Peneus, Alpheus and Neda rivers. Only 10 km² left and they are protected by recreational services.
Some of its islands used to belong to the neighboring Septinsular Republic in the 1800s. Today it is a regional boundary of the Peloponnese and the Ionian Islands bordering there.
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 may hit the 200,000 mark. Even though it will not surpass the Corinthia prefecture population, it may be ranking 3rd in the entire peninsula. The population in the northwest is growing while the population is declining in the southeast and east.
Ilia is steadily growing and around placed nearly in the middle in percentage in the peninsula, but growing quite steadily. Achaea prefecture is the first. Northern part is one of the fastest. Southern Ilia's population has growing mostly steadily like Andritsaina (less than 500 persons added to their population), and the flatlands has been growing quite steadily, (1 to 2%). Most of the small villages are losing population, some towns and cites are gaining population. The population has been growing steadily throughout more than 4,000 years (with some exceptions in the 20th century, the northern part has been growing between 1,5%, 2% and 3%).
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 area is rich in beaches, climate, and forests.
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The longest river is the Alpheus River (Greek: Πόταμος Αλφειόυ Alfeios). Other rivers are Erymanthus (Ερύμανθος Erymanthos) by the boundary of Ilia-Arcadia, Peneus (Πόταμος Πηνειός Pineios) of the west runs down into the southern part of Vartholomio. The Neda (Νέδα) river is the boundary of Messenia and Ilia. More rivers can be found here. Peneus used to emptied near what is now Lechaina and Aghios Panteleimonas in ancient times. The distance of Peneus river flows near Palaeochori today.
The prefecture has about 250 to 300 kilometers of sandy coastline filled with beaches, rocks, the port of Kyllini and contains the mouths of Peneus, Alpheus and its delta and Neda Rivers. north of Neochori and Kyllini, the only spot of not having a beach, rocky cliffs dominate their shoreline. The total length is around 1 km. The coastline throughout history was a bit longer 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.
Unlike the Aegean and the Ionian islands, there is only one rocky island, and it has a lighthouse on top of the cape. Ilia's largest island has a cape for the Kyllini coast. The size of the island is only about 7,000 m². All of its islands is deforested, and rocky. The island was cut off from the rest of the land as the water level rose, and soil erosion of rocks, wiping out 0.2 km² over tens of thousands of years. There was an island tens of thousands of years ago existed between Ilia and Zakynthos. Today the depth is only 5 m under the sea. It is the highest point under the sea, it almost look like an island. There are 3 lagoons covered between the sea.
Lighthouses like in Kyllini are scattered throughout its coastlines and there are less than 10 lighthouses in the area.
Forests are founded in the east. The other is plain or rocky least-forested hills. Piney trees are mostly founded in places from Neda River up to Peneus River. About half of the area are covered with forest. The other is plain of rocky least-forested hills. There are forest preserves in Pholoe (Φολόη Foloi, Pholoi, modern Greek or Pholoe, ancient and modern Greek.), and the mountain ranges of Eastern Ilia. Another forests in the northern part is the Strofylia forests which has pine trees.
Tree-planting is very rare, or not being planted. The rate of forestation is slightly decreasing, mainly by fires and road networks. But larger forests not linked by any roads are getting protected, mainly in Pholoe.
Reservoirs are founded in the north and east. the first is Peneus which supplies water for Northern Ilia. The water is not safe for drinking, because it contain some contaminants. It dams up the Peneus River. Its dam is made out of earth and it is considered the highest dam in Ilia, but not the Peloponnese. The second is not far from Olympia and Krestena. This reservoir is small but is supplies water from Pyrgos to the southern part. It dams up the Alpheus River.
The port of Kyllini in the northwest is the busiest port in Ilia. It ferries cars into the port and out into the islands of Zante and Corfu with two ferry lines. Other ports or harbors are small in size and fits only small or smaller boats.
Two thermal springs offers beautiful blue-colored sea with the best beaches around. Thermal springs of Kyllini, Kaiafa are the major springs there.
There are mountains filled with spring water, but there are no spring water factories in Ilia, such as Avra (Temene) (Άυρα) from Temene and Loutraki (spring water) from Loutraki, outside Ilia. Loutraki or Avra is the top-selling spring water in the entire region.
There are no skiing resorts in the area. The nearest from the north is on the Panachaicus, and from the south is from Mainalon, and Taygetus.
Ilia is located in the heart of the earthquake zone, and the faultline. Every year, tens of minor earthquakes and aftershocks are trembled each year. There are a number of faultlines scattered in the area. Ilia or the western Peloponnese has a lot of history of earthquakes.
Here lies the ancient ruins of Elis (Ancient Greek Ηλίς Elis, Modern Greek Ηλίδα Ilida), Epitalium (Επιτάλιον, Επιτάλιο (modern Greek spelling Epitalion) and Olympia, and once held 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.
Ilia has a military airport in Andravida located slightly north of Pyrgos, 3 km north of the center of Andravida. There are no international or local airports in the area. There are military bases in Elis, like the one in Kyllini.
Monasteries are scattered around the region. The nearest from Amalias is Agia Frangavilli about 5 km SE of Amalias and N or Pyrgos via GR-9.
Straws and bamboo sticks are founded along the roads in the plains of the area. Its total length of roads running into the bamboo sticks is about 8% to 15% of the total length of roads. Every year, fires are set on the Bamboo sticks to make road conditions clearer, other are cutting them for use. Marshes are founded in riverbanks and some swamps in which the use for products is sometimes rare.
Ilia's most crowded train station is near the heart of Pyrgos. it has 5 to 6 tracks line up within the station. The location is about a 100 m east of the old Pyrgos to Patras Road.
There are about four lagoons in the west, right next to the Ionian Sea. Some of them were drained to make room for farmland. They are concentrated between SW of Pyrgos and into the Alpheys Delta and south to the beaches of Kaiafa. Some of the lagoons near Epitalio has been drained for farming purposes.
There had been some summer years where places from Kyllini to SE of Pyrgos, and in the Western Peloponnese has received more than 50 days of sunshine in a row, especially in portions of early and mid-1990s, 1997, 1998, and 2001. No other places in other parts of Elia received over 50 days of sunshine in mountainous regions, which rain and clouds have been dominant, mainly in late-day skies.
Rainy weather in 2002-2003 caused destruction of villages by mudslides, and some bridges and roads were also cut off. It repeated in 2005 and 2006. Not too much rainy weather ravaged the prefecture. When the low pressure system arrived from Central Europe, it brought snow to Greece, the snowstorm had no effect in almost all of the Prefecture along with the temperatures which went as low as the freezing mark in the low lying areas, only the mountains received almost normal snowfall. On February 2008, frost devastated many crops in Manolada, Nea Manolada (the Manoladas) and Kounoupeli
Textiles used to be dominant in business from ancient times to medieval times. It had been replaced by agriculturalism in times of the Ottoman Empire and a couple of plagues. In the 1950s, agriculture was the most dominant business and the most jobs in Elis numbered at 100% with the exception of parts of Amaliada and Pyrgos, where urbanization covered more than half and a quarter in Amalias. In the late-1970s, the majority of jobs in Lechaina, Myrsini and Varda is primarily urban. Business in the agricultural sector has been declining to one-third to this day.
The most popular pasta in western Greece is shaped like stars and dots. It is common in the western half. Other pasta delicacies are also common and were affordable until the mid-20th century. Poverty was very common when the economy is poor.
A part of the agriculture particularly on some farms, groves and cattle were devastated by the fire.
Some of the new farmers are of Pakistani origin, their income is mainly in the middle class range annually.
There are no sawmills and papermills in Ilia and the Western Peloponnese, unlike Northern Europe. The nearest sawmill is to the north and the nearest paper mill is probably in Athens.
There are no race tracks, or a main airport. not even a speedway. Soccer fields, track and field, and basketball are common. Also, there are hospitals in the area. There are a number of health centers founded from north to south.
Total number of buildings number around 50,000 and 60,000.
Peneus Dam also has a watch tower and a water control station which guards the water flow of that reservoir. It even has a road over which connects Psari, Ag. Ilia, Daphni, and Gastouni. It even features the only single-span suspension bridge in Elis which is 300 meters long. This bridge runs over the flowing waters from the dam when is above the limit. Kentro is in the middle between the dam, the river and the channel.
There are about 10s of post office scattered in the area.
100s of water towers are scattered to half of the villages carrying 2,000,000 litres of water for most of the region.
The supermarkets and warehouse stores that are available are Lidl and Veropoulos (part of the Spar, Eurospar chain) in Pyrgos. This location opened in the late 20th century, being the first supermarket in Pyrgos and Ilia, not as a whole of the Western Peloponnese. The main regional chain of supermarket is Supermarket Ilida. Department stores and hypermarkets that are not available is Carrefour, Praktiker, Champion Mariopoulos and Micro Land, their nearest location for a store is founded only in Patras, the capital of the Peloponnese.
Its length of barbwires is about 2000 to 5000 km, and the rest are fenced near farms with grasses and bushes.
The history of tourism began in the 1960s when airplanes came to the market. tourism has steadily increasing throughout the latter part of the 20th century. Most of the tourists are from Western and Northern Europe, especially Southern Europe, and Germany. The remainder of tourists come from the Americas, Israel and South Africa. Far East states are the smallest. Bad weather had taken a toll on tourism which began in 2002. More touristic info can be found here.
776 BC: The first Olympic games held in Olympia. These games lasted into the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire.
1000s - 1200s Fortress-like Chlemoutsi were built by the Franks to prevent attacks from the northern frontiers from conquering.
During the first decades of being a part of Greece, it experienced an economic and agricultural boom, houses were built, Pyrgos boomed, there were some emigration in which did not succeed until after the conflicts. Municipalities were created in 1831 and originally numbered nine, including Olena, Olympia, Pyrgos (Letrina), Andritsaina, Krestena/Zacharo, Gastouni, Amaliada? and several that no longer exists including Myrtountio (named after Myrtountio or Myrtuntium) and Kalotychia (now split into Vouprasia), prior was the province of Ilia which had its capital in Gastouni, these municipalities were later dissolved in 1912 reducing to Amaliada and Pyrgos (Letrina). The King of Greece owned a tract of land that ran from the Larissos River south of the Mavros Oros south to Amaliada and was filled with willow trees. Like most of the Peloponnese, the area was unaffected during World War I.
During the Asia Minor Catastrophe, refugees from Asia Minor settled into the northeast tract and much of the forests were cut and were reduced into the vicinity of Amaliada and north of the GR-9, Lappa was partly included as the boundary was not created until 1931 marked at the stream 1 km north of Nea Manolada. The section in the forest northeast to near Sageika was mainly depopulated and had only a few places.
Earthquakes rumbled Chavari in 1909 which ruined everything, Vartholomio in 1910 and Kyllini in 1920.
1980s to 1990s New highway extension and a by-pass began to open and E55 was remapped. It spanned 65 kilometers, including 42 kilometers of widening, and 23 kilometers of extensions and by-passes. It meant better flow of traffic from Patras to Pyrgos.
mid-1993 An earthquake trembled most of Elia. A mid-afternoon earthquake caused minor of some severe damage to property. It was nearly a strong earthquake, because it is located near an earthquake zone.
late-1990s (1997 to 1999) Tens of forest fires have been reported. Total cost of fires was in the 30,000,000 drachmas ($100,000) range.
mid-1999 Mudslide devastates road connecting Pyrgos, Krestena, Andritsaina, Megalopolis, Sparta, and Laconia. Access was completely cut off for several days. The road was repaired with better engineering.
July-August, 1999 Forest fire threatens forest near the ancient city of Olympia. Tens of square km were consumed by an enormous fire. GR-74 during that day along with other rarely used roads were shut down. The fire was completely put out in a couple of days.
2001: Workers opened a Neochori by-pass which will send vehicles to Kyllini (Kyllene) in just around 15 minutes in a 60 km/h zone. The distance is reduced to 10 kilometers from 13 kilometers. This is a result of closing down a railway (railroad) that communicates Kavasila or Kavasilas and the Port of Kyllini.
August 2001:: Farmers demand more money during a strike. Farmers were blocking traffic by tractors. The strike lasted for about a week. Attempts were done on GR-9 1.5 km SW of Kardamas and 20 km NW of Pyrgos at the Dounaiika-Amalias Junction. Hundreds attend to protest lower prices and lower production.
August-September 2002: A series of late August-early September (late-summer) earthquakes rattle the area. One measuring the Richter Scale in the 5.4 range, and happened 10 km (6 mi.) deep in the Ionian sea south of Vartholomio. Houses and buildings were shaking and so did the trees. No damages were reported. The other was almost 5.6. All of the earthquakes happened around 11PM (23.00) local daylight time (20.00 UTC).
November 16, 2003 Remnants of the Cephallonia earthquake also rumbled into the region from Kalogria or Manolada southward. Damages were mostly done on that Ionian island.
In the later years, in 2005, a whale ended up on a shoreline near Neochori in the southern part of the prefecture.
A low pressure system that arrived from southern and central Europe brought devastating hailstorm to the plains near Pyrgos damaging many of the crops including the watermelon. The ground resembled a snowy day in the month of November and December with 2 cm that happens in northern and eastern Europe nearby, this scene is very rare and it occurs in February.
August 2007: The Ilia Prefecture is devastated by enormous forest fires which lead to tens of deaths and a massive environmental and economical disaster. 2007 Greek forest fires#August_2007 The final toll (according to the newspaper "TA NEA"; September 3, 2007) for the prefecture was: 45 dead, 100,000 effected 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.
Months after the fires, the government had announced to replant the olive trees lost by the fire, the date was scheduled earlier than the start of the planting season in late-January 2008. A few lesser known fires would dominate the area in the summer of 2008.
The earthquake that affected from Erymanthos shook only the northeastern part of the prefecture on February 2008. On February 14, 2008, an earthquake from the west shook a part of the prefecture and caused almost no damages, a few of the forty earthquakes in late February ravaged several parts of the prefecture. It was terror stricken again by another earthquake in nearly four months on June 8, 2008 at 15:21 (3:21 PM) local time and measured at 6.7 on the richter scale and shook the entire region, scientists located the epicenter around Andravida, the northeastern hills and outside the prefecture in Araxos. Hundreds of homes and buildings were damaged and were reported in Lechaina, Gastouni?, Amaliada, Vartholomio and parts northeast. It also devastated rail services southwest of Patras, no road closures were reported. The horrific scenes were immediately cleaned up within a week or two and were sealed off. Injuries were reported. Residents panicked into the streets and wandered within the rubble for hours until the evening hours.
There are no expressways, freeways or superhighways, especially with tolls in the prefecture, or interchanges, There may be a freeway connecting from Patras to Pyrgos which will probably be planned or a 4-lane GR9 with a couple of traffic lights and interchanges in the works. Start of the extension of GR9 and is undetermined, while GR74 is in the works, extending the 80 km/h highway well east of Elia in 2004 connecting Langadi in Arcadia to Olympia.
The principal highways include:
And the Pyrgos to Kyllini (Kyllene) road is 12 km long. Today, it's only 10 km (6 miles when workers shortened by constructing a new section only 2 km in length). Cost: 30 to 75,000,000 drachmas ($100,000 to $250,000) range, including the abandonment of the train track system.
Railway tracks enters through Ilia. And the length is around 140 km. 155 km before 2001. The region has about only two tracks left. Three was the original number before 2001. There are tens of train stations scattered around Ilia. Tens of trains are used every day. Pyrgos Train station has the most passengers. Its average speed limit is 80 km/h.
The first street signs were poorly read, and boarded. The first signs were put po on four of its Greek roads. Most of the signs were beginning to put up on Ilia's and municipality's and district's roads in the 1980s, to increase road safety. Then more roads added street signs in unused roads in the 1990s. There are about more than 50,000 to 80,000 signs posted in the region.
Speed limit before the 1980s were around 40 to 50 km/h on GR9. The average maximum speed limit in present day on national highways is 60 km/h (GR9, and GR74 west of Olympia.), 30 to 40 hm/h on GR33, GR76 and GR74 east of Olympia. The average speed limit is 30 to 40 km/h n the mountains and hills (excluding sharp, sharper, and sharpest turns and curves which posts it lower), 40 km/h to 60 km/h (except on some roads which speed limit signs may post it lower, (example, Myrsini-Myrsini Beach Road)) on straight roads, mainly in fertile land.
There are transformer lines that powers hydro to its residents from mainly Megalopolis power station. Around 300 to 500 km of minor power lines are in the Area powering electricity to the people, including one which light up for the road. There are no power stations that produce electricity in the area. Before the 1940s, there were no transformer lines existed. Another power line around 10 km in length were bringing hydro to residents of the island of Zante. Construction began around 2001-2002. The line opened somewhere in 2002.
Its first lamp post was in the mid-20th century, and the villages in the mid to late 1980s. Today, they are one of the areas that has the most lighting in the Peloponnese, placed 3rd or 4th on the peninsula. Around 4 to 5 km of GR9 (Patras-Pyrgos) are lighted (30 to posts or 10 to 15 m posts) .
The highway expansion returned as the GR-76 is ready for construction with faster access with Megalopoli and Sparta and two-lanes with edges as the GR-9 and the GR-74 and possibly in decades, a section of the GR-9 from Pyrgos to the prefectural boundary with Achaea will see a superhighway with several interchanges.
Ilis has two provinces: Ilia district contains Hollow or Lowland Ilia and the northern part of Pisatis has the most people, and not in size. The seat is Pyrgos. Olympia district containing most of Pisatis or Pisa and Triphylia, is the second in population. Its seat for the entire district is Andritsaina, in the mountains, Krestena and Zacharo are the largest towns in the district.