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This page is part of the "tools" section of a site, Plato and his dialogues, dedicated to developing a new interpretation of Plato's dialogues. The "tools" section provides historical and geographical context (chronology, maps, entries on characters and locations) for Socrates, Plato and their time. By clicking on the minimap at the beginning of the entry, you can go to a full size map in which the city or location appears. For more information on the structure of entries and links available from them, read the notice at the beginning of the index of persons and locations.
City and region of northwestern Peloponnese (area
In mythology, the region of Elis was said to have been occupied by Æolians coming from Thessalia under the leadeship of king Endymion, a son, or grandson, of Zeus. Endymion was famous for having had Selene (the moon) as lover, who managed to obtain from Zeus that he realize one wish of Endymion. His wish was to sleep forever, so that he would stay forever young (Socrates alludes to this story at Phædo, 72b). With his wife, Endemyon had three sons, Pæon, Epeius and Ætolus, and a daughter, Eurypyle. To decide which of his three sons would succeed him, Endemyon organized a race between them in Olympia. Epeius won and became king of Elis, Pæon fled to Macedon, where he became the ancestor of the Pæonians, a people of Thracia, and Ætolus stayed around and succeeded his brother at his death. But later, Ætolus killed Apis, a son of Phoroneus (the first man according to Peloponnesian legends) who was then king of all Peloponnese but acted as a tyrant. As a result, Ætolus had to flee and he moved across the gulf of Corinth, where he was greeted by the local kings, Dorus (the eponym of the Dorians, who, in other traditions, is presented as one of the sons of Hellen and a grandson of Deucalion), Laodocus and Polypoetes, the three sons of Apollo and Phthia (the eponym of the region of Phthia). But Ætolus killed the three of them, expelled the local residents, the Couretes, and reigned over the country, that became known as Ætolia. He had two sons, Pleuron and Calydon, who gave their names to two cities of that region. Ætolus was succeeded in Elis by Elis, the son of his sister Eurypyle, who built the city to which he gave his name.
There is also the story of a king of Elis named Alector, who, afraid of Pelops, sealed an alliance with Phorbas, a son of Lapithes (the eponym of the Lapithæ, a Thessalian tribe, who was son of Apollo and a daughter of the river-god Peneus of Thessalia), who had migrated in Elis, and shared his kingdom with him, giving him his sister in marriage and marrying his daughter. Phorbas had two sons, Augeas and Actor. Actor became king of Pheres, a city of Thessalia founded by the king of that name (the father of Admetus), while Augeas reigned over Elis. But Augeas is sometimes also presented as son of Poseidon, or of Helios (the Sun), or of Eleius, the eponym of the Eleians, people of the province of Elis. It is as son of Helios that he is named as one of the Argonauts, and he was said to have accompanied Jason to meet his brother Æetes, the king of Colchis keeper of the golden fleece, who was also said to be a son of Helios. Augeas had huge herds, but never cleaned manure from his stables. So he was all too glad when Eurystheus, the king of Mycenæ, asked Heracles to clean them as part of his labors. Heracles asked him one tenth of his herd for salary if he could do the cleaning in one day, and Augeas accepted, thinking it was impossible. But Heracles made an opening in the walls of the stables and diverted the flow of two nearby rivers to run them through the stables. Yet, Augeas used bad excuses to refuse Heracles his salary : he had been helped by Iolaus, he was already at the service of Eurystheus. Phileus, one of the sons of Augeas, called as arbitrator, sided with Heracles, so Augeas ousted him along with Heracles. Some time later, Heracles raised troops in Arcadia to march on Elis. Upon hearing about it, Augeas, to lead his own army, called upon the Molionidæ, twins born to his brother Actor, but said to be sons of Poseidon who had saved them when they were in danger of being killed by Nestor during a war between the people of Pylos and the Epeians of Elis. At first, the Molionidæ destroyed Heracles' army and mortally wounded his brother Iphicles, some say because Heracles was sick at the time. But when later, the people of Elis sent the Molionidæ to represent them at the Isthmian games, Heracles killed them on the road to Corinth., then set a second expedition against Elis, took the city, killed Augeas and installed in his place on the throne of Elis his son Phileus who had sided with him in the initial quarrel.
Olympia, the site of the Olympic games, was on the
territory of Elis, and thus, it was its responsibility to host and organize
Elis was the birthplace of Hippias, the sophist staged in several of Plato's dialogues, including two bearing his name (Hippias Major and Hippias Minor).