History of Velia (Elea)


    castello maris

    The town of Velia (the Greek name is Elea) was founded by the inhabitants of Focea, a Greek town of Asia Minor conquered by Persians. According to Strabone, a writer of Greek origin that lived during the reign of Emperor Tiberius, people coming from Focea conquered a town in Enotria (this was the name used by Greek people to indicate the southern part of Italy, this name means "the land of vineyards") and choose to live there. On the acropolis there are the remains of a small village that confirm the words by Strabone. The geographic position was strategic, in the middle of the commerce between Greece and Etruria. This is why Elea (Velia) was one of the most important towns of Magna Graecia.

    statueThe town had two ports and was well protected. Elea (Velia) was not conquered by people from Lucania (Paestum was, instead). Elea (Velia) was almost always a neutral town and in this way it avoided many wars that involved the towns of Magna Graecia. During Punic wars, Elea decided to be loyal to Rome thus allowing Rome to control the Tyrrhenian Sea.

    In 88 b.C., Velia lost its autonomy and became a Roman municipality. Then the town started to decline for two reasons: Rome built and/or powered great roads that linked it to the Eastern world, using Adriatic Sea and there was the filling up with earth of the ports. In fact today the ports are far from the sea. Velia was now far from commercial routes and it declined, becoming a small anglers' village. In IX century the village was abandoned because of malaria and Saracen invasions.

    excavationsThe culture of Elea (Velia) was very important in ancient times for philosophy and the most important philosophers were Parmenide, Zeno, and Melissus of Samos. Also philosophers Senofane and Leucippus stayed in Elea. Until 62 a.C., there was an important medical school and two important grammarians, Stazio (the father of the famous Latin poet) and Palamede (II century a.C.) were from Elea.
    The remains of the town were discovered in XIX century in the territory of Ascea.