Elea was founded in the second half of the sixth century BC by Phocaeans exiles fleeing Ionia (on the coasts of Turkey, near the Gulf of Izmir) to escape the Persian military pressure.
The foundation took place after the battle of Alalia, fought by Focei against a coalition of Etruscans and Carthaginians, event dating to a time ranging from 541 to 535 BC.
The city was built on the top and sides of a hill, bought by Focei to Enotri, located between Punta Licosa and Palinuro.
The name Hyele, which was originally called, was the same of a source placed behind the headland.Around the fifth century BC, the city was known for happily flourishing trade and government policy. It also took over considerable cultural importance for its famous pre-Socratic philosophical tradition, called Eleatic School, founded by Parmenides and continued by his pupil Zeno.
In the fourth century he came into the league of cities that are committed to halt the advance of Lucani, who had already occupied the nearby Poseidonia (Paestum) and threatened Elea.In Rome, however, Elea entertained excellent relations: provided ships for the Punic Wars (III-II century) and sent young priestesses to the cult of Demeter (Ceres), from the aristocratic families of the place. It eventually became a holiday resort and care for Roman aristocrats, perhaps thanks to the presence of the medical school-philosophical.In 88 BC Elea was ascribed to the tribe Romilia, becoming a Roman town with the name of Velia, but with the right to preserve the Greek language and fly its currency.
In the second half of the century it served as a naval base, first for Brutus (44 BC) and then by Octavian (38 BC).
The prosperity of the city continued until the end of the first century AD, when they built numerous villas and small settlements, with new public buildings and the Thermae, but the silting of ports and construction, which began in 132 BC, the Via Popilia that connected Rome with the south of the peninsula cutting off Velia, they led the city to a progressive isolation and impoverishment.
By the end of the Imperial, the last inhabitants were forced to take refuge at the top of the Acropolis to escape the advance of the marshland, and the settlement is reported in the codes with different names corresponding to different periods, including the Castellammare grazes.
At the end of the Middle Ages, in 1420, it became a fief of the Sanseverino but in the 21 March 1466, will be donated to the Royal House of the Annunziata in Naples.
From 1669 is no longer any inhabitant surveyed on site, and the traces of the city are lost in the swamps. Only in the nineteenth century archaeologist François Lenormant including the cultural and historical importance of the place lent itself to interesting studies and investigations, still under way, but it should also be noted that unfortunately, because of the excavations begun in the last century, the village surviving from the Middle Ages until the seventeenth century was largely destroyed.
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