Archaeological park Elea Velia
The ancient city of Elea, which derives its name from the local spring Hyele, was founded around 540 B.C. by a group of exiles from the Greek city of Phocaea, in present-day Turkey, occupied by the Persians.
The city, which was known in the 5th century B.C. mainly for Parmenides and Zeno, founders of the famous Eleatic philosophy school, reached a period of great development in the Hellenistic Age and in the Roman Age (late 4th century B.C. – 5th century A.D.), when its name was modified to Velia.
In the Middle Ages the settlement retreated onto the Acropolis, where a castle was built. The tour of the excavations begins in the lower city, where many of the buildings date back to the Hellenistic and Roman Age. These include a cryptoporticus with three wings of the Augustan Age (27 B.C. – 14 A.D.), rebuilt in the 2nd century A.D., which has been variously identified as a palaestra or a medical school or a sacellum for the Imperial cult, in view of the numerous statues and hermae of local physicians and of members of the Imperial family that have been found here.
Near here is the Masseria Cobellis, another building of a public character dating back to the mid-Imperial Age, which is distinguished by its elegant scenographic layout, on two levels, with a nymphaeum and a pond. Walk up towards the Acropolis, and you will come to Velia’s most ancient settlement (6th century B.C.), where the remains of houses lined up along a road are still visible. The area was abandoned in the 5th century B.C. to allow public buildings to be erected. Some of these have partially survived, and include a Roman-age theatre, a temple and an edifice with an arcaded façade used for religious purposes. The buildings on the Acropolis were damaged in the Middle Ages when the castle was constructed.
The architecture that survived from this period includes the Angevin Tower, remains of walls and two churches, the Capella Palatina and the church of Santa Maria, which house small but comprehensive antiquaria. Starting from the Acropolis, visitors can follow an evocative trail that runs along the crest of the hill, stopping along the way at various small sacred areas with buildings of the Hellenistic Age and stretches of the boundary wall. A visit to the Castelluccio, the culminating point of Velia’s defensive system, concludes the tour.