Nikopolis is located on the peninsula of
Preveza, in SW
Epirus. It was founded by Octavianus Augustus, after the naval battle of
Actium, in 31 BC.
The city had its own mint and every four years celebrated the Actia, festivals including athletic, musical and racing contests. Many intellectuals of the period, such as Epictetus (AD 89) were gathered in Nikopolis. The city continued to be inhabited during the Byzantine period.
The first systematic excavations on the site were carried out in the period 1913-1926, by the Archaeological Society, under the direction of Al. Philadelpheus, and were continued by professors G. Soteriou and A. Orlandos until 1938. In 1938 J. Papademetriou, Ephor of Antiquities, conducted a restricted excavation in the area of the Gymnasium, but was stopped by the Second World War. Fieldwork was resumed in 1956 by A. Orlandos under the auspices of the Archaeological Society and lasted until 1965. Since then, the local Ephorate has been conducting rescue excavations in the area.
Some of the Roman monuments of the site (dated to 1st-4th centuries AD) have been restored: the Odeum (in 1969-1972), the north thermae (in 1973-1974), the Nymphaeum (in 1975), the large theatre, the Roman wall and the
villa of Manius Antoninus which contained remarkable
mosaic floors (in 1978-1984).
Among the most important monuments of Roman Nikopolis are: The Odeum
It lies on the west side of the Ealry Christian wall and contains the
cavea (auditorium), the orchestra and the skene. Since the ground is not naturally sloping
the cavea is supported by three semi-circular stoas. It was constructed in the 1st century AD and remained in use until the second half of the 3rd century AD. The north Thermae (Bedenia)
Roman public building located to the north of the Roman walls. It includes curvilinear and rectangular spaces which are interconnected with many openings and are enriched with semi-circular niches and rows of pillars. The monument of Augustus
It was erected by Octavianus Augustus in 31 BC, after his victory at the battle of Actium and was dedicated to Ares (Mars), Poseidon and Apollo of Actium. It has a stone, Π-shaped podium, on which the bronze beaks from Antonius' ships were attached. The rest of the trophies from the battle were housed in a stoa above the podium. The Theatre
It is located to the SE of the monument of Augustus. The skene must have been exceptionally high, probably two-storeyed, with three arched entrances. Three subterranean corridors allowed the spectators access to the cavea, which was supported by three semi-circular stoas. Dated to the 1st century AD. The Nymphaeum
It is located to the west of the Roman walls and consists of two rectangular buildings with a simple, undecorated facade, and niches in the interior. Here ended the aqueduct that carried potable water from the springs of the village of Agios Georgios to Nikopolis. It is not certain whether the two buildings were erected at the same time. One of these, the north, must have been constructed in the early 3rd century AD. The aqueduct
The Roman aqueduct of Nikopolis, 50 km long, carried the water from the springs of
Agios Georgios to two cisterns in the Nymphaeum of Nikopolis. It actually consists of three parts, each constructed in a different manner:
A channel with a vaulted, water-proof roof and ventilation shafts
A tunnel quarried out in the Kokkinopelos valley and
Arcaded bridges that carried the water across the hills.
The Roman aqueduct was constructed after the foundation of Nikopolis by Augustus for the water supply of the new city.
The flourishing capital and seat of the archibishop of the Roman province of Old Epiros became very prosperous until an economic and political crisis, in combination with the disastrous earthquakes and the invasions of Goths marked a period of gradual decline.
The city knew three major invasions and subsequent plunderings: by Alarichus in AD 395, by the Vandals in AD 475, by the Goths of Totila in AD 551. By the end of the 9th or the beginning of the 10th century AD inhabitation on the site ceased and the city was abandoned.
Among the most important monuments of the Early Christian Nikopolis are: Basilica A (of Doumetios)
Three-aisled basilica dedicated to Saint Demetrios, founded by Doumetios I, the archbishop of Nikopolis, and by his successor, Doumetios II. It has a transept, an atrium, and a narthex with a baptistery and a vestry. The floors are covered with fine mosaics. Dated to AD 550-575. Basilica B (of Alkison)
Five-aisled basilica with a transept, a narthex with baptistery and vestry and an atrium. Fragments of the mosaic floors are preserved in the atrium, the diaconicon and the annexes. Dated to AD 450-516. Basilica D (of Asyrmatos or the Ascension)
It lies outside the Byzantine walls, at a distance of 800 m. from the centre of the city. It is a three-aisled basilica with a transept, a narthex with annexes, and an atrium. Mosaic floors are preserved in the narthex and diaconicon (vestry). Dated between the end of the 5th and the third quarter of the 6th century AD. Basilica E (Saint Menas of Margarona)
It is located 6 km SE of Nikopolis. Three-aisled basilica with a transept, narthex, exonarthex or atrium, and a semicircular court with a cistern and mosaic floors. Dated to the middle of the 6th century AD. The Episcopeion (Bishop's Seat)
Large Roman structure with a peristyle atrium located to the west of basilica A. Some of the mosaic floors in the porticos date to the Christian period, and it seems probable that the building was converted into the bishop's seat during the Christian times. Early Christian Mansion at Ftelia
It comprises small rooms, a portico and a courtyard with an apse. Parts of the mosaic floors have survived. Dated to the second half of the 5th century AD.