Late antique fortification wall

<Location> Nikopolis (Nicopolis), Epeiros (Epiros, Ipiros), Greece

The first Roman emperor Augustus (then Octavian) founded Nikopolis to commemorate his victory at the decisive battle of Aktion (Actium) over Mark Anthony and Kleopatra on 2 September 31 BCE. Nikopolis, in fact, means the City (polis) of Victory (nike). He also brought here the festival of Apollo from Aktion. The town was an important strategic and administrative centre in late Antiquity, as we can suppose from the construction of massive defensive wall. It was surely inhabited until the ninth century, but it was later abandoned because of the invasion of the Bulgars; part of the inhabitants moved to Prevesa.

You need to pay entrance fee (a few euros) to enter the two-room small museum, but the archaeological sites are free of charge. When we visited here during the summer 2004 most of the monuments, the Odeion, the early Christian basilicas, and the victory monument of Augustus, were closed to the public. Even at the accessible monuments, the mosaic floors were covered with sand.

To go to Nikopolis, there are buses from Prevesa, but it was impossible to get any accurate information at Prevesa bus station; no information counter and no English speaker. There is a tourist information office in the town, but, when we visited, it was closed when it was supposed to be open. The ticket-vendor of the bus station gave us wrong information and we were taken to a place more than two kilometres away from the centre of the site. The fact is that any bus going toward north (there are many because those going to Arta or Athens have to head first toward north) pass by the Nikopolis museum, and the problem is that many of the bus drivers don't know anything about the ancient Nikopolis. The easiest solution seems, if you are not renting a car (it is not a bad idea, because the site itself is quite vast), to use a taxi to go to the museum that is less than 10 km far from Prevesa, and come back with bus that you can catch at a hotel-cafeteria between the museum and the victory monument of Augustus (you can ask at the museum). When you speak about Nikopolis with the people of Prevesa, you must call it ancient Nikopolis, because there is a large night club called Nikopolis in the suburb and there is also a new town of the same name. It seems ridiculous, but the people of Prevesa did not seem to care so much about the ancient Nikopolis.

The older buildings of Nikopolis date back to the Augustan era. The major part of the expences was reportedly provided by Herod the Great. Interestingly the sixth-century ex-official and writer, John the Lydian wrote that the Nikopolis was built by Herod in honour of Augustus (On Power, II. 46). In 128, the emperor Hadrian visited the city, possibly to meet the famous stoician Epiktetos who lived here. Nikopolis maintained her strategic and administrative importance until the later period, as easily seen by the construction of the impressive late-antique wall during the fifth and sixth century. The town survived at least until the ninth century, but it suffered the invasion of the Bulgars in the tenth century, and some of the inhabitants moved to the near-by Prevesa. Nikopolis is now completely abandoned.


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