An ancient city whose name suggests the reason for its founding (“Victory City”), the site of Nicopolis today still gives indication of its power and size in the 1st century C.E. Caesar Augustus founded the city to celebrate his great victory at nearby Actium over the forces of Antony and Cleopatra. It has been called “the best site to appreciate the Roman conqueror’s transforming hand on ancient Greece’s landscape” (Christopher Mee and Antony Spawforth, Greece: An Oxford Archaeological Guide [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001], 389). Nicopolis lies on the northwestern shore of Greece in the province of Epirus. It can be reached on fine highways from Athens (approximately 5 hours), or by flights from Athens to Aktion (also known as Preveza airport), only 7 miles away, where an automobile ferry crosses every half hour to Preveza. (A tunnel has been recently completed that will make the future use of the ferry unnecessary.) Taxis are available for the short trip 5 miles west to Nicopolis. Taxis from the airport also can be reserved in advance; be sure to ask if the driver will wait for a visit to the site (approximately an hour), and always get the negotiated price in writing. The area is idyllic and beautiful, particularly the harbor and city of Preveza. The first cities in the area were established by Pyrrhus, king of the region of Epirus (who lent his name to the term “Pyrrhic victory,” referring to a costly battle, generally without real resolution). Nicopolis was founded by Octavian, later known as Caesar Augustus, to commemorate his epic victory over the combined fleets of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium (31 B.C.E.), one of the most important battles of antiquity. The crews of Antony’s warships had been weakened by the malarial fever they contracted in the area, and due to their fatigue they were never able to execute the head-on ramming techniques for which his heavier ships were noted. Octavian’s ships stayed well out of range until he perceived that the enemy was tiring, then they blocked the exit to the sea and destroyed much of Antony’s fleet of five hundred ships.
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