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NIKOPOLIS (Palioprevesa) Epeiros, Greece.

On the peninsula opposite Aktion and separating the Ionian Sea from the Gulf of Arta. The city was founded by the emperor Augustus after 31 B.C. on the site occupied by his army during the Battle of Aktion. In addition to serving as a monument to this victory, Nikopolis was a synoecism of older cities (Strab. 10.2.2; Paus. 5.23.3) providing an administrative center to replace the Aitolian and Akarnanian Leagues. It was, from the beginning, a free city, minted its own coinage and was the site of games in honor of Apollo Aktios. In A.D. 94, the Stoic philosopher Epiktetos established his philosophic school in the city after being forced to leave Rome. In the Christian period, Nikopolis served as the metropolitan seat of W Epeiros. The city was damaged by earthquake in A.D. 375 and probably by the inroads of Goths, Huns, and Vandals in the century which followed. The emperor Justinian had the fortifications of the city rebuilt in A.D. 550. The 10th century witnessed the gradual decline of the city with the influx of Bulgars into the area. Eventually its inhabitants drifted away to nearby Prevesa.

According to Strabo (7.7.6), the city had two harbors and a temenos sacred to Apollo in the suburbs. The temenos contained a sacred grove, a stadium, and a gymnasium. The stadium is visible in the area N of the city, as are a large theater and a bath structure. North of the sanctuary area is a hill (modern Michalitzi) where Augustus is said to have established his field headquarters during the battle. After his victory the site was consecrated, according to Strabo and Dio Cassius (51.1.3), to Apollo, according to Suetonius (Aug. 18), to Neptune and Mars. Excavations carried out by Greek archaeologists uncovered remains of a large structure of uncertain form, and fragments of a Latin inscription referring to Neptune.

The city proper is enclosed by a polygonal circuit of walls, presumably those of Justinian. Inside the walls are a large peristyle building identified as some sort of public building or administrative palace, and three Early Christian basilicas. Basilicas A (second quarter of the 6th c. A.D.) and B (5th c.) are of the tripartite transept variety. To the W of Basilica A, especially noted for its figural mosaic pavements, is another peristyle complex known as the episcopal palace. Basilica C, located to the N near the circuit wall, is triple-apsed and dated to the period after Justinian.

In the region W of the circuit walls are an odeion, a stretch of aqueduct with associated reservoirs and bath, and many brick-vaulted tombs and single burials. An apsidal building, also containing several graves, has been identified as a church dedicated to the Holy Apostles. The area S of Nikopolis contains an amphitheater, more tombs and graves, and a second, probably Augustan, stretch of wall. A third transept basilica (D, dated late 5th-early 6th c. A.D.), similar to Basilica A, has been excavated here as well as the mediaeval church of the Resurrection and part of a 5th c. villa. A fourth transept basilica, similar to those in Nikopolis, has been partially excavated 4 km SE of the city, outside modern Prevesa (mid- to third quarter of the 6th c.). Museum on site.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

P. Frourike, “Nikopolis-Prevesa,” Epeirotika Chronika 4 (1929) 117-59; A. Baccin & V. Ziino, “Nicopoli d'Epiro,” Palladio 4 (1940) 1-17MPI; E. Kitzinger, “Mosaics at Nikopolis,” DOP 6 (1951) 83-122; E. Kirsten & W. Kraiker, Griechenlandkunde. Ein Fuhrer zu klassischen Statten (1967) II, 751-55M; Excavation reports in Praktika 1913-16, 1918, 1921-24, 1926, 1929-30, 1937-38, 1940, 1956, 1961; ArchEph 1913-14, 1916-18, 1922, 1929, 1952 and various articles, 1964-65, 1967, 1970-71; Deltion 1960-65, 1968-69.

A. WEIS

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