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NICO´POLIS

NICO´POLIS, III. In Europe.


1.

A city of Epeirus, erected by Augustus, in commemoration of the victory of Actium, B.C. 31. It was situated near the entrance of the Ambraciot gulf, on the promontory of Epeirus, which is immediately opposite that of Actium in Acarnania. The extremity of the Epeirot promontory is now occupied by the town of Prévesa; and Nicopolis lay 3 miles to the N. of this town, on a low isthmus separating the Ionian sea from the Ambraciot gulf. It was upon this isthmus that Augustus was encamped before the battle of Actium. His own tent was pitched upon a height immediately above the isthmus, from whence he could see both the outer sea towards Paxi, and the Ambraciot gulf, as well as the parts towards Nicopolis. He fortified the camp, and connected it by walls with the outer port, called Comarus. (D. C. 1. 12.) After the battle he surrounded with stones the place where his own tent had been pitched, adorned it with naval trophies, and built within the enclosure a sanctuary of Neptune open to the sky. (D. C. 51.12.) But, according to Suetonius (Suet. Aug. 18), he dedicated this place to Neptune and Mars. The city was peopled by inhabitants taken from Ambracia, Anactorium, Thyrium, Argos Amphilochicum, and Calydon. (D. C. 51.1; Suet. Aug. 12; Strab. vii. pp. 324, 325; Paus. 5.23.3, 7.18.8, 10.38.4.) Augustus instituted at Nicopolis a quinquennial festival, called Actia, in commemoration of his victory. This festival was sacred to Apollo, and was celebrated with music and gymnastic games, horse-racing and sea-fights. It was probably the revival of an old festival, since there was an ancient temple of Apollo on the promontory of Actium, which is mentioned by Thucydides (1.29), and was enlarged by Augustus. The festival was declared by Augustus to be a sacred contest, by which it was made equal to the four great Grecian games; it was placed under the superintendence of the Lacedaemonians. (Dio Cass., Suet., Strab., II. cc.) Augustus caused Nicopolis to be admitted into the Amphictyonic council (Paus. 10.38.3), and made it a Roman colony. (Plin. Nat. 4.1. s. 2; Tac. Ann. 5.10.) A Christian church appears to have been founded at Nicopolis by the Apostle Paul, since he dates his letter to Titus from Nicopolis of Macedonia, which was most probably the colony of Augustus, and not the town in Thrace, as some have supposed. Nicopolis continued to be the chief city in Western Greece for a long time, but it had already fallen into decay in the reign of Julian, since we find that this emperor restored both the city and the games. (Mamertin. Julian. 9.) At the beginning of the fifth century it was plundered by the Goths. (Procop. B. Goth. 4.22.) It was again restored by Justinian (de Aedif. 4.2), and was still in the sixth century the capital of Epeirus. (Hierocl. p. 651, ed. WesseL) In the middle ages Nicopolis sunk into insignificance, and the town of Prévesa, built at the extremity of the promontory, at length absorbed all its inhabitants, and was doubtless, as in similar cases, chiefly constructed out of the ruins of the ancient city.

The ruins of Nicopolis are still very considerable. They stretch across the narrowest part of the isthmus already described. Strabo (vii. p.324) erroneously describes the isthmus as 60 stadia in breadth; but the broadest part, from the southeastern extremity of the lagoon called Mázoma to Mýtika, is only three miles; while the narrowest part is less than half that distance, since the eastern half of the isthmus is occupied by the lagoon of Mázoma. This lagoon is separated from the Ambraciot gulf only by a narrow thread of land, which is a mile long, and has openings, where the fish are caught in great numbers, as they enter the lagoon in the winter and quit it in the summer. This illustrates the statement of an ancient geographer, that fish was so plentiful at Nicopolis as to be almost disgusting. (Geogr. Graec. Min. vol. iii. p. 13, ed. Hudson.) Nicopolis had two harbours, of which Strabo (vii. p.324) says that the nearer and smaller was called Comarus (Κόμαρος), while the further, and larger, and better one, was near the mouth of the gulf, distant about 12 stadia from Nicopolis. It would appear, that Strabo conceived both the ports to have been on the western coast outside the gulf; but it is evident from the nature of the western coast that this cannot have been the case. Moreover, Dio Cassius (1. 12) calls Comarus [p. 2.427]the outer port; and there can be little doubt that the second harbour, intended by Strabo, was the port of Vatý within the gulf, the distance of which from Nicopolis corresponds to the 12 stadia of Strabo, and where there are some Roman ruins a little within and on the eastern shore of the creek. The port of Comarus was doubtless at Mýtika, but the name of Gómaro is now given to the wide bay north of Mýtika

The ruins of Nicopolis are now called Paleoprévesa. On approaching them from Prévesa, the traveller first comes to some small arched buildings of brick, which were probably sepulchres, beyond which are the remains of a strong wall, probably the southern enclosure of the city. Near the southwestern extremity of the lagoon Mázoma, is the Paleókastron or castle. It is an irregular pentagonal enclosure, surrounded with walls and with square towers at intervals, about 25 feet in height. On the western side, the walls are most perfect, and here too is the principal gate. The extent of the enclosure is about a quarter of a mile. The variety of marble fragments and even the remains of inscriptions of the time of the Roman Empire, inserted in the masonry, prove the whole to have been a repair, though perhaps upon the site of the original acropolis, and restored so as to have been sufficiently large to receive the diminished population of the place. It may have been, as Leake conjectures, the work of Justinian, who restored Nicopolis.

Three hundred yards westward of the Paleókastron are the remains of a small theatre but little dilapidated. Col. Leake says that it appears to be about 200 feet in diameter; but Lieut, Wolfe describes it as only 60 feet in diameter. Being built upon level ground, the back or highest part is entirely supported upon an arched corridor. Between this

MAP OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF NICOPOLIS.
  • A. Site of Nicopolis.
  • B. Port Comarus. Mýtika.
  • C. Port Vathý.
  • D. Lagoon Mázomza.
  • E. Prévesa.
  • F. Actium. La Punta.
  • 1. Paleókastron.
  • 2. Small Theatre.
  • 3. Palace.
  • 4. Large Theatre.
  • 5. Stadium.
  • 6. Aqueduct.
  • 7. Hill Mikhalítzi.

theatre and the shore, are the ruins of a quadrangular building of brick, which was perhaps a palace, as it has numerous apartments, with many niches in the walls for statues, and some remains of a stone pavement. It stands just within an aqueduct, supported upon arches, which entered Nicopolis on the north, and was 30 miles in length. Considerable remains of it are met with in different parts of Epeirus.

Farther north, at the foot of a range of hills, are the remains of the great theatre, which is the most conspicuous object among the ruins. It is one of the best preserved Roman theatres in existence. The total diameter is about 300 feet. The scene is 120 feet long, and 30 in depth. There are 27 rows of seats in three divisions. From the back of the theatre rises the hill of Mikhalítzi, which was undoubtedly the site of the tent of Augustus before the battle of Actium. Close to the theatre are the ruins of the stadium, which was circular at both ends, unlike all the other stadia of Greece, but similar to several in Asia Minor, which have been constructed or repaired by the Romans. Below the stadium are some ruins, which are perhaps those of the gymnasium, since we know from Strabo (vii. p.325) that the gymnasium was near the stadium. The accompanying map is taken from Lieut. Wolfe's survey. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. i. p. 185, seq.; Wolfe, in Journal of Geogr. Soc. vol. iii. p. 92, seq.)

COIN OF NICOPOLIS IN EPEIRUS.


2.

A town of Thrace, not far from the mouth of the Nessus, and therefore called by Ptolemy (3.11.13) Νικόπολις περὶ Νέσσον. It appears to have been founded by Trajan, as it is surnamed Ulpia upon coins. The Scholiast upon Ptolemy says that it was subsequently named Christopolis; but it is still called Nicopolis by Socrates (H. E. 7.36) and Hierocles (p. 635).


3.

A town of Thrace at the foot of Mt. Haemus. (Ptol. 3.11.11.)


4.

A town of Thrace, situated at the place where the Iatrus flows into the Danube, and erected by Trajan in memory of his victory over the Dacians. (Amm. Marc. 31.5; Jornand. de Reb. Get. 100.18; Hierocl. p. 636.)

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