Nicopolis (Greek: Νικόπολις Nikópolis, “City of Victory”) or Actia Nicopolis was a city of Epirus (western Greece) founded by Octavian in commemoration of his victory in 31 BC over Antony and Cleopatra at theBattle of Actium nearby. It was later the capital of the Roman province of Epirus Vetus.
Many remains of the ancient city may be visited today.
In 28 BC, in the aftermath of the naval battle of Actium, Octavian founded a new city which he called Nicopolis (the City of Victory) located on the southernmost promontory of Epirus, and across the mouth of the harbour from the village of Actium. This city echoed a tradition dating back to Alexander the Great, and more recently illustrated by Pompey, founder of Nicopolis in Little Armenia (63 BC.). Symbolically, the new city represented his successful unification of the Roman Empire under one administration. Geographically, it constituted a major transportation and communications link between the eastern and western halves of the Mediterranean. Economically, it served to reorganise and revitalise the region, which had never recovered from its destruction by Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus in the Third Macedonian war (171-167 BC). It also established an important commercial centre and port at this strategic position on the Mediterranean sea routes.
On a hill north of Nicopolis where his own tent had been pitched, and north of the present village of Smyrtoula, he also built a sanctuary to Apollo, considered his patron god, and trophies to two other gods, Neptune and Mars for their contribution to its victory. This monument was adorned with the rams of captured galleys. In further celebration of his victory he instituted the quadrennial Actian games in honour of Apollo Actius.
In 27 BC, Octavian implemented an Empire-wide administrative reform. The new polis was considered capital of the territories of southern Epirus including Ambracia, most of Akarnania, and western Aetolia. Many inhabitants of the surrounding areas – Kassopaia, Ambracia, parts of Acarnania (including Leukas, Palairos, Amphilochian Argos, Calydon, and Lysimachia) and western Aetolia – were forced to relocate to the new city.
Among other things, it obtained the right to send five representatives to the Amphictyonic Council. As a city in a senatorial province, Nicopolis began minting its own copper coins (until 268).
During the first five years or so of the city’s foundation, local authorities supervised the construction of the city walls, the majority of the public buildings, including the theatre, stadium,gymnasium, odeion, and the aqueduct. The city’s western gate was connected by a road to the Ionian harbour Komaros. The city eventually occupied a site of around 375 acres.
Although the exact legal status of Nicopolis is the subject of some dispute, unlike other Roman foundations in Greece contemporary with Nicopolis such as Patras, Philippi and, also in Epirus, Buthrotum andEpidamnus, the city was not, or was not only, a Roman colony (implying that Roman military veterans also settled there) but also a free city (civitas libera Nicopolitana) i.e. a polis (Greek city), free and autonomous, having the characteristics of civitas libera and civitas foederata, linked to Rome by a treaty (foedus).