Nicopolis – Preveza, Greece - Atlas Obscura
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Preveza, Greece

Nicopolis

The ruins of this monumental city founded by the first Roman Emperor are strangely overlooked by most travelers. 

Greece is filled with ancient ruins, most of which are swarming with tourists. But though this particular city was born after a crucial moment in Roman history, it remains unusually overlooked. The city’s name means “City of Victory,” and it’s a celebration of a battle that changed the course of Roman history.

Nicopolis (also spelled Nikopolis) was founded by Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus—later known as Augustus, the first emperor of Rome—to honor his victory in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. In this battle, his troops defeated the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, basically putting an end to the Final War of the Roman Republic. 

After it was founded in 29 BC, the city thrived. Because of its location near the Ionian Sea, Nicopolis soon became a hub for trade, commerce, and transportation within the Mediterranean. Augustus filled the city with exquisite monuments and grand architecture, including a shrine to Apollo, his patron god.

Nicopolis managed to survive throughout the centuries, despite years of power changes, wars, and attempted invasions. But by the 13th century, the city was completely abandoned. The Byzantine powers had relocated the province capital to Nafpaktos, sending Nicopolis into a rapid decline it never managed to bounce back from.

Though its people long since abandoned the place, remnants of the city’s legacy still stand. While walking through the old archaeological site, you can admire the ancient walls, the theater, and the remarkably well-preserved Roman Odeon. Just being there lets you feel as though you’re witnessing the echoes of the glorious past.