Greece is finalizing a bid to have the archaeological site of Nikopolis, located in Epirus, inducted onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni chaired a meeting with local officials and experts on Tuesday to set out a timeline for the work that still needs to be done at the site to clinch a successful bid, such as structural, restoration and preservation work at some of its key monuments and artifacts.
The plan also includes a visitor’s reception area, cafe and gift shop, as well as paths that will facilitate wheelchair access, among other interventions.
Nikopolis: A time capsule of Roman-era Greece
The ancient city of Nikopolis which was once home to as many as 150,000 people, is extraordinary in several ways. As it was founded in its classical form by the Romans at the end of their Republic, and flourished during the first years of the Roman Empire, it marks the beginning of the Empire itself.
Octavian’s crushing naval victory at Actium in 31 BC put an end to not only Mark Antony’s ambitions but to the whole Hellenistic era of the successors of Alexander. Less than a year later, on August 29, 30 BC, Octavian officially declared the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty, thus marking the end of the entire Hellenistic era.
Nikopolis (Nike-polis, “city of victory”) was created ex nihilo, by the first Roman Emperor Octavian, who was given the title of “Augustus,” to celebrate his victory and symbolize his autocracy. As the first city of this new era, sealing the establishment of the Empire under his reign, it was remarkable in scale and included a series of monuments created to glorify the Emperor.
Unlike many other ancient cities across Europe, however, it was inhabited continually since antiquity, with many monuments from throughout the ages still in existence. With most of its inhabitants relocating and the nearby city of Preveza expanding in its place, Nikopolis stood untouched from medieval until modern times, forming a time capsule of the glories of the Roman Empire.
UNESCO on Nikopolis
According to UNESCO, “the foundation of Nikopolis is directly associated with a major historical event, Octavian’s victory in the naval battle of Actium against the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
“It is an event of tremendous historic significance, altering the whole political and cultural context of the time, since it was the last of the civil wars of the Roman Republic, signaling the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.”
The site also “contains within its boundaries all the key attributes that convey its Outstanding Universal Value, testifying to the urban character of the site and its great importance as a civitas libera, which enjoyed special political and financial privileges and became a major cultural and political center,” according to UNESCO.