The ancient city of Nicopolis was probably founded by Octavianus Augustus after his victory in the naval battle of Actium over the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra (31 B.C.). It was settled by the inhabitants of the Epirotan and Aetolian-Acarnanian cities, and by Italian colonists; from the beginning though it was purely Greek in character. It occupied a strategic position on the communication and trading route from East to West, and had harbours in the Ionian sea and the Ambracian Gulf, so it soon became the capital of the Roman province of Old Epiros, as well as the see of an archbishop. The city became very prosperous but the economic and political crisis of the 3rd century, in combination with the disastrous earthquakes and the invasions of Goths, seriously damaged its life. It was plundered by Alarichus in A.D. 395 and captured by the Vandals in A.D. 475. Its decline began with the invasion of the Goths of Totila in 551 and it finally ceased to exist at the end of the 9th or the beginning of the 10th century A.D.
The site was excavated in the years 1914-1967 by the archaeologists Al. Philadelpheus, A.Orlandos, and G. Soteriou, and again in 1991-93 by the 8th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities.
The most important monuments of the site are:
- Basilica A (of Doumetios). Three-aisled basilica dedicated to Saint Demetrios, founded by Doumetios I, the archbishop of Nicopolis, and by his successor, Doumetios II. It has a transept, an atrium, and a narthex with a baptistery and a vestry. The floors are covered with fine mosaics. Dated to A.D. 550-575.
- Basilica B (of Alkison). Five-aisled basilica with a transept, a narthex with baptistery and vestry and an atrium. Fragments of the mosaic floors are preserved in the atrium, the diaconicon and the annexes. Dated to A.D. 450-516.
- Basilica C. Three-aisled basilica with three apses, and a narthex with annexes. It is situated to the north of basilica B and dates to the last quarter of the 6th century A.D.
- Basilica D (of Asyrmatos or the Ascension). It lies outside the Byzantine walls, at a distance of 800 m. from the centre of the city. It is a three-aisled basilica with a transept, a narthex with annexes, and an atrium. Mosaic floors are preserved in the narthex and diaconicon (vestry). Dated between the end of the 5th and the third quarter of the 6th century A.D.
- Basilica E (Saint Menas of Margarona). It is located 6 km. SE of Nicopolis. Three-aisled basilica with a transept, narthex, exonarthex or atrium, and a semicircular court with a cistern and mosaic floors. Dated to the middle of the 6th century A.D.
- Basilica ST (F). It lies at the south-eastern part of the city, near basilicas A and B and is almost equal in size with basilica A.
- The Episcopeion (Bishop's Palace). Large Roman structure with a peristyle atrium located to the west of basilica A. Some of the mosaic floors in the porticos date to the Christian period, and it seems that the building was also used in Christian times, perhaps as the bishop's palace.
- Early Christian estate at Ftelia. It comprises small rooms, a portico and a courtyard with an apse. Parts of the mosaic floors have survived. Dated to the second half of the 5th century A.D.
- The Byzantine walls. The massive walls of Nicopolis were probably built after the conquest of the city by the Vandals (A.D. 474/5 ) and before the construction of the basilicas (6th century). According to the historian Procopius, they were repaired during the reign of Justinian, in ca. A.D. 540.
(Odysseus, Greek Ministry of Culture)