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date: 22 February 2024



  • W. M. Murray


  • Ancient Geography
  • Roman History and Historiography

Actium (Ἄκτιον‎), a flat sandy promontory at the entrance to the Ambracian Gulf, forming part of the territory of Anactorium, as well as the NW extremity of Acarnania. A cult of Apollo was located here as early as the 6th cent. bce to judge from the torsos of two archaic kouroi found on the cape in 1867. At this time, or soon thereafter, a temple stood on a low hill near the tip of the promontory where games were celebrated in honour of the god as late as the end of the 3rd cent. bce. In 31 bce the cape was the site of M. Antonius (2)'s camp, and gave its name to the naval battle, fought just outside the gulf, in which he was defeated by Octavian (2 September). A few years later, when Octavian founded Nicopolis (3) on the opposite (northern) side of the strait, he took care to enlarge Apollo's sanctuary at Actium by rebuilding the old temple and adding a monumental naval trophy (not to be confused with the naval trophy he dedicated at Nicopolis). In ship-sheds constructed in the sacred grove at the base of the hill, he dedicated a set of ten captured warships, one from each of the ten classes that had fought in the battle (Strabo 7. 7. 6). Although the ships and their ship-sheds were gone (destroyed by fire) by the time Strabo composed his account, recent excavations have located the site where the kouroi were found in 1867 and have confirmed the location of the temple, obscured for many years. Octavian also revitalized the old Actian Games by transferring them to a new venue outside Nicopolis. The quinquennial games, called Actia, were modelled on the Olympian festival, and were later imitated by several other Greek cities (see agōnes). An Actian ‘era’ was established, whose initial date is variously placed between 30 and 28 bce.


  • A. Philippson and E. Kirsten, Die griechischen Landschaften 1–4 (1950–1959), 2. 380–381.
  • R. Stillwell and others, Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (1976), 28.
  • W. M. Murray, Octavian's Campsite Memorial (1989), 125–155.
  • D. Strauch, Brill’s New Pauly vols 1–15 (Antiquity) (2002), 1. 124–126.