The Actia

The Actia, Greek games modeled after the Olympics, were established by Augustus in 27 BC in Nicopolis, "the city of the victory" near Actium on the west coast of Greece, to celebrate his victory against Antony and Cleopatra in the naval battle near Actium. In his new city Augustus had a stadion, a gymnasion, a theater, a hippodrome and baths built.

The program consisted of a musical competition, athletic games and horse races, with three age categories. Alongside the traditional program there was also a boat-race, which certainly refers to the naval battle of 31 BC. The games were held every four years and the prize was a crown of reeds.

The Actia immediately belonged to the top of the Greek festivals, second in importance to the great Olympic and Pythian games. This is clear from honorary inscriptions, in which the victories of the athletes and musicians are often enumerated in order of importance. In the second century AD, they even entered the periodos.  The Actia owed their prestige to the imperial patronage. They were often copied in the Greek world, and local Actia are found in Asia Minor and Phoenicia.

© KU Leuven, 2012