In antiquity, the area of Preveza was inhabited by the Greek tribe of the Cassopeans, part of larger tribe of the Thesprotians. Their capital city was Cassope (near today's village of Kamarina).
Near the site of modern Preveza in 290 BC King Pyrrhus of Epirus founded the town of Berenikea or Berenike, named after his mother-in-law Berenice I of Egypt.
Today it is believed that Berenikea lies on the hills of Michalitsi village, following the excavations of Sotirios Dakaris in 1965 (The Leo of Michalitsi, etc.).
The Ambracian Gulf near Berenikea was the site of the naval Battle of Actium, on 2 September 31 BC, in which Octavian's (later Augustus) forces defeated those of Mark Antony and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt.
Ancient Nicopolis ("Victory City") was built nearby by Augustus to commemorate his victory, and today it is believed that at its peak it had a total population of 150,000.
In 90 AD, after banishment by the Emperor Domitian, the philosopher Epictetus arrived in Preveza and established a school of philosophy. One of his students, Arrian became a famous historian and recorded all the works of Epictetus.
Nicopolis continued under Roman and later Byzantine rule, experiencing brief periods of Bulgarian rule in the 10th century (920–922, 977–983, 996–997).
According to one theory, modern Preveza grew around a military outpost built in the 9th century by the Bulgarians, following their conquest of Nicopolis.
The city was first attested in the Chronicle of the Morea (1292).
However, Hammond places the foundation of Preveza much later, at the end of 14th century, possibly by Albanians.
After 1204, it came under the Despotate of Epirus (1204–1230, 1241–1338, 1356–1358), the Second Bulgarian Empire (1230–1241), the Serbian Empire (1348–1356), and the Despotate of Arta (1358–1401).
It then came under Venetian rule until captured by the Ottomans.
The Ottomans refounded Preveza probably in 1477, with a subsequent strengthening of the fortifications in 1495.
The naval Battle of Preveza was fought off the shores of Preveza οn 29 September 1538, where the Ottoman fleet of Hayreddin Barbarossa defeated a united Christian fleet under the Genoese captain Andrea Doria.
This day is a Turkish Navy National Holiday, and some of today Turkish submarines called "Preveze".
Preveza was hotly contested in several Ottoman-Venetian Wars.
In September 1684, at the early part of the Morean War, the Venetians, aided by Greek irregulars, crossed from the island of Lefkada (Santa Maura) and captured Preveza as well as Vonitsa, which gave them control of Acarnania - an important morale booster towards the main campaign in the Morea.
However, at the end of the war in 1699 Preveza was handed back to Ottoman rule.
Venice captured Preveza again in 1717, during its next war with the Ottomans and was this time able to hold on to the town and fort it - a meager achievement in a war which otherwise went very badly for the Republic.
Venetian rule would persist until the very end of the Venetian Republic itself in 1797.
During this period, in 1779, the Orthodox missionary Kosmas visited Preveza where it is said he founded a Greek school, which would be the only school of the city during the 18th century. At the end of the 18th century, Preveza became a transit center of trade with western Europe (particularly France), which resulted in the increase of its population to approximately 10,000–12,000.
- 1797: YEAR OF FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY RULE
Following the Treaty of Campo Formio, where Napoleon Bonaparte decreed the final dissolution of the Venetian Republic, Preveza – like other Venetian possessions in Greece and Albania – was ceded to Revolutionary France.
280 French grenadiers arrived in Preveza under the commands of General La Salchette. The people of Preveza welcomed the French troops as friendly, as can be seen in the letters of the period, when they wrote "ΠΕΑ" ("Πρώτο Ετος Απελευθέρωσης", "First Year of Liberation") and formed a pro-French civic militia.
Around this same time the poet Rigas Feraios was combining support for the ideas of the French Revolution with calls for a Greek uprising against Ottoman rule. He was intercepted and killed by the Ottoman authorities when en route to meet Napoleon and directly ask for his help for the Greek cause.
Napoleon Bonaparte, however, focused his attention in another direction, launching the French Campaign in Egypt and Syria, placing France at war with the Ottoman Empire and giving little thought to the fate of the small Preveza garrison exposed on the edge of Ottoman territory.
In October 1798, the local Ottoman governor Ali Pasha Tepelena – having great ambitions to make himself a semi-independent ruler – attacked Preveza with an overwhelming force.
In the Battle of Nicopolis on 12 October 1798 the 7,000 Turkish and Albanian troops of Ali Pasha and his son Mukhtar completely overwhelmed the 280 French grenadiers and their local allies, the 200 Preveza Civil Guards and 60 Souliote warriors under Captain Christakis.
Over the next two days, 13–14 October 1798, a major massacre of the French troops and the local Greek population which defended the city took place in Preveza and Port Salaora, on the Ambracian Gulf, starting before Ali Pasha entered Preveza on 13 October but also continuing in his presence.
The so-called "Destruction of Preveza" is still remembered as a notorious event in Greek history.
On 14 October, Ali Pasha called on those citizens of Preveza who had escaped to the Acarnanian Mountains to return to the city, and declared that they would be in no danger.
However, upon their return, 170 of them were executed by the sword at the Salaora Port Customs. Many prisoners who survived the massacre died from the hardships on the road to Ioannina.
In the grand return and reception held for his victorious troops, which Ali Pasha organized at Ioannina, surviving French and rebel prisoners were given the unpleasant role of walking at the head of the procession, holding the cut and salted heads of their companions, under the shouts and jeers of Ioannina's pro-Ottoman residents.
From Ioannina, nine captured French grenadiers, and two officers were sent chained to Istanbul for questioning. One of them, Captain Louis-Auguste Camus de Richemont, was later released, possibly mediated by the mother of Napoleon Bonaparte, Maria Letizia Bonaparte, and eventually became a general.
Some popularly circulating tales, of doubtful historical authenticity, link this incident with the origins of the Spoonmaker's Diamond, one of the most closely guarded treasures of Istanbul's Topkapı Palace.
Though Preveza would remain under Ottoman rule for more than a century, this event – both the short period of Greek militias active in the city and the shock of the massacre that followed – and the influence of the ideas of the French Revolution had a part in the development of Greek nationalism towards the Greek War of Independence, which broke out three decades later.
From 1798 to 1820, Preveza was under the rule of the semi-independent Ali Pasha Tepelena. Following his death in 1822 at Ioannina, Preveza was more directly controlled from Istanbul.
Preveza became the seat of a province (the Sanjak of Preveze) in 1863, until the year 1912 when the city joined Greece.
In 1835, educational activity in the city revived with the foundation of a new Greek school, the Theophaneios, named after its sponsor, Anastassios Theophanis.
In the following decades, this school became a centre of education in the surrounding area and in 1851 it also hosted a female and a secondary school.
In the later part of the 19th century, Preveza – like the whole of Epirus – became embroiled in the conflicting claims of Greek and Albanian nationalists. This came to a head which came to a head in the wake of the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878, when territorial changes in the hitherto Ottoman parts of the Balkans were put on the agenda.
The 1878 Congress of Berlin was inclined to ignore the demands of the newborn Albanian nationalism – Germany's Otto von Bismarck even proclaimed that an Albanian nation did not exist. Greek nationalism was far longer established on the European scene, and according to the treaty of Berlin in 1878 Preveza was to be ceded by the Ottoman Empire to the Kingdom of Greece.
On the other hand, the Albanian League of Prizren strongly objected to the Greek positions through its local branch, the Albanian Committee of Preveza.
Between 11 and 13 January 1879, 400 Albanian representatives – 200 Cham and Lab Albanian leaders joined on the last day by 200 Northern Albanians – gathered in Preveza to attend the "Assembly of Preveza" (Albanian: Kuvendi i Prevezës) organised by the League of Prizren and its local committee. The assembly resolved to create lobbying committees to prevent the Ottoman Empire from ceding Epirus (or Chameria, as Albanians named the region) to Greece.
The final demarcation of the border was to take place at Preveza, with delegates of Greece and the Ottoman Empire meeting at Preveza on 6 February 1879. Part of the population demonstrated, demanding that there be no such demarcation inside Epirus.
On 28 February 1879, forty-nine delegates representing the Albanian population of the Ottoman Empire signed a petition in Preveza, with a threat to take arms to prevent an annexation of Preveza to Greece.
In the event, Albanian protests prevailed and only Arta was ceded to Greece, leaving Preveza and the rest of Epirus under the Ottoman Empire for the time being. Greek national ambitions were mollified by the Ottomans ceding Thessaly, in which Albanians had no interest.
Greek claims to Preveza remained in force, however, and would come to the fore again in the Balkan Wars three decades later.
After the delineation of borders, the Ottoman Empire changed the governor of Preveza and appointed one from Gjirokastër, in order to deal with the spreading nationalist activities of the Albanian population of Preveza, led by Abdyl Frashëri.
On the other hand the Greek organisation, Epirote Society, founded at 1906 by members of the Epirote diaspora, Panagiotis Danglis and Spyros Spyromilios, aimed at the annexation of the region to Greece by supplying local Greeks with firearms.
The city of Preveza remained under Ottoman control until finally taken by the Greek Army on 21 October 1912, during the First Balkan War.
The city was liberated after the Battle of Nicopolis, by the Greek forces under Colonel Papagiotis Spiliadis. A garrison of the 8th Infantry Division was stationed in the city by December.
Later on in the same war, on 8 February 1913, the inhabitants of Preveza were involved in the first instance in world history of a pilot being shot down in combat. The Russian pilot N. de Sackoff, flying for the Greeks, had his biplane hit by ground fire following a bomb run on the walls of Fort Bizani near Ioannina. He came down near Preveza, and with the help of local townspeople repaired his plane and resumed his flight back to base.
In the following months there arrived in Preveza the famous Swiss photographer Frederic Boissonnas, and a lot of photographs from this period are available today. Preveza along with the rest of southern Epirus formally became part of Greece via the Treaty of London in 1913.
Along with the rest of Greece, Preveza was occupied by Fascist Italy (1941–1943) and Nazi Germany (1943–1944) during World War II.
After the departure of the Wehrmacht from Preveza, in September 1944, an episode of the Greek Civil War known as the Battle of Preveza took place, lasting for 16 days, between armed partisans of the right-wing EDES and the left-wing EAM-ELAS.
The fights stopped after the Convention of Cazerta between Great Britain and the two main Greek resistance groups, EDES and ELAS.
Today Preveza is a commercial harbour and tourist hub, with a marina, 4 Museums, two cinemas, an open theatre, a music Hall (OASIS), many clubs, taverns and cafes, benefiting from its proximity to the nearby Aktion National Airport and the nearby island of Lefkada, a major tourist destination.
There are in the city University of Financial (TEI) and Commercial Navy Academy.
The Aktio-Preveza Immersed Tunnel, opened on 2002, is an important work of infrastructure for what has traditionally been a remote and underdeveloped region, and links Preveza to Actium (Aktio) on the southern shore of the Ambracian Gulf, greatly shortening the distance of the trip to Lefkada.
Edited by: Yallou