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Encyclopedia > Battle of Actium
Battle of Actium
Part of Antony's civil war

The battle of Actium, by Lorenzo A. Castro, 1672.
Date: 2 September 31 BC
Location: Ionian sea, near the Roman colony of Actium, Greece
Result: Decisive Octavian victory
Combatants
Octavian Mark Antony, Cleopatra VII of Egypt
Commanders
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Mark Antony
Strength
260 warships, mostly liburnian vessels 220 warships, mostly quinqueremes and 60 egyptian warships
Casualties
Unknown Almost all of Antony's fleet

The Battle of Actium was a naval battle of the Roman Civil War between Mark Antony and Octavian (Caesar Augustus). It was fought on September 2, 31 BC, near the Roman colony of Actium in Greece (near the modern-day city of Preveza), on the Ionian Sea. Octavian's fleet was commanded by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, Antony's fleet was supported by the fleet of his lover, Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. The battle was won by the forces of Octavian, whose victory led him to be titled the Princeps Augustus, and eventually to be considered the first Roman Emperor; for this reason the date of the battle is often used to mark the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire. Antonys Civil War is the war between Octavian and Marc Antony following the defeat of Cassius and Brutus. ... The Battle of Actium, 2 September 31 BC, by Lorenzo A. Castro, painted 1672 The two-dimensional work of art depicted in this image is in the public domain in the United States and in those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years. ... September 2 is the 245th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (246th in leap years). ... Centuries: 2nd century BC - 1st century BC - 1st century Decades: 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC 40s BC - 30s BC - 20s BC 10s BC 0s 10s 20s Years: 36 BC 35 BC 34 BC 33 BC 32 BC 31 BC 30 BC 29 BC 28 BC 27 BC... The Ionian Sea. ... The famous statue of Octavian at the Prima Porta Caesar Augustus (Latin:IMP·CAESAR·DIVI·F·AVGVSTVS) ¹ (23 September 63 BC–19 August AD 14), known to modern historians as Octavian for the period of his life prior to 27 BC, is considered the first and one of the most... For his relatives and other people with similar names, see Marcus Antonius (disambiguation). ... Cleopatra VII Philopator (January 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC) was queen of ancient Egypt, the last member of the Ptolemaic dynasty and hence the last Hellenistic ruler of Egypt. ... Marcus Agrippa Agrippa redirects here. ... For his relatives and other people with similar names, see Marcus Antonius (disambiguation). ... A liburnian was a galley, a warship propelled by oars. ... A quinquireme was a galley, a warship propelled by oars, developed from the earlier trireme. ... The French battleship Orient burns, 1 August 1798, during the Battle of the Nile A naval battle is a battle fought using ships or other waterborne vessels. ... Antonys Civil War is the war between Octavian and Marc Antony following the defeat of Cassius and Brutus. ... For his relatives and other people with similar names, see Marcus Antonius (disambiguation). ... The famous statue of Octavian at the Prima Porta Caesar Augustus (Latin:IMP·CAESAR·DIVI·F·AVGVSTVS) ¹ (23 September 63 BC–19 August AD 14), known to modern historians as Octavian for the period of his life prior to 27 BC, is considered the first and one of the most... September 2 is the 245th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (246th in leap years). ... Centuries: 2nd century BC - 1st century BC - 1st century Decades: 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC 40s BC - 30s BC - 20s BC 10s BC 0s 10s 20s Years: 36 BC 35 BC 34 BC 33 BC 32 BC 31 BC 30 BC 29 BC 28 BC 27 BC... Actium (mod. ... Preveza is a town in north-western Greece. ... The Ionian Sea. ... Marcus Agrippa Agrippa redirects here. ... Cleopatra VII Philopator (January 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC) was queen of ancient Egypt, the last member of the Ptolemaic dynasty and hence the last Hellenistic ruler of Egypt. ... The Latin word Princeps (plural: principes) means the first. This article is devoted to a number of specific historical meanings the word took, by far the most important of which follows first. ... For the honorific title, see Augustus (honorific). ... Roman Emperor is the term historians use to refer to rulers of the Roman Empire, after the epoch conventionally named the Roman Republic. ... See also Roman Republic (18th century) and Roman Republic (19th century). ... For other senses of this name, see Roman Empire (disambiguation). ...

Contents


Prelude

The Second Triumvirate broke up due to the serious threat that Octavian felt of Caesarion, the son of Cleopatra and Caesar. Octavian's base of power was his link with Caesar through adoption, which granted him much-needed popularity and loyalty of the legions. To see this convenient situation threatened after Antony declared that Caesarion was the legimate heir to Julius Caesar, a propaganda war between the allies began ending the second triumvirate on the last day of 33 BC. Finally the Senate deprived Antony of his power and declared war against Cleopatra. A third of the Senate and two consuls joined Antony's side and in 31 BC, the war started when Octavian's talented general Agrippa captured the Greek city and naval port of Methone which was loyal to Antony. Mark Antony was an excellent soldier, but his lack of experience in naval matters at sea was his downfall. The Second Triumvirate is the name historians give to the official political alliance of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavian, later Caesar Augustus), Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony. ... Cleopatra and Caesarion at the temple of Dendera, Egypt Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar, nicknamed Caesarion (little Caesar) (lived June 23, 47 BC to August, 30 BC; reigned September 2, 44 BC to August, 30 BC), the last pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, believed to be the son...


The battle

Battle plan
Battle plan

The two fleets met outside the gulf of Actium, on the morning of September 2, 31 BC, with Mark Antony leading 220 warships through the straits toward the open sea. There he met the fleet of Octavian, led by Admiral Agrippa, arranged to block his exit in an arc from the south. Mark Antony's warships were mostly massive quinqueremes, huge galleys with massive rams that could weigh up to three tons. The bows of the galleys were armored with bronze plates and square-cut timbers making it difficult to successfully ram them with similar equipment. Unfortunately for Antony, many of his ships were undermanned because of a severe malaria that had struck his forces while he was waiting for Octavian's fleet to arrive. Many oarsmen had died even before the battle began thus making them unable to execute the tactics for which they were designed--powerful, head-on collisions. Also the morale of his troops had weakened due to the cutting of supply lines. Antony had burned those ships he could no longer man and clustered the rest tightly together. Image File history File linksMetadata Battle_of_actium. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Battle_of_actium. ... A quinquireme was a galley, a warship propelled by oars, developed from the earlier trireme. ...


Octavian's fleet was mostly smaller fully manned Liburnian vessels, armed with better trained and fresher crews. His ships were also lighter and could protect themselves by outmanuvering the quinqueremes in Roman naval battle, where one objective was to ram the enemy ship and at the same time kill the above deck crew with a shower of arrows and catapult-launched stones large enough to decapitate a man. Before the naval battle Mark Antony's general known as Delius defected to Octavian and brought with him Mark Antony’s battle plans. Antony had hoped to use his biggest ships to drive back Agrippa's wing on the north end of his line, but Octavian's entire fleet stayed carefully out of range. Shortly after mid-day, Antony was forced to extend his line out from the protection of the shore, and then finally engage the enemy.


Seeing that the battle was going against Antony, Cleopatra's fleet retreated to open sea without firing a shot. Mark Antony retreated to a smaller vessel with his flag and managed to escape the battle, taking a few ships with him as an escort to help break through Octavian's lines. Those that he left behind, however, were not so fortunate: Octavian's fleet captured or sank all of them.


Aftermath

Ballistae on a Roman ship.
Ballistae on a Roman ship.

The political consequences of this seemingly simple sea battle were tremendous. The proper perspective is that Mark Antony's army was just as large as Octavian's, and the accomplished general Mark Antony could seriously challenge Octavian. As a result of losing the sea battle, Mark Antony's army deserted in large numbers without engaging Octavian's army in battle. Antony lost some 19 infantry legions and 12,000 cavalry, deserting under cover of darkness, debilitating Mark Antony's ability to challenge Octavian. Despite a brief victory at Alexandria, on July 31, 30 BC, Mark Antony's armies decided to desert, leaving him without a competent army to fight Octavian. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1523x828, 108 KB) Summary Ballistae on a Roman ship. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1523x828, 108 KB) Summary Ballistae on a Roman ship. ... The ballista (Latin, from Greek ballistēs, from ballein to throw, plural ballistae) is a powerful ancient weapon, similar to a giant, primitive crossbow, which eject heavy darts or spherical stone projectiles of various sizes. ...


After losing his army to desertion, Mark Antony committed suicide, and, as a result, Cleopatra attempted to negotiate surrender terms with Octavian. Upon failure to have favorable surrender terms Cleopatra committed suicide on August 12, 30 BC, by allowing herself to be bitten by a poisonous asp that was reportedly hidden in a basket of dates. In summary, the Battle of Actium resulted in the loss of Mark Antony's army, and then his defeat, and the taking of Egypt by the Roman Empire. Also the battle ended the era of Roman Republic and began the time of the Roman Empire. An account of the battle appears in Virgil's Aeneid. Asp is an archaic term for a number of species of poisonous snake that live in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. ... A sculpture of Virgil, probably from the 1st century AD. For other uses, see Virgil (disambiguation). ... The Aeneid is a Latin epic written by Virgil in the 1st century BCE (between 29 and 19 BCE) that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who traveled to Italy where he became the ancestor of the Romans. ...


References

  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Military Heritage published a feature about the Battle of Actium, involving Mark Antony, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (aka Octavian) (Julius Caesar's 18-year old adopted son and heir), and Cleopatra of Egypt (Joseph M. Horodyski, Military Heritage, August 2005, Volume 7, No. 1, pp 58 to 63, and p. 78), ISSN 1524-8666.

Encyclopædia Britannica, the 11th edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ... Military Heritage is a glossy, bi-monthly history magazine published by Sovereign Media. ...

External links

  • The Actium Project
  • "The Battle of Actium," by Preston Chesser.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Battle of Actium - Encyclopedia, History, Geography and Biography (0 words)
The Battle of Actium was a naval battle of the Roman Civil War between Mark Antony and Octavian (Caesar Augustus).
It was fought on September 2, 31 BC, near the Roman colony of Actium in Greece (near the modern-day city of Preveza), on the Ionian Sea.
The battle was won by the forces of Octavian, whose victory led him to be titled the Princeps Augustus, and eventually to be considered the first Roman Emperor; for this reason the date of the battle is often used to mark the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.
Battle of Actium - MSN Encarta (0 words)
Battle of Actium, decisive naval engagement fought off the promontory of Actium on September 2, 31 bc, between the Roman fleet of Octavian (later first emperor of Rome as Augustus), under the command of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and a combined Roman-Egyptian fleet commanded by Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
The battle represented the culmination of the old rivalry between Antony and Octavian for control of the Roman world and had been preceded by a long period of skirmishing, which included large armies encamped on opposite shores of the Ambracian Gulf.
The outcome of the battle remained in doubt until Cleopatra, apparently alarmed by an enemy maneuver, ordered the Egyptian contingent, about 60 vessels, to withdraw.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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