The battle of Actium (31 BC)

The battle of Actium (31 BC)

In the battle fought at the shores of Hellas, Octavian won a decisive victory over Marcus Antonius.

History

Keywords

Battle of Actium, Cleopatra VII Philopator, Marcus Antonius, Octavian, Actium, Augustus, Quinquereme, 31 BC, Római Birodalom, The Second Triumvirate, naval battle, republic, Hellas, Egypt, Rome, naval warfare, battleship, fleet, battle, military history, history, antiquity

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Scenes

Actium

  • Octavian's allied forces
  • Marcus Antonius’ and Cleopatra’s allied forces
  • Actium
  • Ionian Sea
  • Octavian's camp
  • Marcus Antonius's camp

Civil War Fought on the Sea: the Battle of Actium

After the assassination of Julius Caesar civil war broke out in the Roman Republic. At the end of the struggle for power two men remained standing: Marcus Antonius (commonly known as Mark Anthony) and Octavian. The former was supported by Cleopatra VII, queen of Egypt; the latter enjoyed the support of the Roman Senate. The decisive battle for autocracy took place at Actium.

The quinquereme

This typical warship of the Hellenistic era had 3 levels for the oarsmen. The word 'five' in the name refers to the arrangement of the oars: on the two upper decks each oar was handled by 2 men, while on the lower deck by one man. Their main weapon was the bronze ram, and they were also equipped with catapults. Drawbridges, successfully used in the Punic Wars, were not used any more, as they often caused the ships to overturn in storms.

Octavian's fleet

  • left flank (Agrippa)
  • main force (L. Arruntius)
  • right flank (Octavian)

Aftermath for Octavian

At the end of the civil war only Octavian remained on the scene. Caesar’s adopted son created an autocracy. His Principate marked the beginning of the Roman Empire, and he became its first emperor under the name Augustus.

Antonius and Cleopatra's fleet

  • right flank (Marcus Antonius)
  • left flank (G. Sosius)
  • Cleopatra's naval fleet

Aftermath for Marcus Antonius

Marcus Antonius fled to Egypt. After his shameful defeat, the previously popular military commander was deserted by his 19 infantry legions and 12 thousand cavalry. Eventually, Antonius committed suicide.

Aftermath for Cleopatra

Cleopatra VII fled to Egypt during the battle. After the death of Marcus Antonius she started negotiations with Octavian, but found the conditions humiliating, and committed suicide.

Stages of the battle

  • Octavian's allied forces
  • Marcus Antonius’ and Cleopatra’s allied forces
  • Actium
  • Octavian's camp
  • Marcus Antonius's camp
  • left flank (Agrippa)
  • main force (L. Arruntius)
  • right flank (Octavian)
  • right flank (Marcus Antonius)
  • left flank (G. Sosius)
  • Cleopatra's naval fleet
  • right wing
  • Marcus Antonius

Narration

Octavian and Antonius set up camps on opposite shores of the Ambracian Gulf. Octavian’s fleet, commanded by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, blocked the entrance to the gulf.

An epidemic in his camp and the lack of food forced Antonius to attempt a breakout from the gulf. The left flank of his fleet initiated the attack.

Agrippa ordered his left flank to start an encircling manoeuvre. This opened a gap in the middle of the line of ships, which gave an opportunity to Cleopatra’s ships to escape.

Antonius, commanding on the right flank, transferred to a smaller ship and fled. Witnessing this, the rest of his fleet surrendered.

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