Battle of Actium
Fought on September 2, 31 BC, the Battle of Actium was a naval military engagement which took place on the Western coast of Greece. The battle saw Octavian, called the emperor of Augustus after 26 BC, crash Mark Antony and the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra to defeat, becoming the undisputed leader of the Roman Empire. Octavian’s win in the Battle of Actium was so humiliating that Cleopatra and Antony had to sneak away to Egypt where they would commit suicide just one year later.
Events that led to the Battle of Actium
Rome was plunged into civil war after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44BC. In order to restore calm across the empire, Octavian, Antony and Lepidus formed an alliance called the Second Triumvirate. The three divided the empire amongst themselves, with Antony taking the eastern provinces.
Antony’s first action upon arrival in Asia Minor was summoning the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra to answer to allegations of aiding his opponents. Cleopatra had at some time been involved in a love affair with Caesar, and even bore a child named Caesarion with him.
In 41 BC, Cleopatra travelled to Tarsus dressed like the Roman goddess of love, Venus in the hope of seducing Antony, and yes, she succeeded. Antony was able to travel back with her to Alexandria, where they spent the winter together in debauchery.
The following year, Antony went back to Rome and got married to Octavia, Octavian’s sister with the aim of mending their torn relations with the Roman ruler. However, the discontent among the two kept dragging the Triumvirate to its knees. This pushed Antony to break up with Octavia, from where he moved to the East to make arrangements for meeting Cleopatra in Syria.
Antony and Cleopatra had two children, a son and daughter. Although reports indicate that the two lovers got married, it is an unlawful act according to Roman culture, which forbids Romans from marrying from foreign lands.
In 36 BC, Antony staged a military action against Parthia, which ended in disaster to him. However, his spirits were later lifted in 34 B.C when he defeated Armenians. In celebration of his victory, Antony organized a march through Alexandria, where he and Cleopatra appeared seated on golden thrones. Their children were treated to royal titles.
To many Romans, including Octavian, this march was viewed as a statement that Antony had intentions of surrendering Rome into the hands of foreigners.
Summary of the Battle of Actium
After many years of propaganda wars between Octavian, Cleopatra and Antony, the former decided to declare military conflict on the Queen of Egypt, and eventually her new found love. 31 BC saw the defection of many men from Octavian’s army to join Antony, however, Octavian managed to trample on them.
The forces of Octavian and Antony finally came face to face with each other in Actium, Greece on September 2, 31 BC. This marked the height of the Battle of Actium. After several hours of battle, Cleopatra realized she was losing and set sail with 60 ships to Egypt. On seeing that, Antony too took the same course. This meant the end to Antony and Cleopatra’s fleet that remained behind in battle, which eventually surrendered to Octavian. Just one week later, Antony’s ground forces were also forced to hang their boots.
The Aftermath of the Battle of Actium
Despite his victory in the Battle of Actium, Octavian would still take close to a year to reach Alexandria and defeat Antony. On information that Cleopatra had passed on, Antony stabbed himself. However, he did not die until after bidding the Egyptian Queen to reconcile with Octavian.
On arrival of Octavian, Cleopatra tried to lure him too. Seeing how miserable she had failed, Cleopatra could not stand the domination of Octavian and committed suicide using an asp, on August 30, 31 B.C.
Octavian executed Cleopatra’s son with Caesar and included Egypt as part of the Roman Empire. He took the queen’s treasures to pay off his army and was announced the first Augustus of the Roman Empire. Octavian ruled in peace, prosperity and expanded the empire until his demise in 14 A.D aged 75.
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