War for the Roman Empire: Battle of Actium

About the war for the Roman Empire the Battle of Actium fought between Rome led by Octavian son of Caesar and the Egyptians led by Antony and Cleopatra.


The fate of Europe was determined by history's decisive Battle of Actium. Had the naval forces of Antony and Cleopatra beaten those of Julius Caesar's adopted son, Octavian, then Alexandria, Egypt, would have become the capital of the Roman Empire and the non-Christian axis of European culture.

After Caesar's murder in 44 B.C. at the hands of jealous conspirators, a triumvirate was formed with Emperor Octavian governing the west, and Lepidus governing Carthagenian Africa. Antony's plum was the glamorous east--and Cleopatra. The conspirators wanted a republic governed by a people-owned Senate. Octavian and Lepidus could accept this, but Antony leaned strongly toward perpetuation of a divine emperorship. Two subsequent battles followed at Philippi where the republican army commanded by Cassius and Brutus--ringleaders of the murder conspiracy--was defeated. That settled the question. Rome would have an autocracy.

Octavian proceeded to incite the Senate to declare war on Cleopatra, but not on Antony. This divisive scheme didn't work. As a team, Antony and Cleopatra moved their land and naval forces to Actium, on the south side of the Gulf of Ambracia, in order to set up a fortified base. They expected to fight Octavian later, but that was in the future and they assumed that they would be ready.

On September 2, 31 B.C., the 2 navies engaged in battle. Octavian had the advantage. His ships were smaller and more maneuverable. When defeat seemed imminent, Cleopatra, for reasons known only to her, withdrew with her 60 ships, leaving Antony unsupported. Then, in a small galley, Antony recklessly abandoned his forces to follow Cleopatra. Octavian was the undisputed victor.

A year later, when Octavian invaded Egypt, Antony--led to believe that Cleopatra was dead--committed suicide. On finding out that Octavian planned a victory march through the streets of Rome displaying her as a captive, Cleopatra--very much alive--chose her lover's way out.

On returning to Rome, Octavian stepped down, turning the reins of government over to the Senate and the people. They responded by honoring him with both the title of "Augustus" and the rank of tribune for life. Octavian thus became the 1st Emperor of the Roman Empire.

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