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Actium Rome

In: Historical Events

Submitted By vinnyj
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Battle Analysis

1. Overview: a. Actium-Rome b. 31 BC c. The battle took place off the coast of Actium in the Ionian Sea
2. Historical Context
a. This battle was a part of Roman Civil War between Octavian and Mark Antony. This battle would establish a Roman Emperor and one single ruler of Rome after Julius Caesar’s death.
There were a lot of key events that led up to this particular battle being fought. Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. This led to the Second Triumvirate being formed between Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aerulius Lepidus to rule Rome. They crushed the conspirators Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in 42 BC. After this happened Octavian would rule the western provinces, Antony would oversee the east, and Lepidus was given North Africa. Tensions between Octavian and Anthony became greater over the next few years. In 40 BC Octavia, Octavian’s sister, married Antony. In 37 BC, Antony married Caesar's former lover, Cleopatra VII of Egypt, without divorcing Octavia. After this, Antony worked to expand his power in the east. In 32 BC Antony divorced Octavia, making Octavian even angrier. In response Octavian announced that Antony’s will affirmed Cleopatra's eldest son as Caesar’s true heir. The will turned Roman opinion against Antony because they believed he was trying to make Cleopatra’s son the ruler of Rome. Using this reason for war, Octavian assembled forces to attack Antony and this is how the battle began.
c. Octavian wanted to become the sole ruler of Rome and defeat Antony. He was angry that he went out with his sister and then divorced her. He was also angry that Antony will said that Cleopatra’s son would be Caesar’s true heir. He wanted to also get revenge for all this. Octavian wanted to capture the Greek City and Naval Port of Methone because it was loyal to Antony. Antony wanted to defeat Octavian’s fleet and become leader of Rome.
Hickman, Kennedy, “Roman Civil Wars: Battle of Actium”, Retrieved from
July 21, 2009, “The Naval Battle of Actium”, Retrieved from

3. Key Figures-
1. Mark Antony- wanted to defeat Octavian and become leader of Rome.
2. Octavian- wanted to defeat Antony and become leader of Rome
3. Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa- On Octavian’s side Commanded Octavian’s fleet
4. Cleopatra- Antony’s wife who would help lead troops in battle and she was the Queen of Egypt
5. Lucius Gellius Poplicola and Gaius Sosius- Leaders of Antony’s fleet in the Gulf of Ambracia near Actium.
6. Delius- Antony’s general who set up plans

4. Troop Profile:
Egyptians were on Antony’s side. They all volunteered fight in these battles. They had little education and little training. They barely had any combat experience before this battle.
On Octavian’s side they were also volunteers. They were experienced and mostly made up of Romans. They were trained and ready for naval warfare. Some of the men had combat experience from the previous wars in Rome.

5. Significant Technology:
Warships- large ships used by Actium
Octavian used smaller ships that could outmaneuver Antony’s ships
Bow and Arrows- both sides had these to shoot at each other from across the ships
Catapult-launched stones- Antony’s side had these and they were used to launch at the enemy and it would do a lot of damage
Bronze plates and Square-cut timbers- on the bows of Antony’s ships to keep them from getting rammed
“Battle of Actium”, New World Encyclopedia, Retrieved from,_Battle_of

6. Overall Synopsis of Battle:
a. Led by Lucius Gellius Poplicola and Gaius Sosius, Antony’s fleet concentrated in the Gulf of Ambracia near Actium. While they were in port, Agrippa took his fleet south and attacked Messenia disrupting Antony’s supply lines. When Octavian arrived in Actium he set up positions on the high ground north of the gulf. The attacks against Antony’s camp to the south were easily repulsed.
Before the battle Delius, Antony’s general, set up battle plans. He wanted to use larger ships to drive back the Octavian’s fleet.
b. The battle actually started when Octavian's talented general Agrippa captured the Greek city and naval port of Methone which was loyal to Antony.
A stalemate occurred for several months as the two forces watched each other. The two fleets met outside the Gulf of Actium on September 2nd, 31 BC. Mark Antony led 220 warships toward the open sea. As he was going to the open sea he met the fleet of Octavian (400 small ships). Agrippa arranged to block Antony’s fleet from going to the South. Antony’s warships were much larger than Octavian’s but undermanned because of disease. Many of the men died before the battle even started making it difficult to execute their plan. They were unable to go head on with the smaller ships of Octavian because they didn’t have enough men. Also Agrippa defeated Sosius and cut off the supply lines making it difficult for Antony’s fleet. They were in trouble and Antony’s fleet morale was weakened. The much smaller ships of Octavian’s fleet were armed with better trained and healthier troops. Also their ships were lighter and could outmaneuver the larger ships of Antony’s ships. Antony wanted to ram the enemy ships and at the same time fire arrows to kill the deck crew. They also had catapult-launched stones to kill a man. Octavian’s fleet out smarted Antony’s because they stayed out of range. Shortly after midday Antony was forced to extend his line out from the protection of the shore and engage the enemy. This was a bad decision for Antony. The battle at sea began with three to four of Octavian’s ships against one of Antony’s ships. As the battle went on Agrippa began extending his left to flank Antony’s right. Lucius Poplicola, who was the leader of the right, shifted outward so they wouldn’t get flanked. This opened up a gap in the center of Antony’s ships. Octavian’s ships then plunged in center escalating the battle. Since neither side could ram, the battle devolved into a land battle at sea. They fought for several hours with neither side gaining an advantage.
Soon Cleopatra became concerned with the battle. She ordered the sixty ships that she controlled to head out to sea. Antony quickly went after her leaving the battle with his 40 ships. The departure of these 100 ships destroyed Antony’s fleet. Some of them still tried to fight, but many of them tried to escape. Antony and Cleopatra escaped the battle. Those who remained at the battle surrendered. Later on Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide making Octavian the sole ruler of Rome.
7. Outcome of Battle
a. Antony wanted to use larger ships to ram and drive back Octavian’s ships. This wasn’t successfully achieved because Octavian’s ships were small and could outmaneuver larger ships. Octavian’s fleet stayed out of range of Antony’s fleet. Also during battle Octavian’s ships attacked the right side of Antony’s ships creating a gap in the middle for Octavian’s ships to go in. After this happened they no longer use the methods they wanted to attack Octavian’s ships.
b. This battle led to it being a land battle at sea. This caused Cleopatra to be concerned because neither side could gain advantage so she left the battle and went out to sea. This made Antony leave because he wanted to be with her. A hundred ships left with them ending the battle because Antony’s fleet could no longer fight.
Porter, Barry, July 31, 2006, “Battle of Actium”, Retrieved from

c. Antony’s allies began deserting him and went over to Octavian’s leadership. This led to Antony killing himself and then his wife killing herself because Octavian’s forces were coming closer and there wasn’t much left of Antony’s force. Octavian would become sole ruler of Rome and be able to begin the transition from republic to empire. Without this battle there might not have been a Roman Empire.
Hickman, Kennedy, “Roman Civil Wars: Battle of Actium”, Retrieved from

Porter, Barry, July 31, 2006, “Battle of Actium”, Retrieved from
Hickman, Kennedy, “Roman Civil Wars: Battle of Actium”, Retrieved from
July 21, 2009, “The Naval Battle of Actium”, Retrieved from
“The Battle of Actium”, Retrieved from
N.S. Gill’s Ancient/Classical History Glossary, “Actium-Battle of Actium”, Retrieved from
“Battle of Actium”, New World Encyclopedia, Retrieved from,_Battle_of

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