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Battle of Actium Area Today

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Battle of Actium summary

The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic. It was a naval engagement fought between the forces of Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. The battle took place on 2 September 31 BCE, on the Ionian Sea near the city of Actium, at the Roman province of Epirus vetus in Greece. Octavian's fleet was commanded by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, while Antony's fleet was supported by the ships of Queen Cleopatra of Ptolemaic Egypt.

  1. Many of Antony's ships were undermanned. There had been a severe malaria outbreak while they were waiting for Octavian's fleet to arrive. Antony burned those ships he could no longer man, while clustering the remainder tightly together. With many oarsmen dead or unfit to serve, the quinqueremes could not apply the powerful, head-on ramming tactic for which they were designed. Octavian's fleet was largely made up of smaller, fully manned Liburnian vessels, armed with better-trained, fresher crews. Octavian's ships were lighter and could outmaneuver the quinqueremes. Before the battle, one of Mark Antony's generals, Quintus Dellius, had defected to Octavian, bringing with him Mark Antony's battle plans.
  2. Antony gathered his ships around him in a quasi-horseshoe formation, staying close to the shore for safety. If Octavian's ships approached Antony's, the sea would push them into the shore. Antony and Cleopatra stayed in the rear of the formation.
  3. Octavian was not lured in the trap. Antony then sent the ships on the northern part of the formation to attack. This way he spread out Octavian's ships which up until now were tightly arranged.
  4. Later Antony sent Gaius Sosius down to the south to spread the remaining ships out to the south. This left a hole in the middle of Octavian's formation.
  5. Understanding that he could not win Antony seized the opportunity and with Cleopatra on her ship and him on a different ship, sped through the gap and escaped, abandoning his entire force.
  6. On the next day, Antony's land army either surrendered or retreated to Macedonia.