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Battle of Actium (Great Battles Through the Ages) by David J. Califf Ph.d.

By David J. Califf Ph.d.

Recounts occasions major as much as and surrounding the 31 B.C. conflict of Actium through the Roman Civil struggle, in addition to its long-lasting effects.

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Octavian branded Antony as an effeminate king given to extravagant luxury (for such was the stereotype of Eastern rulers). Indeed, Antony gave him ample ammunition for the charge, and the ancient historian Plutarch records Antony’s penchant for decadent partying. In many ways, the conflict was shaping up as a clash between East and West, with Octavian claiming that Alexandrian decadence was a threat to Roman virtues and Antony and Cleopatra poised to defend the East against an overbearing, imperialist Rome.

When scouts discovered a large portion of Sextus Pompeius’s fleet near Mylae, Octavian devised a new plan. He assumed that Sextus was present at Mylae and that Tauromenium was therefore vulnerable. Leaving Agrippa to deal with the fleet, Octavian sailed with three legions to meet Statilius Taurus and prepared to invade Tauromenium. He arrived with his infantry under the command of Cornificus and demanded that the town surrender. Sextus Pompeius must have figured out Octavian’s strategy, for he arrived with a large fleet just as Octavian’s men were beginning to set up camp.

Because Cicero had been instrumental in foiling the Catilinarian conspiracy of 63, one might have expected the senator to condemn the conspiracy of 44; however, the plot to kill Caesar was of a different nature, in Cicero’s eyes. In this case, the murdered man was an enemy of the Republic. Thus, Cicero was among those who advised Antony to spare the conspirators. He hoped that Antony would serve not only as a peacemaker but also as a champion of republican values. The senator was quickly disappointed.

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