Front Matter The Lady Roma The She-Wolf The Twin Boys Numitor's Grandson The Sacred Birds The Founding of Rome The Sabine Maidens The Tarpeian Rock The Mysterious Gate The King Disappears The Peace-Loving King Horatius Slays His Sister Pride of Tullus Hostilius King Who Fought and Prayed The Faithless Friend A Slave Becomes a King Cruel Deed of Tullia Fate of the Town of Gabii Books of the Sibyl Industry of Lucretia Death of Lucretia Sons of Brutus Horatius Cocles Mucius Burns Right Hand The Divine Twins The Tribunes Coriolanus and His Mother The Roman Army in a Trap The Hated Decemvirs The Death of Verginia The Friend of the People Camillus Captures Veii The Statue of the Goddess Schoolmaster Traitor Battle of Allia The Sacred Geese The City Is Rebuilt Volscians on Fire Battle on the Anio The Curtian Lake Dream of the Two Consuls The Caudine Forks Caudine Forks Avenged Fabius among the Hills Battle of Sentinum Son of Fabius Loses Battle Pyrrhus King of the Epirots Elephants at Heraclea Pyrrthus and Fabricius Pyrrhus is Defeated Romans Build a Fleet Battle of Ecnomus Roman Legions in Africa Regulus Taken Prisoner Romans Conquer the Gauls The Boy Hannibal Hannibal Invades Italy Hannibal Crosses the Alps Battle of Trebia Battle of Lake Trasimenus Hannibal Outwits Fabius Fabius Wins Two Victories Battle of Cannae Despair of Rome Defeat of Hasdrubal Claudius Enjoy a Triumph Capture of New Carthage Scipio Sails to Africa Romans Set Fire to Camp Hannibal Leaves Italy The Battle of Zama Scipio Receives a Triumph Flamininus in Garlands Death of Hannibal Hatred of Cato for Carthage The Stern Decree Carthaginians Defend City Destruction of Carthage Cornelia, Mother of Gracchi Tiberius and Octavius Death of Tiberius Gracchus Death of Gaius Gracchus The Gold of Jugurtha Marius Wins Notice of Scipio Marius Becomes Commander Capture of Treasure Towns Capture of Jugurtha Jugurtha Brought to Rome Marius Conquers Teutones Marius Mocks the Ambassadors Metellus Driven from Rome Sulla Enters Rome The Flight of Marius Gaul Dares Not Kill Marius Marius Returns to Rome The Orator Aristion Sulla Besieges Athens Sulla Fights the Samnites The Proscriptions of Sulla The Gladiators' Revolt The Pirates Pompey Defeats Mithridates Cicero Discovers Conspiracy Death of the Conspirators Caesar Captured by Pirates Caesar Gives up Triumph Caesar Praises Tenth Legion Caesar Wins a Great Victory Caesar Invades Britain Caesar Crosses Rubicon Caesar and the Pilot The Flight of Pompey Cato Dies Rather than Yieldr Caesar is Loaded with Honours Nobles Plot against Caesar The Assassination of Caesar Brutus Speaks to Citizens Antony Speaks to Citizens The Second Triumvirate Battle of Philippi Death of Brutus Antony and Cleopatra Battle of Actium Antony and Cleopatra Die Emperor Augustus

Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor

The Battle of Actium

The great battle which was to decide who was to rule over the Roman Empire was fought at Actium, on the west coast of Greece, in 31 B.C.

Here Cæsar and Antony arrived, each with a great fleet and a great army. Antony was not accustomed to fight at sea, nor were his generals or soldiers. Yet to please Cleopatra he had decided that the first battle should be between the fleets.

The queen herself was at Actium, and had sent sixty of her own vessels to join Antony's fleet.

Several skirmishes took place, in which Cæsar was successful, and Cleopatra grew impatient and anxious. Then she tried to persuade Antony to withdraw without risking a battle.

In Alexandria, she said, they would be safe, for her towers were strong, and could be well garrisoned. If Cæsar followed and attacked them there they could easily defy him.

To withdraw should have been impossible to a soldier, yet so strong was the influence of Cleopatra that Antony at length promised to do as she wished. But for four days a gale blew so fiercely that it was not possible to leave Actium.

Early on the morning of the 2nd September, Cleopatra saw with delight that the weather was favourable. She knew no rest until the signal was given, and Antony's fleet began slowly to sail out of the bay.

Cæsar saw that the enemy's fleet was moving, and he at once ordered his vessels to follow, and if possible to surround it.

By yielding to Cleopatra, Antony had really only provoked battle, and he was now forced to give the signal to attack. Then as he knew that his soldiers were uneasy at having to fight at sea, he went in a small boat from one ship to another and urged them to think of their large decks as solid earth and to fight for victory.

Antony's ships were larger than those of Cæsar, and proved difficult to manage when the sea was heavy, as it was that day. The smaller vessels of Cæsar were able to move swiftly, and after hurling darts on to the enemy's deck, they could easily withdraw out of reach of Antony's missiles. Fiercely the battle raged, but when morning had passed, neither side had gained the victory.

Cleopatra was not used to the strain of battle, and her anxiety made her fretful and peevish. She determined to endure the miserable uncertainty no longer. It was intolerable. Away from the noise and the confusion, she could forget that Antony was fighting for an empire.

With no thought save the desire to escape, she gave the signal for retreat. Her sixty vessels at once hoisted their sails, and struggling past the ships that were engaged in battle, they fled for safety and for home.

Antony saw the ships with their sails filled, speeding away, and he knew that Cleopatra had deserted him.

Perhaps he thought that this would seal the fate of the battle, that the sight of the flying vessels would soon spread a panic through the entire fleet, perhaps his one desire was to follow the queen. In any case, Antony sprang into a galley and set off in pursuit of Cleopatra.

But when he reached the vessel in which the queen was seated, happy now and at her ease, and was taken on board, the thought of his dishonour suddenly took hold of him. Without a word to Cleopatra or even a look in her direction, he walked to the prow of the ship, and there, covering his face with his hands he bemoaned his dastardly deed. He thought that in the eyes of his army he was disgraced even now, and he did not hide from himself that he had become unfit to be a leader of men.

But the soldiers could not believe that the general who had often led them to battle had fled, and they fought bravely on, thinking that at any moment he would be among them to lead them to victory.

And so firm was their faith in Antony, that when the fight was over, they refused, for seven days, to surrender to Cæsar, lest their own general should yet appear. The officers were less loyal than the men, or perhaps they knew Antony better. They did not hesitate to leave their troops and to submit to Cæsar. Only then did the soldiers believe that Antony had indeed gone, and they also went over to the conqueror.

When the battle of Actium ended, Cæsar had won a decisive victory. He did not, however, go to Egypt until winter was over.

Antony, who had resolved if it were possible to redeem his flight, at once began to gather together an army ready to oppose Cæsar. But at the same time, both he and Cleopatra were trying to pacify the victorious general.

The queen sent him a gift of a gold crown, and offered to abdicate if Cæsar would allow her sons to reign. Antony also sent a gift of money, and begged to be allowed to live in Athens as a private citizen. If Cæsar proved ungracious they both hoped to be able to flee beyond his reach.

To Antony's request Cæsar paid no heed. But he encouraged Cleopatra to believe that he would do all that she wished for herself and for her children, if she would put Antony to death, or send him away from Egypt.

But even if she proved faithless to Antony and betrayed him to his enemy, Cæsar still meant to take the queen to Rome to adorn his triumph.