Roman Culture/Octavian's Civil War

The Octavian civil war, also called the “war between Antony and Octavian”, was the final war of the Roman Republic that would then become the Empire. The war was fought between Cleopatra of Egypt and Octavian. Antony joined Cleopatra’s side since he was Cleopatra’s lover and ally. Antony betrayed Rome and go to Cleopatra’s side when the Roman government declared war on Cleopatra. Along with this betrayal, Antony took his soldiers and legions with him to help increase the number of troops his side would have. Octavian eventually was victorious after many battles with Cleopatra and Antony.

After Caesar's assassination, Octavian and Antony were the two most powerful men in the Roman world. Octavian and Antony divided up who would control what lands. Octavian controlled the west, which included the territories of Hispania, Gaul, Italia, and Africa. This left the east for Antony, who controlled Graecia, Asia, Syria, and Aegyptus. Antony ended up giving most of Rome’s territory to Cleopatra. This was one of the many reasons why the Romans eventually declared war on Cleopatra and Antony.

Octavian and the Roman Government soon found out that Antony was having an affair with Cleopatra and was also trying to form a second Senate in Alexandria, which angered the Romans very much. Octavian was hurt at a deeper level since Antony’s wife was Octavian’s sister. Octavian spoke to the Senate and accused Antony of anti-Rome sentiments and by this accusation, tried to strip him of his power as one of the generals and one of the most powerful men in Rome. The Senate eventually declared war on Cleopatra and lead to Antony joining Cleopatra’s side and betraying the Romans. After Antony showed his support for Cleopatra, Rome acted quickly and stripped him of all his power. The Romans also made Antony an outlaw and a traitor to the state.

This war had two major components to it: the naval side and the land campaign. When it came to the naval fleets, Octavian’s fleet was superior to Antony’s. Octavian had one of his closest friends, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa command his naval forces. Even though Antony’s fleet was bigger and made up of larger vessels, his crew and commanders were still inexperienced when it came to navigation and combat at sea. Octavian’s fleet was smaller but was able to maneuver better with more experienced crew members. This would give him an amazing advantage and would help Octavian defeat Antony’s naval fleets.

“The first major conflict of the war occurred when Octavian’s general Agrippa captured the Greek city and naval port of Methone.”[1] This was a huge blow to Antony’s campaign and forces since this city had once been loyal to Antony, and now he couldn’t station his soldiers there. Antony's lack of experience and knowledge in naval warfare was the main reason why he was defeated in the sea. After, Antony moved his fleet to Actium where Octavian had his fleet stationed. The most major and most decisive battle was the battle of Actium in 31 BC. Octavian decided to battle Antony by sea instead of going to shore. Octavian obviously would have the advantage on the sea since his crew members/soldiers were far more experienced at sea and would dominate the battle. Octavian and Antony engaged in what is called a Fabian strategy. “A Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down the opponent through war attrition and indirection.”[1] “This harasses the enemy and disrupts supply and effect on morale.”[1] This in effect made the Roman soldiers on Antony’s side lose morale in him and eventually would leave his command. On September 2nd, 31 BC, Antony moved his large ships through the strait and into the open sea. Octavian than moved his smaller, lighter, and more maneuverable ships into battle formation against Antony’s. Cleopatra was watching this battle from a safe distance. Octavian was helped even more when one of Antony’s former generals delivered his battle plans to Octavian himself. As both sides witnessed how much Antony was outmatched by Agrippa, Cleopatra’s fleet retreated and was soon followed by Antony, who barely escaped. Antony’s ground troops then surrendered after their commander abandoned them, and the rest of his fleet would be at the bottom of the sea by the end of the day. Octavian had won and the war was almost over after this decisive battle.

The war ended in the city of Alexandria where Octavian and Pinarius surrounded Antony in the city. Antony’s 10,000 soldiers were outnumbered to Pinariuss’ soldiers and lost the battle. On August 30th, 30 BC, Antony committed suicide, and Cleopatra followed soon after with the same act. The aftermath of the war was that Rome was now an empire and Octavian became the most powerful man in the Roman world and went by the name Augustus.



[1]"Wikipedia." Final War of the Republic. N.p., 29/11/2011. Web. 5 Dec 2011. <>.