Octavius and Antonius as well pitches their camps on Cape Actium in Ambracian Gulf (today’s Gulf of Arta) of Ionian Sea in the southern part of Greek region Epirus. First skirmishes came to pass in spring of 31 BC. Agrippa, the commander of Octavius, seized all the islands in the coastal zone and set up his tent on island Kérkyra (today’s Corfu). Antonio’s ships remained cut off from supplies. Also the Kings of Thrace and Paphlagonia took Octavius’ sides and what was even worse – even Dellius, former loyal fellow fighter of Antonius, deserted to him with a battle plan.
Antonius and Kleopatra had to try to break the blockade with smaller fleet. So they burned Egyptian heavy cargo ships that were too slow to escape the enemy and the war treasure was embarked on Antonia – the admiral ship of Cleopatra. Antonius could put 4 squadrons, which means 240 ships against Octavian’s 400 ships.
The ruse of Agrippa decided the battle of Actium
A breeze began to blow after a four-day storm on 2nd September of 31 BC and the ships of Antonius and Cleopatra left the anchorage in a tight formation. The heavy Egyptian ships deflected the attacks of light Roman trireme easily. But Agrippa made a manoeuvre after a six-hour battle, which changed the whole situation.
He pretended to surrender and Publicola, who commanded the right wing of Antonius’ fleet, took his bait and began to chase him. But this way he disrupted the first line of Antonius’ army. Agrippa skilfully used it and attacked the split fleet. Cleopatra watched everything from a distance and slipped through a constricting trap and began to retreat. Antonius jumped into a fast rowboat and followed her. Only one hundred ships were saved.
Antonius and Cleopatra fled
The battle raged long into the night. The Roman victory at the battle of Actium was overwhelming, but Antonius and Cleopatra rescued themselves and were free. Proud Cleopatra refused to admit the defeat and sailed into Alexandria with full sails and decorated with garlands. The last ruler of Ptolemy dynasty knew well that Octavian couldn’t be discouraged so easily. Octavian let build the city of Nicopolis near of today’s Preveza (Greece) to celebrate his victory and continued to Egypt.
Cleopatra wasn’t able to bear the defeat of her country and humiliated by Rome she rather chose the death. According to a legend she let bite herself by a venomous snake in her tomb in the company of two of her most loyal servants.
Battle of Actium