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Battle of Actium

History -- Military history -- List of battles

The Battle of Actium occurred on September 2, 31 BC, during a Roman Civil War. The naval battle was fought near Actium; between the fleets of Octavian (later Augustus), commanded by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and Marcus Antonius (Antony) supported by the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. The battle was won by the forces of Octavian and the date is often used to mark the beginning of the Roman Empire.

The fleets met outside the gulf, each over 200 strong (the totals given by ancient authorities are very conflicting). Antony's heavy battleships endeavoured to close and crush the enemy with their artillery; Octavian's light and mobile craft made skilful use of skirmishing tactics. During the engagement Cleopatra suddenly withdrew her squadron and Antony slipped away behind her. His flight escaped notice, and the conflict remained undecided, until Antony's fleet was set on fire and thus annihilated.

A year after the battle, Antony and Cleopatra both committed suicide.