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31 BC, The Roman fleet of Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) clashes with the combined Roman-Egyptian fleet commanded by Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium off the coast of Greece during the Roman Civil War, 31 BC. The battle was a decisive victory for Octavian.

(Photo by MPI/Getty Images) Agrippa.jpg

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (63-12 BC), Roman statesman and naval and military commander. Agrippa was a friend, son-in-law, and deputy of the Emperor Augustus. The warship in the background refers to his naval victories at Mylae and Naulochus (36 BC) and over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 BC. He later served the empire as Governor of Syria.

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Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, (1804). Hellenistic co-ruler of Egypt with her father. Cleopatra (69-30 BC) was the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, established when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC. She committed suicide shortly after her lover, Mark Antony, when Octavian's Roman army invaded Egypt after the Battle of Actium in 30 BC.

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Definition: Without the Battle of Actium, there might not have been a Roman emperor. The battle is that important.

The Battle of Actium was also an important turning point in the history of the relationship between Egypt and Rome. When Octavian (later known as the Emperor Augustus) met the combined Roman forces of Mark Antony and the Egyptian forces of Cleopatra, Roman forces faced Roman (and allied) forces, pretty evenly matched. The fighting continued throughout the day of September 2, 31 B.C., until, inexplicably, Cleopatra took her troops and left the naval battle. Mark Antony, leaving his troops behind, followed her. The result was that Octavian, helped by his right-hand man, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, won the battle.

Antony, Octavian and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus had formed what we call the second triumvirate, but by the Battle of Actium, Lepidus had already been exiled. With the defeat and suicide of Mark Antony, all that remained of the triumvirate was Octavian as the leader of Rome. He would soon become Augustus (originally an honor, a title, rather than a name), the princeps (a term from which we get the word "prince"), and the first Roman emperor (a term that comes from the Latin "imperator" a term with which troops hailed a victorious general). [See Pennell's History of Rome.]

Ancient Rome Glossary | Table of Roman Battles

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