The Civil War
Now recovering from his loss, Antony began to gain strength again and prepare for war with Octavian. As much as Octavian welcomed the war, however, it was still dangerous for him, Men loyal to Antony were consuls for that year, and Antony had been elected consul for the next year. Moreover, half the Senate was still loyal to him. Cleopatra, however, was more vulnerable. Octavian made her out to be power-crazed and a woman who had aspirations of conquering Rome. Antony was so blinded by her that he couldn’t see that he was being used. One day, after having been denounced by one of the consuls friendly to Antony the day before, Octavian appeared with an armed bodyguard in the Senate. He promised to present evidence to the Senate at the next meeting of Antony’s wrongdoing. As soon as the session was dismissed, both consuls and over 300 Senators fled Rome to Antony.
This evidence came from men who had defected from Antony. They told Octavian that Antony had given his will to the Vestal Virgins, so Octavian seized it illegally and read it aloud at the Senate meeting. It showed that Antony had given himself completely over to Cleopatra, even promising their children inheritances of territory that were part of the empire. Rome erupted in outrage! Octavian was therefore able to pit the Western half of the empire against the East. He received personal oaths of allegiance from every municipality in the Western empire and declared Antony no longer consul for the next year. He also struck his imperius- ruling power. So in 32, unwilling to openly start a civil war, he declared war on Cleopatra and started preparing for the upcoming war.
Antony and Cleopatra, however, had not been idle. With a large army and
fleet, they sailed to the Greek city of Actium. Antony had an equal number
of troops as Octavian, but he was not only a superior, battle tested general
but he also had one of the largest fleets ever assembled. Antony’s
only problem was the one thing that he could counter: though his soldiers
admired him, they did not want a civil war. Furthermore, his officers hated
Cleopatra. He could not send her away because he needed the supplies that
she offered, and she was afraid to let him go lest he never come back to
Last modified on December 20, 2004.