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Actium 31 BC: Downfall of Antony and Cleopatra (Campaign) Paperback – 10 Jun 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (10 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846034051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846034053
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 0.6 x 25.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"This book by Si Sheppard covers the campaigns of Octavian and the other two members of the Triumverate that led up to the final battle at Actium. We get a good look at the opposing commanders through the eyes of those who wrote about them during this time and how their armies performed. The rest of the book is on the preface battles on land in Greece that led to the final sea battle at Actium and the results of that battle.Throughout the book are the illustrations of Christa Hook as well as photographs of artifacts of the time and the actual location of the battle field, so to speak. This all melds together to make a superb book on the subject. One that I found both interesting and entertaining. I'm sure you will as well and I can easily recommend it to you." -Scott Van Aken, "www.modelingmadness.com "(August 2009)

This book by Si Sheppard covers the campaigns of Octavian and the other two members of the Triumverate that led up to the final battle at Actium. We get a good look at the opposing commanders through the eyes of those who wrote about them during this time and how their armies performed. The rest of the book is on the preface battles on land in Greece that led to the final sea battle at Actium and the results of that battle. Throughout the book are the illustrations of Christa Hook as well as photographs of artifacts of the time and the actual location of the battle field, so to speak. This all melds together to make a superb book on the subject. One that I found both interesting and entertaining. I'm sure you will as well and I can easily recommend it to you. "Scott Van Aken, www.modelingmadness.com (August 2009)""

Book Description

The decisive battle of the Third Roman Civil War, Octavian's victory at Actium led directly to the formation of the Roman Empire.

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By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is yet another good campaign title precisely because it is, as a reviewer on Amazon.com put it, "more about the struggle between Antony and Octavian than about the battle per se". This is partly because, to understand the battle itself, there is a need to understand the geopolitical background and context where winning the propaganda war or what in modern terms would be something like "winning the hearts and minds" of the Romans was at least as important as winning the campaigns and battles themselves.

Rather than being only about the campaign of Actium, this book covers the period 42 BC to 30 BC, with the aftermath being centred on Octavian's consolidation of supreme power over the following years. Actium, at first sight, appears as the big naval battle, the crushing defeat and the climax that sees the "downfall of Antony and Cleopatra." However, as this volume shows very well, this rather conventional view which ultimately derives from the victor's propaganda, has been debated and disputed. Some of the best pieces of the book are the careful analysis of how Octavian and his advisors waged and won this propaganda war against Antony who started out the period as being very much the more powerful of the two.

When reading the book, you cannot avoid the impression that the battle was already lost for Antony before it started. He had been out-generaled by Agrippa who seems to have largely managed to cut his supplies and communications with Egypt and to take his naval bases along the western shore of Greece.
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A clear account of the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra and how this led to disaster for both of them. A well presented book that is easy to follow.
Good for readers who have an interest in Roman History but want it explained in everyday language.
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Beautifully presented informative book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 11 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Slow at First, but then warms up 10 Sept. 2009
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The final show-down between the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra against Octavian at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC marked not only the end of the final spasms of the Roman Republic, but also one of the most interesting phases of Ancient military history. Professor Si Sheppard, who did the earlier volumes on Pharsalus and Philippi, completes his trilogy on the fall of the Roman Republic in Actium 31 BC. Overall, the author demonstrates a very good grasp of this subject and some very insightful analysis, although the delivery is a bit strained until he actually gets to the battle itself. Some readers may also be put off that less than half the volume covers the actual Actium campaign. Nevertheless, Professor Sheppard's work is illuminating and useful for scholars of the Roman world, particularly naval developments.

The volume begins with an unusual 30-page introduction (nearly one-third of the entire volume), which describes events in the Roman World from the Pact of Brundisium in 40 BC up to the end of the Triumvirate less than a decade later. The author spends nearly ten pages detailing Octavian's campaign against Sextus Pompey in Sicily, which quite frankly, was a bore. Although this earlier campaign reveals some insightful material about the relationship between Octavian and his naval commander Agrippa, as well as Octavian's general inability to act as a field commander, it could have been done in much less space. Several more pages are spent discussing Octavian's follow-up campaign into Illyria, to even less purpose. Mark Antony doesn't make much of an appearance until page 19, where the author then details his Parthian campaign (much better than the section on Sextus). The author then makes some good points about the collapse of the triumvirate, between Antony's mistake in sharing his victory with Egypt and Octavian's extra-legal assumption of authority

The section on opposing commanders discusses Octavian, Agrippa, Mark Antony and Cleopatra. This section is adequate, but could have made some effort to discuss some of the actual subordinate commanders who actually fought the battle, rather than spectators like Cleopatra. Unlike most books in the Campaign Series, there is no section on opposing plans. Instead, the author imbeds this information in the campaign narrative. The section on opposing armies (fleets) is ten pages long but actually provides very little information about the actual forces at Actium. Instead, the author delivers a long-winded essay on naval tactics, logistics and missile weapons. To be fair, the author makes some very important points here about the instability of Roman warships and the reliance on ramming and boarding tactics, but much of it appears better suited to a New Vanguard title rather than a campaign title.

The actual campaign narrative is about 32 pages long, which translates to 21 pages of text. Most of the missing opposing plans, subordinate commanders and order of battle information appears in this section, but serve to reduce the space on the actual battle. The author's battle narrative uses the existing ancient literary sources to maximum extent to produce a decent summary of Actium. Both the maps and the text work together to reveal the course of battle and readers should have no complaints there. Unfortunately, the author makes no mention of underwater archaeological surveys made in the 1990s that could have added to his discussion of how the battle unfolded. The final 7-page section covers the collapse of Antony's house of cards after defeat at Actium and the suicides of Antony and Cleopatra. Overall, Actium 31 BC starts out a bit slow and it is nearly half-finished before readers reach the actual clash between Octavian and Antony. However, the author warms up once the campaign begins and his discussion of the Actium campaign is quite good.

Actium 31 BC has five 2-D Maps (the Roman World from 40 BC to 30 BC; the Sicilian theater of operations, 36 BC; the Illyrian theater of operations, 35-34 BC; Antony's campaign against Parthia, 36 BC; the Balkans during the Actium campaign, 31 BC) and two 3-D BEV (Actium, morning and afternoon) maps. The maps are not bad, particularly the BEVs, but only 3 of 7 actually relate to the Actium campaign. The three battle scenes by Christa Hook (Antony's retreat from Media Atropatene, 37 BC; a ballista crew aboard one of Octavian's galleys at Actium; Cleopatra's squadron breaks out at Actium) are crudely done - something I would expect from a talented twelve-year old with crayons, actually. Indeed, this is some of the weakest artwork that I have seen in an Osprey campaign volume for some time and it probably would have been better to re-use some of the artwork from the New Vanguard, Elite or MAA series. The author has also included a bibliography and brief notes on the site today.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A false climax? 25 Nov. 2012
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is yet another good campaign title precisely because it is, as a reviewer on Amazon.com put it, "more about the struggle between Antony and Octavian than about the battle per se". This is partly because, to understand the battle itself, there is a need to understand the geopolitical background and context where winning the propaganda war or what in modern terms would be something like "winning the hearts and minds" of the Romans was at least as important as winning the campaigns and battles themselves.

Rather than being only about the campaign of Actium, this book covers the period 42 BC to 30 BC, with the aftermath being centred on Octavian's consolidation of supreme power over the following years. Actium, at first sight, appears as the big naval battle, the crushing defeat and the climax that sees the "downfall of Antony and Cleopatra." However, as this volume shows very well, this rather conventional view which ultimately derives from the victor's propaganda, has been debated and disputed. Some of the best pieces of the book are the careful analysis of how Octavian and his advisors waged and won this propaganda war against Antony who started out the period as being very much the more powerful of the two.

When reading the book, you cannot avoid the impression that the battle was already lost for Antony before it started. He had been out-generaled by Agrippa who seems to have largely managed to cut his supplies and communications with Egypt and to take his naval bases along the western shore of Greece. Having successfully refused to be brought to battle when the conditions were too favourable to Antony, Agrippa and Octavian seem to have managed to blockade the enemy army and fleet until Antony had no other issue than to force a battle under the worst possible conditions.

The author (and others) contends that, for Antony and Cleopatra, the main purpose of the naval battle was not to fight to win but to fight in order to escape with as many ships that they could take with them and with Egypt's treasury, abandoning the army in the process. This, which was so unlike the behaviour expected from Antony, finished ruining his reputation and confirming Octavian's propaganda against him: he had been "bewitched" by the Egyptian queen. Historians do not necessarily believe that Antony was so madly in love with Cleopatra from the very beginning. He certainly needed the riches that Egypt could offer and the grain from Egypt could be withheld and used against Octavian to undermine his position in Rome. However, her influence over him does seem to have grown over time and the importance he gave to what was essentially a client kingdom of Rome alienated many of Antony's partisans and fellow-Romans.

The battle itself is rather well told, although there are plenty of other books where this is also the case. I did not, however, like Christa Hook's plates very much and would very prefer if she refrained from this rather "impressionist" touch she has so that all the faces are somewhat blurred. The choice of plates was, however, rather good. A particular nice touch was to have one illustrating Mark Antony's little known Parthian campaign during which he tried - and failed - to avenge Crassus and show himself as Caesar's successor (Julius Caesar had been planning a campaign against the Parthians when he was murdered). Another little quibble, perhaps, is that the author does not explain why Antony resorted to very large ships, what he really intended to do with them and why they were so important for his strategy. To learn about this, you have to read William Murray's "The Age of Titans".

This is a rather good introduction to the last years of the Republic and the last clash between its last warlords. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The end of the Trilogy 28 Mar. 2010
By Anibal Madeira - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Si sheppard's third installment that analyses three main engagements (Pharsalus, Philippi and Actium) of the long period of Roman civil wars, reveals to the reader the ending of the Roman Republic and the rise of the principate.

This title is very worthy, detailing the process that lead to the naval battle of Actium; including the campaigns of Octavius and Agrippa against Sextus Pompeus, the Dalmatian campaigns, the campaign of Anthony against parthia and the events that initiated the campaign. Since the beginning of those events it is quite clear that Anthony had difficulty retaining the loyalty of his allies.

Also detailed are the characteristics of naval weapon systems, tactics and navegability of Roman ships. As usual, a short summary of the commanders is also provided.

All this gives a good background to the reader, but is also a severe handicap in the book. With so much space providing background, the amount of material of the campaign and battle in itself is severily limited! This book would be more adequate as an "essential histories" title.

The birds eye views are great, the photographs are very good and in the right places. The art of Christa Hook is substantially different than most Osprey titles, but it's quite dramatic. I like a lot the paintings of "Cleopatra's Squadron breaks out of the mêlee at Actium" and the "Antony's Retreat from Media Atropatene"; they reveal good insight on how the events probably happened (the other paintings, in my humble opinion, are clearly inferior).

The author managed to not only describe accurately the campaig for the newbie, but also provide food for thought for the enthusiast or the expert. From the possibility that the battle was indeed an escape attempt, to the limited option's left to Anthony in the Balkans.

Valuable title, Professor Si Sheppard MUST continue to write about the subject.
5.0 out of 5 stars Actium 9 April 2013
By m ziemann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book covers this sea battle and the events leading up to it very well. A book covering one battle can always give more information than a general history of the period. Book was written well and the Illustrations were also well done.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More about the struggle between Antony and Octavian than the Battle of Actium per se 16 Jan. 2012
By Yoda - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Only about a third of this book's length is dedicated to the Battle of Actium per se. The book is, instead, more about the overall struggle between Mark Antony and Octavio on the strategic level, both in terms of military strategy and, just as important, in terms of the political struggle. This is not a surprise as the author, a Professor of Political Science and Geopolitics has an excellent in-depth knowledge of the times and the references from antiquity relevant to this period.
The book starts off by presenting the strengths and weaknesses of each side. This was primarily that Octavian faced serious financial problems, primarily in regard to financing his legions. In addition, he had to contend with fighting forces opposed to him in Sicily. Antony, on the other hand, had a much better financial situation to work with (the East was wealthier than the West - a factor that later allowed the "later" Roman Empire [referred to as the Byzantine State] to live on after Rome collapsed) and he did not face open opposition to the extent that Octavian did in the West. This is not to say that he did not have military problems. He attempted to conquer Parthia, primarily to obtain legitimacy over Octavio in Rome (he was claiming this struggle as a means of expanding Rome's authority), but was defeated. The book correctly points out that Antony's financial situation and more consolidated political situation, vis-à-vis that of Octavian, dictated that he play a long term strategy of holding out for as much time as possible. Time was on his side. This was also Cleopatra's recommended strategy. Yet Antony rashly launched into the offensive instead of playing the waiting game. This, combined with his too close relationship to Cleopatra, one that undermined his legitimacy in Rome and enabled Octavian to unify Rome under his leadership, is what really led to his defeat. Actium was only a tactical after thought. Antony was defeated strategically even before this thanks to his lack of strategic vision relative to Octavian.

With respect to the battle itself, the book provides an excellent description of it as well as setting up a brief analysis as to why the battle was basically lost before it was even thought. There were two reasons for this. One was that Antony's army and navy personnel were already severely depleted before this battle even started. The topology of Actium was very swamp like and this lead to disease devastating his army and navy. There were not enough men to even man most of Antony's ships by the time of the battle for example. A weakness of the book is that it does not explain why Antony chose this spot to form his troops up at and why he did not make a move out before his army deteriorated to the extent that it did. Considering the fact that Antony was a first rate commander this is most perplexing. Unfortunately the book does not elaborate on this issue.

The book's description of the battle, along with accompanying maps, is excellent. It describes well the naval battle which was more an attempted breakout by Antony and Cleopatra than an actual attempt to defeat Octavian's navy. As stated previously, however, this is no surprise as the battle was more or less won by Octavian before it was even fought. The results of the battle are also well discussed. Basically that Antony, by fleeing with Cleopatra to Egypt and abandoning his army to its fate, not only lost his army at Actium but armies in Northern Greece and Macedonia (they turned to Octavian after hearing of Antony's betrayal). Antony's closer symbiosis to Cleopatra also enabled Octavian to further consolidate his position by claiming he truly represented Rome while Anthony, on the other hand, was a traitor and under the spell of Cleopatra. The book concludes with Octavian taking the battle home to Anthony and Cleopatra and defeating them in Egypt.

All and all an excellent introduction to the conflict despite the book's very short length (96 pages of which a third consist of excellent illustrations). Even though this book can be read in only about an hour it provides an introduction worthy of a much lengthier book.
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