It was the last victory for the Egyptian forces loyal to Queen Cleopatra. In the final war of the Roman Republic, Rome had declared war on Egypt. The Battle of Alexandria was a minor stumbling block in the way of Octavian’s quest for power.
Cleopatra was a direct descendent of Ptolemy Soler, the conqueror Alexander’s General. Cleopatra was the last regent and ruler of Ptolemic Egypt. After Ptolemy XII died in 51 BCE 18, year old Cleopatra and her 12 year old brother, Ptolemy XIII, became joint rulers. After a dispute in which she tried to become sole monarch, she was forced to flee Egypt.
Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony) was an important friend and supporter of Julius Caesar. Following Caesar’s assassination, Antonius formed an alliance with Octavian and Lepidus known as the Second Triumpherate. Antonius became ruler of Rome by default.
In 42 BCE, the nominal ruler of Rome, summoned Cleopatra to a meeting in Tarsus regarding questions about her loyalty to Rome. The regent charmed Antonius so much that he journeyed to Alexandria over the following winter. At that time they became lovers.
Marcus Antonius’ behavior outraged the Romans. This was the spur for Octavian to convince the Senate to declare war against Egypt. Octavian’s naval forces faced Cleopatra’s and Antonius’ forces just off the coast of Actium.
Octavian’s victory was pretty much a rout over Egypt’s navy. It was at this time in 31 BCE that Octavian’s Roman legions invaded Egypt. Cleopatra and Antonius retreated to Alexandria.
On July 31, 30 BCE Octavian and Antonius clashed at Alexandria. Even though Antonius suffered many desertions, his army did manage to eke out a victory in the Battle of Alexandria. The victory, however, only bought a short amount of time for Cleopatra and Antonius.
Octavian’s forces returned a few days later and laid seige to Alexandria. Meantime, Antonius had been told, falsly, that Cleopatra had committed suicide. Without anywhere else to flee and with the belief that his lover was dead, Antonius stabbed himself. As he lay dying, he found out that Cleopatra was still living. He was brought to Cleopatra and died in her arms.
After Octavian captured Cleopatra, she was still allowed to conduct the burial rites for Antonius. Cleopatra understood that she would be featured in Octavian’s triumphal march through Rome so she decided to take her own life. By mid-August, she was successful.
Upon the death of Marcus Antonius, Octavian became the uncontested ruler of Rome. He managed to accumulate military and political offices. He was to become known as Augustus Caesar after 27 BCE. Through power struggles and effective maneuvering, Augustus Caesar became the first Emperor of the newly proclaimed Roman Empire.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra live on in the arts. William Shakespeare wrote the plays “Julius Caesar” and “Antony and Cleopatra” there were also the versions of “Cleopatra” released in 1934, 1963, and 1999.