The Battle of Actium

Did you know that 2,048 years ago one of the most important naval battles of history took place near Actium, on the western coast of Greece? On 2 September 31 B.C., the forces of Octavian (future Emperor Augustus) opposed those of the famous Cleopatra and Mark Antony.  The battle itself is indecisive, but Octavian gained the upper hand when Cleopatra fled with her Egyptian galleys and Mark Antony managed to follow her. A few days later, their ground troupes surrendered and the victory went to Octavian. The Battle of Actium changed the face of the Mediterranean in Antiquity.  Not only did it put an end to the civil war of the Roman Republic, it gave birth to the Roman Empire, with Octavian becoming its first emperor.

In the collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art there is a gilded tempera painting on panel that depicts this very important naval battle important. The painting was created in 1475-80 by Italian artist Neroccio De’ Landi and his workshop.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Battle of Actium

  1. This is really neat! I checked, and there were actually quite a number of Actium paintings–I had no idea.
    Can you actually see Antony and or Cleo in the painting?
    Ken

    • I would have to check the curatorial file to see if there is mention that the three protagonists are actually identifiable. In the galleries, there is a pendant painting which is a meeting between Cleopatra and Mark Antony… both are easily identifiable. I plan to post something about the three other paintings of Cleopatra in the European collection… Stay tuned for that!

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