An Ancient Monument In Greece May Reveal Why Octavian’s Ships So Easily Defeated Those Belonging To Cleopatra

After studying the niches left behind in Octavian's Battle of Actium victory monument, it was discovered that Cleopatra and Mark Antony's ships were much larger and less maneuverable than those belonging to Rome's first emperor.

Actors and spouses Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor chatting on the set of the film 'Cleopatra', Rome, May 1962.
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After studying the niches left behind in Octavian's Battle of Actium victory monument, it was discovered that Cleopatra and Mark Antony's ships were much larger and less maneuverable than those belonging to Rome's first emperor.

After new research was conducted on an ancient victory monument in Greece, archaeologists now believe they have vital clues as to why Octavian’s ships so easily defeated those belonging to Cleopatra and Mark Antony, giving Octavian a crucial advantage to a fierce sea battle which ended up securing him his role as Augustus, the first emperor of Rome.

As The Independent reports, the monument depicting the Battle of Actium, which took place in 31 B.C., can still be seen near Nicopolis in Greece, and researchers now have a much better understanding as to why Cleopatra and Antony may have finally been defeated by Octavian.

For thousands of years, it was believed that Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s ships were simply too bulky to properly fight off the smaller and sturdier ships belonging to Octavian in this sea battle, and now fresh new evidence has suggested that this theory may be correct after all, and that Octavian clearly had the upper hand with his smaller and more maneuverable ships.

Because archaeologists have now concluded definitively that Octavian’s ships were indeed smaller than those belonging to Cleopatra and Mark Antony, they have also been able to learn more about the military strategies employed by Rome’s first emperor and why he engaged in the battle tactics that he did.

After Octavian managed to capture 350 of the bulky ships belonging to Cleopatra and Mark Antony, he later decided that 35 of these should be placed around his stupendous war monument which was built to demonstrate the Roman emperor’s victory of this battle.

The niches which were fashioned to hold these ships were all different sizes, and by studying these niches archaeologists determined that some of the ships belonging to Cleopatra and Mark Antony were so enormous that they stretched for approximately 40 meters, which researchers believe is why Octavian made it his strategy to ensure that his own ships were not rammed by these magnificent warships.

In fact, these ships have been determined to have been so very large that they are four times greater in size than any other ancient ships that archaeologists have discovered dating back to this era.

Before researchers first analyzed the monument in Greece, historians attributed part of their knowledge of the size of the ships involved in the Battle of Actium to a poem by Philippus of Thessalonika, which stated, “Bronze-jawed rams, ships’ voyage-loving armour, we lie here as witnesses to the war at Actium.”

Dr Konstantinos Zachos, the archaeologist who has headed up the new research into the Nicopolis monument, has noted that this enormous structure has provided important evidence about how the final Roman battle was fought and eventually won by Octavian.

“Both historically and archaeologically, this remarkable Roman structure is of tremendous international importance – and continuing research is likely to shed yet more light on the battle that gave birth to the Roman Empire.”

While the niches that held these ships still remain visible within Octavian’s war monument today, the bronze representations of the ships belonging to Cleopatra and Marc Antony have now disappeared completely, and it is believed that these may have been melted down centuries later toward the end of the Roman Empire.