In the mean time, while all these events had been transpiring in the
East, Octavius had been making his preparations for the coming crisis,
and was now advancing with a powerful fleet across the sea. He was armed
with authority from the Roman Senate and people, for he had obtained
from them a decree deposing Antony from his power. The charges made
against him all related to misdemeanors and offenses arising out of his
connection with Cleopatra. Octavius contrived to get possession of a
will which Antony had written before leaving Rome, and which he had
placed there in what he supposed a very sacred place of deposit. The
custodians who had it in charge replied to Octavius, when he demanded
it, that they would not give it to him, but if he wished to take it they
would not hinder him. Octavius then took the will, and read it to the
Roman Senate. It provided, among other things, that at his death, if his
death should happen at Rome, his body should be sent to Alexandria to be
given to Cleopatra; and it evinced in other ways a degree of
subserviency and devotedness to the Egyptian queen which was considered
wholly unworthy of a Roman chief magistrate. Antony was accused, too, of
having plundered cities and provinces, to make presents to Cleopatra; of
having sent a library of two hundred thousand volumes to her from
Pergamus, to replace the one which Julius Caesar had accidentally burned;
of having raised her sons, ignoble as their birth was, to high places of
trust and power in the Roman government, and of having in many ways
compromised the dignity of a Roman officer by his unworthy conduct in
reference to her. He used, for example, when presiding at a judicial
tribunal, to receive love-letters sent him from Cleopatra, and then at
once turn off his attention from the proceedings going forward before
him to read the letters.[1]

[Footnote 1: These letters, in accordance with the scale of
expense and extravagance on which Cleopatra determined that
every thing relating to herself and Antony should be done,
were engraved on tablets made of onyx, or crystal, or other
hard and precious stones.]

Sometimes he did this when sitting in the chair of state, giving
audience to embassadors and princes. Cleopatra probably sent these
letters in at such times under the influence of a wanton disposition to
show her power. At one time, as Octavius said in his arguments before
the Roman Senate, Antony was hearing a cause of the greatest importance,
and during a time in the progress of the cause when one of the principal
orators of the city was addressing him, Cleopatra came passing by, when
Antony suddenly arose, and, leaving the court without any ceremony, ran
out to follow her. These and a thousand similar tales exhibited Antony
in so odious a light, that his friends forsook his cause, and his
enemies gained a complete triumph. The decree was passed against him,
and Octavius was authorized to carry it into effect; and accordingly,
while Antony, with his fleet and army, was moving westward from Samos
and the Aegean Sea, Octavius was coming eastward and southward down the
Adriatic to meet him.

In process of time, after various maneuvers and delays, the two
armaments came into the vicinity of each other at a place called Actium,
which will be found upon the map on the western coast of Epirus, north
of Greece. Both of the commanders had powerful fleets at sea, and both
had great armies upon the land. Antony was strongest in land troops, but
his fleet was inferior to that of Octavius, and he was himself inclined
to remain on the land and fight the principal battle there. But
Cleopatra would not consent to this. She urged him to give Octavius
battle at sea. The motive which induced her to do this has been supposed
to be her wish to provide a more sure way of escape in case of an
unfavorable issue to the conflict. She thought that in her galleys she
could make sail at once across the sea to Alexandria in case of defeat,
whereas she knew not what would become of her if beaten at the head of
an army on the land. The ablest counselors and chief officers in the
army urged Antony very strongly not to trust himself to the sea. To all
their arguments and remonstrances, however, Antony turned a deaf ear.
Cleopatra must be allowed to have her way. On the morning of the battle,
when the ships were drawn up in array, Cleopatra held the command of a
division of fifty or sixty Egyptian vessels, which were all completely
manned, and well equipped with masts and sails. She took good care to
have every thing in perfect order for flight, in case flight should
prove to be necessary. With these ships she took a station in reserve,
and for a time remained there a quiet witness of the battle. The ships
of Octavius advanced to the attack of those of Antony, and the men
fought from deck to deck with spears, boarding-pikes, flaming darts, and
every other destructive missile which the military art had then devised.
Antony's ships had to contend against great disadvantages. They were not
only outnumbered by those of Octavius, but were far surpassed by them in
the efficiency with which they were manned and armed. Still, it was a
very obstinate conflict. Cleopatra, however, did not wait to see how it
was to be finally decided. As Antony's forces did not immediately gain
the victory, she soon began to yield to her fears in respect to the
result, and, finally, fell into a panic and resolved to fly. She ordered
the oars to be manned and the sails to be hoisted, and then forcing her
way through a portion of the fleet that was engaged in the contest, and
throwing the vessels into confusion as she passed, she succeeded in
getting to sea, and then pressed on, under full sail, down the coast to
the southward. Antony, as soon as he perceived that she was going,
abandoning every other thought, and impelled by his insane devotedness
to her, hastily called up a galley of five banks of oarsmen to pull with
all their force after Cleopatra's flying squadron.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] [53] [54] [55] [56] [57] [58] [59] [60] [61] [62] [63] [64] [65] [66] [67] [68] [69] [70] [71] [72] [73] [74] [75] [76] [77] [78] [79] [80] [81] [82] [83] [84] [85] [86] [87] [88] [89] [90] [91] [92] [93] [94] [95] [96] [97] [98] [99] [100] [101] [102] [103] [104] [105] [106] [107] [108] [109] [110] [111] [112] [113] [114] [115] [116] [117] [118] [119] [120] [121] [122] [123] [124] [125] [126] [127] [128] [129] [130] [131] [132] [133] [134] [135] [136] [137] [138] [139] [140] [141] [142] [143] [144] [145] [146] [147] [148] [149] [150] [151] [152] [153] [154] [155] [156] [157] [158] [159] [160] [161] [162] [163] [164] [165]