Actium and Augustus

The Politics and Emotions of Civil War
Robert Alan Gurval
What does it feel like when brother fights brother?


On 2 September 31 B.C.E., the heir of Julius Caesar defeated the forces of Antony and Cleopatra in a naval engagement at Actium. Despite the varied judgments this battle received in antiquity, common opinion held that Actium marked the start of a new era, a turning point in Roman history and, indeed, in Western civilization.

Actium and Augustus marks a turning point as well. Robert Alan Gurval's unusual approach is to examine contemporary views of the battle and its immediate political and social consequences. He starts with a consideration of the official celebration and public commemoration of the Actian victory and then moves on to other questions. What were the "Actian" monuments that Octavian erected on the battle site and later in Rome? What role did the Actian victory play in the political formation of the Principate and its public ideology? What was the response of contemporary poetry? Throughout, this volume concentrates on contemporary views of Actium and its results.

Written to include the general reader, Actium and Augustus presents a thoughtful examination of a complex period. All Greek and Latin quotations are translated, and extensive illustrations present graphic evidence about the issues Romans faced.

Robert Alan Gurval is Associate Professor of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles, and has been a recipient of the Rome Prize awarded by the American Academy in Rome.

Praise / Awards

  • "Meticulously researched and thorough, Actium and Augustus poses a serious challenge to one of the most firmly entrenched notions about Augustan propaganda. Just as importantly, it illuminates in admirable detail a compelling instance of Roman historical myth-making."
    —Alain M. Gowing, American Journal of Philology

  • "...[I]t is beyond question an important new work—learned, carefully presented, original in conception and execution."
    —D.M. Hooley, Classical Views

  • ". . . it is beyond question an important new work—learned, carefully presented, original in conception and execution. . . . Students of Augustan history will need to take this book into account."
    Echos du monde classique/Classical Views

  • ". . . a significant study that will force modern historians to reevaluate the image of Actium and Augustus."

Product Details

  • 6.125 x 9.25.
  • 362pp.
  • 60 B&W illustrations, 1 map.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08489-0

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  • $36.95 U.S.