Stratagems and Slip Ups. How Octavian Caesar Bested Mark Antony


Term Paper, 2016

9 Pages, Grade: 4.0


Excerpt

Prompt: 4) How did Octavian justify war with Antony and why was he required to frame it in
the way he did?
As in many games of strategy, more important than the tactics and battles themselves are
often the steps taken to arrange the position and context of the encounter. Few conflicts
epitomize this principle better than the political game of chess engaged in by Mark Antony and
Gaius Octavian Caesar in the months before the Battle of Actium, that decisively closed the fate
the future of the Roman world. The reason why the battle and resulting political forces whose
1
influence led up to it aligned the way that they did is largely a consequence of the cumulative
strategic actions both Octavian and Antony took in their efforts to consolidate power over the
Roman political scene. Three critical points of attention were most decisive in affecting the
historic outcome of the struggle between the two remaining triumvirs: the various, successful
long term, cumulative political investments made by Octavian to improve his political position in
the Italian peninsula, the greater effectiveness of Octavian in hijacking the traditional political
and cultural sensibilities of the Roman people, and the failure of Antony in his ambitious
strategic gamble to unify the Eastern provinces under a Hellenistic regime, thereby exposing
critical political weakness. These major chains of action not only facilitated Octavian's rise to
consolidated and more publicly recognized power over the Italian Peninsula, but established the
quasi-traditional flavor of Octavian's claims to legitimacy that would be foundational to his long-
term success after the conflict .
2
Mackay, Christopher S. The Breakdown of the Roman Republic: From Oligarchy to Empire.
1
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. p. 359
Mackay, Christopher S. The Breakdown of the Roman Republic: From Oligarchy to Empire.
2
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. p. 360

Octavian's political investments were characterized by his desire to preferably forsake
violent and secure, but likely short-lived, opportunities for absolute power for the sake of
establishing gradual and long-term respectability amongst the Roman elite as a leader who could
satisfy their desire for an ostensibly more traditional head of state who consistently respected
Roman political and cultural mores. Such a long-term strategy was likely appealing to Octavian
for three reasons: Such a relationship with the Roman elite was exactly was Julius Caesar had
forsaken and what ultimately led to his assassination , building a reliable network uncoerced by
3
capricious violence was essential for facilitating a long-term pool of supporters to organize in his
support during future political struggles , and past decisions by Roman authorities such as Sulla
4
to administer violence for the sake of temporary stability had a tendency to create factional
divisions that would be essential to avoid on the Italian peninsula if Octavian wished to form a
coherent coalition to oppose Antony in the East . Examples of differing, but strategically similar
5
actions of Octavian in his efforts include his development of a propaganda network for the
purpose of rallying public opinion, his decision to spare Lepidus to better establish an image as a
leader who could deliver Romans peace after fifteen years of bloodshed, and his decision to
politically remove the partisan consuls and senators of Antony that remained in Rome without
utilizing proscriptions, preferring to use polemic as a means of inducing their flight to the East .
6
Shotter, D. C. A. The Fall of the Roman Republic. London: Routledge, 1994. p.88-89
3
Mackay, Christopher S. The Breakdown of the Roman Republic: From Oligarchy to Empire.
4
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Mackay, Christopher S. The Breakdown of the Roman Republic: From Oligarchy to Empire.
5
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. p. 185
Mackay, Christopher S. The Breakdown of the Roman Republic: From Oligarchy to Empire.
6
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. p. 352

The strategic division between Octavian and Antony is most clearly highlighted by the
varying methods they employed to innovate for the purpose of increasing their political
influence, and this difference would be critical in allowing Octavian to advance himself as much
more ostensibly legitimized leader of the Italian Peninsula. Whereas Antony concentrated on
establishing a Greco-Roman cultural leadership role for himself and allying with Cleopatra and
regional Eastern kings in his effort to consolidate power in the East , Octavian sought to artfully
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rework the traditional political roles and cultural sensibilities of the Roman people to serve his
own purposes. In an effort to simultaneously unify the western provinces to serve his purpose of
opposing Antony while capitalizing on the collective rage of many Romans towards Antony's
relationship with Egyptian queen Cleopatra, Octavian chose to revisit and implement the Roman
convention of swearing a collective oath of allegiance , using Cleopatra as a scapegoat by which
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to rally military and political support against a "foreign" enemy. Without this tactical move, it
would not have been possible for Octavian to have organized as cohesive a military force as he
did to ultimately oppose Antony, considered the large number of supporters Antony still
possessed on the Italian peninsula in the form of his veterans. Making Cleopatra into a public
enemy while providing himself with an additional layer of seeming official legitimacy served to
both mask the reality of Octavian as a leader whose power was dependent on illegitimate control
of military forces while providing him with a focal point to concentrate his propaganda on other
than Antony.
9
Shotter, D. C. A. The Fall of the Roman Republic. London: Routledge, 1994.
7
Mackay, Christopher S. The Breakdown of the Roman Republic: From Oligarchy to Empire.
8
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. p. 356
Zanker, Paul, and Alan Shapiro. The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus. Ann Arbor
9
(Mich.): University of Michigan Press, 1988.

The intensity of propaganda-oriented attacks leveled from both sides as well as the
decidedly ad-hominem nature of these attacks are indicative of the degree of stalemate between
the two sides militarily and politically. Examples of this intensity and effort may be observed in
the abundance of letters, pamphlets, and speeches employed by both sides accusing one or the
other of characteristics such as cowardice, weakness, or immorality. From this, the argument
10
may be forwarded that Octavian and Antony likely had no other effective means available for
opposing each other by this period outside of swaying public opinion. Thus, both sides simply
necessarily needed public support in order to break the stalemate, making Octavian's methods
inevitable in pursuit of ensuring his success. In arguing that the stalemate did in fact exist,
necessitating the propaganda campaign, it is necessary to demonstrate how both sides would
have viewed any other large scale action at this point against each other as detrimental to their
overall success. The situation between Antony and Octavian is strategically distinct from
previous conflicts between Roman individuals jostling for power in that each of the two
remaining triumvirs had an essential interest in procuring the support of those backing the other.
Thus, any careless military or political action from one against the other ran the risk of removing
a significant degree of one's own pool of supporters. Unlike previous conflicts such as the
struggle between Marius and Sulla or the tension between Caesar and the Senate, there is
evidence that the groups who supported Octavian and the groups who supported Antony were
largely mutually inclusive. The supporters of both men tended to be an extension of the popular
support that Julius Caesar had obtained during his rise to power and both men subsequently
emphasized their connections to Caesar in order to gain the support of what began as a single
Zanker, Paul, and Alan Shapiro. The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus. Ann Arbor
10
(Mich.): University of Michigan Press, 1988. p. 57
Excerpt out of 9 pages

Details

Title
Stratagems and Slip Ups. How Octavian Caesar Bested Mark Antony
College
Indiana University  (College of Arts and Sciences - History Department)
Course
HIST-J300 Fall of the Roman Republic
Grade
4.0
Author
Year
2016
Pages
9
Catalog Number
V375475
ISBN (eBook)
9783668532878
ISBN (Book)
9783668532885
File size
427 KB
Language
English
Tags
Roman, Octavian, Caesar, Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Egypt, Rome, Senate, Strategy, Propaganda, Military, Navy, Politics
Quote paper
Seth Carter (Author), 2016, Stratagems and Slip Ups. How Octavian Caesar Bested Mark Antony, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/375475

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