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The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium

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A “splendid” (The Wall Street Journal) account of one of history’s most important and yet little-known wars, the campaign culminating in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, whose outcome determined the future of the Roman Empire. Following Caesar’s assassination and Mark Antony’s defeat of the conspirators who killed Caesar, two powerful men remained in Rome—Antony and Caesar’s A “splendid” (The Wall Street Journal) account of one of history’s most important and yet little-known wars, the campaign culminating in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, whose outcome determined the future of the Roman Empire. Following Caesar’s assassination and Mark Antony’s defeat of the conspirators who killed Caesar, two powerful men remained in Rome—Antony and Caesar’s chosen heir, young Octavian, the future Augustus. When Antony fell in love with the most powerful woman in the world, Egypt’s ruler Cleopatra, and thwarted Octavian’s ambition to rule the empire, another civil war broke out. In 31 BC one of the largest naval battles in the ancient world took place—more than 600 ships, almost 200,000 men, and one woman—the Battle of Actium. Octavian prevailed over Antony and Cleopatra, who subsequently killed themselves. The Battle of Actium had great consequences for the empire. Had Antony and Cleopatra won, the empire’s capital might have moved from Rome to Alexandria, Cleopatra’s capital, and Latin might have become the empire’s second language after Greek, which was spoken throughout the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt. In this “superbly recounted” (The National Review) history, Barry Strauss, ancient history authority, describes this consequential battle with the drama and expertise that it deserves. The War That Made the Roman Empire is essential history that features three of the greatest figures of the ancient world.


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A “splendid” (The Wall Street Journal) account of one of history’s most important and yet little-known wars, the campaign culminating in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, whose outcome determined the future of the Roman Empire. Following Caesar’s assassination and Mark Antony’s defeat of the conspirators who killed Caesar, two powerful men remained in Rome—Antony and Caesar’s A “splendid” (The Wall Street Journal) account of one of history’s most important and yet little-known wars, the campaign culminating in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, whose outcome determined the future of the Roman Empire. Following Caesar’s assassination and Mark Antony’s defeat of the conspirators who killed Caesar, two powerful men remained in Rome—Antony and Caesar’s chosen heir, young Octavian, the future Augustus. When Antony fell in love with the most powerful woman in the world, Egypt’s ruler Cleopatra, and thwarted Octavian’s ambition to rule the empire, another civil war broke out. In 31 BC one of the largest naval battles in the ancient world took place—more than 600 ships, almost 200,000 men, and one woman—the Battle of Actium. Octavian prevailed over Antony and Cleopatra, who subsequently killed themselves. The Battle of Actium had great consequences for the empire. Had Antony and Cleopatra won, the empire’s capital might have moved from Rome to Alexandria, Cleopatra’s capital, and Latin might have become the empire’s second language after Greek, which was spoken throughout the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt. In this “superbly recounted” (The National Review) history, Barry Strauss, ancient history authority, describes this consequential battle with the drama and expertise that it deserves. The War That Made the Roman Empire is essential history that features three of the greatest figures of the ancient world.

30 review for The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium

  1. 4 out of 5

    Anne Morgan

    I knew almost nothing about the Battle of Actium before reading this book so this was excellent in filling in some major blanks in my knowledge of ancient Rome. Strauss does a good job of analyzing why anyone interested in ancient Rome should be interested in Actium and the lead-up to Actium and why this period in history is so important- why it could, in fact, have had major world shattering changes had Antony and Cleopatra won the battle (and the war) instead of Octavian and Rome. Strauss also I knew almost nothing about the Battle of Actium before reading this book so this was excellent in filling in some major blanks in my knowledge of ancient Rome. Strauss does a good job of analyzing why anyone interested in ancient Rome should be interested in Actium and the lead-up to Actium and why this period in history is so important- why it could, in fact, have had major world shattering changes had Antony and Cleopatra won the battle (and the war) instead of Octavian and Rome. Strauss also analyzes source material and encourages readers to do the same, which always means we will know more about Rome and see Rome and Octavian in a more positive light since the victors write the histories. I wasn't always happy with Strauss' writing style- it was often repetitive enough that I wasn't sure if he wasn't paying attention or he thought the reader wasn't paying attention. Better and tighter editing would definitely have made this a better written book. Overall this is a well-researched history on a time period and people we are more likely to "know" through Hollywood than history. I was glad to read a book that put Antony, Cleopatra, and Alexandria into such solid historical context. I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anneke

    Book Review: The War That Made the Roman Empire - Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium Author: Barry Strauss Publisher: Simon & Schuster Publication Date: March 15, 2022 Review Date: September 2, 2021 I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the blurb: “The gripping story of one of history’s most important and yet little-known wars, the campaign culminating in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, whose outcome determined the future of the Roman Empire. Fol Book Review: The War That Made the Roman Empire - Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium Author: Barry Strauss Publisher: Simon & Schuster Publication Date: March 15, 2022 Review Date: September 2, 2021 I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the blurb: “The gripping story of one of history’s most important and yet little-known wars, the campaign culminating in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, whose outcome determined the future of the Roman Empire. Following Caesar’s assassination and Mark Antony’s defeat of the conspirators who killed Caesar, two powerful men remained in Rome—Antony and Caesar’s chosen heir, young Octavian, the future Augustus. When Antony fell in love with the most powerful woman in the world, Egypt’s ruler Cleopatra, and thwarted Octavian’s ambition to rule the empire, another civil war broke out. In 31 BC one of the largest naval battles in the ancient world took place—more than 600 ships, almost 200,000 men, and one woman—the Battle of Actium. Octavian prevailed and subsequently defeated Antony and Cleopatra, who eventually committed suicide. The Battle of Actium had great consequences for the empire. Had Antony and Cleopatra won, the empire’s capital might have moved from Rome to Alexandria, Cleopatra’s capital, and Latin might have become the empire’s second language after Greek, which was spoken throughout the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt. In this riveting and exciting history, Barry Strauss, ancient history authority, describes this consequential battle with the drama and expertise that it deserves. The War That Made the Roman Empire is essential history that features three of the greatest figures of the ancient world.” —— If there were just one book to take to that supposed island in the middle of the sea, this would be it. Since I was 13, I intended to become a classicist, a tenured professor in the Classics. Alas, life threw other interesting paths to follow. But still, in my late age, I have been an ardent follower of Octavian, otherwise known as Augustus Caesar. I’ve read numerous books about his life, but I have to say that Professor Strauss’s The War That Made the Roman Empire holds the most depth and breadth to Octavian’s story. Because the story is not really the whole story without the intertwining of Anthony and Cleopatra with Octavian. This writing is just gorgeous. Easy to ready, without being dumbed down in any way. Clearly, the book is written for those of us who want to details of these three lives, the wars, the governance, the relationships. This is such first class writing, that I think I will be hard put to find a better written book on Octavian, Antony and Cleopatra. 5 stars and highly, highly recommended. Thank you to Simon & Schuster for giving me early access to this treasure, and best of luck to Professor Strauss with his continued research and writing. This review will be posted on NetGalley and Goodreads. #netgalley #thewarthatmadetheromanempire #barrystrauss #simon&schuster #augustuscaesar #theclassic

  3. 5 out of 5

    Liviu

    Entertaining take on the conflict between Augustus (Octavian Caesar at the time) and Anthony with a focus on the deciding battle at Actium, though the maneuvering pre-Actium was in many ways considerably more decisive and Actium's outcome while not quite preordained as in battle nothing is certain and one side can get very lucky (or very unlucky) was the highly likely one given what happened in the previous months and how the sides started the battle and with what goals; still, there is an intri Entertaining take on the conflict between Augustus (Octavian Caesar at the time) and Anthony with a focus on the deciding battle at Actium, though the maneuvering pre-Actium was in many ways considerably more decisive and Actium's outcome while not quite preordained as in battle nothing is certain and one side can get very lucky (or very unlucky) was the highly likely one given what happened in the previous months and how the sides started the battle and with what goals; still, there is an intriguing what-if Anthony rather staying on the defensive would have used his superiority in ships and money to try and invade Italy. Recommended

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peg - The History Shelf

    Read my review at the Washington Independent Review of Books here: https://www.washingtonindependentrevi... Read my review at the Washington Independent Review of Books here: https://www.washingtonindependentrevi...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie (Bookfever)

    Three years ago I read my first Barry Strauss book, which was Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine, and I really enjoyed it. So of course after that I've been highly anticipating his next book, whatever the topic would be. When I found out it would be about Antony, Cleopatra, Octavian and the battle of Actium I was beyond excited. The three year wait was so worth it because not only did I end up absolutely devouring this book, it's now also my favorite read of the year. I'm to Three years ago I read my first Barry Strauss book, which was Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine, and I really enjoyed it. So of course after that I've been highly anticipating his next book, whatever the topic would be. When I found out it would be about Antony, Cleopatra, Octavian and the battle of Actium I was beyond excited. The three year wait was so worth it because not only did I end up absolutely devouring this book, it's now also my favorite read of the year. I'm totally obsessed with the end of the Roman Replublic and the start of the Roman Empire because it was such a dramatic time where so many things happened from even before the assassination of Julius Caesar and everything that led up to the rise of emperor Augustus. I just can't read enough about it and Barry Strauss was the perfect author to write about it, in my opinion. I'm actually really impressed with his writing skills and the book because it went beyond my expectations. This book is one of those nonfictions about a historical event where you know the outcome but it's still so exciting to read, as if you don't know who'll defeat who in the end. I also love the way the author wrote about Cleopatra. In the past authors, male authors in particular, haven't been kind to her because of propaganda, patriarchy and xenophobia. But the author wrote beautifully about the last queen of Egypt. He wrote about her skill as a leader, her intelligence and her ingenuity with languages and battles alike. The battle at Actium itself was also a treat to read about. This says a lot about Barry Strauss and his talent as a writer because battles can quickly become a little tedious. There was nothing tedious about this battle. It was all exhilarating to read about and also so very fascinating. For example, the fact that we actually know some of the names of the regular soldiers who fought in the battle at Actium is really mindblowing to me because I don't think we usually know a lot about those people. The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium by Barry S. Strauss is nonfiction at its finest. When it comes to ancient Roman history, especially ancient military history, I can't recommend this author high enough. It's an oustanding read!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tracie

    The history of a war is usually written by the victors, especially the further back in time it happened. Author Barry Strauss covers the events prior to the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. and the interesting people of the time period prior to Caesar's assassination until the battle, and shortly afterward. He presents the facts that are generally agreed on, but he is clear about the bias of the ancient writers when it appears obvious. The betrayals of people are brutal, especially for Marcus Antoniu The history of a war is usually written by the victors, especially the further back in time it happened. Author Barry Strauss covers the events prior to the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. and the interesting people of the time period prior to Caesar's assassination until the battle, and shortly afterward. He presents the facts that are generally agreed on, but he is clear about the bias of the ancient writers when it appears obvious. The betrayals of people are brutal, especially for Marcus Antonius, but Octavian had a few betrayals too. Both sides were liars in their propaganda campaigns just like today actually. Cleopatra still remains mysterious, and I wish archaeologists would find her tomb or a stash of papyrus that would show a fairer side of her story. Although Marcus Antonius had more battle experience than Octavian, he seems to have really blundered at Actium, one of the largest naval battles of the ancient world, on the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean. Sea. Marcus Agrippa, the admir.al of Octavian's forces was the real reason Octavian won and Marcus Antonius lost so many men and ships. Though he and Cleopatra broke away and prolonged the war, Alexandria did not become the center of a new, different empire. Professor Strauss includes notes on the sources used and writes for the layperson which I also enjoyed in his "The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination." Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for a honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    I've long enjoyed Strauss' popular classics works, for their diverse sourcing (grave epithets, maritime archaeology, Greek comedies) and for his ability to describe people and events with easy familiarity, although always showing his work--how much weight to give propaganda on each side, and picking apart flattery from rumors and screeds. The result in this volume is a reappraisal of Actium, not as a step by Octavian towards the obvious and inevitable victory of west over east, but as a pivotal I've long enjoyed Strauss' popular classics works, for their diverse sourcing (grave epithets, maritime archaeology, Greek comedies) and for his ability to describe people and events with easy familiarity, although always showing his work--how much weight to give propaganda on each side, and picking apart flattery from rumors and screeds. The result in this volume is a reappraisal of Actium, not as a step by Octavian towards the obvious and inevitable victory of west over east, but as a pivotal event for the Mediterranean world, in which many of Antony and Cleopatra's decision make sense within the context of eastern client monarchs, the Parthians and local resources. Strauss has a particular sensitivity to the role of Cleopatra and Octavia (as well as Fulvia, Atia and other powerful women), and offers each person's strengths and weaknesses as a politician, strategist and leader. This is a rich and compelling narrative, with the best lesson being to try to find (and keep) yourself an Agrippa.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    This book was well written and an engaging read. It covers the interplay over time between Antony, Cleopatra and Octavian that led to the war at Actium. I learned some new details about that time period and I enjoyed the fact that Cleopatra was an astute politician which is rarely presented when discussing her. This book is much more than just the War between Antony and Cleopatra versus Octavian. I recommend this to anyone who has an interest in this time period. I received a free Kindle copy of This book was well written and an engaging read. It covers the interplay over time between Antony, Cleopatra and Octavian that led to the war at Actium. I learned some new details about that time period and I enjoyed the fact that Cleopatra was an astute politician which is rarely presented when discussing her. This book is much more than just the War between Antony and Cleopatra versus Octavian. I recommend this to anyone who has an interest in this time period. I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and my nonfiction book review blog.

  9. 5 out of 5

    E

    How do you write a 300-page book on a battle about which we know very, very little? Strauss manages to do so and to keep it engaging the whole time (the actual description of the action at Actium is only a few pages). He traces the long and intertwined histories of the three main players that led up to that world-altering sea battle off the west coast of Greece. Strauss doesn't play favorites--each principal had his (or her) flaws. Neither does he shy away from admitting when the historical recor How do you write a 300-page book on a battle about which we know very, very little? Strauss manages to do so and to keep it engaging the whole time (the actual description of the action at Actium is only a few pages). He traces the long and intertwined histories of the three main players that led up to that world-altering sea battle off the west coast of Greece. Strauss doesn't play favorites--each principal had his (or her) flaws. Neither does he shy away from admitting when the historical record is sparse or else skewed by Augustus' later memoirs. What he does best is to show the likely bases and results of the various players' decisions--he is quite astute in this regard. This leads to a fast-reading book that is as informative as it is engaging.

  10. 5 out of 5

    William Harris

    I have just finished my read of "The War That Made The Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium," by Barry Strauss to be published by Simon & Schuster in the near future (my thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC for review). The book is far more than a simple recitation of events surrounding the famous sea battle of Actium, which pitted the combined fleets of Antony and Cleopatra against the naval forces of Octavian (soon to be Caesar Augustus) after the tumultuous I have just finished my read of "The War That Made The Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium," by Barry Strauss to be published by Simon & Schuster in the near future (my thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC for review). The book is far more than a simple recitation of events surrounding the famous sea battle of Actium, which pitted the combined fleets of Antony and Cleopatra against the naval forces of Octavian (soon to be Caesar Augustus) after the tumultuous events surrounding the assassination of Julius Caesar by his political enemies in the Roman Senate. Indeed, much of the charm of the narrative resides in its polished explication of the events leading up to the climactic battle and defeat of Antony and Cleopatra. Most interesting is the way in which the author uses modern insights to explore the use of spin and propaganda by all of the principal combatants and the way in which their manipulation of the "media" of the time lends itself to the modern cliche of the paradigm of "fake news." I found the narrative thoroughly engaging and well documented. The author is clearly the master of his material, and I have seldom seen a more fully developed exploration of the very complex relationship between the three protagonists. I strongly recommend the text to anyone interested in a better understanding of how the Roman Republic became the Roman Imperium.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan Paxton

    Actually gave up at page 136. Badly organized, dots around, and too many garbage sentences starting "We might imagine...." Pretty much SOP from a guy now collecting wingnut welfare from the Hoover Institution who thanks a war criminal and a lunatic in the acknowledgments. I might add that I've read and found valuable a number of Strauss's books, but this is an embarrassing mess. Actually gave up at page 136. Badly organized, dots around, and too many garbage sentences starting "We might imagine...." Pretty much SOP from a guy now collecting wingnut welfare from the Hoover Institution who thanks a war criminal and a lunatic in the acknowledgments. I might add that I've read and found valuable a number of Strauss's books, but this is an embarrassing mess.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Library of Dreaming (Bookstagram)

    Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium. This riveting nonfiction book depicts the build up and fall out of one of the largest naval battles in the ancient world. It’s no exaggeration to say that events at Actium determined the future of the Roman Empire and shaped the Western world as we know it today. I’ve studied a bit about Cleopatra and the Roman Empire, but I knew very little about the era d Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium. This riveting nonfiction book depicts the build up and fall out of one of the largest naval battles in the ancient world. It’s no exaggeration to say that events at Actium determined the future of the Roman Empire and shaped the Western world as we know it today. I’ve studied a bit about Cleopatra and the Roman Empire, but I knew very little about the era described in this book. Barry Strauss has done an amazing job of portraying Cleopatra, Antony, and Octavian as real human beings. I was especially impressed that he avoided the usual sexist stereotypes around Cleopatra and instead showed her as the intelligent, powerful political entity she really was. In contrast to many depictions of this event, Barry Strauss does not portray the outcome of the war as a foregone conclusion. It could very easily have gone the other way and Strauss paints an evocative picture of an empire hung in the balance. The author had no little challenge in writing this book as the sources are either missing or incredibly biased. He uses what he calls “informed speculation” to reconstruct events. Although of course we can’t really know what happened, I find his theories very solid and believable. It also invites the reader to put themselves in Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra’s shoes and try to get a sense of their motivations. Refreshingly, Octavia (Octavian’s sister and Antony’s wife) is also given due consideration as a political player rather than just the jilted wife or wronged sister. The entire Roman/Eastern world is fleshed out in all its connections, alliances, backstabbings, and betrayals. Truly, modern soap operas pale in comparison to the drama of this era! I had so many misconceptions about Antony and Cleopatra’s last stand thanks to Octavian’s long-lasting propaganda so I was fascinated to read Strauss’ take on what really happened. I found it entertaining, well-written, and thought-provoking. A fabulous piece of nonfiction that I’m glad I picked up!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Roberto Charvel

    Cleopatra was a descendant of the Ptolemies dynasty that had ruled Egypt for 300 years. Her son with Julius Cesar would be the last of her dynasty and Egypt's last pharaoh. Ptolemy was one of Alexander the Great's marshals and the real leader behind the creation of the city of Alexandria which used to be the center of the world even in Roman times. After two centuries of decline and defeat, she turned around her country's fate. She presided over prosperity. She won great popularity among her peo Cleopatra was a descendant of the Ptolemies dynasty that had ruled Egypt for 300 years. Her son with Julius Cesar would be the last of her dynasty and Egypt's last pharaoh. Ptolemy was one of Alexander the Great's marshals and the real leader behind the creation of the city of Alexandria which used to be the center of the world even in Roman times. After two centuries of decline and defeat, she turned around her country's fate. She presided over prosperity. She won great popularity among her people. Abroad, sh erased Egypt to a position of power and influence that it had not healed for generations. She even threatened to conquer Rome. Cleopatra was the greatest Macedonian ruler since Alexander the Great and one of the most influential women rulers in Egypt. In 48 BC Julius Cesar came to Egypt looking for money to support his side on a civil war. Cleopatra's supported him in exchange of Julius Cesar's support her on the claim to the throne which her brother had forced off the throne. Within a month of their meeting, she was pregnant with his son. After the assassination of Julius Cesar, there was a triumvirate headed by Octavio, Antonio and Marcus Lepidus. Eventually Antonio and Octavio would fight in a civil war that would change the fate of the Western world. Life in Rom during the last 50 years of the first century BC, was plagued by backstabbing, treason, chaining sides, and the worst political practices that really made me re imagine what I had known about the Republic and its transition to an Empire. Anthony was the closest person to Julius Cesar. He married Octavia, Octavio's sister. Octavia played a key role in politics in her time and endured Anthony's affair with Cleopatra and would ultimately look after the three children Anthony had with Cleopatra as well as their own children. Octavio was adopted by Julius Cesar and was really his nephew. Cesarian was actually the son of Julius Cesar and Cleopatra who ruled Egypt for a month after his mother's death before he was assassinated by Anthony. He was the last ruler of the house on Ptolemy and the last Pharaoh of Egypt. The battle of Actium seems to have been the most important touring point in the conflict between Anthony/Cleopatra who were trying to conquer Rome and Octavian who was trying to attack Egypt. Anthony had a bad location with poor access to water and food. It took him too long to asses his army. At the end, famine and sickness killed more of his soldiers than actual battle and when he was finally ready for battle his troops were decimated and ill prepared. The biggest loss was not in the battlefield (where sick and weak soldiers lost to Octavian troops) but in a sea battle were Agrippa dominated and destroyed the reduced force Anthony and Cleopatra had. These two were lucky to escape to Egypt where they lived for a year before they met their end. From Egypt they planned to escape to India, but their vessels were burned to avoid this. In September 30 BC Anthony launches an attack by infantry, cavalry and sea. Both his cavalry and navy changed sides and he came to his demise. When he went back to Alexandria, Cleopatra sent her servants to say she was dead and he committed suicide by stating himself in the stomach with a sword. He didn't die immediately and was brought to Cleopatra's mausoleum where she was hiding. She received him and mourned him and eventually committed suicide once she realized she could not negotiate with Octavian. Octavian ended the 300 rule of thee Ptolomey dynasty in Egypt and the 3,000 regime of Egyptian kings. At the same time he changed the republic into an empire that gave way to the birth of the Western World. I learnt how small the city of Rome was at the time of the highest moment of Alexandria. Alexandria was really the center of the world. The book is about what happened between the assassination of Julius Cesar en 44 BC to the ascent of power of Octavian in 30 BC.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Fairweather

    I’m not usually one for military history, so the fact that I finished this book is testimony to Strauss’ skill as a writer. He makes use not only of names and dates, but puts these names and dates in context, for the most part using sources to fashion the conflict at Actium as a battle between east and west. The east, which was run by Antony (with Cleopatra not far behind) was more populous and more wealthy, so the victory of Octavian and his Italian forces was far from a foregone conclusion. The I’m not usually one for military history, so the fact that I finished this book is testimony to Strauss’ skill as a writer. He makes use not only of names and dates, but puts these names and dates in context, for the most part using sources to fashion the conflict at Actium as a battle between east and west. The east, which was run by Antony (with Cleopatra not far behind) was more populous and more wealthy, so the victory of Octavian and his Italian forces was far from a foregone conclusion. The battle of Actium determined whether the center of gravity of the Roman Empire would be toward the east or the west. It was, what historian Barry Strauss called, “the hinge of history.” What would the empire have been like if Antony and Cleopatra in the east had won? Possibly no expansion would’ve occurred. Rather, maybe the cultural center of the empire would’ve shifted to Alexandria, the midway point of the world at that time, a cosmopolitan city containing things of all peoples. Strauss writes, “Alexandria stood midway between the divine eternity of the pyramids and the pure reason of the Parthenon at Athens, the temple that symbolized the glory of classical Greece.” Part of the propaganda of Octavian was to convey an image to Romans of Antony as a traitor and a foreigner, a funny thought when we consider that Octavian was an upstart from the bourgeoisie, and Antony, a dyed-in-the-wool aristocrat of the old Roman nobility. Conversely, Antony saw himself as the defender of the old republic, while Octavian recognized that it was the old republic which killed Caesar—thus, there could be no turning back to the old ways once Octavian was victorious. According to Strauss, Antony's former military successes were more circumstantial than strategic, so perhaps it is no wonder that he lost it all to Octavian, despite having considerable advantages over him. But Octavian’s wisdom was not in strategy either—it was in knowing when to defer to his commander, Agrippa, the true naval genius. Also, wisdom was exercised in knowing when to strike and when to wait. Far more men die of hunger than in battle, apparently… An introduction to the events of Actium which is easy to recommend. I dunno if I’ll have the time, but I’d like to fill things out a bit more by attempting to read Syme’s classic work on the Roman Revolution. That might be a little out of my league, but its premise is intriguing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Brannon

    A very thorough account of a time in history I previously knew little about. In my experience the book starts slow, but is well worth the commitment. The first 2/3 is saturated with details and historical accounts. Once the book gets into the throes of the Battle at Actium and beyond, Strauss commits to a more narrative style, which is really enjoyable. I picked up this book blind with no recommendation. However, I can say I highly recommend the work for anyone wanting a solid, but digestible sl A very thorough account of a time in history I previously knew little about. In my experience the book starts slow, but is well worth the commitment. The first 2/3 is saturated with details and historical accounts. Once the book gets into the throes of the Battle at Actium and beyond, Strauss commits to a more narrative style, which is really enjoyable. I picked up this book blind with no recommendation. However, I can say I highly recommend the work for anyone wanting a solid, but digestible slice of Roman history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    James

    this book is great . here is an amazon link to it if you want check out https://amzn.to/3tn52dF this book is great . here is an amazon link to it if you want check out https://amzn.to/3tn52dF

  17. 4 out of 5

    Leo Barron

    Great book from Strauss! Once again, Strauss delivers another great book about the history of Rome. Actium is one of the great turning points in history and Strauss doesn't disappoint. Great book from Strauss! Once again, Strauss delivers another great book about the history of Rome. Actium is one of the great turning points in history and Strauss doesn't disappoint.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Simon and Schuster for an advanced copy of this new history of the ancient world. Barry Strauss professor of history and classics at Cornell University has written in his book The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium about Rome in the time following the assassination of Julius Caesar. Among the fighting, arguing, feuding and retribution that followed two men, Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar's heir and later to be known My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Simon and Schuster for an advanced copy of this new history of the ancient world. Barry Strauss professor of history and classics at Cornell University has written in his book The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium about Rome in the time following the assassination of Julius Caesar. Among the fighting, arguing, feuding and retribution that followed two men, Mark Antony and Octavian, Caesar's heir and later to be known as Augustus gained power and prestige and soon these individuals would have to clash. And they did so at the Battle of Actium. Professor Strauss does a wonderful job describing both the time and the places, giving a concise history of the events leading to these two men facing off. Their are many figures in this history and all of them are described clearly, with plenty of backstory to fill in their place in history. The writing never bogs down dn flows well. Points are made, and made very clearly. What is most interesting is that unlike some histories the role of women are not downplayed or ignore. Cleopatra, Mark Antony's ally and love, is treated as a true politician, an Elizabeth I of her day. A skilled leader who removed problem siblings and ruled a diverse people in difficult times, both war and peace, and did so will a large amount of good faith and love from her people. Also Octavia, sister of Octavain, and wife of Mark Antony is given far more political savvy and shown to have her own machinations, far more than other historians wrote, or probably suspected. A very well written history of a difficult time for Rome, a time where many possible outcomes could have occurred. Professor Strauss has done a very good job of researching and writing this book which is far more readable than one expects of a book on ancient history. Recommended for not only classics scholars, but for people who enjoy very good, very interesting history books.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rosie

    I was unsure whether I would enjoy "The War That Made the Roman Empire," but I shouldn't have been. So often, war retellings focus very heavily (too heavily) on battle tactics, weapons, and drawn-out battle recreations at the expense of highlighting the many political, social, and economic machinations that preclude and follow said battle. That is not the case here. Just as in his "The Death of Caesar," Barry Strauss breathes life into the events surrounding a history making point in history, in I was unsure whether I would enjoy "The War That Made the Roman Empire," but I shouldn't have been. So often, war retellings focus very heavily (too heavily) on battle tactics, weapons, and drawn-out battle recreations at the expense of highlighting the many political, social, and economic machinations that preclude and follow said battle. That is not the case here. Just as in his "The Death of Caesar," Barry Strauss breathes life into the events surrounding a history making point in history, in this case - the battle of Actium. While he does also feature questionable accounts put down by non-contemporary sources (I struggle with Shakespeare - even considering the liklihood he had knowledge in his day of ancient sources now lost to us), he does well to balance those sources with known facts, and a well-rounded understanding of propaganda cycles of the Ancient Roman Republic and Empire. Strauss also writes historical non-fiction in a way that makes his subjects accessible, dimensional, and entirely human. He makes the history engaging and poses compelling questions about ways that even small, relatively insignificant-seeming events echo down the historical timeline. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in ancient history. Additionally, this book does not require previous knowledge of the Battle at Actium or any of its actors. Definitely a great read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shoshana

    The past, it is said, is a different country. It is also settled, and something we take for granted. It is easy to forget that for the women and men living in that foreign clime, it was contemporary times, and there was nothing settled about it. So it is with major events such as the Battle of Actium. If the Battle of Actium had gone the other way, who knows in our many ways our contemporary present might be different? This book covers the lead up to the decisive battle, and the aftermath. With O The past, it is said, is a different country. It is also settled, and something we take for granted. It is easy to forget that for the women and men living in that foreign clime, it was contemporary times, and there was nothing settled about it. So it is with major events such as the Battle of Actium. If the Battle of Actium had gone the other way, who knows in our many ways our contemporary present might be different? This book covers the lead up to the decisive battle, and the aftermath. With Octavian on one side, and Marc Antony and Cleopatra on the other, this huge naval battle was bound to be a hinge of history. Barry Strauss,is an excellent historian and author. The riveting story and his readable prose make a wonderful combination. I thought I was familiar with the period, but I learned a lot from this book. Enjoyable to read, informative, and thought provoking, what more could one ask? Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    The Battle of Actium and the events leading up to it are dense and twisted amongst many key players and places in history. Strauss - as usual - does an excellent job piecing together the wide swath of information about all of those people and places without sacrificing details and keeping it easy to read and follow without ‘dumbing’ it down. This book is thoroughly well researched and no matter how well you think you may know your Roman history everyone will find many new and interesting facts w The Battle of Actium and the events leading up to it are dense and twisted amongst many key players and places in history. Strauss - as usual - does an excellent job piecing together the wide swath of information about all of those people and places without sacrificing details and keeping it easy to read and follow without ‘dumbing’ it down. This book is thoroughly well researched and no matter how well you think you may know your Roman history everyone will find many new and interesting facts within. Strauss does the readers a favor by pulling from many varied sources really bringing together a solid imagery of what it was like during the time of the battle. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the chance to read an early copy of this for review!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bill Powers

    I found the story of Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra at Actium in The War That Made the Roman Empire to be highly entertaining, informative, and riveting, as history should be. I highly recommend it as a read, and it would probably make a great movie or series. I would have given the book a 5-Star review, but I have one minor criticism. It’s called “presentism” – the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts. I could have done without the constant “woke” references I found the story of Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra at Actium in The War That Made the Roman Empire to be highly entertaining, informative, and riveting, as history should be. I highly recommend it as a read, and it would probably make a great movie or series. I would have given the book a 5-Star review, but I have one minor criticism. It’s called “presentism” – the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts. I could have done without the constant “woke” references regarding Cleopatra. An example; “Romans were, in fact, generally sexist bigots.”. I don’t care for applying 2022 AD mores and values to 31 BC. But, aside from that, I loved the book!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Probably the fairest account of the last part of the Roman Civil War that I have found. It leans towards being almost too fair to Antony and fawns a bit much on Cleopatra but compared to most books that use only the biased accounts and propaganda the flowed after Octavians victory this was a welcome relief. It also gave a much more thorough account of the battle of Actium and the events leading up to than most. I learned a lot, or at least go a different view, of a subject that I have read quite Probably the fairest account of the last part of the Roman Civil War that I have found. It leans towards being almost too fair to Antony and fawns a bit much on Cleopatra but compared to most books that use only the biased accounts and propaganda the flowed after Octavians victory this was a welcome relief. It also gave a much more thorough account of the battle of Actium and the events leading up to than most. I learned a lot, or at least go a different view, of a subject that I have read quite a bit about and for that alone this book is worth the read. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn about the last battles of the Civil War and the rise of Augustus.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Despite my long-standing interest in the history of the Roman Empire and the wars and political intrigue that gave it birth, I found this book a bit of a grind. I can't put my finger on any particular reason for it. There is much in Strauss's research to recommend it. But it seemed to tell a hugely complex and fascinating story without much depth or flow. You have to work hard at picturing the events he describes, although he does better with the principal characters, especially Cleopatra. In my Despite my long-standing interest in the history of the Roman Empire and the wars and political intrigue that gave it birth, I found this book a bit of a grind. I can't put my finger on any particular reason for it. There is much in Strauss's research to recommend it. But it seemed to tell a hugely complex and fascinating story without much depth or flow. You have to work hard at picturing the events he describes, although he does better with the principal characters, especially Cleopatra. In my opinion, if you want a masterful presentation of Augustus and the early Empire, try Adrian Goldsworthy's superb Augustus: First Emperor of Rome.

  25. 4 out of 5

    David

    Not only a history book, but a critical analysis of the successes and failures of the two sides in this last major battle of the Roman civil war. It turned a series of facts (so and so marched there, so and so attacked) into an answer as to why they did these things and if the action made tactical sense. I think it was a successful approach to history. While it is impossible to get into the heads of these ancient figures the author does suggest what they may have been thinking and that helps exp Not only a history book, but a critical analysis of the successes and failures of the two sides in this last major battle of the Roman civil war. It turned a series of facts (so and so marched there, so and so attacked) into an answer as to why they did these things and if the action made tactical sense. I think it was a successful approach to history. While it is impossible to get into the heads of these ancient figures the author does suggest what they may have been thinking and that helps explain their behavior.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gunnar Esiason

    Easy to read definitely a quick, too. It’s assumed the reader has beyond a novice understanding of Roman Empire history, which can make commentary feel like it’s lacking context especially when the story attempts to fill historical gaps. Otherwise, historical character building followed a logical path and tied together well at the end. It was my first book on Ancient Rome, and certainly felt like it was worth the read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    CASPER HILEMAN

    Dr. Barry Strauss Professor of the Classics at Cornell University adds to the story of how Rome expanded her empire. The mythos of Cleopatra, Marc Antony, and the romance portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. This is not that, Strauss is both an eminent historian as well as an excellent writer able to convey history as well as do it in an enjoyable fashion.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aneil

    An excellent history of the Battle of Actium, and it’s major antagonists, Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra. I thought that the depiction of Cleopatra was the most fully developed, and that Octavian’s was disappointingly incomplete, especially given how much material there is on him relative to the other two.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    I picked up this book because I have a goal to read a variety of new releases and the only thing I knew about this topic were the names of the people. So it was interesting to learn about this part of history and connect all the names together. But it was a little dry and took me a long time to read. It is a history book so maybe that is to be expected.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    This breakdown first of the major players and conflicts that led to the Battle of Actium and then of the battle itself has an interesting premise but not always an interesting story. One detail I appreciate is how often Strauss credits his sources--especially Cassius Dio's Roman History and Plutarch's Life of Antony--and points out any discrepencies. This breakdown first of the major players and conflicts that led to the Battle of Actium and then of the battle itself has an interesting premise but not always an interesting story. One detail I appreciate is how often Strauss credits his sources--especially Cassius Dio's Roman History and Plutarch's Life of Antony--and points out any discrepencies.

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