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2. The Battle of Actium, 31 BC

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About this Lecture


In this lecture we think about Augustus’ presentation of his victory over Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in September 31 BC, focusing in particular on: (i) the events leading up to the Battle of Actium, the battle itself, and the immediate aftermath; (ii) Augustus’ interest in presenting the Battle of Actium as a victory of Rome over a foreign enemy, rather than as a victory of Romans against other Romans; (iii) Augustus’ inscription at Nicopolis (H10); (iv) Horace’s Ode 1.37 (G24); and (v) the depiction of the Battle of Actium on the Shield of Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid (G38).


In this course, Professor Matthew Nicholls (University of Oxford) explores the reign of the first Roman emperor, Augustus. Across twenty-one lectures, we consider a range of issues including: (i) the historical sources for reign of Augustus and their reliability; (ii) the events that led to the creation of the principate, particularly the Battle of Actium; (iii) the various constitutional settlements that formalised Augustus’ powers; (iv) his military achievements; (v) the importance of contemporary poetry (Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Ovid) and coinage for understanding his reign; (vi) the significance of key figures around Augustus, such as Livia, Marcus Agrippa, Tiberius and Germanicus; (vii) the extent to which Augustus really ‘restored the republic’ as he claimed he did; (viii) Augustus’ involvement in religious life at Rome and in the provinces; (ix) his administrative changes in Rome and in the provinces; (x) his management of various different sections of Roman society – the senatorial elite, the equestrian order, the army, the people of Rome and the provincial elites; (xi) challenges to his rule; (xii) his management of the succession; and (xiii) the importance of his own record of his achievements, the Res Gestae.


Matthew Nicholls is a visiting professor of classics at the University of Reading and Senior Tutor at St John's College, Oxford, specialising in the political and social history of the Romans, and the way the built environments of Rome and cities around the empire expressed their values and priorities. In 2014, Matthew was presented with a Guardian Teaching Award for his 'Virtual Rome' project, a digital model of the city of Rome, showing the city as it appeared in c. AD 315.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Nicholls, M. (2023, May 23). Augustus - The Battle of Actium, 31 BC [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Nicholls, M. "Augustus – The Battle of Actium, 31 BC." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 May 2023,