What was going on with Mark Anthony at Actium?

Jun 2019
21
London
In the works about Mark Anthony I've read, Goldsworthy Anthony and Cleopatra and Goldsworthy Augustus, Anthony's behaviour comes off really strange to me throughout the whole Actius campaign. Why was he so passive? allowing Agrippa and Octavian to take the initiative and then to simply abandon his legions at the end (seemingly)? Just struck me as kind of bizarre.

Any explanations?
 
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Sep 2019
186
Vergina
Agrippa played the campaign very well and limited Antony's options. The capture of Corcyra and arrival of superior naval forces stopped Antony from invading Italy. Agrippa could then blockade Antony, wear down the morale of his army and try to get his Allies to defect. Antony had no real response to this and Agrippa would not be drawn into a land battle knowing this was Antony's strength. Antony ultimately concluded he had to withdraw both his army and navy in order to salvage the situation. Antony prioritized the navy and the Egyptian treasury fleet hoping to use it in the future. Actium was more of a breakout than a battle and we should remember the treasure fleet did escape. The land army meanwhile was supposed to withdraw back to Asia under Canidius but without Antony's presence they surrendered. In my opinion Antony's big mistake was not leading the army back in person.

To conclude I wouldn't say Antony displayed any uncharacteristic behavior and would attribute the victory to Agrippa's strategic skill.
 
Oct 2018
2,090
Sydney
I wish I understood Actium better. Perhaps an interesting follow-up question is why prioritize the fleet? Like you, arrhidaeus, it seems to me that Antony should have played the game to his strengths, relocating the treasury to his land forces.
 
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Sep 2019
186
Vergina
I wish I understood Actium better. Perhaps an interesting follow-up question is why prioritize the fleet? Like you, arrhidaeus, it seems to me that Antony should have played the game to his strengths, relocating the treasury to his land forces.
Drawing from (Plutarch, Life of Antony, 63) and (Cassius Dio Book 50.15) It looks to have been a close run debate. Canidius trying to persuade Antony to withdraw into Macedonia-Thrace, join with the allied king of the Getae and fight a land battle. While Cleopatra favored the naval breakout likely due to the Egyptian forces making up a large part of the navy. From Cleopatra's perspective she wants to get her ships and her treasure back to Egypt in order to maintain her kingdom. Antony should have overruled Cleopatra in this case. It's a difficult situation though as Cleopatra would probably have had to then burn her fleet and travel many miles overland with Antony's army.

Paolo de Ruggiero's Bio of Antony, pg 262 gives a good description of the event:
 
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Oct 2015
1,008
Virginia
It is all very confusing.
Supposedly Antonius had the bigger fleet and larger ships, yet Agrippa seized several ports and defeated several of Antony's squadrons (Methone, Patras, Leucas, Corinth, Corfu), and then convoyed Caesar's (Octavian) whole army across the Adriatic unopposed!(?)

Then, on land, Antony (an experienced cavalry commander) is bested in several cavalry engagements such that instead of isolating Caesar's army from water and supplies, Antonius' army is isolated, cut off from supplies, suffering from disease, and reduced to such straits that it can not even fall back into Macedonia!(?) (as Caesar, Pompey and Brutus/Cassius had done)

Then, when apparently forced into a naval battle by supply problems, Antonius doesn't force a fight to the finish, but "breaks out" and sails away from his Roman army! ....to what end? Without Antonius' Roman troops there was no way Egypt could be defended; however much treasure or how many Egyptian ships were saved.

Strategically, the sources make little sense, and tend to blame Antonius for being "besotted" by the wicked, foreign woman....but that's Caesarian propaganda...isn't it(?)
 
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Sep 2019
186
Vergina
It is all very confusing.
Supposedly Antonius had the bigger fleet and larger ships, yet Agrippa seized several ports and defeated several of Antony's squadrons (Methone, Patras, Leucas, Corinth, Corfu), and then convoyed Caesar's (Octavian) whole army across the Adriatic unopposed!(?)

Then, when apparently forced into a naval battle by supply problems, Antonius doesn't force a fight to the finish, but "breaks out" and sails away from his Roman army! ....to what end? Without Antonius' Roman troops there was no way Egypt could be defended; however much treasure or how many Egyptian ships were saved.
Plutarch notes Antony had 500 ships to Octavian 250 at the opening of the campaign. However he mentions Antony's fleet was in terrible shape and undermanned compared to Octavian. In this case I think the larger ships played a negative role for him as they required far more crew. Also Agrippa's fleet is experienced from fighting Sextus Pompey while Antony has had no combat? This makes me doubt that he ever had superior naval forces and certainly inferior by Actium.

Regarding the treasury. It seems they believed that the treasury could be used raise new forces and they probably underestimated Octavian's ability to invade Egypt.
 
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Jun 2019
21
London
I ve heard Oda Nobunaga in another forum argue that Anthony's army may not have been as large as Plutarch claimed and he was caught unprepared by Octavian and Agrippa. I thought there was some merit to this
 
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