Octavian, Anthony and Cleopatra: Propaganda and the ‘Myth of Actium'

1095 Words Apr 19th, 2006 5 Pages
Workshop 1

Octavian, Anthony and Cleopatra: Propaganda and the ‘Myth of Actium'

The creation and subsequent sustaining of the ‘Myth of Actium' is one of the greatest examples of the use of mass propaganda in the ancient world. While scholars such as Murray question the impact that the re-instigation of games at Nikopolis and the extension of the temple of Apollo at Actium would have on the political situation in Rome, its emergence, however, seems to have occurred around 20 BC, a time at which Octavian Augustus has officially restored the Republic (27 BC) and resigned his position as consul, instead holding office as Tribune of the Plebs.
The Augustan version of the battle of Actium is one that is displayed by the three passages.
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Plutarch's account shows Antony represented as an Eastern King, having deserted his country of birth. This then shifts to a tragic hero, misled by Cleopatra.
The image of Octavian is the one that receives the greatest transformation. While Murray's acceptance of the view that Syme and Zanker exaggerate the role that Actium plays in "the political ideology and symbolic imagery of the Augustan Principate ", this fails to take into account the myths birth later in the reign. While it is true that Actium played little part in cementing Octavian's position other than as a military victory, its' political ramifications are represented by the notion of a fourth foundation of Rome, as alluded to by Virgil. By his own admission, Octavian was not a great general, but literature fails to portray this. The most significant alteration to fact is seen on the Shield of Aeneas . Octavian is shown commanding his army, "the Senate and People with him", defending the Republic and all that it stands for. This comes at a time when he controls Rome in all but name.
The inscription from part of the victory monument at Nikopolis is a clear indication of the memory which Octavian wanted to remain. The monument, both a symbol Octavian's "victory and power and also a monument of political and religious propaganda " was erected soon after the battle. Just as on the Shield of Aeneas, it suggests that Octavian was

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