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Prophetic Expositions, vol. 2

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    THE BATTLE OF ACTIUM

    “When Cæsar had an army and fleet ready, which seemed strong enough to make head against his enemy, he also declared war on his side. But in the decree enacted by the people to that purpose, he caused it to be expressed, that it was against Cleopatra: it was from a refinement of policy, that he acted in that manner, and did not insert Antony’s name in the declaration of war, though actually intended against him. For, besides throwing the blame upon Antony, by making him the aggressor in a war against his country, he did not hurt the feelings of those who were still attached to him, whose number and credit might have proved formidable, and whom he would have been under the necessity of declaring enemies to the commonwealth, if Antony had been expressly named in the decree.PREX2 55.1

    “Antony returned from Athens to Samos, where the whole fleet was assembled. It consisted of five hundred ships of war, of extraordinary size and structure, having several decks one above another, with towers upon the head and stern, of a prodigious height; so that those superb vessels upon the sea might have been taken for floating islands. Such great crews were necessary for completely manning those heavy machines, that Antony, not being able to find mariners enough, had been obliged to take husbandmen, artificers, muleteers, and all sorts of people void of experience, and fitter to give trouble than to do real service.PREX2 55.2

    “On board this fleet were two hundred thousand foot and twelve thousand horse. The kings of Libya, Cilicia, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, Comagenia, and Thrace, were there in person; and those of Pontus, Judea, Lycaonia, Galatia, and Media, had sent their troops. A more splendid and pompous sight could not be seen than this fleet when it put to sea, and had unfurled its sails. But nothing equalled the magnificence of Cleopatra’s galley, all flaming with gold; its sails of purple; its flags and streamers floating in the wind, whilst trumpets and other instruments of war made the heavens resound with airs of joy and triumph. Antony followed her close in a galley equally splendid. That queen, intoxicated with her fortune and grandeur, and hearkening only to her unbridled ambition, foolishly threatened the Capitol with approaching ruin, and prepared with her infamous troop of eunuchs utterly to subvert the Roman empire.PREX2 56.1

    “On the other side, less pomp and splendor were seen, but more utility. Cæsar had only two hundred and fifty ships, and eighty thousand foot, with as many horse as Antony. But all his troops were chosen men, and on board his fleet were none but experienced seamen. His vessels were not so large as Antony’s, but then they were much lighter and fitter for service.PREX2 56.2

    “Cæsar’s rendezvous was at Brondusium, and Antony advanced to Corcyra. But the season of the year was over, and bad weather came on; so that they were both obliged to retire, and to put their troops into winter quarters, and their fleets into good ports, till the approach of spring.PREX2 57.1

    “Antony and Cæsar, as soon as the season would admit, took the field both by sea and land. The two fleets entered the Ambracian gulf in Epirus. Antony’s bravest and most experienced officers advised him not to hazard a battle by sea; to send back Cleopatra into Egypt, and to make all possible haste into Thrace or Macedonia, in order to fight there by land; because his army, composed of good troops, and much superior in numbers to Cæsar’s, seemed to promise him the victory; whereas a fleet so ill manned as his, how numerous soever it might be, was by no means to be relied on. But Antony had not been susceptible of good advice for a long time, and had acted only to please Cleopatra. That proud princess, who judged of things solely from appearances, believed her fleet invincible, and that Cæsar’s ships could not approach it without being dashed to pieces. Besides, she rightly perceived that in case of misfortune it would be easier for her to escape in her ships than by land. Her opinion, therefore, took place against the advice of all the generals.PREX2 57.2

    “The battle was fought upon the second of September, at the mouth of the gulf of Ambracia, near the city of Actium, in sight of both the land armies; the one of which was drawn up in battle upon the north, and the other upon the south of that strait, expecting the event. The contest was doubtful for some time, and seemed as much in favor of Antony as Cæsar, till the retreat of Cleopatra. That queen, frightened with the noise of the battle, in which everything was terrible to a woman, took to flight when she was in no danger, and drew after her the whole Egyptian squadron, which consisted of sixty ships of the line; with which she sailed for the coast of Peloponnesus. Antony, who saw her fly, forgetting everything, forgetting even himself, followed her precipitately, and yielded a victory to Cæsar, which, till then, he had exceedingly well disputed. It, however, cost the victor extremely dear; for Antony’s ships fought so well after his departure, that, though the battle began before noon, it was not over when night came on; so that Cæsar’s troops were obliged to pass it on board their ships.”PREX2 57.3

    This battle was Egypt’s ruin and Rome’s triumph. The battle was fought in the autumn of 31 B. C. “A time,” or 360 years would carry us to 329, when the supremacy of the western strong holds would cease, and the capitol of the empire be removed. As we shall see, in its proper place, it was done at the time appointed.PREX2 58.1

    “For they shall forecast devices against him.”PREX2 58.2

    Verse 26. “Yea, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow, and many shall fall down slain.”PREX2 58.3

    The cause of Egypt’s defeat in this battle, was the treachery of the troops of Antony and Cleopatra. The first disaster, as will be seen in the above extract, was the flight of Cleopatra and sixty ships of the line with her. A second stroke was the desertion to Cæsar of Antony’s land army, as follows:PREX2 58.4

    “The land army still remained entire, and consisted of eighteen legions, and twenty-two thousand horse, under the command of Canidius, Antony’s lieutenant-general; and might have made head against Cæsar, and given him abundance of difficulty. But seeing themselves abandoned by their generals, they surrendered to Cæsar, who received them with open arms.”PREX2 58.5

    A third blow, was, that when Antony arrived in Libya, he found his army under Scorpus, whom he had left there to guard the frontier, had declared for Cæsar.PREX2 59.1

    The fourth and final stroke was the betrayal of Cleopatra, while she was professing the greatest regard and love for him; yet, at the same time, was secretly endeavoring to ruin him, and betray him into the hands of Cæsar. Another engagement ensued in Egypt, as follows:PREX2 59.2

    “Upon arriving there, he encamped near the Hippodrone. He was in hopes of making himself master of the city soon, by means of the intelligence which he held with Cleopatra, upon which he relied no less than upon his army.PREX2 59.3

    “Antony was ignorant of that princess’ intrigues, and, being unwilling to believe what was told him of them, prepared for a good defence. He made a vigorous sally; and after having severely handled the besiegers, and warmly pursued to the gates of their camp a detachment of horse which had been sent against him, he returned victorious into the city. This was the last effort of expiring valor; for, after this exploit, his fortitude and sense of glory abandoned him, or were never after of any service to him. Instead of making use of this advantage, and of applying himself seriously to his defence, by observing the motions of Cleopatra, who was betraying him, he came, completely armed as he was, to throw himself at her feet, and to kiss her hands. The whole palace of Alexandria immediately resounded with acclamations, as if the siege had been raised; and Cleopatra, who had no thoughts but of amusing Antony, ordered a magnificent feast to be prepared, at which they passed the rest of the day and part of the night together.PREX2 59.4

    “Early on the morrow, Antony resolved to attack Cæsar by sea and land. He drew up his land army upon some eminences in the city; and from thence kept his galleys in view, which were going out of the port in order to charge those of Cæsar. He waited without making any motion, to see the success of that attack; but was much astonished when he saw Cleopatra’s admiral strike his flag when he came in view of Cæsar’s, and surrender his whole fleet to him.PREX2 60.1

    “This treason opened Antony’s eyes, and made him, when too late, give credit to what his friends had told him of the queen’s perfidy. In this extremity he was for signalizing himself by an extra-ordinary act of valor, capable, in his opinion, of doing him abundance of honor. He sent to challenge Cæsar to a single combat. Cæsar made answer, that if Antony was weary of life, there were other ways to die besides that. Antony, seeing himself ridiculed by Cæsar, and betrayed by Cleopatra, returned into the city, and was, a moment after, abandoned by all his cavalry. Seized with rage and despair, he then flew to the palace, with design to avenge himself upon Cleopatra, but did not find her there.”PREX2 60.2

    It was in this manner that they that fed of the portion of his meat destroyed him; and many fell down slain.PREX2 60.3

    Verses 27, 28. “And both these kings’ hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table; but it shall not prosper; for yet the end shall be at the time appointed. Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land.”PREX2 61.1

    Antony was the chief in the Egyptian government at this time, and was properly king of the south, Egypt. He and Cæsar had formerly been in alliance, and had the same common interests at stake. They spoke lies at one table: Octavia, the wife of Antony and sister of Cæsar, declared to the people of Rome, at the time of Antony’s divorcing her, that “she had consented to her marriage with Antony, solely with the hope that it would prove a pledge of union between Cæsar and Antony.” But it did not stand; the rupture came; Antony and Egypt fell; Cæsar became master of the world, and “returned to his own land with great riches.” Antony fell by his own sword, and Cleopatra poisoned herself with the bite of an asp.PREX2 61.2

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