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About The War that Made 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 B.C., 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.

What Others are Saying

The victory at Actium, Mr. Strauss argues in this splendid book, allowed Augustus to build an empire that lasted for nearly 500 years. The price was the destruction of the man who dared to oppose him, along with the woman for whom he had risked everything.
Arthur Herman, The Wall Street Journal
…the subject of Barry Strauss’s engaging new book. … The legacy of Actium is that the biggest force does not always translate into victory. … Biden, Putin, and Zelensky would do well to take note.
A. R. Hoffman, The New York Sun
Strauss is one of my favorite historians, and this may be his best book in a distinguished career. …Be sure to savor the art and the craft as you read.
John Wilson, Circe Institute
Barry Strauss is both a first-rate scholar who knows and understands his subject thoroughly and a fluent communicator. … The War That Made the Roman Empire is a splendid account of those dramatic events and people who may not have been all that nice but were certainly never dull.
Adrian Goldsworthy, The New Criterion
A careful and splendidly written narrative that separates known facts from long-believed myths and outright falsehoods about events leading up to the battle, the battle itself, and its aftermath.
Francis P. Sempa, New York Journal of Books
A masterfully woven history of the Battle of Actium. … [Barry Strauss] is currently the profession’s most gifted and accomplished classicist in making accessible to general readers the mesmerizing world of Greece and Rome.
Victor Davis Hanson, Real Clear Books
Actium was one of the most important battles in history, and Barry Strauss brings this stunning maritime collision vividly to life.
Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret) 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and author of Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans
A master historian of the ancient world’s wars turns his attention to the battle that laid the foundations for the Roman Empire. . . . Few historians can bring such a battle alive better than Strauss. . . . It must now be considered the most up-to-date history of its subject.
Kirkus Reviews
A grandiose love affair, doomed lovers, a trio of titanic rivals, deadly political intrigue, culminating in a seismic battle at sea—historian Barry Strauss is the perfect narrator for this epic episode in ancient empire-building.
Adrienne Mayor, author of Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology
A gripping account of the war for control of the Roman Empire. . . . [Strauss] has an eye for telling details and a knack for explaining the era’s complex political alliances and rivalries in clear terms. Ancient history buffs will be riveted.
Publishers Weekly
Barry Strauss pulls off the historian’s hat trick with his new book, The War That Made the Roman Empire. One, he tells the amazing true story as it truly happened; two, he brings the true historical characters vividly to life; and three, he puts it all within the Big Picture and tells us what it means. You feel as if you’re present at the events as they unfold, yet at the same time you’re getting the global contour and context of this drama as it affects, and has affected, our own time. The War That Made the Roman Empire is Strauss at the top of his game.
Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of Gates of Fire and A Man at Arms
Barry Strauss has picked up on another crucial turning point in the ancient world and expertly leads us through the twists and turns—on and off the battlefield—of this epic struggle between worlds and would-be rulers of all. A delightful read.
Michael Scott, Director of the Institute of Engagement; Professor of Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick
I quite enjoyed The War That Made the Roman Empire: Anthony, Cleopatra and Octavian at Actium.
David Harsanyi, The Federalist
Barry Strauss … has the rare ability to bring ancient history to life in a way that is both profoundly learned and highly readable.
Andrew Roberts, National Review