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Monument Offers Clues to Size of Cleopatra’s Unwieldy Ships

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Nicopolis Actium monumentATHENS, GREECE—A new study of a monument built in Greece near the city of Nicopolis to commemorate Octavian’s victory over Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and her Roman lover, Mark Antony, in the Ionian Sea at the Battle of Actium has provided new information about Cleopatra’s fleet of warships, according to a report in The Independent. The monument once featured bronze battering rams set in well-fitted niches that had been taken from 35 of the 350 ships captured by Octavian during the battle. Recent excavation and measurement of those niches has allowed archaeologists to calculate the size of the timbers that held the rams and the ships together, and therefore estimate the size of the ships. The largest ship may have been more than 130 feet long and carried rams about five feet tall and eight feet long, or at least four times the size of the largest-known ancient marine battering rams. “Both historically and archaeologically, this remarkable Roman structure is of tremendous international importance—and continuing research is likely to shed yet more light on the battle that gave birth to the Roman Empire,” said Konstantinos Zachos of the Greek Ministry of Culture. The rams are thought to have been removed from the monument and melted down for reuse by the fourth or fifth century A.D. To read about archaeological research into a Roman land battle, go to “Caesar’s Diplomatic Breakdown.”

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