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ACTIUM (mod. Punta), the ancient name of a promontory in the north of Acarnania (Greece) at the mouth of the Sinus Ambracius (Gulf of Arta) opposite Nicopolis, built by Augustus on the north side of the strait. On the promontory was an ancient temple of Apollo Actius, which was enlarged by Augustus, who also, in memory of the battle, instituted or renewed the quinquennial games called Actia or Ludi Actiaci. Actiaca Aera was a computation of time from the battle of Actium. There was on the promontory a small town, or rather village, also called Actium.

History.-Actium belonged originally to the Corinthian colonists of Anactorium, who probably founded the worship of Apollo Actius and the Actia games; in the 3rd century it fell to the Acarnanians, who subsequently held their synods there. Actium is chiefly famous as the site of Octavian's decisive victory over Mark Antony (2nd of September 31 B.C.). This battle ended a long series of ineffectual operations. The final conflict was provoked by Antony, who is said to have been persuaded by Cleopatra to retire to Egypt and give battle to mask his retreat; but lack of provisions and the growing demoralization of his army would sufficiently account for his decision. The fleets met outside the gulf, each over 200 strong (the totals given by ancient authorities are very conflicting). Antony's heavy battleships endeavoured to close and crush the enemy with their artillery; Octavian's light and mobile craft made skilful use of skirmishing tactics. During the engagement Cleopatra suddenly withdrew her squadron and Antony slipped away behind her. His flight escaped notice, and the conflict remained undecided, until Antony's fleet was set on fire and thus annihilated.

AUTHORITIES- Dio Cassi us, 50.12-51.3; Plutarch, Antonius, 62-68; Velleius Paterculus, ii. 84-85. C. Merivale, History of the Romans under the Empire, iii. pp. 313-325 (London, 1851); V. Gardthausen, Augustus und seine Zeit, i. pp. 369-386, ii. pp. 189-201 (Leipzig, 1891 ): G. Ferrero in the Revue de Paris, Mar. 15, 1906, pp. 225-243; b. Kromayer, in Hermes, xxxiv. (1899), pp. 1-54. (M. O. B. C.)

ACT OF PARLIAMENT. An act of parliament may be regarded as a declaration of the legislature, enforcing certain rules of conduct, or defining rights and conferring them upon or withholding them from certain persons or classes of persons. The collective body of such declarations constitutes the statutes of the realm or written law of the British nation, in the widest sense, from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day. It is not, however, till the earlier half of the 13th century that, in a more limited constitutional sense, the statute-book is generally held to open, and the parliamentary records only begin to assume distinct outlines late in the reign of Edward I. It gradually became a fixed constitutional principle that an act of parliament, to be valid, must express concurrently the will of the entire legislature. It was not, however, till the reign of Henry VI. that it became customary, as now, to introduce bills into parliament in the form of finished acts; and the enacting clause, regarded by constitutionalists as the first perfect assertion, in words, of popular right, came into general use as late as the reign of Charles II. It is thus expressed in the case of all acts other than those granting money to the crown:--"Be it enacted by the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same." Where the act is a money grant the enacting clause is prefaced by the words, "Most gracious Sovereign, we, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, towards making good the supply1 which we have cheerfully granted to Your Majesty in this session of Parliament, have resolved to grant unto Your Majesty the sums hereinafter mentioned; and do therefore most humbly beseech Your Majesty that it may be enacted, etc." The use of the preamble with which acts are usually prefaced is thus quaintly set forth by Lord Coke: "The rehearsal or preamble of the statute is a good meane to find out the meaning of the statute, and, as it were, a key to open the understanding thereof" (Co. Litt. 79a). Originally the collective acts of each session formed but one statute, to which a general title was attached, and for this reason an act of parliament was up to 1892 generally cited as the chapter of a particular statute, e.g. 24 and 25 Vict. c. 101. Titles were, however, prefixed to individual acts as early as 1488. Now, by the Short Titles Act 1892, it is optional to cite most important acts up to that date by their short titles, either individually or collectively. Most modern acts have borne short titles independently of the act of 1892. (See PARLIAMENT; STATUTE.)

1 Where the grant is not of supply, the preamble varies a little, e.g. in the Prince of Wales's Children Act 1889.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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