Battle of the Nile (47 BC)
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|Battle of the Nile|
|Part of the Alexandrine Civil War|
|Caesar's and Cleopatra's forces||Ptolemaic forces|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Gaius Julius Caesar
|Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator †
Arsinoe IV of Egypt
The Battle of the Nile in 47 BC saw the combined Roman–Egyptian armies of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra VII defeat those of the rival Queen Arsinoe IV and King Ptolemy XIII and secure the throne of Egypt.
After pursuing his rival Pompey to Egypt, Caesar, recently victorious in a civil war closer to home, became entwined in the Alexandrine civil war after his rival, Pompey Magnus, was killed by King Ptolemy XIII in an attempt to please Caesar.
From August 48 BC until January 47 BC, Caesar was besieged in Alexandria, Egypt with about 4,000 men. He was attempting to resolve the Egyptian Civil War between Ptolemy XIII and his sister Cleopatra. When Caesar began to appear to favor Cleopatra over him, Ptolemy was first captured, but then released by Caesar, and gathered his army to besiege the Romans in a small area of Alexandria.
By January, the Egyptians had begun to get the upper hand in their efforts to cut the Romans off from reinforcements and resupply. Caesar had requested reinforcements from his ally, Mithridates of Pergamum, who marched overland from Asia Minor to assist him. Arriving in the Nile delta in January, Mithridates defeated one Egyptian force sent to stop him. Caesar, getting a message that his allies were close, left a small garrison in Alexandria and hurried to meet them. The combined force, about 20,000 strong, met the Egyptians in February 47 BC at the Battle of the Nile. The Egyptian army, equipped in the Greek manner, was probably about the same size.
Caesar attacked the Ptolemaic troops in the traditional Roman manner, under a shower of pila (plural of the Roman spear, pilum). The pike-armed Egyptians were overwhelmed once the Romans used their shields and got past the pike's point, when they began laying about with their short swords (gladii). The Roman legions destroyed a Ptolemaic fort, and after heavy fighting stormed Ptolemy's camp. Thousands fled, including Ptolemy, who reputedly drowned when his ship capsized. Egypt was now in the hands of Caesar, who placed Cleopatra on the throne with another of her brothers, Ptolemy XIV. He then uncharacteristically lingered in Egypt until April, enjoying a liaison with the youthful queen.