Saturday, February 09, 2013

Boudica - Celtic Queen

Boudica was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the Roman army that occupied her village.
Boudica's husband Prasutagus was the ruler of the Iceni tribe. He had ruled his tribe as an ally of Rome. He intended to secure his land and his daughters by bequeathing his kingdom jointly to his two daughters and the Roman Emperor. When Prasutagus died, his will was ignored. Rome annexed his kingdom as if conquered. Boudica was flogged and her daughters were raped. The loans Prasutagus got from Roman financiers were all called in.
Boudica was a tall woman with amber hair that hung below her waist. She wore a golden torc, a multicolored tunic and a thick cloak fastened with a brooch. She not only dressed the part of a leader her harsh voice and penetrating glare marked her as a person with whom to be reckoned.  Historical accounts describe her as being more intelligent than other women of her day. Perhaps it was her royal upbringing and the close relationship she had with her husband the king. She was a strong willed woman and would not be defeated. In about 60 AD she encouraged the nearby tribes, who had also been routed from their land and mistreated by the Romans, to join her and her people in revolt.
Their first target was Colchester, the former capital of the Trinovantes tribe, now displaced from their lands by the Romans. Her attack was planned while the Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading his troops against the Isle of Anglesey. Boudica found the city poorly defended and destroyed Colchester, the site of Emperor Claudius’ temple.
Her next target was London. Suetonius, after hearing of her attack and victory, hurried to London but quickly concluded he did not have enough men to defend the settlement. He evacuated and abandoned London. Boudica burned London to the ground as well as other cities in her path. It is estimated that about 75,000 people were killed. Emperor Nero considered withdrawing his Roman forces from Britain, but Suetonius' victory over Boudica re-secured Roman control.
Suetonius, regrouped his forces. Heavily out-numbered-Rome 10,000 Boudica 230,000-the field of attack was to Suetonius’ advantage.  The area was narrow. Boudica could not optimize on her large force and the Roman soldier’s discipline and tactics were a deadly combination. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Boudica and the Britons were defeated in the Battle of Watling Street.
It is unclear how Boudica died. She either killed herself, so she would not be captured, or fell ill and died—the sources differ.
Interest in the history of these events was revived during the English Renaissance and led to a resurgence of Boudica's legendary fame during the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria was portrayed as her 'namesake'. Boudica has since remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom. The absence of native British literature during the early part of the first millennium means that Britain owes its knowledge of Boudica's rebellion solely to the writings of the Romans.

1 comment:

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.