‘….you will see that in this battle you must conquer or die. This is a woman’s resolve; as for men, they may live and be slaves, and captive, but I shall not. –Boudicca

The popular site CelticCoins.ca has been part of our explorations lately, there has always been an historical interest in Celtic culture, and or course, because they have “Boudicca – The Warrior Princess” as a logo, and Druids!

Who were the druids? The druids were the religious leaders of the Celtic People in ancient times. They were a member of a type of priestly class. Julius Caesar wrote that the druids were responsible for organizing worship and sacrifices, divination, the judicial process and that they were exempt from military service. They were the philosophers, scientists, theologians and holders of sacred knowledge in their culture. Extensive training was required to become a druid and the training period took 19 years!

The Iceni were a tribe of British Celts living in the area of modern Norfolk and north-west Suffolk.

Iceni location map

After the Roman invasion they retained their territory as a client kingdom, minting coins like these.Iceni 655-1

Icini 001514

In 47 AD the Iceni rose in revolt after the Romans tried to enforce a law forbidding the carrying of weapons. The revolt was put down and Prasagustas established as a client king.

Prasutagas decided that it would be prudent to make his will assigning half of his personal property to the Roman emperor. When he died in 61 AD the Roman officials decided to interpret his will as a submission to the Roman state, so they moved to appropriate all of the Iceni lands and disarm the tribe. boudeccia

Not surprisingly, Prasutagas’s widow, Boudicca (or Boadicea as she is sometimes known) protested. The Romans had her publicly flogged and her two daughters were raped. This high handed treatment of an ostensible ally had predictable results. In 61 AD Boudicca raised the Iceni and the neighbouring Trinivantes tribe in revolt against Roman rule.

It was only with some difficulty that the Romans managed to quell the Iceni uprising, and Boudicca took her own life rather than fall into the hands of her enemies. The Romans established a new capital in the Iceni lands at Caistor-by-Norwich. No record of the Iceni exists after this point, though legends suggest that large numbers fled west into Wales and eventually settled in Ireland.

In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips.
– Cassius Dio, Roman historian

Boudicca is one of Britain’s greatest heroines who was a freedom fighter who rebelled against the Roman government. She was Queen to the Celts and truly was one of history’s most fiercest and passionate warrior queens. However, before she became Queen, Boudicca was a simple girl of royal descent who was estimated by historians to be born in 25-30 AD in Colchester, South East England. Details concerning Boudicca’s upbringing are severely limited as the only primary evidence that exists is by two Roman historians by the names of Tactitus and Dio Cassius.

Going on the limited information and sources provided by these two historians Boudicca was said to have grown up in a traditional Celtic Roundhouse. When Boudicca was older (estimated to be 7 years old by historians) she was moved and lived with a second family until she was 14 years old. It was here she was taught the history of the Celts and her tribe, traditions, culture and religion. It was also a place where she attended warrior school and learned many new skills such as how to use a sword, spear and shield and how to be sociable.

Upon returning home in 43-45 AD Boudicca married King Prasutagus of the Iceni tribe  and bore two daughters. In 60 AD  King Prasutagus died. This lead to the Roman’s taking over King Prasutagus’s kingdom and wealth, the rape and torture of Boudicca and her two daughters.
Nothing is safe from Roman pride and arrogance. They will deface the sacred and will deflower our virgins. Win the battle or perish, that is what I, a woman, will do.
— Boudicca, according to Tacitus

During 60 or 61 AD ,while the current Roman Governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading a campaign against the island of Monain, the Iceni conspired with their neighbours the Trinovantes, amongst others, to revolt against the Romans. Boudicca was chosen as their leader who was already passionate about protecting her tribe, territory and people due to the Romans taking her late husband Prastugus’s wealth, kingdom and for the rape and torture of herself and two daughters. In Tactius’s own words ‘Kingdom and household alike were plundered like prizes of war…. The Chieftains of the Iceni were deprived of their family estates as if the whole country had been handed over to the Romans. The king’s own relatives were treated like slaves.’
Boudicca, who was now armed with her 100,000 men army first atttcaked Camolodunum (Colchester) where the Romans had their main centre of rule. Archaeological evidence done by historians reveals that the city of Camulodunum was burnt to the ground in a methodical way which reveals to present historians that Boudicca was an intelligible and calculated warrior and leader who planned her attacks and succeeded in such a way that often there were no survivors.

Movements of The Armies of The Romans and Iceni.

Movements of The Armies of The Romans and Iceni.

The rebel’s next assault was on the largest, booming city in Britain called Londinium (now London), where 25,000 inhabitants who had not fled already were killed. Archaeology done recently by historians also once again shows a thick red layer of burnt debris covering coins and pottery dating before 60 AD within the bounds of the Roman city which shows the true extent the destruction caused.

News of the rebellion had reached Suetonius who had abandoned Londinium strategically and who now began assembling his troops. With 2 Roman cities destroyed Boudicca and her army then marched on to Verulamium (now St.Albans), which was a city largely populated by Britons who had cooperated with the Romans. However since they associated with the Romans they were seen as a threat to the rebel army and the inhabitants of Verulamium were thus killed as their city was destroyed. Boudicca’s desire for a country free of Romans was fast becoming a reality — or so she sadly thought.
I was whipped by the Romans when they tried to take our lands — and now I am fighting for my freedom. Think how many of us are fighting and why. We must win this battle or die. Let the men live as slaves if they want. I will not.

— Boudicca’s last speech, as recorded by Dio Cassius

After the destruction of 3 cities Boudicca’s army, now containing 230,000 Briton men were ready to face the Roman governor Paulinius and his 10,000 man army. The exact location of the site of the final battle is unknown, however many historians have  favoured a site in the West Midlands along a Roman road now known as Watling Street.

Although vastly outnumbering the enemy Boudicca’s army faced an uphill battle and were already, prior to the attack, hungry and exhausted. There was also lack of manoeuvrability within the British forces which put Boudicca’s army at a disadvantage against the Romans who were skilled at open combat due to their superior equipment and discipline. These collective factors led to the defeat of Boudicca,  with the Roman army supposedly killing 80,000 of Boudicca’s men in the battle compared to their own loss of 400 men.

After the defeat of Boudicca’s army there are many theories about what happened next. Many historians including Tactius have theorised that after the defeat of the rebel army Boudicca fled back to her tribe with her two daughters and drank ‘hemlock’ (a poisonous plant) with them to evade capture from the Roman Empire. However there are also other theories by Dio which speculate that Boudicca, the great Iceni queen died of illness. Though the exact cause of her death may be disputed she was given a lavish burial fitting of a revered heroine.

Today her lasting impact can be seen through her statue located outside the House of Parliament on Westminster Bridge, London. This statue is Boudicca’s legacy and it continues to give  inspiration, and hope. She is  Britain’s first heroine and will continue to be seen as such as by many men, women and transgender admirers.

SOURCE 1: The Annals, By Tacitus (Written in AD 110-120)
We British are used to women commanders in war; I am descended from mighty men! But I am not fighting for my kingdom and wealth now. I am fighting as an ordinary person for my lost freedom, my bruised body, and my outraged daughters…. Consider how many of you are fighting — and why! Then

you will win this battle, or perish. That is what I, a woman, plan to do!— let the men live in slavery if they will.
— Boudicca, according to Tacitus, Annals

Tacitus -the_annals

This source can specifically reveal to historians what Boudicca was feeling at the time. It also shows us her reasons for becoming so enraged at the Romans and fighting them with a passionate scorn that only a women’s fury could bring. As explained in the text Boudicca is enraged and fighting for many reasons which include her lost freedom, bruised body and outraged daughters. Boudicca is also talking about being an ‘ordinary person’ while fighting which may be a reference to her being of royal descent and can reveal to historians that she was of noble and royal descent. This source can also show historians that the British people gave equal rights to the British women and had no qualms about accepting Boudicca as their leader. However saying that as we go on in the source Boudicca exclaims “That is what I, a woman, plan to do!” which may once again be a reference to how the Romans treated women unequally and not at all with equal rights.

 

 

SOURCE 2: Dio’s Roman History VIII, By Cassius Dio, a Roman Historian (153 AD-230 AD)
In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire.”

dio_cassiusSOURCE 3: Dio’s Roman History VIII, By Cassius Dio, a Roman historian (153 AD-230 AD)
“…a terrible disaster occurred in Britain. Two cities were sacked, eighty thousand of the Romans and of their allies perished, and the island was lost to Rome. Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame….But the person who was chiefly instrumental in rousing the natives and persuading them to fight the Romans, the person who was thought worthy to be their leader and who directed the conduct of the entire war, was Buduica, a Briton woman of the royal family and possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women….”

This source can reveal many things about Boudicca’s life and final moments to historians. Firstly in the text it is revealed the number of Romans and cities which were destroyed which can reveal how strong Boudicca’s rebel army was. Moreover it can also tell us that Boduicca was a member of the royal family and was thought to be intellectual by the Romans. In the source by Dio, it also explains how the Romans felt great shame in being beaten by a leader who was a women, this shows us that during this time the attitudes towards women were very negative as they were thought as unequals and not as superior to men, and certainly not capable of leading a rebel army. Once again the text it is shown once again that the although the Romans dismissed Boudicca of being worthy to lead they thought she was “possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women…” which reveals that the Romans knew who they were dealing with, they know that Boudicca and her army were not to be taken lightly.

 

A List of references-

Celticcoins.ca – A terrific source for categorizing and identifying Celtic Coins of all types, with thousands of illustrated entries.

Kohout, Natalie. “Boudicca: What do we really know?”. 2005. ‘Miltary History Online’. Viewed 14/7/11http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/conquestbritain/articles/boudicca.aspx

I found this website really helpful as it talked about Boudicca and the primary evidence that was available. It also gives lots of dates and had an extensive bibliography and reference page! A great website to visit if you know the basics of Boudicca and want to go into more detail. It’s also very useful in research and probably one of the best!

Fantastic website to visit as firstly it was edu which meant that it could be trusted and it gives a whole lot of information, quotes and even a bibliography to use for more further researching. Overall a great website that can be trusted!

This website was pretty goodd, gave a bit of information of Boudicca and some more quotes , however this only gives the basics of Boudicca’s life, so check out others for more information first.

Once again a great website to use as it contained a English translation of Tacitus’s The Annals. It was really well set out and easy to read and navigate, so in the end it was very useful to gain quotes and evidence from.

This website is really good if you want to get a brief understanding of the events in Boudicca’s life. It contains a lot of information and has visual images as well which can contribute to a good understanding of all the information. However, since it is Wikipedia use caution in using it as although there is a lot of information remember to cross reference it with other websites (so to see if the info is correct) and to not use it as your main source of information.

A fantastic blog piece about Boudicca done byNick Gilbert. Although biased it provides lots of information and was very useful. It even provides a great map showing the rebel army’s movements and gave information that wasn’t on other websites. So once again check for verification, but this website was very useful and a great one to start with.

This website quite helpful as it contained a lot of information about Boudicca that could then be compared with other websites to ensure the information given was correct. Do not use this website by itself, do compare with others as although there is plenty of helpful information it is good to cross reference it with other sites to check that it is correct.

This website was in our opinion the best as not only did it contain plenty of information about Boudicca’s whole life it also gave  information about her early life which was very helpful. It also gave quotes from Tactitus and Dio concerning Boudicca and was very well presented. This is a very good website to start on and if you want the facts.

This website helps to understand a lot of what was going on in Boudicca’s life and how the rebellion took shape. It contains a good amount of information and is handy to have when researching other websites.

  • Green, M. Invaders and Settlers in Britain (Page 17). London, Folens Limited, 2004.

This book was quite helpful and good if you have some time to settle down and start reading about Boudicca. It gives a good overview and is helpful with understanding Boudicca, the Celtics and the rebellion. A good book to get started with!
‘….you will see that in this battle you must conquer or die. This is a woman’s resolve; as for men, they may live and be slaves, and captive, but I shall not. –Boudicca

The majority of the information above and much more is available at Heroines of History, a wikipage by Issha Bassi

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