Feb 032013
 

 

images-2     Boudicca was the wife of Prasutagus, who was head of the Iceni tribe in East England, in what is now Norfolk and Suffolk.

In 43 CE, the Romans invaded Britain, and most of the Celtic tribes were forced to submit. However, the Romans allowed two Celtic kings to retain some of their traditional power; one was Prasutagus.

In 47 CE the Romans forced Boudicea’s husband, King Prasutagus to disarm, creating resentment. Prasutagus had been given a grant by the Romans, but the Romans then redefined this as a loan. When Prasutagus died in 60 CE, he left half his kingdom to the Emperor Nero to settle this debt.

The Romans arrived to collect, but instead of settling for half the kingdom, seized control of it. To humiliate the former rulers, the Romans beat Boudicca publicly, raped their two daughters, seized the wealth of many Iceni and sold much of the royal family into slavery.

The Roman governor Suetonius turned his attention to attacking Wales, taking two-thirds of the Roman military in Britain. Boudicca meanwhile met with the leaders of the Iceni, Tr and other tribes, and they planned to jointly attack the Romans.

Boudicca’s Army Attacks:

Led by Boudicca, about 100,000 British attacked Camulodunum (now Colchester), where the Romans had their main center of rule. With Suetonius and most of the Roman forces away, Camulodunum was not well-defended, and the Romans were drive out. Boudicca’s army burned Camulodunum to the ground; only the Roman temple was left.

Immediately Boudicca’s army turned to the largest city in the British Isles, Londinium (London). Suetonius strategically abandoned the city, and Boudicca’s army burned Londinium and massacred the 25,000 inhabitants who had not fled. Archaeological evidence of a layer of burned ash shows the extent of the destruction.

Next, Boudicca and her army marched on Verulamium (St. Albans), a city largely populated by Britons who had cooperated with the Romans and who were killed as the city was destroyed.

Changing Fortunes:Boudicca’s army had counted on seizing Roman food stores when the tribes abandoned their own fields to wage rebellion, but Suetonius had strategically seen to the burning of the Roman stores. Famine thus struck the victorious army, weakening them.

Boudicca fought one more battle, though its precise location is not sure. Boudicca’s army attacked uphill, and, exhausted, hungry, was easy for the Romans to rout. Roman troops of 1,200 defeated Boudicca’s army of 100,000, killing 80,000 to their own loss of 400.

What happened to Boudicca is uncertain. It is said she returned to her home territory and took poison to avoid Roman capture.

A result of the rebellion was that the Romans strengthened their military presence in Britain and also lessened the oppressiveness of their rule.

Boudicca’s story was nearly forgotten until Tacitus’ work, Annals, was rediscovered in 1360. Her story became popular during the reign of another English queen who headed an army against foreign invasion, Queen Elizabeth I.

Prince Albert, commissioned the statue for his wife, Queen Victoria.  The name, Boudicea, translate to Victoria.

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Footnote:  My character, Fiona, told an audience that she modelled herself on Boudicea. What will Jazz do with such a lover and competitor?

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