Boudicca- The Briton Woman Who Challenged Rome

By: The Scribe on Monday, November 29, 2010

Rome had two approaches to the individuals who challenged them. One (in the case of Alexander the Great) was to rewrite the history just enough that the Empire was known for crushing even the most brilliant of enemies. The other was to try and sweep the name of the people who challenged them under the rug. This is what they tried to do with the name and the memory of one Statue of Boudicca by Thomas Thornycroft remarkable woman.

Boudicca (also known as Boadicea) was a Briton who was able to fight the Romans effectively enough that she was able to sack their cities, kill a large number of their legions and cause the island to be lost to them. Romans were never known for their love of defeat and found it particularly upsetting that this loss had taken place because of a woman. But who was she, when did she live, and how did she manage to pull off the military victories that she did?

Her name meant “victorious” and she certainly lived up to her name. She was of royal descent and has always been described as a tall, fierce looking woman with tawny hair. She was married to an individual known as Prasutagus, who ruled a tribe known as the Iceni. Prasutagus had long operated as an ally of Rome and al may have continued to go well if Prasutagus had not died. When he died, Rome simply annexed the tribe. This was the practice at the time. Often, tribal leaders were allowed to rule their tribes up to and until the point at which they died. Even if the tribe was left to wives or children, Rome would simply come in and claim that tribe’s land and wealth.

Unlike many individuals, Boudicca did not agree with the transfer of leadership back to Rome. She certainly did not agree with the enslavement of the tribe’s nobles. She protested and, as a result, she was flogged and her daughters were raped. Because of this, the Iceni and other tribes such as the Trinovantes revolted. During this revolt, the city of Camulodunum (where Colchester stands today) was destroyed. The IX Hispana legion was also routed. This did not sit well with the Roman Governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus.

Boudicca was able to successfully attack three different Roman cities during her campaign. After Camulodunum she then attacked Londinium. This city was somewhat easier to take since Suetonius actually abandoned the city. He burned it, and the next target, Verulamium to the ground before abandoning them. These victories, along with the loss of between seventy and eighty thousand soldiers, almost caused Rome to recall all of the troops that were stationed on the island.

Unfortunately, things did not end well for Boudicca. According to two Roman historians (Tacitus and Cassius Dio), Boudicca and her forces were defeated at the Battle of Watling Street. After the battle, Boudicca died. There are conflicting stories about whether she was killed, committed suicide or became ill. Rome continued to be a presence in Britain for many years to come.


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