Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Boudicca: Revenge of the Warrior Queen

Boudicca on her chariot

Thirteen feet under the City of London lies a red layer of oxidized iron, mixed with ash and the charred remains of Roman Londinium. This is evidence of Boudicca's revenge on Rome.

Boudicca was the wife of King Prasutagus of the Celtic tribe known as the Iceni. Prasutagus, was on good terms with the Roman conquerors but despite that he was worried. He had two daughters and no male heir and felt that he must do his best to ensure the future was good for them. He thought he was being clever when he left half of his kingdom to his daughters and the other half to the Roman Emperor. This, he thought, would appease Rome and ensure his family was left in peace. He was so wrong.

In A.D. 60, King Prasutagus died and the Romans confiscated his land and the land of his tribesmen. Suddenly the Iceni were slaves. The Roman procurator Decianus Catus, (the province's CFO in today's terms) was overzealous in his efforts to ingratiate himself with the emperor. He ordered his soldiers to flogg Queen Boudicca, while her two daughters were raped. This humiliation was the last straw. Boudicca was enraged and together with her fellow tribesmen swore to get her revenge.

Acording to Dio she assembled 120,000 Britons and they stormed the Roman town of Camulodunum (Colchester today). This was a garrison town, inhabited chiefly by retired soldiers and their families. The town was practically defenseless and it fell easily. The inhabitants, men, women and children, were all slaughtered. Charred food and grain can still be found today during excavations.

Boudicca then headed for London (Londinium), a town of merchants, officials and generally well-off people. Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, the governor of Britain, attempted to protect the town but faced with the news of the large number of Britons realised he was outnumberd and gave the order to withdraw. London would not be defended either. However, residents were warned and it is thought many were evacuated, except for those who insisted on staying. Boudicca's men arrived and burnt London to the ground, any remaining inhabitants were butchered. For centuries numerous skulls have been found in the Wallbrook area. When Lloyds Bank was being built, burnt coins, burnt tiles and grain were found. All evidence points to a true holocaust. To this day, depsite the fact that hundreds of skulls have been excavated, there are no skeletons or bones to be found. Scientific tests have estimated the heat generated by the fire to have been in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius.

In this orgy of revenge, Verulanium was the last to be annihilated. Britons lived in this town, Britons who had profited from Roman rule and become Romanized. Tacitus describes the following:

"The inhabitants of Verulanium, a municipal town, were in like manner put to the sword..."

Dio is a bit more graphic: "The worst and most bestial attrocity committed by their captors was the following: They hung up naked the noblest and most distinguished women and then cut off their breasts and sewed them to their mouths, in order to make the victims appear to be eating them; they impaled the women on sharp skewers run lengthwise through the entire body."

Boudicca's triumph was short-lived. Gaius Suetonius gathered reinforcements of up to 10,000 men and defeated the Britons. Most of her men were killed, while survivors fled for their lives...


Daldianus said...

It really SEEMS like life in those ancient times, in general, was so much more brutal and violent as today!

On the other hand, we've had the World Wars, Vietnam, Rwanda, Saddam, Pol Pot, ... and there's still lot of violence going on right now: Iraq, Sudan, ...

Alterior said...

Absolutely. I will not dissagree with you there. Violence nowadays in the Western world is just not as accepted as it was in Ancient times. Ancient and medieval people took violence for granted and it was part of everyday life. These days brutality in so called 'civilised' societies takes other forms and the atrocities are characteristic of war zones and third world countries.

McBoozo the Clown said...

Hey, just wanted to drop a line and let you know that I love your site!!! Keep it up, history is fun!

Alterior said...

Thank you mcboozo, I really appreciate that. :-))) History is great fun!

wicked said...

Boudicca - She is the triumph of defeat , nobody remember the name of the one who defeated her & her army as general knowledge but everyone know who she was... she clearly craved her name for aeons to come in history... ^^