Mar 28, 2014

Boudicea: Warrior Queen Who Stood Against Rome

"Warrior Queen" - BBC film
The film Warrior Queen has sparked or renewed the interest in the Celtic Queen that dared rise up against the Roman army invaders. So I am going to provide a brief biography of what is known about this famous female warrior. The English erected a statue in London (made by Thomas Thornycraft) to this famous warrior queen, even naming an English beer after her; as well as a business in Australia named after her. There is also a conference named after her in UK.

An English poet, William Cowper (1731-1800) wrote the poem, Boadicea: An Ode, in her honor.

Boudicea: An Ode

When the British warrior queen,
Bleeding from the Roman rods,
Sought, with an indignant mien,
Counsel of her country's gods,

Sage beneath a spreading oak
Sat the Druid, hoary chief;
Every burning word he spoke
Full of rage, and full of grief.
'Princess! If our aged eyes
Weep upon thy matchless wrongs,
'Tis because resentment ties
All the terrors of our tongues.

'Rome shall perish – write that word
In the blood that she has spilt;
Perish, hopeless and abhorred,
Deep in ruin as in guilt.

'Rome, for empire far renowned,
Tramples on a thousand states;
Soon her pride shall kiss the ground -
Hark! The Gaul is at her gates!

'Other Romans shall arise,
Heedless of a soldier's name;
Sounds, not arms, shall win the prize -
Harmony the path to fame.

'Then the progeny that springs
From the forests of our land,
Armed with thunder, clad with wings,
Shall a wider world command.

'Regions Caesar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway,
Where his eagles never flew,
None invincible as they.'

Such the bard's prophetic words,
Pregnant with celestial fire,
Bending, as he swept the chords
Of his sweet but awful lyre.

She, with a monarch's pride,
Felt them in her bosom glow;
Rushed to battle, fought, and died;
Dying, hurled them at the foe.

'Ruffians, pitiless as proud,
Heavens awards the vengeance due:
Empire is on us bestowed,
Shame and ruin wait for you.'
As with too many films, the portrayal is not always in tune with historical fact. For example, in the movie, King Pasutagus of the Icenii died at the same time as the Roman emperor Claudius, who, according to Wikipedia, died in 54 AD, while King Pasutagus died in 61 AD. However there are conflicting reports, some say Claudius died on October 13th, AD 54. No sources were given in Wikipedia entry, so I will go with the date being the same year Pasutagus died. I will go with the Roman sources and the Catholic Encyclopedia entry.
Most of what I researched comes from the text of Cornelius Tacitus Annals, Book XIV, Chapter 31 and Epitome Book #62 by Cassius Dio.
Boudicea was the Celtic wife of King Pasutagus and they had two daughters. Her husband worried about their Celtic future made agreements with the Romans for his people. However, despite the will of the king, the Romans did not Epitome Book 62 by Cassius Dio. The story of the fate of Queen Boudicea is intertwined with the actions of Nero, known in history as the mad emperor.
Nero arranged for Agrippina, his mother to be killed while on a trip on a ship he had built lavishly for her, not wanting her death in Rome because he might be suspected. He had been convinced that his mother had intentions of killing him. …
Celtic Torc
Thus was Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus, grand-daughter of Agrippa, and descendant of Augustus, slain by the very son to whom she had given the sovereignty and for whose sake she had killed her uncle and others. Nero, when informed that she was dead, would not believe it, since the deed was so monstrous that he was overwhelmed by incredulity; he therefore desired to behold the victim of his crime with his own eyes. So he laid bare her body, looked her all over and inspected her wounds, finally uttering a remark far more abominable even than the murder. … He also poisoned his aunt Domitia, whom he likewise claimed to revere like a mother. …
While this sort of child's play was going on in Rome, 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. Indeed, Heaven gave them indications of the catastrophe beforehand. … An excuse for the war was found in the confiscation of the sums of money that Claudius had given to the foremost Britons; for these sums, as Decianus Catus, the procurator of the island, maintained, were to be paid back. This was one reason for the uprising; another was found in the fact that Seneca, in the hope of receiving a good rate of interest, had lent to the islanders 40,000,000 sesterces that they did not want, and had afterward called in this loan all at once and had resorted to severe measures in exacting it. 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 woman assembled her army, to the number of some 120,000, and then ascended a tribunal which had been constructed of earth in the Roman fashion. 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. She now grasped a spear to aid her in terrifying all beholders and spoke as follows:
Roman Infantry
"You have learned by actual experience how different freedom is from slavery. Hence, although some among you may previously, through ignorance of which was better, have been deceived by the alluring promises of the Romans, yet now that you have tried both, you have learned how great a mistake you made in preferring an imported despotism to your ancestral mode of life, and you have come to realize how much better is poverty with no master than wealth with slavery. For what treatment is there of the most shameful or grievous sort that we have not suffered ever since these men made their appearance in Britain? Have we not been robbed entirely of most of our possessions, and those the greatest, while for those that remain we pay taxes? Besides pasturing and tilling for them all our other possessions, do we not pay a yearly tribute for our very bodies? How much better it would be to have been sold to masters once for all than, possessing empty titles of freedom, to have to ransom ourselves every year! How much better to have been slain and to have perished than to go about with a tax on our heads! Yet why do I mention death? For even dying is not free of cost with them; nay, you know what fees we deposit even for our dead. Among the rest of mankind death frees even those who are in slavery to others; only in the case of the Romans do the very dead remain alive for their profit. Why is it that, though none of us has any money (how, indeed, could we, or where would we get it?), we are stripped and despoiled like a murderer's victims? And why should the Romans be expected to display moderation as time goes on, when they have behaved toward us in this fashion at the very outset, when all men show consideration even for the beasts they have newly captured? "But, to speak the plain truth, it is we who have made ourselves responsible for all these evils, in that we allowed them to set foot on the island in the first place instead of expelling them at once as we did their famous Julius Caesar, — yes, and in that we did not deal with them while they were still far away as we dealt with Augustus and with Gaius Caligula and make even the attempt to sail hither a formidable thing. As a consequence, although we inhabit so large an island, or rather a continent, one might say, that is encircled by the sea, and although we possess a veritable world of our own and are so separated by the ocean from all the rest of mankind that we have been believed to dwell on a different earth and under a different sky, and that some of the outside world, aye, even their wisest men, have not hitherto known for a certainty even by what name we are called, we have, notwithstanding all this, been despised and trampled underfoot by men who nothing else than how to secure gain. However, even at this late day, though we have not done so before, let us, my countrymen and friends and kinsmen, — for I consider you all kinsmen, seeing that you inhabit a single island and are called by one common name, — let us, I say, do our duty while we still remember what freedom is, that we may leave to our children not only its appellation but also its reality. For, if we utterly forget the happy state in which we were born and bred, what, pray, will they do, reared in bondage?
When she had finished speaking, she employed a species of divination, letting a hare escape from the fold of her dress; and since it ran on what they considered the auspicious side, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Buduica, raising her hand toward heaven, said: "I thank thee, Andraste, and call upon thee as woman speaking to woman; for I rule over no burden-bearing Egyptians as did Nitocris, nor over trafficking Assyrians as did Semiramis (for we have by now gained thus much learning from the Romans!), much less over the Romans themselves as did Messalina once and afterwards Agrippina and now Nero (who, though in name a man, is in fact a woman, as is proved by his singing, lyre-playing and beautification of his person); nay, those over whom I rule are Britons, men that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade, but are thoroughly versed in the art of war and hold all things in common, even children and wives, so that the latter possess the same valour as the men. As the queen, then, of such men and of such women, I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious, — if, indeed, we ought to term those people men who bathe in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows, — boys past their prime at that, — and are slaves to a lyre-player and a poor one too. Wherefore may this Mistress Domitia-Nero reign no longer over me or over you men; let the wench sing and lord it over Romans, for they surely deserve to be the slaves of such a woman after having submitted to her so long. But for us, Mistress, be thou alone ever our leader."
Having finished an appeal to her people of this general tenor, Buduica led her army against the Romans; for these chanced to be without a leader, inasmuch as Paulinus, their commander, had gone on an expedition to Mona, an island near Britain. This enabled her to sack and plunder two Roman cities, and, as I have said, to wreak indescribable slaughter. Those who were taken captive by the Britons were subjected to every known form of outrage. The worst and most bestial atrocity 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; afterwards they impaled the women on sharp skewers run lengthwise through the entire body. All this they did to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and wanton behaviour, not only in all their other sacred places, but particularly in the grove of Andate. This was their name for Victory, and they regarded her with most exceptional reverence.
Now it chanced that Paulinus had already brought Mona to terms, and so on learning of the disaster in Britain he at once set sail thither from Mona. However, he was not willing to risk a conflict with the barbarians immediately, as he feared their numbers and their desperation, but was inclined to postpone battle to a more convenient season. But as he grew short of food and the barbarians pressed relentlessly upon him, he was compelled, contrary to his judgment, to engage them. Buduica, at the head of an army of about 230,000 men, rode in a chariot herself and assigned the others to their several stations. Paulinus could not extend his line the whole length of hers, for, even if the men had been drawn up only one deep, they would not have reached far enough, so inferior were they in numbers; nor, on the other hand, did he dare join battle in a single compact force, for fear of being surrounded and cut to pieces. He therefore separated his army into three divisions, in order to fight at several points at one and the same time, and he made each of the divisions so strong that it could not easily be broken through. While ordering and arranging his men he also exhorted them, saying: "Up, fellow-soldiers! Up, Romans! Show these accursed wretches how far we surpass them even in the midst of evil fortune. It would be shameful, indeed, for you to lose ingloriously now what but a short time ago you won by your valour. Many a time, assuredly, have both we ourselves and our fathers, with far fewer numbers than we have at present, conquered far more numerous antagonists. Fear not, then, their numbers or their spirit of rebellion; for their boldness rests on nothing more than headlong rashness unaided by arms or training. Neither fear them because they have burned a couple of cities; for they did not capture them by force nor after a battle, but one was betrayed and the other abandoned to them. Exact from them now, therefore, the proper penalty for these deeds, and let them learn by actual experience the difference between us, whom they have wronged, and themselves." …

The Last Battle of Boudicea
After addressing these and like words to them he raised the signal for battle. Thereupon the armies approached each other, the barbarians with much shouting mingled with menacing battle-songs, but the Romans silently and in order until they came within a javelin's throw of the enemy. Then, while their foes were still advancing against them at a walk, the Romans rushed forward at a signal and charged them at full speed, and when the clash came, easily broke through the opposing ranks; but, as they were surrounded by the great numbers of the enemy, they had to be fighting everywhere at once. Their struggle took many forms. Light-armed troops exchanged missiles with light-armed, heavy-armed were opposed to heavy-armed, cavalry clashed with cavalry, and against the chariots of the barbarians the Roman archers contended. The barbarians would assail the Romans with a rush of their chariots, knocking them helter-skelter, but, since they fought with breastplates, would themselves be repulsed by the arrows. Horseman would overthrow foot-soldiers and foot-soldiers strike down horseman; a group of Romans, forming in close order, would advance to meet the chariots, and others would be scattered by them; a band of Britons would come to close quarters with the archers and rout them, while others were content to dodge their shafts at a distance; and all this was going on not at one spot only, but in all three divisions at once. They contended for a long time, both parties being animated by the same zeal and daring. But finally, late in the day, the Romans prevailed; and they slew many in battle beside the wagons and the forest, and captured many alike. Nevertheless, not a few made their escape and were preparing to fight again. In the meantime, however, Buduica fell sick and died. The Britons mourned her deeply and gave her a costly burial; but, feeling that now at last they were really defeated, they scattered to their homes. So much for affairs in Britain.
If Boudicea and her warriors had paid attention to the tactics of the Roman army and applied strategy, the turn of events would have been different. While the Celtic tribes were fierce warriors to contend with, they were no match for the disciplined army of the Roman Legion.
Suetonius while thus occupied received tidings of the sudden revolt of the province. Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, famed for his long prosperity, had made the emperor his heir along with his two daughters, under the impression that this token of submission would put his kingdom and his house out of the reach of wrong. But the reverse was the result, so much so that his kingdom was plundered by centurions, his house by slaves, as if they were the spoils of war. First, his wife Boudicea was scourged, and his daughters outraged. All the chief men of the Icenii, as if Rome had received the whole country as a gift, were stript of their ancestral possessions, and the king's relatives were made slaves. Roused by these insults and the dread of worse, reduced as they now were into the condition of a province, they flew to arms and stirred to revolt the Trinobantes and others who, not yet cowed by slavery, had agreed in secret conspiracy to reclaim their freedom. It was against the veterans that their hatred was most intense. For these new settlers in the colony of Camulodunum drove people out of their houses, ejected them from their farms, called them captives and slaves, and the lawlessness of the veterans was encouraged by the soldiers, who lived a similar life and hoped for similar licence. A temple also erected to the Divine Claudius was ever before their eyes, a citadel, as it seemed, of perpetual tyranny. Men chosen as priests had to squander their whole fortunes under the pretence of a religious ceremonial. It appeared too no difficult matter to destroy the colony, undefended as it was by fortifications, a precaution neglected by our generals, while they thought more of what was agreeable than of what was expedient.
Boudicea's army was formidable, about 100,000 strong when they attacked Camulodunum mentioned in the aforementioned history. The spot is Colchester today. It was burned to the ground with only the Roman temple standing because it was made of stone.
Boudicea and her army then turned towards the largest city in Britannia –
Londinium. Romans evacuated and abandoned the settlement before the Celts arrived and Londinium was destroyed as well as Verulamium (St. Albans). Tacitus stated that the amount of casualties before the final battle, both civilian and Roman legionnaires was about 70,000. It is still a mystery where exactly the last battle took place, but the Roman governor/commander, Gaius Seutonius Paulinus made sure it was on open ground where his troops could prevail.
Some accounts say that Boudicea fell ill from wounds in battle, while other accounts attribute her death to taking poison rather than be captured by the Romans. In either case, Boudicea did not die on the battlefield and managed to escape, with some of her warriors.
The saga of Boudicea was forgotten until the Annals by Tacticus was rediscovered in 1360 and her story was printed in English from the Latin text. Queen Elizabeth I read the text, another queen who headed an army against foreign invasion but with a better ending, admiring the British Celtic queen and the rest is history. Her tribe, the Tuath Iceni, were the early people of what would later become England-Great Britain, the United Kingdom of modern times.
Enya, (Moya Brennan) modern Celtic-Irish musician and composer, created a musical number honoring the great Celtic warrior queen, entitled Boudicea.
Statue, Westminster, London

In March of 2001, the British Museum announced that an Iron Age grave was discovered in the village of Wetwang in East Yorkshire, England; found during the construction of a small housing development. The grave was excavated by archaeologists from the Guildhouse Consultancy and the British Museum, funded by English Heritage. The grave was dated as 2,300 years ago and the female occupant was buried with a chariot.
In 2013, the discovery of the remains of Richard III and Alfred the Great were reported and historians would like to find the final resting place of Boudicca (Boudicea). Whatever be the case, her remains probably are beneath some modern structure.
Cassius Dio described her:
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 many colors.
Boudicea, John Opie
Historians and archaeologists believe she fled from the battlefield and went to her home area in southern England. Some archaeologists believe she would not have had a burial mound, but that has been refuted after the discovery of a female warrior and her chariot in 2001. Both the person in that grave and Boudicea were from the Iron Age. I believe that archaeologists have been looking in the wrong area. It is not likely that she is buried anywhere near the final battle site because she escaped and died back in her tribe's homeland – today called East Yorkshire? The grave was dated about the time of Julius Caesar, so it could not have been Boudicea. (250 BC) If found, her grave discovery would be the archaeological find of the century along with King Tutankhamen. Her tribal area (east Anglia) is in the region what is now called Wales.
Nothing is known about the warrior queen before her marriage to King Prastagus.
However what is known that between 32-37 AD Boudicea left home to live with another family and between 43-45 AD she married King Prastagus. The following Timeline is from wikispaces:

National Trust Library, NY
Archaeological digs have revealed the ferocity of Boudicea's troops against Romans, whose apparent intention was to destroy everything Roman. No prisoners were taken.
Celtic women were far different than their Roman counterparts. They participated in warfare and, as Plutarch reported, acted as ambassadors in behalf of their husbands among the Celt chiefs. Women warriors were not common place like the Shield Maidens of the Norse, but it was not unheard of for a Celtic woman to take up arms to protect their tribe, homeland, and especially their family. Either way, it was mostly in mythological tales and folklore that any warrior women were predominant in either culture. But the Celt women had more rights than other women of those ancient times. For example, marriage was considered among the Celts as a partnership between men and women, while Romans viewed their women as property of men. The Dowry system existed, as well as arranged marriages; however, wives inherited property, and in the case of Boadicea, title - although she was an exception to the rule and one must consider that she was formidable in leadership abilities. Celt women could involve themselves in legal cases without their husbands. Freedom was important to both husband and wife when it came to social events and personal business. 
According to Caesar and some indications in the history of the ancient Celts, they were polygamous, which means some women had more than one husband.  Regardless, the Celtic woman was a strong contrast to other women of the same historical period.

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