Figure 1 Cassius Dio

When the Romans conquered southern England in AD 43, (3,4) most British (5) Celtic (4,5) tribes (1,3) were forced to submit. (4,7) However, the Romans allowed two Celtic kings to retain some of their traditional power (7,8) as it was normal Roman practice to allow kingdoms their independence for the lifetime of their current king, who would then agree to leave his kingdom to Rome in his will. (7) One of these tribes was the Iceni (1,3) [OR] Ireni (8) from the Norfolk area (1,11) of East Anglia, (1,3) north Suffolk and north-east Cambridgeshire. (12) Historians assume they migrated at one point in the late Bronze Age from the European continent. (11) In England they established a farming economy, were weavers of cloth and also made pottery. (11) Their stability was threatened by the arrival of the Belgae from Gaul (France). (11) The Belgae had earned the enmity of the Roman emperor Caesar for providing help to their brethren back in Gaul who were resisting Caesar and Roman rule there. (11) For this, Caesar began attacking Britain around 55 B.C.E. (11) Matters were further complicated by the superiority of the Belgae over their Celtic neighbours, such as the Iceni. (11) The Belgae were skilled ironsmiths, more adept at farming, and most importantly, possessed a well-organized military force. (11) They soon began taking over other tribes in the area. (11) The Iceni built forts against them. (11) When the Romans launched a massive military invasion of the British Isles in C.E. 43, the Belgae capitulated. (11) In total, eleven kings of varying Celtic tribes surrendered in a formal signing. (11) The Arch of Claudius in Rome commemorates this historic surrender. (11) Two kings, however, had engineered agreements with the Romans early on in exchange for retaining some power over their tribes. (11) These rulers were Cogidubnus of the Regni tribe and Prasutagus, Boudicca’s husband. (11)

Figure 2 Tacitus

The Iceni were thus initially friendly to the Romans, [OR] They were proud of their independence, and had revolted in AD 47 when the then Roman governor Publius Ostorius Scapula planned to disarm all the peoples in the area of Britain under Roman control following a number of local uprisings. (10) Ostorius defeated them and went on to put down other uprisings around Britain. (10) The Iceni remained independent under Prasutagus. (10) The King of the Iceni, (1,4) Prasutagus, (3,8) [OR] Prasutagas (4) became a Roman client. (1,4) He was allowed to keep his lands in exchange for supporting the Romans politically and paying them dues as a tribal leader. (12) He would doubtless have been granted Roman citizenship, along with his wife and two young daughters. (12) It is unknown whether he became the king only after Ostorius’s defeat of the Iceni; Tacitus does not date the start of Prasutagus’s reign and first mentioned him, as a long-reigning king who had died, when he wrote about Boudica’s rebellion. (10) This meant that the Romans allowed Prasutagus to continue to rule (3,5) as a nominally independent, (5) but actually forced (4) ally of the Empire. (4,5) 

Sources for Boadicea

All our information about (4) his wife the Celtic (2,4) warrior (1,2) queen Boadicea (1,4) for debates on her name See Appendix I. We only have two sources to draw on, the writings of two Roman scholars, Publius Cornelius Tacitus (4,7) (56 – 117 AD), a senator and historian of the Roman Empire, (7) from his “Agricola” (written in 98) and “Annals” written in 109, (8) This was within living memory of the rebellion and was therefore nearest to the action in  literary terms. (9) Tacitus took a particular interest in Britain as his father-in-law Gnaeus Julius Agricola served there three times (and was the subject of his first book). (10) Agricola was a military tribune under Suetonius Paulinus, which almost certainly gave Tacitus an eyewitness source for Boudica’s revolt. (10) The other was Cassius Dio, (4,7) (155 – 235 AD), (7) a Roman (7,9) consul (7) senator (9) and noted historian, (7) in his “The Rebellion of Boudicca” (8) This was written in about about 163, (8) a century and a half after Tacitus, and was part of his 80 volume ‘History of Rome’, with a more detailed version of the conquest of Britain and Boadicea’s uprising. (9) Cassius Dio’s account is only known from an epitome, and his sources are uncertain. (10) He is generally agreed to have based his account on that of Tacitus, but he simplifies the sequence of events and adds details, such as the calling in of loans, that Tacitus does not mention. (10)

Boadicea early life

With only these sources it is not surprising that little is known about her early life; (4,7) it’s believed she was born into an elite family (4,7) [OR] was of royal descent. (10) in Camulodunum (now Colchester) around A.D. 30. (4,7) [OR] Her date and place of birth are unknown. (8)

Figure 3 Boadicea

As an adolescent, she would have been sent away to another aristocratic family to be trained in the history and customs of the tribe. (7) Ancient Celtic women served as both warriors and rulers, and girls could be trained to fight with swords and other weapons, just as the boys were, (7) so like other ancient Celtic women, Boudica had trained as a warrior, including fighting techniques and the use of weapons. (4,7) Celtic women were distinct in the ancient world for the liberty and rights they enjoyed and the position they held in society. (7) Compared to their counterparts in Greek, Roman, and other ancient societies, they were allowed much more freedom of activity and protection under the law. (7) When she was 18, in 48 AD., she married Prasutagus and became (4,7) Queen of the Iceni. (4,7) [OR] she was married to Prasutagus at the time of (6) the Roman conquest in A.D.43. (3,4) She lived at the same time as the emperors Claudius and Nero. (9) Her wedding was celebrated for a day and a night and during this time they also gave offerings to the Celtic gods. (7) Prasutagus was ‘celebrated for his long prosperity’. (10) As a client queen, chances are that Boudica would therefore have been a wine-drinking, fine-dining and possibly even Latin-speaking aristocrat, with her future, and that of her daughters, assured in relative luxury. (12) She and Prasutagus had two children (5,7) their daughters, Isolda and Siora. (7) [OR] their names are unknown. (5)

British Grievances against the Romans


Figure 4 Nero

It was not a time of harmony for Boudicca and Prasutagus. (7) Over the next few years, Romans established a strong military presence in Britain, as they did elsewhere in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. (11) Roman colonization meant financial hardship for the conquered peoples. (11) Their economy was immediately forced to gear itself toward the production of food for the massive legions of Roman soldiers stationed in their lands. (11) The Roman occupation brought increased settlement, military presence and attempts to suppress (7,8) Druidism, the native (11) Celtic religious culture, (7,8) whose priests retained a great deal of influence over both common Celts and royal lines. (11) The Roman governor, Suetonius Paulinus, was dedicated to eradicating ot. (11) There were major economic changes, including heavy taxes and money lending. (7,11) Cassius Dio’s explanation for the uprising was economic mismanagement on the part of the Roman masters. (9) The Roman occupation of Britain was marked by brutal financial exploitation of the ruling elites and oppression of the natives of all degrees. (9) There were major economic changes, (8) including heavy taxes (8,11) for an array of services and goods (11) and money lending. (8,9) Roman moneylenders arrived in Britain to take advantage of the situation by making loans. (11) They then unreasonably called in large loans of money made years earlier to prominent British chiefs. (9)) Prasutagus had been given a grant by the Romans (8,11) Emperor Claudius (11) but (8,11) the despised Procurator Catus Decianus rescinded the terms of a financial agreement between and Prasutagus, (11) redefining the grant as a loan. (8,11) Hoping to curry favour with the Romans (6) by an act of deference (10) which he thought would place his kingdom and household beyond the risk of injury. (10,11) Following a standard Roman practice, (7) Prasutagus left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and to the Roman emperor (1,5) Nero (6,8) in his will. (1,5) [OR] left (11,12) only (12) half his kingdom in his will to Nero. (11,12) The other half was signed over not to Nero or even to Boudica, but to his two young daughters. (12) His reasons for doing this were unclear. (12) Perhaps he was attempting to shore up the girls’ dynastic claim to rule the Iceni; perhaps he didn’t trust Boudica to support the Romans; perhaps he was trying to show his tribe that he was not a puppet leader of a foreign invader. (12) He also left a stipend to satisfy the debt. (11) In 47, the Romans forced the Britons to disarm, creating resentment. (8) This rings true. (9)


The Trinovantes had been the first native Britons to sign a treaty with Rome – in 54 BC after Julius  Caesar’s second attempt to invade. (12) But that treaty was about to be broken: they, too, had seen their lands devastated. (12) Their former capital, Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester), had been taken by the Romans as the seat of their new administration. (12) Even worse, the Trinovantes had been ordered to pay for, and build, a gigantic new temple to the Emperor Claudius. (12) Tacitus mentions longstanding reasons for the Trinovantes in particular to hate Rome: (10) they were resentful of Roman imposition at their lands near Camulodunum (now Colchester) (11,12) Their tribal lands had been redistributed to retired Roman soldiers. (10,12) “It was against the veterans that their hatred was most intense. (10) 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 ….” (10)

Prasutagus dies

Figure 5 Prasutagus

But when at last (4,5) in A.D. 60 (4) at about the same time that St Paul was writing epistles and St Mark composing his Gospel, (9) Prasutagus did die (4,5) without a male heir. (4) Boudicca inherited her crown upon the death of her husband, (11) but Roman law only allowed inheritance through the male line, (7) [OR] the Roman governor had other ideas on the subject of lands and property, (6) so when Prasutagus died, (7) the result was contrary to his hopes. (10,12) It was catastrophic. (12) His will was ignored, and (4,5) his attempts to preserve his line were ignored. (7) His kingdom was annexed (7) by Governor (6) Gaius Suetonius (2,3) Paulinus (2,4) as if it had been conquered. (7,10) The Romans looted his palace: (12) Roman officers (6,10) centurions (10) and slaves (6,10) despoiled the tribesmen. (1,5) Governor Suetonius (4,5) [OR] Catus Decianus (11) took the whole. (11) They confiscated Prasutagus’s family’s land and property, (4,5) and that of the leading tribesmen. (3,5) Other Iceni chiefs suffered in a like manner and their families were treated like slaves. (6,7) [OR] were enslaved. (7,11) The Romans decided to rule the Iceni directly. (3,5) Roman discipline broke down. (1) “The king’s own relatives were treated like slaves.” — Tacitus. (7) According to Tacitus (5) Suetonius (6) stripped (3) and publicly (4,6) flogged (3,4) Prasutagus’s (3,5) widow (2,4) Boadicea (1,4) and her two (1,5) daughters (1,3) were gang- (12) raped (1,3) by Roman slaves! (6,10) For a Roman audience, this defilement of the ruling class, Roman or Briton, was reprehensible; for the Iceni, Boudica was not just a queen, she was also a priestess and possibly the embodiment of their goddess Andraste. (12) This was more than a violation of their earthly leaders – the rapes and floggings desecrated the Iceni’s entire culture and system of beliefs. (12) This gross mistreatment by the Romans was the cause of the revolt. (10,12) [OR] The historian Cassius Dio gives a different root cause to the events that followed. (12) He does not mention rapes or beatings, (8) and says that financial issues were ‘the excuse for the war’. (10) In his version, previous imperial donations (5,10) made by the emperor Claudius (10) to influential Britons were (5,10) ordered to be paid back (10,12) by Decianus Catus, the procurator of the island. (10) This amounted to confiscation and (5,10) a Roman moneylender named Seneca had made loans (5,8) amounting to 40,000,000 sesterces (10) to the Britons, (5,8) who had not asked for them, in the hope of receiving a good rate of interest. (10) He had then called in this loan (5,8) all at once and had resorted to severe measures in exacting it. (10) These actions (3,6) left the Britons humiliated and in serious financial crisis, (12) exacerbating widespread resentment at Roman rule (3,6) among the Iceni, Trinovantes and other tribes. (6) Tacitus wrote that the Britons’ knowledge of Arminius’s victory against the Romans in Germany also fuelled their resistance. (11) As fermenting hatred exploded into fury, Boudica gained her army. (12)

Appearance and Demeanour of Boadicea

Whatever the trigger, the Iceni had a motive for rebellion; all they needed was a leader. (12) Into this space stepped the outraged Boudica – a symbol that though they might be bruised, they still had their dignity, and it was time to fight back. (12) Boudica wasn’t the first Iron Age warrior queen to lead her people to war. (12) Cartimandua, the first British woman to be named in the historical record, ruled the bellicose Brigantes tribe in what is now the north of England. (12) Meanwhile, at Chedworth Roman villa in the county of Gloucestershire a portable Roman altar depicts a spear-wielding goddess entitled ‘Dea Regina’ – Queen Goddess. (12) Cassius (10) Dio (9,10) says that Boadicea was chosen leader by the tribes and “directed the conduct of the entire war”. (9) He says she had “greater intelligence than is generally found in women,” (9) and was a striking looking woman, (6) “very tall, (9,10) in appearance most terrifying, (9) in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh.” (9,10) She had tawny hair hanging down to below her waist, (9,10) He writes that she habitually wore a large golden necklace (9,10) (perhaps a torc) (10) a colourful tunic, and a thick cloak fastened by a brooch. (9,10) She grasped a spear to help her terrify all who saw her.” She practised magic and divination, and concealed a hare in her garments, which she would let escape to see how it would run so as to make her prophesies. (9) She was a notable orator. (9) Her enemies, the Romans, said (9) her voice was strident, (6,9) but, as Margaret Thatcher found, any woman seeking to establish authority over an assembly of men is open to this accusation. (9) A great mass of the reddest hair fell down to her hips. (6,9) Her appearance was terrifying.” – Definitely a lady to be noticed! She did not take kindly to what had happened. (6) Tacitus recorded her promise of vengeance: (4)

“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” (4)

Boadicea’s Rebellion planned

Figure 6 Boadicea

With such earthly and divine sanction, Boudica plotted the Iceni’s revenge on their Roman overlords, (12) aided by several other tribes. (11,12) 

The absence of Suetonius

During the summer months of C.E. 61 (11) [OR] AD 60 (12) after nearly two decades of Roman rule, (11) the Romans (11,12) under Suetonius (11) were busy in the western fringes of Britannia. (11,12) The Roman governor Gaius Suetonius (2,3) Paullinus [OR] Paulinus (2,4) was leading a campaign (2,3) to suppress (11,12) the Celts in Wales [OR] the political (12) power of the druids (10,12) on the island of Mona (modern Anglesey), (5,10) on the northwest coast of (5) Wales. (2,3) It was also a refuge for British rebels. (10) This was the moment Boadicea to strike, (3,11) Just as Suetonius achieved victory in Wales (11) with nearly two-thirds of the total Roman forces in Britain with him, (8,11) he received word about the uprising in the East. (11) 

The Pan-Celtic Alliance

At secret meeting of Boudicca (11) British tribes (1,2) the Iceni (1,3) and their neighbours the Trinovantes (1,10) [OR] Trinovanti (8) Trinobantes (6,9) from the Essex area, (1,9) a tribe from the west (11) known as Cornovii, (8,11) and the Celts of Dorset (11) known as the Durotiges (8,11), her Iceni, and others such as the Trinovantes, the Cornovii the Durotiges, a revolt against Roman rule was planned. (11). The historian Cassius Dio claims that as many as 120,000 may have attended this well-planned and unnoticed conference. (11) She (2,3) [OR] the Celtic Iceni clan (7) united several (2,3) [OR] two (1) [OR] a pan-tribal alliance of (11) Such insurrections were not new to the Romans, despite their famously peremptory conquests of nearly all of Western and Southern Europe. (11) Gaul resisted Caesar a hundred years before in the Gallic Wars, and a Germanic prince, Arminius, almost stalled Roman entry into Germany with his C.E. (11) 9 victory at the Teutoburg Forest. (11) Boudica was chosen as the leader. (10) A propaganda campaign was launched in Camulodunum, then the center of Roman rule in Britain. (11) Designed to worry the Romans, it included such actions as turning the river red and toppling the Roman victory statue erected in the centre. (11) In the summer of C.E. 61, Boudicca’s legions of united Briton tribes attacked Camulodunum in chariots. (11) She led them (1,4) in a ferocious (1) revolt against the Roman occupation (1,2) in 60-61 (2,4) [OR] 60 AD (1) [OR] BC. (2) Her confederacy of Briton tribes took the placid Roman occupiers by surprise; (11,12) they had assumed that the Celtic “barbarians” were far too disorganized to mount any insurrection. (11)

Boadicea’s Rebellion: Events

Boudica took her chance and swept down to destroy the very heart of Roman Britain. (12) Tacitus calls the uprising a “sudden revolt”, suggesting it caught the Romans unawares. (12) The Britons at first had great successes. (6)


Figure 7: Roman Colchester

Boudicca’s roughly 100,000 British (8,11) attacked Camulodunum (2,4) (Colchester). (2,3) It had been the capital of the Trinovantes but had since been designated a colonia, a settlement for discharged Roman soldiers. (5,12) The Roman veterans who had been settled there had mistreated the locals. (10.11) It was now the captain (4) [OR] capital of Roman Britain, (3,8) and as such a hated Roman settlement. (6) It had a temple to the former Emperor Claudius. (5) With Suetonius and most of the Roman forces away (11,12) Camulodunum was not well-defended: (8,10) the Romans had only a few thousand defenders: (12) two hundred auxiliary troops along with the city’s guard. (10) The last defenders fled for their lives into the sanctity of the temple. (10,12) They were besieged there for two days before it fell. (10) After years of collaboration, there was now no mercy shown to the Romans left defending their capital. (12) Boadicea’s rebels destroyed Colchester (3,4) and massacred its inhabitants. (4)The Romans were driven out (8) [OR] were butchered or burned alive as Camulodunum was annihilated. (4,12) They burned Colchester to the ground, so that only the Roman Temple was left. (8) They desecrated the Roman cemeteries, mutilated statues and broke tombstones. (6) A bronze statue to the emperor Nero, which probably stood in front of the temple, was decapitated and its head taken as a trophy by Boudica’s army. (10) Some of the mutilated statues can be seen today in Colchester Museum. (6)

The Ninth Legion

Boudicca’s (3,4) very large army (5,8) of Iceni, Trinovantes, and other (5,12) warriors successfully (3,4) ambushed and (12) defeated a Roman force (3,4) led by the future governor Quintus Petillius Cerialis (10) en route to Camulodunum. (12)  He attempted to relieve the city (9,10) with a detachment of (5) the Roman Ninth Legion, (3,4) known as Legio IX Hispana, (5,10) which he commanded, but he suffered an overwhelming defeat. (10) The infantry with him (10,12) 1,500 of their crack troops, (12) were all killed; (10,12) only the commander and some of his cavalry escaped. (10).

Figure 8 Destruction

Flight of the Procurator

The Imperial agent (6) the Procurator (8,10) Catus (11) Decianus (8,10) fled (6,8) to Gaul. (6,10) along with other top Roman officials. (11)

Return of Suetonius

The crisis caused the Emperor Nero to consider pulling out of Britain, (2) but by that time, (2,4) upon hearing of the revolt (5) Suetonius (2,4) [OR] Paulinus (3) had returned from Wales and (2,4) hurried (10,11) along Watling Street through hostile territory (10) to Londinium (modern London), (5,10) He marshalled his army to confront the rebels, (2,4), but judged that he lacked sufficient numbers to defend the settlement. (5,10) [OR] had no time to evacuate the city. (11) He evacuated London and (5,10) abandoned it to the rebels (5,6) and made a tactical withdrawal with his troops into the relative safety of the Roman military zone. (6) [OR] fled. (6) [OR] With the Roman governor of Britain Suetonius Paulinus around 300 miles away in the west and Catus Decianus the administrator in charge of the outrage on Boudica long fled to Gaul, people of the town knew they were on their own. (12) Taking what they could, they abandoned their homes and fled. (12)

London and St Albans


Figure 9 Roman London

Immediately, (8) over the next three weeks, (11) Boudicca moved on from Colchester to destroy (2,3) the town of Londonium (modern-day) (2,5) London (2,3) the largest city in the British Isles (8,11) with 25,000 (11) [OR] 30,000 (12) inhabitants. (8,11) This relatively new (5,12) 20-year-old (5) Roman town (5,12) nestled on the banks of the river Thames, around 40 miles south-west of Camulodunum. (12) A centre for trade, it offered rich pickings for Boudica’s army (12) and very little in the way of defence, (5,12) since it had been evacuated by Suetonius and (5,10) abandoned to the rebels. (5,6) Boadicea’s men (8,10) mercilessly (11,12) massacred (8,10) the 25,000 (8,11) inhabitants who had not fled. (8,10) The mass executions, and “indescribable slaughter” echoed Tacitus’s account of the sexual and religious violence meted out to Boudica and her daughters. (12)

Horrific atrocities were inflicted on its women. (11,12) Dio says that the noblest women were impaled on spikes and had their breasts cut off and sewn to their mouths, (9,10) “to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and wanton behaviour”. (10) In religious sacrifices, (12) heads of Romans were offered up by Druid priests in ceremonies honouring the goddess of victory (11) in sacred places, particularly the groves of Andraste. (10) They burned the town. (8,10) Now, with London burning at temperatures of almost 1000C (1800F), Boudica could look back and smile at her second success. (12) Two of the largest towns in Roman Britain now lay in ashes; Boudica’s army had done its job well. (12) Archaeological evidence of (9,11) a black and red (9) layer of burned ash (8,12) from a few centimetres to half a metre deep (12)  shows the extent of the destruction. (8,12) It confirms that Colchester and London were burned down in about AD 60. (9) Whether the burning was by the Romans as they fled or by Boudica’s army has never been answered but the burned layer is evident in Colchester and London and in Boudica’s next target:  St Albans. (12)

St Albans

But the thirst for revenge had not yet been slaked: to the north-west lay another symbol of the hated foreign rule – not a Roman town but a town of British who appeared to glory in everything Roman-style. (12) Slowly gathering their people around them, the tribes began their next journey northwest, (12) marching on (8,10) Verulamium, (2,3) the modern day town of (12) St Albans, (2,3), in Hertfordshire, (12) Verulamium (11,12) had been the capital of the Catuvellauni tribe, (11) and was now the third largest Roman settlement in the province. (12) It had been designated a municipium: (11,12) the all-important “city” designation, (11) a status affording Roman citizenship with all its benefits to its local magistrates. (12) It was largely populated by Britons who had cooperated with the Romans, (8) and so were seen as collaborators. (8,11) For Boudica’s army, this cultural insult from their enemy Catuvellauni tribe was too much to bear. (12) The Catuvellauni knew they were next. (12) But with no garrisons or Roman officials, they were left to face their fate alone. (12) As Boudica mobilised her rebel army, drunk on their success and weighed down with plunder, the Catuvellauni had no option but to evacuate. (12) The evacuation saved the population, but it didn’t save the town. (12) Boudicca and her army reached it (8,11) a few days later (11) and captured and burned it as well (2,5) the full extent of its destruction is unclear. (10) Then the hordes spread out into the surrounding countryside to devastate their old tribal enemy (12) without mercy. (8,11) According to Tacitus, some 70,000 Roman citizens and allies had now been killed. (12)

Figure 10 Roman St Albans


The Britons had targeted places where “loot was richest and protection weakest,” wrote Tacitus. (9) In the three cities (2) Boudica’s (2,3) rampaging (9) troops, (2,3) gave no quarter in their victories and (6) Seventy thousand (9) [OR] thousands (2,3) [OR] an estimated 70,000–80,000 Romans and British (2,5) were killed, (2,3), many by torture. (5,10) [OR] The numbers are almost certainly exaggerated, but the deaths gave Suetonius Paulinus a problem: to lose thousands of troops and civilians not only looked bad in his despatches back to Nero, it weakened the might of the Romans in Britain and slowed his campaign to conquer and ‘civilise’ this barbarian land. (12) Tacitus says that the Britons had no interest in taking or selling prisoners, only in slaughter by gibbet, fire, or cross, (9,10) “as though avenging, in advance, the retribution that was on its way.” (9) It duly arrived. (9)

Battle against Boadicea


The Britons had not attended to their spring harvest, since they assumed they would be able to easily plunder Roman stores – which Suetonius ordered burned – and Boadicea’s troops soon faced famine, (8,11) greatly weakening them. (8) While Boudica’s army continued their assault in Verulamium (St. Albans), (10) Boudicca had difficulty in controlling such a large, non-homogenous army, which possessed little military discipline in comparison to the Roman troops. (11) The last tactical error came in her army’s failure to capture Roman military installations: these were well-defended, and housed Roman troops and supplies, including food, that Suetonius could use to his advantage. (11) Suetonius regrouped his forces (5,10) possibly in the West Midlands. (5,10) According to Tacitus, (10) he amassed a force including his own Legio XIV (6,10) Gemina, some vexillationes (detachments) of the XX Valeria Victrix, and any available (10) auxiliaries. (6,10) The prefect of Legio II Augusta, Poenius Postumus, ignored the call, and a fourth legion, IX Hispana, had been routed trying to relieve Camulodunum, but nonetheless the governor now (10) commanded an army of 10,000 (6,9) [OR] 1,200. (8) He decided to challenge Boudica, (5,6) and near the end of summer in C.E. 61 (11) lured the Britons into a pitched battle, on grounds of his choosing, (9)

Where was the battle

Figure 11 Boadicea Speaks

Few details survive of Paulinus’s march south-east to confront Boudica. (12) The location of Boudica’s defeat is unknown. (3,4) Tacitus does not identify (9) when or where exactly the battle took place (11) but it seems to have been somewhere in the Midlands. (5,9) perhaps Towchester (sic) and Wall. (11) [OR] possibly at place called Mancetter near Nuneaton (6) [OR] Some historians favour a site somewhere (10) Watling Street (2,10) an ancient trackway (2) [OR] Roman road (10) between St Albans and Canterbury), (2) [OR] between London and Northamptonshire. (4) Kevin K. Carroll suggests a site close to High Cross, Leicestershire, on the junction of Watling Street and the Fosse Way, which would have allowed the Legio II Augusta, based at Exeter, to rendezvous with the rest of Suetonius’s forces, had they not failed to do so. (10) Manduessedum (Mancetter), near the modern town of Atherstone in Warwickshire, has also been suggested, and according to legend “The Rampart” near Messing, Essex and Ambresbury Banks in Epping Forest. (10) More recently, a discovery of Roman artefacts in Kings Norton close to Metchley Camp has suggested another possibility, one individual has suggested the Cuttle Mill area of Paulerspury in Northamptonshire, where fragments of Roman pottery from the 1st century have been found. (10) In 2009, it was suggested that the Iceni were returning to East Anglia along the Icknield Way when they encountered the Roman army in the vicinity of Arbury Banks, Hertfordshire. (10) In March 2010, evidence was published suggesting the site may be located at Church Stowe, Northamptonshire. (10) Suetonius was heavily outnumbered. (10) The Britons congregated in huge numbers: (2,9) 100,000 (2) [OR] 230,000, (9,12) (Cassius Dio) (12) [OR] 230–300,000. (10) Tacitus says that more than half were women, on foot and horseback. (9) Celtic soldiers painted themselves blue to frighten the enemy. (11) Sometimes the wives appeared near the battlefront in black robes carrying torches, as did Druid priests who shouted curses meant to frighten Romans. (11)

Boadicea’s Speech

Before the battle, Boudica and her daughters drove round in her chariot (6,9) to all her tribes. (6) She showed them her bruised body and outraged daughters, (9) and exhorted them to be brave (6) in a fighting speech with marked feminist over-tones. (7,9) These speeches in both Tacitus and Dio’s accounts almost certainly owe more to hyperbole than history; however, they are of interest in how they portray her against her Roman oppressors. (12) Tacitus describes how Boudica rallied her troops in warrior queen style, arguing she had morality, bravery and the gods on her side. (12) In contrast, Cassius Dio’s prolonged battle speech for her draws upon Roman ideas of Britons as ethereal, almost mythical beings – brave but using ancient and secret arts, goddesses and an auspicious hare to beat their opponents in place of cold, hard steel. (12) “We British are used to women commanders in war…” (7) She cried that she was descended from mighty men. (6,7) “But I am not fighting for my kingdom and wealth now. (7) She was fighting as an ordinary person for her lost freedom, her bruised body and outraged daughters. (6,7) Perhaps as taunt to the men in her ranks, it is said that she asked them to consider (6) ‘Win the battle or perish: that is what I, a woman will (4,6) [OR] plan to (9) do; (4,6) you men can live on in slavery if that’s what you want.’ (6,7) [OR] Let the men live in slavery if they will.” (9) Dio’s account contains an added note, with great historical resonance. (9) The queen stressed that the Britons were a special people, separated from the rest of mankind by a sea, and enjoying, until the Romans came, a liberty unknown elsewhere. (9)


Suetonius took up a position (10,11) in a defile with a wood behind him (10) [OR] on a rocky landscape that offered good protection. (11) [OR] Tacitus describes the site in the vaguest terms: at the head of a valley with woods to the rear and an open plain in front where the enemy gathered. (12)  The critical difference was in fighting style: while the Britons were expert at guerilla tactics, the Romans

were a highly organised killing machine. (12) The British army, exhausted and hungry, (8) attacked (6,8)uphill (8,11) crowding in on the (6) Romans (8,11) in their defensive line. (6) When the Britons were out of breath and tactically vulnerable, (11) the Romans attacked. (11,12) The order was given and a volley of several thousand heavy Roman javelins was thrown into the advancing Britons, followed quickly by a second volley. (6) The lightly armed Britons must have suffered massive casualties within the first minutes of the battle. (6)

Figure 12 The Battle

“Their confidence was so great that they brought their wives with them to see the victory, installing them in carts stationed at the edges of the battlefield”. (9) [OR] it was normal practice for the women to remain at the rear of the battles with the wagons and draught-oxen. (11) The result was that the Britons were trapped on the plain with no way forward and their retreat blocked by their own families and possessions. (12) With no space to fight and no way to flee, they were massacred. (12) The Romans moved in for the kill, attacking in tight formation, stabbing with their short swords. (6) The Britons now had little chance, with so many of them involved in the battle it is likely that their massed ranks worked against them by restricting their movements so they were unable to use their long swords effectively. (6) To ensure success the Roman cavalry was released which promptly encircled the enemy and began their slaughter from the rear. (6) Despite being outnumbered (2,4) Suetoniusthus defeated the Britons (2,3) who were easily routed. (8,9) [OR] it was far from being a rout, and very close. (9)



Figure 13 Suetonius

Many Britons were killed; (3,6) the Romans were mad with blood lust. (6) The Roman slaughter of women and animals was unusual, as they could have been sold for profit, and point to the mutual enmity between the two sides. (10) Tacitus and Dio (9) agree on the figure of (6,9) 80,000 dead Britons (6,8) men, women and children. (6) The Romans took the rest as slaves. (7) [OR] Many Britons escaped and were preparing further resistance. (9) The Roman losses amounted to 400 dead with a slightly larger number wounded (6,9) [OR] only 400 casualties. (8) There is no actual evidence of the fate of (5,10) Boudicca (2,3) or her daughters. (4,10) The sources disagree. (2,5) In the Annales (12) Tacitus says that (5,9) in anticipation of a terrible end at Roman hands, (11) they went back to East Anglia so they wouldn’t be captured. (2,3) There she and her daughters killed themselves (2,3) by poison. (3,9) Contrary to this, in the Agricola which was written almost twenty years before the Annals, Tacitus mentions nothing about suicide, and attributes the end of the revolt to socordia (“indolence”). (10) According to Cassius Dio, (5,10) the queen fell ill and died. (2,5) The Britons “mourned her deeply and (9) gave her a costly burial, (9,10) but feeling that now at last they were really defeated, they scattered to their homes”. (9) She was the last ruler of the Iceni royal line, and was allegedly buried with all its treasure in a grave (11) that remained a well-kept secret (9,11) to both her Roman foes (11) and modern archaeologists. (9,11) Suetonius conducted punitive operations, (10) and the Iceni tribespeople faced an onslaught little short of genocide. (12) The lands and roundhouses of the Trinovantes and Iceni were destroyed. (12) In their place was now a military landscape of forts, as much to assert the iconography of Roman power as any military might. (12)


It marked the end of Boudicca’s uprising against the Roman colonization of Britain. (11) It ended not only in defeat but terrible famine among the surviving Britons. (9) But that may not be the whole story. (9) Dio says that the whole island was lost for a while in this “terrible disaster”, (9) The historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus tells us (10) the crisis had almost persuaded Nero to abandon Britain. (5,10) What added to Rome’s shame, he wrote, was that “all this ruin was brought about by a woman”. (9,12) Not since Cleopatra’s seduction of both Caesar and Mark Antony had the empire suffered such shame. (12) But Suetonius’s victory over Boudica confirmed Roman control of the province, (2,5) and the Romans strengthened their military presence in Britain. (8,11) The Romans made certain that their installations were secure. (11) Criticism of Suetonius’ punitive operations by Classicianus led to an investigation headed by Nero’s freedman Polyclitus, (10) and to a lessening of the oppressiveness of their rule (8,11) including using a fairer system of taxation. (11) Catus Decianus, who had fled to Gaul, was replaced by Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus. (10) Fearing Suetonius’s actions would provoke further rebellion, Nero replaced the governor with the more conciliatory Publius Petronius Turpilianus. (10) After the Romans suppressed Boudicca’s rebellion, Britons mounted a few smaller insurrections in the coming years, but none gained the same widespread support or cost as many lives. (8) The Romans would continue to hold Britain, (8,11) radically altering the course of British history over the next four centuries. (11) There was no further significant trouble, until their withdrawal from the region in 410, (8,11) as the Roman Empire itself fell into disintegration in the fifth century C.E. (11)

Figure 14 Boudicea and her daughters


For two millennia, Boudica has been reborn as hero and heretic, freedom fighter or dangerous red-haired virago. (12) It’s the paradox of the warrior queen that endures: a woman who has the power to bring forth life but who can also bring death. (12) Boudicca was nearly lost to historical record after her death. (8,11) [OR] far from losing her own power, Boudica lived on across the empire as a cautionary tale of what happens when you let a woman rule. (12) Much of what was later written about Britain’s Roman era failed to mention her. (11) It’s ironic then, that her legacy has endured whereas Paulinus’s name has faded. (12) Boudicca’s story was nearly forgotten until Tacitus’ work “Annals” was rediscovered in 1360 (8,11) by the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio (the author of the Decameron). (11) He visited a little-known monastery and found Tacitus’s manuscript that made historical scholarship aware of her role in history. (11) Interest in these events was revived in the English Renaissance. (5) In the early 16th century, a history of Britain presented her as “Voadicia”, a Northumbrian lady and had her burning down Doncaster. (9) A chronicle of Scotland made her a Scottish heroine from Falkirk. (9) Her story became popular during the reign of another English queen who headed an army against foreign invasion, Queen Elizabeth I. (8,11) The idea of a British warrior queen battling a foreign enemy helped to legitimise Elizabeth’s right to rule and to fight against the Spanish empire. (12) Historians and writers trumpeted the legacy of strong female leaders in the British Isles’ past-especially ones who attempted to battle mighty foreign powers. (11) The first official biography of Boudicca came in 1591 from an Italian living in England, Petruccio Ubaldini, ‘The Lives of the Noble Ladies of the Kingdom of England and Scotland’. (11) Then, around 1614 (9) [OR] 1610 (11) the playwright John Fletcher wrote a play called Bonduca, (9,11) a variant of the name Boudicca. (11) It cunningly surrounded her with druids, King Caractacus and other bits of ancient British furniture – though to please his own king, James I, Fletcher made her a witch and (9) horrible woman (9,11) a “virago,” or a woman with masculine traits. (11) Fifteen years later, a historian named Edmund Bolton produced the theory that Stonehenge, whose purpose and date had baffled antiquarians, was in fact Boadicea’s tomb. (9) Over the centuries, other sites for her burial place were canvassed – such as Parliament Hill Fields in London and Gop Hill in Flintshire, where locals said they had seen her ghost driving a chariot. (9) John Milton wrote of her in his History of Britain, published in 1670. (11)

Figure 15 Destruction

She was a hero to the Victorians (5,12) and was cited by Queen Victoria in the 19th century in her bid to rule an empire. (12) She has remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom. (5) Interest in her increased in the late 19th century alongside the belief that Britain’s unwritten constitution was of immemorial antiquity and that she had played some part in its foundation. (9) Gladstone encouraged the sculptor Thomas Thornycroft in the massive presentation of the queen in her chariot, with her two daughters, that stands at the northern end of Westminster Bridge, opposite Big Ben. (9) Queen Victoria, who thought her predecessor’s treatment by the Romans “outrageous” (she too had been widowed early and had many daughters) was particularly keen that Boadicea should be given a fine memorial. (9) It is certainly a splendid piece of work. (9) Children love it, and so do feminists. (9) And in a way she did get her revenge, as in 1902 a bronze statue of her riding high in her chariot, designed by Thomas Thorneycroft, was placed on the Thames embankment next to the Houses of Parliament in the old Roman capital of Britain, Londinium. (6) It inspired the suffragettes in their campaign for votes for women, and it crowns Queen Boadicea (9) as a heroine for ever. (8,9) Winston Churchill wrote of her in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, declaring that her revolt was “probably the most horrible episode which our Island has known. (11) We see the crude and corrupt beginning of a higher civilization blotted out by the ferocious uprising of the native tribes. (11) Still, it is the primary right of men to die and kill for the land they live in, and to punish with exceptional severity all members of their own race who have warmed their hands at the invader’s hearth.” (11) Today she is seen as a universal symbol of the human desire for freedom and justice. (8) Boudicca’s life has been the subject of historical novels and a 2003 British television film, “Warrior Queen.” (10) She is considered a British folk hero. (5,6) The ultimate in Girl Power! (6)

Figure 16 Boadicea in London


A large area surrounded by deep ditches at Thetford in Norfolk has been called “the palace of Boudica”, but similar sites exist elsewhere and their purpose is debatable. (9) Yet she is an immensely striking and even attractive figure – and national concept – and, in the absence of real evidence, imaginations have worked hard. (9) There is another theory, held by people who congregate for the summer solstice at Glastonbury, that she is buried deep below Platform 8 at King’s Cross Station. (9) Though not entirely undisputed. (9) A British author named Gildas, writing in the sixth century, was part of a British ruling class who benefited from the Roman occupation, and he had a different take on the warrior queen. (9) To him, far from being a hero, Boadicea was “a treacherous lioness” who butchered the governors the Romans left to rule the country. (9)

Appendix I Name

Boudica has been known by several versions of her name. (10) OR] Boadicea (1,4) or Boadacaea (Latinised forms) (8) [OR] Boudicea (5) [OR] Boudica (2,5) [OR] Boudicca, (3,5) and in Welsh as Buddug (5,8) [OR] named after the Celtic goddess of victory, Boudiga. (7) [OR] Cassius Dio calls her Buduica (or Budhika). (9) In the 16th century, Raphael Holinshed called her Voadicia, while Edmund Spenser called her Bunduca, a variation of which was used in the popular Jacobean play Bonduca of 1612. (10) In the 18th century, William Cowper’s poem Boadicea, an ode (1782) popularised that alternative version of the name. (10) From the 19th century until the late 20th century, Boadicea was the

Figure 17 Biadicea Speaks

most common version of the name, which is probably derived from a mistranscription when a manuscript of Tacitus was copied in the Middle Ages. (10) Her name was clearly spelled Boudicca in the best manuscripts of Tacitus. (10) In the later, and probably secondary, epitome of Cassius Dio in Greek she was Βουδουικα, (Boudouika) Βουνδουικα, (Boundouika) and Βοδουικα (Bodouika) (10) Kenneth Jackson concludes, based on the later development in Welsh (Buddug) and Irish (Buaidheach), that the nasme derives from the Proto-Celtic feminine adjective *boudīkā ‘victorious’, that in turn is derived from the Celtic word *boudā ‘victory’ (cf. (10) Irish bua (Classical Irish buadh) ‘victory’, Scottish Gaelic buaidheach ‘victorious; effective’, Welsh buddug, buddugol ‘victorious’, buddugoliaeth ‘victory’), and that the correct spelling of the name in Common Brittonic (the British Celtic language) is Boudica, pronounced [bɒʊˈdiːkaː]. (10) The Gaulish version is attested in inscriptions as Boudiga in Bordeaux, Boudica in Lusitania, and Bodicca in Algeria. (10) The closest English equivalent to the vowel in the first syllable is the ow in “bow-and-arrow”. (10) John Rhys suggested that the most comparable Latin name, in meaning only, would be “Victorina”. (10)


Foreign and Military

Roman Conquest. Iceni and Trinovantes cooperate like Regnenses; Disarming of Britons in 47 resented; veterans’ colony at Colchester resented. Victory of B over 9th Legion; Suetonius absent v Druids; Colchester sacked; London abandoned and sacked; Suetonius concentrates in Midlands, minus Gloucester Legion; Victory of Romans;

Religion and Ideas

Boadicea religious role re Goddess Andraste, so element of crusade.

Economics and Financial

Imperial grant and moneylender scams. Britons fail to harvest, and Suetonius destroys supplies.

Social and Cultural

Veterans’ retirement. Her elite marriage and lifestyle.

Constitutional Legal

Prasutagus’ will and Roman law.

Individual and Random

Personality of Boadicea; crimes of Seneca; d. of Prasutagus;

Points of View

Historiography of B; discrepancies between Tacitus’s two books and Dio’s.


Significance of the name Boadicea.

Alternative Hypothesis



Causes of the revolt; Comparison with Cartimandua, Caractacus, Raziya; Consequence largely negative except for the legend.


D of Prasutagus; absence of Suetonius.

Bibliographical Note

(4) and (7) very similar.

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