Boudica (also spelled Boudicca, formerly known as Boadicea, and known in Welsh culture and legends as "Buddug") (d. AD 60 or 61) was a queen of the
Icenitribe of what is now known as East Angliawho led an uprising of the tribes against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
Prasutagus, an Icenian king who had ruled as a nominally independent ally of Rome, left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman Emperorin his will, but when he died his will was ignored, possibly because the Romans, unlike the Britons, did not recognise daughters as heirs. The kingdom was annexed as if conquered, Boudica was flogged and her daughters raped, and Roman financiers called in their loans.
In AD 60 or 61, while the Roman governor,
Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading a campaign on the island of Angleseyin north Wales, Boudica led the Iceni, along with the Trinovantesand others, in revolt. They destroyed Camulodunum( Colchester), formerly the capital of the Trinovantes, but now a "colonia" (a settlement for discharged Roman soldiers) and the site of a temple to the former emperor Claudius, built and maintained at local expense, and routed a Roman legion, the IX "Hispana", sent to relieve the settlement.
On hearing the news of the revolt, Suetonius hurried to
Londinium( London), the twenty-year-old commercial settlement which was the rebels' next target, but concluding he did not have the numbers to defend it, evacuated and abandoned it. It was burnt to the ground, as was Verulamium( St Albans). An estimated 70,000-80,000 people were killed in the three cities. Suetonius, meanwhile, regrouped his forces in the West Midlands, and despite being heavily outnumbered, defeated Boudica in the Battle of Watling Street. The crisis had led the emperor Neroto consider withdrawing all Roman forces from the island, but Suetonius's eventual victory over Boudica secured Roman control of the province.
The history of these events, as recorded by
Tacitus[ Tacitus, "Agricola" ; "Annals" [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Tac.+Ann.+14.29 14:29-39] ] and Cassius Dio, [ Cassius Dio, "Roman History" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/62*.html#1 62:1-12] ] were rediscovered during the Renaissanceand led to a resurgence of Boudica's legendary fame during the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria was portrayed as her "namesake". Boudica has since remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom.
Until the late twentieth century, Boudica was known as Boadicea, which is probably derived from a mistranscription when a manuscript of Tacitus was copied in the
Middle Ages. Her name takes many forms in various manuscripts–"Boadicea" and "Boudicea" in Tacitus; "Βουδουικα", "Βουνδουικα", and "Βοδουικα" in Dio–but almost certainly, it was originally "Boudicca" or "Boudica", and is the Proto-Celticfeminine adjective "*boudīka", "victorious", derived from the Celtic word "*bouda", "victory" (cf. Irish "bua" (Classical Irish "buadh"), "Buaidheach", Welsh "buddugoliaeth"). The name is attested in inscriptions as "Boudica" in Lusitania, "Boudiga" in Bordeaux, and "Bodicca" in Britain. [Graham Webster, "Boudica: The British Revolt against Rome AD 60", 1978; Guy de la Bédoyère, [http://www.romanbritain.freeserve.co.uk/Legions.htm "The Roman Army in Britain"] , retrieved 5 July 2005] Based on later development of Welsh and Irish, Kenneth Jackson concludes that the correct spelling of the name in Brythonic is "Boudica", pronounced|bɒʊˈdiːkaː [Kenneth Jackson, "Queen Boudicca?", "Britannia" 10, 1979] (the closest English equivalent to the vowel in the first syllable is the "ow" in "bow-and-arrow"). The modern English pronunciation is IPAEng|buːˈdɪkə. [Boudicca. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Boudicca (accessed: December 20, 2007).]
Tacitus and Dio agree that Boudica was of royal descent. Dio says that she was "possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women", that she was tall, had long red hair down to her hips, a harsh voice and a piercing glare, and habitually wore a large golden necklace (perhaps a
torc), a many-coloured tunic, and a thick cloakfastened by a brooch.
Prasutagus, was the king of Iceni, people who inhabited roughly what is now Norfolk. They initially were not part of the territory under direct Roman control, having voluntarily allied themselves to Rome following Claudius's conquest of AD 43. They were jealous of their independence and had revolted in AD 47 when the then-governor, Publius Ostorius Scapula, threatened to disarm them. [Tacitus, "Annals" [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Tac.+Ann.+12.31 12:31-32] ] Prasutagus lived a long life of conspicuous wealth, and, hoping to preserve his line, made the Roman emperorco-heir to his kingdom along with his wife and two daughters.
It was normal Roman practice to allow allied kingdoms their independence only for the lifetime of their
client king, who would agree to leave his kingdom to Rome in his will: the provinces of Bithynia[ H. H. Scullard, "From the Gracchi to Nero", 1982, p. 90] and Galatia, [John Morris, "Londinium: London in the Roman Empire", 1982, pp. 107-108] for example, were incorporated into the Empire in just this way. Roman lawalso allowed inheritanceonly through the male line. So when Prasutagus died his attempts to preserve his line were ignored and his kingdom was annexed as if it had been conquered. Lands and property were confiscated and nobles treated like slaves. According to Tacitus, Boudica was flogged and her daughters raped. Dio Cassius says that Roman financiers, including Seneca the Younger, chose this time to call in their loans. Tacitus does not mention this, but does single out the procurator, Catus Decianus, for criticism for his "avarice". Prasutagus, it seems, had lived well on borrowed Roman money, and on his death his subjects had become liable for the debt.
In AD 60 or 61, while the current governor,
Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading a campaign against the island of Mona (modern Anglesey) in north Wales, which was a refuge for British rebels and a stronghold of the druids, the Iceni conspired with their neighbours the Trinovantes, amongst others, to revolt. Boudica was chosen as their leader. According to Tacitus, they drew inspiration from the example of Arminius, the prince of the Cherusciwho had driven the Romans out of Germany in AD 9, and their own ancestors who had driven Julius Caesarfrom Britain. [Tacitus, "Agricola" ] Dio says that at the outset Boudica employed a form of divination, releasing a harefrom the folds of her dress and interpreting the direction in which it ran, and invoked Andraste, a British goddessof victory. Perhaps it is significant that Boudica's own name means "victory" (see above).
The rebels' first target was
Camulodunum( Colchester), the former Trinovantian capital and now a Roman "colonia". The Roman veterans who had been settled there mistreated the locals, and a temple to the former emperor Claudiushad been erected there at local expense, making the city a focus for resentment. The Roman inhabitants of the city sought reinforcements from the procurator, Catus Decianus, but he sent only two hundred auxiliary troops. Boudica's army fell on the poorly defended city and destroyed it, besieging the last defenders in the temple for two days before it fell. Archaeologyshows the city was methodically demolished. [Jason Burke, [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,406152,00.html "Dig uncovers Boudicca's brutal streak"] , " The Observer" , 3 December 2000] The future governor Quintus Petillius Cerialis, then commanding the Legio IX "Hispana", attempted to relieve the city, but his forces were completely annihilated. His infantry was wiped out: only the commander and some of his cavalry escaped. Catus Decianus fled to Gaul.
When news of the rebellion reached him, Suetonius hurried along
Watling Streetthrough hostile territory to Londinium ( London). Londinium was a relatively new town, founded after the conquest of 43 AD, but it had grown to be a thriving commercial centre with a population of travellers, traders, and probably, Roman officials. Suetonius considered giving battle there, but considering his lack of numbers and chastened by Petillius's defeat, decided to sacrifice the city to save the province. Londinium was abandoned to the rebels, who burnt it down, slaughtering anyone who had not evacuated with Suetonius. Archaeology shows a thick red layer of burnt debris covering coins and pottery dating before 60 AD within the bounds of the Roman city. [George Patrick Welch, "Britannia: The Roman Conquest & Occupation of Britain", 1963, p. 107] Verulamium( St Albans) was next to be destroyed.
In the three cities destroyed, between seventy and eighty thousand people are said to have been killed. Tacitus says the Britons had no interest in taking or selling prisoners, only in slaughter by
gibbet, fire, or cross. Dio's account gives more prurient detail: that the noblest women were impaled on spikes and had their breasts cut off and sewn to their mouths, "to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and wanton behaviour" in sacred places, particularly the groves of Andraste.
Suetonius regrouped with the XIV "Gemina", some "vexillationes" (detachments) of the XX "Valeria Victrix", and any available auxiliaries. The
prefectof Legio II "Augusta", Poenius Postumus, ignored the call, but nonetheless the governor was able to call on almost ten thousand men. He took a stand at an unidentified location, probably in the West Midlands somewhere along the Roman roadnow known as Watling Street, in a defile with a wood behind him. But his men were heavily outnumbered. Dio says that, even if they were lined up one deep, they would not have extended the length of Boudica's line: by now the rebel forces numbered 230,000. However, this number should be treated with scepticism: Dio's account is known only from a late epitome, and ancient sources commonly exaggerate enemy numbers.
Boudica exhorted her troops from her
chariot, her daughters beside her. Tacitus gives her a short speech in which she presents herself not as an aristocratavenging her lost wealth, but as an ordinary person, avenging her lost freedom, her battered body, and the abused chastity of her daughters. Their cause was just, and the deities were on their side; the one legion that had dared to face them had been destroyed. She, a woman, was resolved to win or die; if the men wanted to live in slavery, that was their choice.
However, the lack of maneuverability of the British forces, combined with lack of open-field tactics to command these numbers, put them at a disadvantage to the Romans, who were skilled at open combat due to their superior equipment and discipline, and the narrowness of the field meant that Boudica could only put forth as many troops as the Romans could at a given time.
First, the Romans stood their ground and used volleys of "pila" (heavy javelins) to kill thousands of Britons who were rushing toward the Roman lines. The Roman soldiers, who had now used up their "pila", were then able to engage Boudica's second wave in the open. As the Romans advanced in a wedge formation, the Britons attempted to flee, but were impeded by the presence of their own families, whom they had stationed in a ring of wagons at the edge of the battlefield, and were slaughtered. This is not the first instance of this tactic. The women of the
Cimbri, in the Battle of Vercellaeagainst Gaius Marius, were stationed in a line of wagons and acted as a last line of defence; [ Florus, "Epitome of Roman History" ] Ariovistusof the Suebiis reported to have done the same thing in his battle against Julius Caesar. [ Julius Caesar, " Commentarii de Bello Gallico" ] Tacitus reports that "according to one report almost eighty thousand Britons fell" compared with only four hundred Romans. According to Tacitus, Boudica poisoned herself; Dio says she fell sick and died, and was given a lavish burial.
Postumus, on hearing of the Roman victory, fell on his sword.
Catus Decianus, who had fled to Gaul, was replaced by Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus. Suetonius conducted punitive operations, but criticism by Classicianus led to an investigation headed by Nero's freedmanPolyclitus. Fearing Suetonius' actions would provoke further rebellion, Nero replaced the governor with the more conciliatory Publius Petronius Turpilianus. [Tacitus, "Annals" ] The historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus tells us the crisis had almost persuaded Nero to abandon Britain. [ Suetonius, "Nero" [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Nero*.html#18 18] , [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/Nero*.html#39 39-40] ]
Location of her defeat
The location of Boudica's defeat is unknown. Most historians favour a site in the West Midlands, somewhere along the Roman road now known as
Watling Street. Kevin K. Carroll suggests a site close to High Cross in 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. [Kevin K. Carroll, "The Date of Boudicca's Revolt", "Britannia" 10, 1979] Manduessedum( Mancetter), near the modern day town of Atherstonein Warwickshire, has also been suggested. [ Sheppard Frere, "Britannia: A History of Roman Britain", 1987, p. 73] More recently a new discovery of Roman artifacts in Kings Nortonclose to Metchley Camp has suggested another possibility. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_midlands/5016126.stm Is Boudicca buried in Birmingham?] , BBC, 25 May 2006, retrieved 9 September 2006]
Tacitus, the most important Roman historian of this period, took a particular interest in Britain as
Gnaeus Julius Agricola, his father-in-law and the subject of his first book, served there three times. Agricola was a military tribuneunder Suetonius Paulinus, which almost certainly gave Tacitus an eyewitness source for Boudica's revolt. Cassius Dio's account is only known from an epitome, and his sources are uncertain. 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.
It is possible that
Gildas, in his 6th century polemic " De Excidio Britanniae", alludes to Boudica in his typically oblique fashion as a "treacherous lioness", although his general lack of knowledge about the real history of the Roman conquest of Britain makes this far from certain. [ Gildas, ; Fabio P. Barbieri, [http://www.geocities.com/vortigernstudies/fabio/contents.htm "History of Britain, 407-597"] , [http://www.geocities.com/vortigernstudies/fabio/book1.2.htm Book 1, Chapter 2] , 2002 (retrieved 5 July 2005)]
History and literature
Middle AgesBoudica was forgotten. She makes no appearance in Bede's work, the " Historia Brittonum", the " Mabinogion" or Geoffrey of Monmouth's " History of the Kings of Britain". But the rediscovery of the works of Tacitus during the Renaissanceallowed Polydore Virgilto reintroduce her into British history as "Voadicea" in 1534. ["Polydore Vergil's English History" Book 2 ( [http://books.google.co.uk/books?vid=OCLC04693319&id=hSAIAAAAIAAJ&pg=RA2-PA59&lpg=RA2-PA59&dq=cassivellaunus&as_brr=1#PRA2-PA69,M1 pp. 69-72] ).] Raphael Holinshed also included her story in his "Chronicles" (1577), based on Tacitus and Dio, [ Raphael Holinshed, "Chronicles": History of England [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16536/16536-h/16536-h.htm#page494 4.9-13] ] and inspired Shakespeare's younger contemporaries Francis Beaumontand John Fletcher to write a play, " Bonduca", in 1610. [ Francis Beaumontand John Fletcher, " [http://www.bibliomania.com/0/6/1/1975/frameset.html Bonduca] "] William Cowperwrote a popular poem, "Boadicea, an ode", in 1782. [ William Cowper, " [http://www.bartleby.com/41/320.html Boadicea, an ode] "]
It was in the
Victorian erathat Boudica's fame took on legendary proportions as Queen Victoria was seen to be Boudica's "namesake". Victoria's Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote a poem, "Boadicea", [ Alfred, Lord Tennyson, " [http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/8721-Alfred-Lord-Tennyson-Boadicea Boadicea] "] and several ships were named after her. A great bronze statue of Boudica with her daughters in her war chariot (furnished with scythes after the Persian fashion) was commissioned by Prince Albert and executed by Thomas Thornycroft. It was completed in 1905 and stands next to Westminster Bridgeand the Houses of Parliament, with the following lines from Cowper's poem, referring to the British Empire: Regions Caesar never knewThy posterity shall sway.
Ironically, the great anti-imperialist rebel was now identified with the head of the
British Empire, and her statue stood guard over the city she razed to the ground. [Graham Webster, "Boudica: The British Revolt against Rome AD 60", 1978]
Boudica has been the subject of two feature films, the 1928 film "Boadicea", where she was portrayed by
Phyllis Neilson-Terry, [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0018713/ "Boadicea" (1928)] ] and 2003's "Boudica" ("Warrior Queen" in the USA), a UK TV film written by Andrew Davies and starring Alex Kingstonas Boudica. [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338806/ "Boudica" (2003)] ] A new film is planned for release in 2010 entitled "Warrior", written by Brian Klugmanand Lee Sternthal, directed by Gavin O'Connor, and produced by Mel Gibson. [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0409457/ "Boudicca" (2010)] at IMDb] She has also been the subject of a 1978 British TV series, " Warrior Queen", starring Sian Phillipsas Boudica. Jennifer Ward-Lealandportrayed Boudica in an episode of Xena - Warrior Princessentitled "The Deliverer" in 1997.
Boudica's story is the subject of several novels, including books by
Rosemary Sutcliff, Pauline Gedge, Manda Scott, Alan Gold, Diana L. Paxson, David Wishart, George Shipway, and J. F. Broxholme (a pseudonym of Duncan Kyle). One of the viewpoint characters of Ian Watson's novel " Oracle" is an eyewitness to her defeat. She has also appeared in several comic book series, including the "Sláine", which featured two runs, entitled "Demon Killer" and "Queen of Witches" giving a free interpretation of Boudica's story. Other comic appearances include " Witchblade" and " From Hell". Additionally, in the alternate historynovel " Ruled Britannia" by Harry Turtledove, Boudicca is the subject of a play written by William Shakespeareto incite the people of Britain to revolt against Spanish conquerors. Henry Purcell's last major work, composed in 1695, was music for play entitled "Bonduca, or the British Heroine" (Z. 574). Selections include "To Arms", "Britons, Strike Home" and "O lead me to some peaceful gloom". Boudica has also been the primary subject of songs by Irish singer/songwriter Enya, Dutch soprano Petra Berger, Scottish singer/songwriter Steve McDonald, English metal band Bal-Sagoth, Faith and the Museand Dreams in the Witching House.
Other cultural references
There have been scattered reports that the restless spirit of Boudica has been seen in the county of
Lincolnshire. These reports, dating back to the mid-19th century, claim Boudica rides her chariot, heading for some unknown destination, and many a traveller and motorist have claimed to have seen her. [Dan Asfar, "Haunted Highways: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales", 2003]
There is also a long-lived urban myth that she is buried under Platform 10 of
King's Cross railway stationin London. [ [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6497 Queen Boadicea ( - 61) - Find A Grave Memorial ] ] This originates from the village of Battle Bridge (previously on the station's site), which was said to be the site of her last battle, suicide and burial. This is now accepted as a fiction and a hoax, whose origins can be traced back to Lewis Spence's book 'Boadicea - Warrior Queen of the Britons (1937) (where it is given but unevidenced ) [Bob Trubshaw, [http://www.indigogroup.co.uk/edge/boudica6.htm "Boudica - the case for Atherstone and Kings Cross"] from " [http://www.indigogroup.co.uk/edge/index.htm At the Edge] "] or earlier. [ [http://community.channel4.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/8896096411/m/5550051141 "A Boudicca question"] , discussion on the [http://community.channel4.com/eve/forums/a/frm/f/8896096411 Time Team forum] at [http://www.channel4.com/index.html?hpos=logo Channel 4] ] It is now thought that Battle Bridge was a corruption of 'Broad Ford Bridge'. Other such legends place her burial on Parliament Hill, Hampstead or in Suffolk.
In 2003, an LTR
retrotransposonfrom the genomeof the human blood fluke "Schistosoma mansoni" was named "Boudica". [Copeland CS, Brindley PJ, Heyers O, Michael SF, Johnston DA, Williams DL, Ivens AC, Kalinna BH, "Boudica", a retrovirus-like long terminal repeat retrotransposon from the genome of the human blood fluke "Schistosoma mansoni". "Journal of Virology" 2003 Jun;77(11):6153-66; Copeland CS, Heyers O, Kalinna BH, Bachmair A, Stadler PF, Hofacker IL, Brindley PJ, "Structural and evolutionary analysis of the transcribed sequence of "Boudicca", a "Schistosoma mansoni" retrotransposon". "Gene" 2004;329:103-114.]
In the game Civilization IV's expansion Beyond the Sword, Boudica is added as a leader of the Celtic Civilization, along with Brennus.
In the BBC sitcom "The Vicar of Dibley" the title character is named Boadicea Geraldine Granger. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicar_of_dibley]
The Irish singer Enya references her in her song "Boadicea" on her 1992 album "The Celts".
Guy de la Bédoyère, 'Bleeding from the Roman Rods: Boudica' in "Defying Rome. The Rebels of Roman Britain", Tempus, Stroud, 2003
Vanessa Collingridge; "Boudica", Ebury, London, 2004
*Richard Hingley & Christina Unwin, "Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen", 2004
* Manfred Böckl: Die letzte Königin der Kelten. (The last Queen of the Celts). Novel telling the life of the Iceni-Queen Boadicea in German language. (Rights: Aufbau Verlag, Berlin, Germany, 2005.)
* Joseph E. Roesch, "Boudica, Queen of The Iceni" (London, Robert Hale Ltd, 2006). [ [http://www.boudica-roesch.com Boudica Queen of the Iceni :: An Historical Novel by Joseph E. Roesch ] ]
List of women warriors in folklore, literature, and popular culture
* [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/britannia/boudica/boudicanrevolt.html James Grout: "Boudica", part of the Encyclopædia Romana]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3539652.stm Trying to Rule Britannia] ; BBC;
6 August 2004
* [http://www.roman-britain.org/tribes/iceni.htm Iceni] at [http://www.roman-britain.org Roman-Britain.org]
* [http://www.romans-in-britain.org.uk/clb_tribe_iceni.htm Iceni] at [http://www.romans-in-britain.org.uk/ Romans in Britain]
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/05/25/nboad25.xml/ "Boadicea may have had her chips on site of McDonald's" by Nick Britten]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/warriorqueen/ PBS Boudica / Warrior Queen website]
* [http://www.cbc.ca/arts/features/kingarthur/ Warrior queens and blind critics] - article on the 2004 film "King Arthur" which discusses Boudica
* [http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/trlout_gfx_en/TRA22669.html 24 Hour Museum trail]
* [http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/history/a-b/boud3.html Channel 4 History - In Boudica's Footsteps]
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