Boudica

‘Win the battle or perish: that is what I, a woman will do; you men can live on in slavery if that’s what you want.’

Boudica or Boudicca (also Boadicea or Boudicea and known in Welsh as Buddug Welsh) was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60 or 61. She died shortly after its failure and was said to have poisoned herself. She is considered a British folk hero.

Boudica's husband, Prasutagus, ruled as a nominally independent ally of Rome, and left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and to the Roman emperor in his will. However, when he died, his will was ignored, and the kingdom was annexed and his property taken. According to Tacitus, Boudica was flogged and her daughters raped. Cassius Dio explains Boudica's response by saying that previous imperial donations to influential Britons were confiscated and the Roman financier and philosopher Seneca called in the loans he had forced on the reluctant Britons.

In AD 60 or 61, when the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was campaigning on the island of Mona (modern Anglesey) on the northwest coast of Wales, Boudica led the Iceni, the Trinovantes, and others in revolt. They destroyed Camulodunum (modern Colchester), earlier the capital of the Trinovantes but at that time a colonia, a settlement for discharged Roman soldiers and site of a temple to the former Emperor Claudius. The revolting Britons even desecrated the Roman cemeteries, mutilating statues and breaking tombstones. Some of these mutilated statues can be seen today in Colchester Museum.

Upon hearing of the revolt, Suetonius hurried to Londinium (modern London), the 20-year-old commercial settlement that was the rebels' next target. He lacked sufficient numbers to defend the settlement, and he evacuated and abandoned Londinium. Boudica led a very large army of Iceni, Trinovantes, and others against a detachment of Legio IX Hispana, defeating them, and burning Londinium and Verulamium.

An estimated 70,000–80,000 Romans and British were then killed in the three cities by those following Boudica, many by torture. Suetonius, meanwhile, regrouped his forces, possibly in the West Midlands; despite being heavily outnumbered, he decisively defeated the Britons. The crisis caused Nero to consider withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain, but Suetonius' victory over Boudica confirmed Roman control of the province.

Boudica then either killed herself to avoid capture (according to Tacitus), or died of illness (according to Cassius Dio).

Interest in these events was revived in the English Renaissance and led to Boudica's fame in the Victorian era.

Boudica has remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom.

 


 

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