Interesting Woman: Boudica

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Today I’m handing over the reins to a very capable guest writer – my mumma, Yvette. Mum completed a BA with a Major in Art History and interests in Ancient History and Archaeology. Over to you Mum 🙂

Yvette here! Often when we think of inspirational women our minds may immediately drift to names such as Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks or even Oprah Winfrey!  And while these women are certainly incredible and have contributed much to society, they are not going to be the focus of this post.

Personally, with my interest in Archaeology and Ancient History, the women who interest me the most are those who came before, in our distant past. Lagertha the Shield-Maiden, Sappho the ‘poetess’ of ancient Greece, or the Egyptian Nefertiti, queen and religious revolutionary of the New Kingdom. So, if I had a TARDIS, I know where my first trip back in time would take me…to the late Iron Age to meet Boudica, Warrior Queen of the Iceni.

Boudica (or Boudicca, Boadicea or Buddug) was a Celtic warrior,  wife, and mother, who – with her husband Prasutagus – fought against the onslaught of Roman invasions in modern day Norfolk and Suffolk. After the death of Prasutagus in 60CE, the Romans came to settle the Celtic king’s debt to them. Instead, they seized all of the Iceni’s tribal lands to take full control. To humiliate the former queen, the Romans publicly flogged Boudica, raped her daughters, and placed the Iceni royal family into slavery. Why did the Romans take such a drastic move? Because they refused to accept Boudica’s claim to be tribal leader, due to her being a woman…

So, Boudica formed a plan – to revolt and drive out the Romans. She spoke with the leaders of the local tribes: including the Trinovanti, the Cornovii and the Durotiges, who also had grievances against the Roman invaders seizing their property and lands. Shortly after, the united tribal force attacked Camulodunum (modern day Colchester), where the main Roman force was located. When the Romans heard Boudica was on her way, they sent 200 soldiers out to meet her. What could one tiny band of rebel tribes-folk led by some feisty redhead do to a Roman army?! Well, when the Romans saw that the tribal force was actually 100,000 strong, the Roman Procurator Decianus fled, leaving Boudica to burn Camulodunum to the ground, killing everyone inside.

With her army now swollen to 200,000, Boudica set her sights on Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St Albans), sacking and burning both cities; killing all and destroying Roman statuary.

The writings of Tacitus and Cassius Dio tell that the warrior queen and her gathered tribes were brutal in their rebellion (mind, the Romans were hardly angels themselves.) These ancient writers describe how the clans would embalm the decapitated heads of their enemies and place them on their chariots. Imagine a tall, redheaded warrior riding toward you on such a chariot – yikes!

The death of Boudica in 61CE is vague. The most common thought is that the tribes, now starving and weakened due to the Romans strategically destroying their food stores, were lost in one final battle in an unknown location. The tribes had to battle uphill, and Boudica  reportedly took poison to avoid Roman capture. Other theories are that Boudica died in this battle, or that she escaped and rode back to her ancestral homelands in the North

Whatever became of this incredible woman, who knows, but for me, she is a true hero. Boudica not only fought for her tribe and her rights – uniting the other tribes to fight with her against a common enemy – but she was also a loving wife and mother, a warrior, a queen, and most importantly, a woman who would not bow to others who had wronged her and her people. As a result of her rebellion, the Romans increased their forces in Britain, but they also relaxed their tight-hold and oppression of the local people.

This striking woman was strong and intelligent. She didn’t lose hope, and fought against those who wanted to smash her down into the dirt, hold her back, make her feel weak or incapable. Boudica FOUGHT for her beliefs, paving the way for other women in future years to come.

My kind of hero

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