The Consequences of the Boudican Rebellion

The Romans exact revenge

According to the Roman historian Tacitus, after the final battle against the rebel forces led by Boudicca, the surviving British prisoners were “ravaged with fire and sword”. The rebellion had lasted most of the year 61 AD and had devastating consequences for the Iceni tribe, who had not sown their crops before the uprising. Many of them starved when they returned to their lands, which had been ravaged by the war.

The allied infantry and cavalry were placed in new winter quarters, and whatever tribes still wavered or were hostile were ravaged with fire and sword.

Cornelius Tacitus – The Annals

Under the command of the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, the Roman Army had prevailed against the rebel forces, but the aftermath was marked by a period of mass destruction. The Roman Army under the orders of Suetonius’ successor, Paullinus, wiped out any tribes that had sided with Boudicca or had remained neutral. Their people were killed, and their homes were burned. The Romans showed no mercy.

Evidence of this period of destruction can still be found in sites across the country, such as Cadbury Castle in Somerset, where bodies, weapons, and evidence of destruction by fire suggest that this may have been one of the places targeted by Paullinus’ revenge.

The Romans are rewarded

Historian Suetonius records that many statues, busts, and writings were erected in Britain in honour of Titus, Vespasian’s eldest son, who may have played a role in the destruction of Boudicca’s rebellion as a legionary tribune.

He filled with distinction the rank of a military tribune both in Germany and Britain, in which he conducted himself with the utmost activity, and no less modesty and reputation; as appears evident from the great number of statues, with honourable inscriptions, erected to him in various parts of both those provinces.

Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars – The Life of Titus

The aftermath of the rebellion was also marked by the appointment of a new Procurator, Julius Classicanus, who ran Britain in the absence of Suetonius, who was in Rome being given his Triumph. The new governor, Publius Turpilianus, sent by Nero to report directly to him about the condition of post-rebellion Britain, criticized Suetonius for not ending the war sooner.

Soldiers were transferred in from Germania to replace the thousands of soldiers lost during the uprising. The Iceni were persecuted, and most of them were turned into slaves. Temporary forts and lookouts were built in the area of the tribe’s lands to keep a close watch in case they decided to rise up again, and as a warning to the rest of the country about the fate of those who rebelled against the Romans.

The Romans also laid waste to the Iceni farms, even building drainage systems to pull all the water from the soil. They desecrated sanctuaries, stole family heirlooms and money, and deprived the people of weapons. It was a bad deal all around, but the Romans had won.

The commander of the legion that failed to meet Suetonius in the Midlands, Poenius Postumus, fell on his own sword for his failure and for denying his troops the glory of battle.

Despite the brutality of the Roman response, the legions were rewarded for their victory. Legio XIV was awarded the honorific title “Martia Victrix”, and Legio XX won the right to be called “Valeria Victrix”. Reinforcements arrived from Germany, and Legio IX Hispana was brought back up to strength. The legionnaires went into active duty, while the auxiliaries were placed in winter quarters ready for action if needed.

History records that Titus, son of the emperor Vespasian, was among the Roman commanders who had played a role in the victory against Boudicca’s rebellion. He went on to become an Emperor in 79 AD and gained a reputation for showing no quarter to dissidents.