Who was Boudica?

Boudica, alternatively known as Boadicea (find out which name is correct!), was the queen of the Iceni Celtic Tribe who incited a rebellion against the Roman occupation of ancient Britain around 60 or 61 A.D. Her background is somewhat obscure since our primary knowledge of her stems from Roman historians, specifically Tacitus and Cassius Dio, Learn about the classical references for Boudica. It’s speculated that she was born to a noble family in what is now known as Colchester around 30 A.D.

At 18, Boudica wed Prasutagus, the ruler of the Iceni tribe in what is now East Anglia. When the Romans subjugated southern Britain in 43 A.D., they compelled most Celtic tribes to surrender. However, they permitted Prasutagas to maintain his reign as a nominal ally to Rome. Following his death in 60 A.D., with no male successor, the Romans seized his territory and claimed his family’s wealth. They also subjected Boudica to a public whipping and violated her daughters.

Tacitus quotes Boudica vowing retribution, stating, “Roman greed will never be satiated. They desecrate our holy sites and assault our young women. I will either triumph in battle or die bravely, as befits my status.”

Trained in combat like many Celtic women of her time, Boudica was well-versed in warfare and weaponry. Seizing the opportunity when the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was engaged in a campaign in Wales, Boudica spearheaded an insurrection alongside the Iceni and other tribes who were disgruntled under Roman dominion. Her army initially triumphed over the Roman Ninth Legion and razed the Roman capital of Britain, Colchester or Camulodunum, slaughtering its residents, read more about Boudicas Attack on Colchester (Camulodunum). The onslaught continued through Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St. Albans).

Suetonius, however, managed to regroup and ultimately defeated Boudica’s forces in a battle, the location of which remains uncertain, spanning from London to Northamptonshire. In the end, facing defeat, Boudica and her daughters reportedly took their own lives using poison to evade capture.

Tacitus attributed the deaths of about 70,000 Romans and Roman sympathizers to Boudica’s uprising. Although her revolt was quashed, and Roman sovereignty over Britain persisted until 410 A.D., Boudica’s legacy endures. She is revered as a symbol of the fight for fairness and sovereignty.