Our primary sources Publius Cornelius Tacitus (ca. AD 56-117) and Cassius Dio (ca. AD 150-235) give us two different versions of the story, including the reason for the revolt. Tacitus claims the revolt sprang from the ill treatment of the Iceni following Prasutagus’ death while Dio writes that the cause of the uprising was a dispute over a loan.
Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus
Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian and politician, was one of the greatest Roman historians. Tacitus wrote about Boudica in two works: The Agricola (De vita Agricolae), completed probably in AD 98;17 and the Annals, composed around 115-17.
Although Tacitus’s accounts were written after the rebellion had been crushed he was writing within living memory of the events. He had a close relationship with his father-in-law, Agricola, who had served
as a military officer in Britain at the time of the revolt and could have passed on some knowledge of the events.
Agricola: XIV The first Consular Governors of Britain
[…]Then Suetonius Paullinus enjoyed success for two years; he subdued several tribes and strengthened our military posts. Thus encouraged, he made an attempt on the island of Mona, as a place from which the rebels drew reinforcements; but in doing this he left his rear open to attack.
Agricola: XV Stirrings of rebellion
Relieved from apprehension by the legate’s absence, the Britons dwelt much among themselves on the miseries of subjection, compared their wrongs, and exaggerated them in the discussion. “All we get by patience,” they said, “is that heavier demands are exacted from us, as from men who will readily submit. A single king once ruled us; now two are set over us; a legate [Suetonius Paullinus] to tyrannise over our lives, a procurator [Catus Decianus] to tyrannise over our property. Their quarrels and their harmony are alike ruinous to their subjects. The centurions of the one, the slaves of the other, combine violence with insult. Nothing is now safe from their avarice, nothing from their lust. In war it is the strong who plunders; now, it is for the most part by cowards and poltroons that our homes are rifled, our children torn from us, the conscription enforced, as though it were for our country alone that we could not die. For, after all, what a mere handful of soldiers has crossed over, if we Britons look at our own numbers. Germany did thus actually shake off the yoke, and yet its defence was a river, not the ocean. With us, fatherland, wives, parents, are the motives to war; with them, only greed and profligacy. They will surely fly, as did the now deified Julius, if once we emulate the valour of our sires. Let us not be panic-stricken at the result of one or two engagements. The miserable have more fury and greater resolution. Now even the gods are beginning to pity us, for they are keeping away the Roman general, and detaining his army far from us in another island. We have already taken the hardest step; we are deliberating. And indeed, in all such designs, to dare is less perilous than to be detected.”
Agricola: XVI Boudicca’s uprising and its aftermath
Rousing each other by this and like language, under the leadership of Boudica, a woman of kingly descent (for they admit no distinction of sex in their royal successions), they all rose in arms. They fell upon our troops, which were scattered on garrison duty, stormed the forts, and burst into the colony itself, the head-quarters, as they thought, of tyranny. In their rage and their triumph, they spared no variety of a barbarian’s cruelty. Had not Paullinus on hearing of the outbreak in the province rendered prompt succour, Britain would have been lost. By one successful engagement, he brought it back to its former obedience, though many, troubled by the conscious guilt of rebellion and by particular dread of the legate, still clung to their arms. Excellent as he was in other respects, his policy to the conquered was arrogant, and exhibited the cruelty of one who was avenging private wrongs. Accordingly Petronius Turpilianus was sent out to initiate a milder rule.
Tacitus’ Annals is a history of the Roman Empire from the reign of Tiberius to that of Nero, the years AD 14–68 and was probably written at the start of the second century AD. It was Tacitus’ final major work before his death in AD 120. His writing on Boudica is found in the Annals xiv 29-39.
The image of Boudica that is presented in the Annals is the one that has dominated accounts in the archaeological literature. One reason for its popularity is that this account is far fuller than that provided in the Agricola.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXIX Trouble in Britain.
In the consulship of Caesonius Paetus and Petronius Turpilianus, a serious disaster was sustained in Britain, where Aulius Didius, the emperor’s legate, had merely retained our existing possessions, and his successor Veranius, after having ravaged the Silures in some trifling raids, was prevented by death from extending the war. While he lived, he had a great name for manly independence, though, in his will’s final words, he betrayed a flatterer’s weakness; for, after heaping adulation on Nero, he added that he should have conquered the province for him, had he lived for the next two years. Now, however, Britain was in the hands of Suetonius Paulinus, who in military knowledge and in popular favour, which allows no one to be without a rival, vied with Corbulo, and aspired to equal the glory of the recovery of Armenia by the subjugation of Rome’s enemies. He therefore prepared to attack the island of Mona which had a powerful population and was a refuge for fugitives. He built flat-bottomed vessels to cope with the shallows, and uncertain depths of the sea. Thus the infantry crossed, while the cavalry followed by fording, or, where the water was deep, swam by the side of their horses.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXX Destruction of the Druids.
On the shore stood the opposing army with its dense array of armed warriors, while between the ranks dashed women, in black attire like the Furies, with hair dishevelled, waving brands. All around, the Druids, lifting up their hands to heaven, and pouring forth dreadful imprecations, scared our soldiers by the unfamiliar sight, so that, as if their limbs were paralysed, they stood motionless, and exposed to wounds. Then urged by their general’s appeals and mutual encouragements not to quail before a troop of frenzied women, they bore the standards onwards, smote down all resistance, and wrapped the foe in the flames of his own brands. A force was next set over the conquered, and their groves, devoted to inhuman superstitions, were destroyed. They deemed it indeed a duty to cover their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their deities through human entrails.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXXI Revolt of the Iceni.
Suetonius while thus occupied received tidings of the sudden revolt of the province. Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, famed for his long prosperity, had made the emperor his heir along with his two daughters, under the impression that this token of submission would put his kingdom and his house out of the reach of wrong. But the reverse was the result, so much so that his kingdom was plundered by centurions, his house by slaves, as if they were the spoils of war. First, his wife Boudica was scourged, and his daughters outraged. All the chief men of the Iceni, as if Rome had received the whole country as a gift, were stript of their ancestral possessions, and the king’s relatives were made slaves. Roused by these insults and the dread of worse, reduced as they now were into the condition of a province, they flew to arms and stirred to revolt the Trinobantes and others who, not yet cowed by slavery, had agreed in secret conspiracy to reclaim their freedom. It was against the veterans that they had the most intense hatred for. For these new settlers in the colony of Camulodunum drove people out of their houses, ejected them from their farms, called them captives and slaves, and the lawlessness of the veterans was encouraged by the soldiers, who lived a similar life and hoped for similar licence. A temple also erected to the Divine Claudius was ever before their eyes, a citadel, as it seemed, of perpetual tyranny. Men chosen as priests had to squander their whole fortunes under the pretence of a religious ceremonial. It appeared too no difficult matter to destroy the colony, undefended as it was by fortifications, a precaution neglected by our generals, while they thought more of what was agreeable than of what was expedient.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXXII Camulodunum (Colchester) destroyed.
Meanwhile, without any evident cause, the statue of Victory at Camulodunum fell prostrate and turned its back to the enemy, as though it fled before them. Women excited to frenzy prophesied impending destruction; ravings in a strange tongue, it was said, were heard in their Senate-house; their theatre resounded with wailings, and in the estuary of the Tamesa had been seen the appearance of an overthrown town; even the ocean had worn the aspect of blood, and, when the tide ebbed, there had been left the likenesses of human forms, marvels interpreted by the Britons, as hopeful, by the veterans, as alarming. But as Suetonius was far away, they implored aid from the procurator, Catus Decianus. All he did was to send two hundred men, and no more, without regular arms, and there was in the place but a small military force. Trusting to the protection of the temple, hindered too by secret accomplices in the revolt, who embarrassed their plans, they had constructed neither fosse nor rampart; nor had they removed their old men and women, leaving their youth alone to face the foe. Surprised, as it were, in the midst of peace, they were surrounded by an immense host of the barbarians. All else was plundered or fired in the onslaught; the temple where the soldiers had assembled, was stormed after a two days’ siege. The victorious enemy met Petilius Cerialis, commander of the ninth legion, as he was coming to the rescue, routed his troops, and destroyed all his infantry. Cerialis escaped with some cavalry into the camp, and was saved by its fortifications. Alarmed by this disaster and by the fury of the province which he had goaded into war by his rapacity, the procurator Catus crossed over into Gaul.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXXIII Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St Albans) follow.
Suetonius, however, with wonderful resolution, marched amidst a hostile population to Londinium, which, though undistinguished by the name of a colony, was much frequented by a number of merchants and trading vessels. Uncertain whether he should choose it as a seat of war, as he looked round on his scanty force of soldiers, and remembered with what a serious warning the rashness of Petilius had been punished, he resolved to save the province at the cost of a single town. Nor did the tears and weeping of the people, as they implored his aid, deter him from giving the signal of departure and receiving into his army all who would go with him. Those who were chained to the spot by the weakness of their sex, or the infirmity of age, or the attractions of the place, were cut off by the enemy. Like ruin fell on the town of Verulamium, for the barbarians, who delighted in plunder and were indifferent to all else, passed by the fortresses with military garrisons, and attacked whatever offered most wealth to the spoiler, and was unsafe for defence. About seventy thousand citizens and allies, it appeared, fell in the places which I have mentioned. For it was not on making prisoners and selling them, or on any of the barter of war, that the enemy was bent, but on slaughter, on the gibbet, the fire and the cross, like men soon about to pay the penalty, and meanwhile snatching at instant vengeance.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXXIV Suetonius Paulinus chooses his location for battle.
Suetonius had the fourteenth legion with the veterans of the twentieth, and auxiliaries from the neighbourhood, to the number of about ten thousand armed men, when he prepared to break off delay and fight a battle. He chose a position approached by a narrow defile, closed in at the rear by a forest, having first ascertained that there was not a soldier of the enemy except in his front, where an open plain extended without any danger from ambuscades. His legions were in close array; round them, the light-armed troops, and the cavalry in dense array on the wings. On the other side, the army of the Britons, with its masses of infantry and cavalry, was confidently exulting, a vaster host than ever had assembled, and so fierce in spirit that they actually brought with them, to witness the victory, their wives riding in waggons, which they had placed on the extreme border of the plain.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXXV Boudicca (Boadicea) addresses her warriors.
Boudicea, with her daughters before her in a chariot, went up to tribe after tribe, protesting that it was indeed usual for Britons to fight under the leadership of women. “But now,” she said, “it is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the outraged chastity of my daughters. Roman lust has gone so far that not our very persons, nor even age or virginity, are left unpolluted. But heaven is on the side of a righteous vengeance; a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight. They will not sustain even the din and the shout of so many thousands, much less our charge and our blows. If you weigh well the strength of the armies, and the causes of the war, you will see that in this battle you must conquer or die. This is a woman’s resolve; as for men, they may live and be slaves.”
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXXVI Suetonius Paulus exhorts his troops.
Nor was Suetonius silent at such a crisis. Though he confided in the valour of his men, he yet mingled encouragements and entreaties to disdain the clamours and empty threats of the barbarians. “There,” he said, “you see more women than warriors. Unwarlike, unarmed, they will give way the moment they have recognised that sword and that courage of their conquerors, which have so often routed them. Even among many legions, it is a few who really decide the battle, and it will enhance their glory that a small force should earn the renown of an entire army. Only close up the ranks, and having discharged your javelins, then with shields and swords continue the work of bloodshed and destruction, without a thought of plunder. When once the victory has been won, everything will be in your power.” Such was the enthusiasm which followed the general’s address, and so promptly did the veteran soldiery, with their long experience of battles, prepare for the hurling of the javelins, that it was with confidence in the result that Suetonius gave the signal of battle.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXXVII Defeat of the Iceni.
At first, the legion kept its position, clinging to the narrow defile as a defence; when they had exhausted their missiles, which they discharged with unerring aim on the closely approaching foe, they rushed out in a wedge-like column. Similar was the onset of the auxiliaries, while the cavalry with extended lances broke through all who offered a strong resistance. The rest turned their back in flight, and flight proved difficult, because the surrounding waggons had blocked retreat. Our soldiers spared not to slay even the women, while the very beasts of burden, transfixed by the missiles, swelled the piles of bodies. Great glory, equal to that of our old victories, was won on that day. Some indeed say that there fell little less than eighty thousand of the Britons, with a loss to our soldiers of about four hundred, and only as many wounded. Boudicea put an end to her life by poison. Poenius Postumus too, camp-prefect of the second legion, when he knew of the success of the men of the fourteenth and twentieth, feeling that he had cheated his legion out of like glory, and had contrary to all military usage disregarded the general’s orders, threw himself on his sword.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXXVIII The troops in Britain strengthened.
The whole army was then brought together and kept under canvas to finish the remainder of the war. The emperor strengthened the forces by sending from Germany two thousand legionaries, eight cohorts of auxiliaries, and a thousand cavalry. On their arrival the men of the ninth had their number made up with legionary soldiers. 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. Nothing however distressed the enemy so much as famine, for they had been careless about sowing corn, people of every age having gone to the war, while they reckoned on our supplies as their own. Nations, too, so high-spirited inclined the more slowly to peace, because Julius Classicanus, who had been sent as successor to Catus and was at variance with Suetonius, let private animosities interfere with the public interest, and had spread an idea that they ought to wait for a new governor who, having neither the anger of an enemy nor the pride of a conqueror, would deal mercifully with those who had surrendered. At the same time he stated in a despatch to Rome that no cessation of fighting must be expected, unless Suetonius were superseded, attributing that general’s disasters to perverseness and his successes to good luck.
Annals: Book Fourteen: XXXIX Peace achieved through moderation.
Accordingly one of the imperial freedmen, Polyclitus, was sent to survey the state of Britain, Nero having great hopes that his influence would be able not only to establish a good understanding between the governor and the pro-curator, but also to pacify the rebellious spirit of the barbarians. And Polyclitus, who with his enormous suite had been a burden to Italy and Gaul, failed not, as soon as he had crossed the ocean, to make his progresses a terror even to our soldiers. But to the enemy he was a laughing-stock, for they still retained some of the fire of liberty, knowing nothing yet of the power of freedmen, and so they marvelled to see a general and an army who had finished such a war cringing to slaves. Everything, however, was softened down for the emperor’s ears, and Suetonius was retained in the government; but as he subsequently lost a few vessels on the shore with the crews, he was ordered, as though the war continued, to hand over his army to Petronius Turpilianus, who had just resigned his consulship. Petronius neither challenged the enemy nor was himself molested, and veiled this tame inaction under the honourable name of peace.
Cassius Dio’s The Histories of Rome
Cassius Dio, who came from Nicaea in Bithynia, a Roman province in north-west Turkey, lived from around AD 150 to 235. He also held important posts in the Roman administration and wrote in Greek a history of Rome in eighty books, twenty-six of which survive. He was writing almost 150 year after the death of Boudica and probably derived much of his information from earlier writers whose work has subsequently been lost. There is a lot of material in his account of Boudica that is not included in the writings of Tacitus and so possible had access to additional material than Tacitus.
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 1
While this sort of child’s play was going on at Rome, a terrible disaster occurred in Britain. Two cities were sacked, eighty thousand of the Romans and of their allies perished, and the island was lost to Rome. Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame. Indeed, Heaven gave them indications of the catastrophe beforehand. For at night there was heard to issue from the senate-house foreign jargon mingled with laughter, and from the theatre outcries and lamentations, though no mortal man had uttered the words or the groans; houses were seen under the water in the river Thames, and the ocean between the island and Gaul once grew blood-red at flood tide.
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 2
An excuse for the war was found in the confiscation of the sums of money that Claudius had given to the foremost Britons ; for these sums, as Decianus Catus, the procurator of the island, maintained, were to be paid back. This was one reason for the uprising ; another was found in the fact that Seneca, in the hope of receiving a good rate of interest, had lent to the islanders 40,000,000 sesterces that they did not want, and had afterwards called in this loan all at once and had resorted to severe measures in exacting it. But the person who was chiefly responsible in rousing the natives and persuading them to fight the Romans, the person who was thought worthy to be their leader and who directed the conduct of the entire war, was Buduica, a Briton woman of the royal family and possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women. This woman assembled her army, to the number of some 120,000, and then ascended a tribunal which had been constructed of earth in the Roman fashion. In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh ; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips ; around her neck was a large golden necklace ; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire. She now grasped a spear to aid her in terrifying all beholders and spoke as follows:
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 3
“You have learned by actual experience how different freedom is from slavery. Hence, although some among you may previously, through ignorance of which was better, have been deceived by the alluring promises of the Romans, yet now that you have tried both, you have learned how great a mistake you made in preferring an imported despotism to your ancestral mode of life, and you have come to realize how much better is poverty with no master than wealth with slavery. “For what treatment is there of the most shameful or grievous sort that we have not suffered ever since these men made their appearance in Britain ? Have we not been robbed entirely of most of our possessions, and those the greatest, while for those that remain we pay taxes ? “Besides pasturing and tilling for them all our other possessions, do we not pay a yearly tribute for our very bodies ? How much better it would be to have been sold to masters once for all than, possessing empty titles of freedom, to have to ransom ourselves every year ! How much better to have been slain and to have perished than to go about with a tax on our heads ! “Yet why do I mention death ? For even dying is not free of cost with them ; nay, you know what fees we deposit even for our dead. Among the rest of mankind death frees even those who are in slavery to others ; only in the case of the Romans do the very dead remain alive for their profit. “Why is it that, though none of us has any money (how, indeed, could we, or where could we get it?), we are stripped and despoiled like a murderer’s victims ? And why should the Romans be expected to display moderation as time goes on, when they have behaved toward us in this fashion at the very outset, when all men show consideration even for the beasts they have newly captured ?
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 4
“But to speak the plain truth, it is we who have made ourselves responsible for all these evils, in that we allowed them to set foot on the island in the first place instead of expelling them an once as we did their famous Julius Caesar, – yes, and in that we did not deal with them while they were still far away as we dealt with Augustus and with Gaius Caligula and make even the attempt to sail hither a formidable thing. “As a consequence, although we inhabit so large an island, or rather a continent, one might say, that is encircled by the sea, and although we possess a veritable world of our own and are so separated by the ocean from all the rest of mankind that we have been believed to dwell on a different earth and under a different sky, and that some of the outside world, aye, even their wisest men, have not hitherto known for a certainty even by what name we are called, we have, notwithstanding all this, been despised and trampled underfoot by men who know nothing else than how to secure gain. “However, even at this late day, though we have not done so before, let us, my countrymen and friends and kinsmen, – for I consider you all kinsmen, seeing that you inhabit a single island and are called by one common name, – let us, I say, do our duty while we still remember what freedom is, that we may leave to our children not only its appellation but also its reality. For, if we utterly forget the happy state in which we were born and bred, what, pray, will they do, reared in bondage ?
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 5
“All this I say, not with the purpose of inspiring you with a hatred of present conditions, – that hatred you already have, – nor with fear for the future, – that fear you already have, – but of commending you because you now of your own accord choose the requisite course of action, and of thanking you for so readily co-operating with me and with each other. “Have no fear whatever of the Romans ; for they are superior to us neither in numbers nor in bravery. and here is the proof : they have protected themselves with helmets and breastplates and greaves and yet further provided themselves with palisades and walls and trenches to make sure of suffering no harm by an incursion of their enemies. For they are influenced by their fears when they adopt this kind of fighting in preference to the plan we follow of rough and ready action. “Indeed, we enjoy such a surplus of bravery, that we regard our tents as safer than their walls and our shields as affording greater protection than their whole suits of mail. As a consequence, we when victorious capture them, and when overpowered elude them ; and if we ever choose to retreat anywhere, we conceal ourselves in swamps and mountains so inaccessible that we can be neither discovered nor taken. “Our opponents, however, can neither pursue anybody, by reason of their heavy armour, nor yet flee ; and if they ever do slip away from us, they take refuge in certain appointed spots, where they shut themselves up as in a trap. “But these are not the only respects in which they are vastly inferior to us : there is also the act that they cannot bear up under hunger, thirst, cold, or heat, as we can. They require shade and covering, they require kneaded bread and wine and oil, and if any of these things fails them, they perish ; for us, on the other hand, any grass or root serves as bread, the juice of any plant as oil, any water as wine, any tree as a house. “Furthermore, this region is familiar to us and is our ally, but to them it is unknown and hostile. As for the rivers, we swim them naked, whereas they do not get across them easily even with boats. Let us, therefore, go against them trusting boldly to good fortune. Let us show them that they are hares and foxes trying to rule over dogs and wolves.”
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 6
When she had finished speaking, she employed a species of divination, letting a hare escape from the fold of her dress ; and since it ran on what they considered the auspicious side, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Buduica, raising her hand toward heaven said : “I thank thee, Andraste, and call upon thee as woman speaking to woman ; for I rule over no burden-bearing Egyptians as did Nitocris, nor over trafficking Assyrians as did Semiramis (for we have by now gained thus much learning from the Romans!), “much less over the Romans themselves as did Messalina once and afterwards Agrippina and now Nero (who, though in name a man, is in fact a woman, as is proved by his singing, lyre-playing and beautification of his person) ; nay, those over whom I rule are Britons, men that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade, but are well versed in the art of war and hold all things in common, even children and wives, so that the latter possess the same valour as the men. “As the queen, then, of such men and of such women, I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious, – if, indeed, we ought to term those people men who bathe in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows, – boys past their prime at that, – and are slaves to a lyre-player and a poor one too. “Wherefore may this Mistress Domitia-Nero reign no longer over me or over you men ; let the wench sing and lord it over the Romans, for they surely deserve to be the slaves of such a woman after having submitted to her so long. But for us, Mistress, be thou alone ever our leader.”
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 7
Having finished an appeal to her people of this general tenor, Buduica led her army against the Romans ; for these chanced to be without a leader, inasmuch as Paulinus, their commander, had gone on an expedition to Mona, an island near Britain. This enabled her to sack and plunder two Roman cities, and, as I have said, to wreak indescribable slaughter. Those who were taken captive by the Britons were subjected to every form of outrage. The worst and most bestial atrocity committed by their captors was the following. They hung up naked the noblest and most distinguished women and then cut off their breasts and sewed them to their mouths, in order to make the victims appear to be eating them ; afterwards they impaled the women on sharp skewers run lengthwise through the entire body. All this they did to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets and wanton behaviour, not only in all their other sacred places, but particularly in the grove of Andate. This was their name for Victory, and they regarded her with most exceptional reverence.
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 8
Now it chanced that Paulinus had already brought Mona to terms, and so on learning of the disaster in Britain he at once set sail thither from Mona. However, he was not willing to risk a conflict with the barbarians immediately, as he feared their numbers and their desperation, but was inclined to postpone battle to a more convenient season. But as he grew short of food and the barbarians pressed relentlessly upon him, he was compelled, contrary to his judgement, to engage them. Buduica, at the head of an army of about 230,000 men, rode in a chariot herself and assigned the others to their several stations. Paulinus could not extend his line the whole length of hers, for, even if the men had been drawn up only one deep, they would not have reached far enough, so inferior were they in numbers ; nor, on the other hand, did he dare to join battle in a single compact force, for fear of being surrounded and cut to pieces. He therefore separated his army into three divisions, in order to fight at several points at one and the same time, and he made each of the divisions so strong that it could not easily be broken through.
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 9
While ordering and arranging his men he also exhorted them, saying : “Up, fellow-soldiers ! Up, Romans ! Show these accursed wretches how far we surpass them even in the midst of evil fortune. It would be shameful, indeed, for you to lose ingloriously now what but a short time ago you won by your valour. Many a time, assuredly, have both we ourselves and our fathers, with far fewer numbers than we have at present, conquered far more numerous antagonists. Fear not, then, their numbers or their spirit of rebellion ; for their boldness rests on nothing more than headlong rashness unaided by arms or training. Neither fear them because they have burned a couple of cities ; for they did not capture them by force nor after a battle, but one was betrayed and the other abandoned to them. Exact from them now, therefore, the proper penalty for these deeds, and let them learn by actual experience the difference between us, whom they have wronged, and themselves.”
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 10
After addressing these words to one division he came to another and said : “Now is the time, fellow-soldiers, for zeal, now is the time for daring. For if you show yourselves brave men today, you will recover all that you have lost ; if you overcome these foes, no one else will any longer withstand us. By one such battle you will both make your present possessions secure and subdue whatever remains ; for everywhere our soldiers, even though they are in other lands, will emulate you and foes will be terror-stricken. “Therefore, since you have it within your power either to rule all mankind without a fear, both the nations that your fathers left to you and those that you yourselves have gained in addition, or else be deprived of them altogether, choose to be free, to rule, to live in wealth, and to enjoy prosperity, rather than, by avoiding the effort, to suffer the opposite of all this.”
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 11
After making an address of this sort to these men, he went on to the third division, and to them he said : “You have heard what outrages these damnable men have committed against us, nay more, you have even witnessed some of them. “Choose, then, whether you wish to suffer the same treatment yourselves as our comrades have suffered and to be driven out of Britain entirely, besides, or else by conquering to avenge those that have perished and at the same time furnish to the rest of mankind an example, not only of benevolent clemency toward the obedient, but also of inevitable severity toward the rebellious. “For my part, I hope, above all, that victory will be ours ; first, because the gods are our allies (for they almost always side with those who have been wronged) ; second, because of the courage that is our heritage, since we are Romans and have triumphed over all mankind by our valour ; next, because of our experience (for we have defeated and subdued these very men who are now arrayed against us) ; and lastly, because of our prestige (for those with whom we are about to engage are not antagonists, but our slaves, whom we conquered even when they were free and independent). “Yet if the outcome should prove contrary to our hope, – for I will not shrink from mentioning even this possibility, – it would be better for s to fall fighting bravely than to be captured and impaled, to look upon our own entrails cut from our bodies, to be spitted on red-hot skewers, to perish by being melted in boiling water – in a word, to suffer as though we had been thrown to lawless and impious wild beasts. “Let us, therefore, either conquer them or die on the spot. Britain will be a noble monument for us, even though all the other Romans here should be driven out ; for in any case our bodies shall for ever possess this land.”
The Histories of Rome: Book LXII, Chapter 12
After addressing these and like words to them he raised the signal for battle. Thereupon the armies approached each other, the barbarians with much shouting mingled with menacing battle-songs, but the Romans silently and in order until they came within a javelin’s throw of the enemy. Then, while their foes were still advancing towards them at a walk, the Romans rushed forward at a signal and charged them at full speed, and when the clash came, easily broke through the opposing ranks ; but, as they were surrounded by the great numbers of the enemy, they had to be fighting everywhere at once. Their struggle took many forms. Light-armed troops exchanged missiles with light-armed, heavy armed were opposed to heavy-armed, cavalry clashed with cavalry, and against the chariots of the barbarians the Roman archers contended. The barbarians would assail the Romans with a rush of their chariots, knocking them helter-skelter, but, since they fought without breastplates, would themselves be repulsed by the arrows. Horseman would overthrow foot-soldier and foot-soldier strike down horseman ; a group of Romans, forming in close order, would advance to meet the chariots, and others would be scattered by them ; a band of Britons would come to close quarters with the archers and rout them, while others were content to dodge their shafts at a distance ; and all this was going on not at one spot only, but in all three divisions at once. They contended for a long time, both parties being animated by the same zeal and daring. But finally, late in the day, the Romans prevailed ; and they slew many in battle beside the wagons and the forest, and captured many alive. Nevertheless, not a few made their escape and were preparing to fight again. 12f In the meantime, however, Buduica fell sick and died. The Britons mourned her deeply and gave her a costly burial ; but, feeling that now at last they were really defeated, they scattered to their homes. So much for affairs in Britain.
Gildas: The Ruin of Britain
One final account, probably of Boudica, was written by the sixth century British author Gildas, who describes her actions in On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain (De excidio et conquestu Britanniae). This reference, demonstrates that knowledge of her actions survived in Britain after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
“When afterwards they returned to Rome, for want of pay, as is said, and had no suspicion of an approaching rebellion, that deceitful lioness [Boadicea] put to death the rulers who had been left among them, to unfold more fully and to confirm the enterprises of the Romans. When the report of these things reached the senate, and they with a speedy army made haste to take vengeance on the crafty foxes, as they called them, there was no bold navy on the sea to fight bravely for the country; by land there was no marshalled army, no right wing of battle, nor other preparation for resistance; but their backs were their shields against their vanquishers, and they presented their necks to their swords, whilst chill terror ran through every limb, and they stretched out their hands to be bound, like women; so that it has become a proverb far and wide, that the Britons are neither brave in war nor faithful in time of peace.”Gildas, On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain
Gildas presents Boudicca as an evil woman and cowardly savage. This short account of Boudicca’s Revolt is reflective of the little regard and respect he had for documenting the history of women and native peoples. This ensures Boudicca is presented as insignificant and cowardly, thus disparaging her image through his power over her as the creator of her image. This limited statement about the Boudiccan Revolt focuses on its shortcomings, presenting the Revolt’s events as trivial and petty skirmishes, selectively choosing parts of the event. He consistently presents the Britons as unprepared and cowardly, stating that they did not have an army, nor navy, and, in the end, they submitted to the Roman legions, “presenting their hands to be bound, like women”. This statement is highly indicative of Gildas’ beliefs about the inferiority of women and Britons, and thus, is indicative of his disagreement with the Boudiccan Revolt. In addition to this, his claim that there is a proverb of Britons being “neither brave in war nor faithful in time of peace” is highly representative of his opinion on the Boudiccan Revolt, as he clearly believes in the inferiority of the Britons, and that their Revolt was baseless, as their treatment under the Romans (according to Gildas) was justified and reasonable. Overall, it is clear that Gildas presents Boudicca as a “deceitful” and evil woman, for the purpose of disparaging her image, and justifying Rome’s oppression of women, the Britons and other natives.