She stood upon her chariot, spear in hand, a frightful sight and spoke:
‘I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the chastity of my daughters. Behold the proud display of warlike spirits, and consider the motives for which we draw the avenging sword. On this spot we must either conquer or die with glory. There is no alternative. I am a woman but my resolution remains firm. You men can either fight or die.’
BASIC BIO: (c. 30 - 60 AD) Boudicca was queen of the Celtic Iceni when Britain was still a far-flung territory of the Roman empire. After her husband, the king, died, the Iceni found themselves battered by the Romans; Boudicca herself was beaten and her daughters raped. The Iceni and other groups planned an uprising, with Boudicca at the helm. The rebels managed to raze several major settlements to the ground, including London. Though the details of her defeat are spotty, it is a known fact that Boudicca and her army eventually fell to the Roman imperial forces. Her exact fate is unknown.
HER IMPACT: Boudicca was largely forgotten until the Renaissance came to Britain. From there, her popularity soared, and Queen Victoria, in an ironic misunderstanding of Boudicca’s fight against imperialism, took her on as a symbol for herself and the British empire. Boudicca remains a folk hero in Britain, and has inspired a number of films and books. She also lends her name one of the best Enya songs, which is exactly the legacy the rest of us daydream about.
Boudica was a Celtic queen of the British Iceni tribe. Her husband, Pratusagus, had an agreement with the Roman Empire: he had voluntarily allied the tribe to the Empire, in return for independence. He made the Roman emperor co-heir to his kingdom, along with his wife and two daughters. But when he died, his wish that Boudica and their daughters would also inherit, was ignored. The lands and property were confiscated, Boudica was flogged and her daughters were raped.
In 60 or 61 AD, the governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was leading a campaign against the island of Mona, a refuge for British rebels. The Iceni conspired with a neighbouring tribe, the Trinovantes, to revolt, and Boudica was chosen as their leader. They attacked the colonia Camulodunum, the former capital of the Trinovantes. The city was poorly defended and only 200 auxiliary troops were sent by the Romans, so Boudica was able to destroy the city after two days of siege. The future governor and commander of the Legio IX Hispana, Quintus Petullius Cerialis, tried to relieve the city, but was defeated. When the news of the rebellion reached Gaius Suetonius, he went to Londinium, a new and thriving commercial city, but eventually he did not dare to give battle there and abandoned the city. Boudica and the rebels burned the city down and killed everyone who had not evacuated. The revolt killed 70,000 Romans and destroyed not only Camoludunum and Londinium, but also Verulamium and several military posts.
Suetonius regrouped his forces somewhere along the Roman road known as Watling Street, but he was outnumbered. Boudica commanded her troops from her chariot with her daughters beside her. Hoewever, the Britons were less skilled at open combat and their equipment and discipline was not as good as that of the Romans. Eventually, they were defeated. Sources differ about what happened to Boudica: some say she poisoned herself after the defeat, others say she fell sick and died.
Boudicca, Celtic warrior queen of the Iceni people of Eastern England. After the Romans took their land, stripped her, flogged her and raped her daughters, she led a rebellion against them, destroying several cities and armies in the process. Badass.
Queen Boudicca probably isn’t a name you have heard before. For one thing, she wasn’t a real queen. (At least not by the standard definitions.) We only have two primary sources which mention her at all, and both of these historians date back to the first or second century AD.
The short version: Romans are assholes and Boudicca tries to fight back. She loses. The End.
So why the fuck should you care? Because Boudicca was a bonafide badass that’s why. During the first half of the first century AD, the native Britons/Celts lived in peace. But that all changed when the firenation Romans attacked. Emperor Claudius decided that the British isle looked like a lovely place for his vacation home (who wants a vacation home in England? It’s always raining) and began colonization. Some native tribes submitted to the emperor hoping their people would be spared.
Boudicca’s husband tells the Romans leave me the fuck alone and I’ll let you have half my land when I die. He left the rest of the land to his wife and daughters, because unlike pretty much every other civilization in existence during this time, the Celts knew what the hell gender equality was. Women could hold positions of authority or political power, own land, choose whom they married, and even initiate divorce. Boudicca’s husband dies and the land is left jointly to her and the Emperor, right? No fuck that, newly crowned emperor Nero Caesar says woman aren’t people and therefore all the land is his.
So in the Romans go. They flog Boudicca and force her to watch as her 12 year old daughters are tortured and raped. And of course nobody in Rome expects a women to be powerful, so they let her go. Probably a bad idea, considering at this point she was pissed.Boudicca gathers up 1-2 hundred thousand of her closest buddies and starts going on a rampage. She and her little band of freedom fighters destroy two major cities before getting to London. London (Londinium) was still a new settlement at the time, but it had a population of about 10,000. She sacks that too, beating up every pussy Roman general she found. She rode around in a chariot fighting these guys off with both her daughters fighting alongside. I don’t know about you, but after turmoil like that, if you see one of those woman riding straight for you with a spear you fucking run. The only sources we have describe Boudicca as a half naked mad women with wild red hair and tattoos. (on second thought, maybe i wouldn’t run away.)
Eventually Rome realizes that they’re messing with some serious lady power here. They send in plenty of backup and beat back the Celts. Boudicca, like the badass she is, escapes capture and takes her own life so that Rome can never have the honor of defeating her. Boudicca became a symbol for woman’s rights and empowerment. Queen Victoria took on Boudicca as her namesake. “Ironically, the great anti-imperialist rebel was now identified with the head of the British Empire, and her statue stood guard over the city she razed to the ground.”
Silver Iceni Coin from the time of Boudicca, Britain, Late 1st Century BC
This is a “face/horse” type coin. It shows a Celticized head facing right; a branch behind. On the reverse, a horse prances right; a wheel above and a lozenge below.
Boudicca was queen of the Iceni tribe, a Celtic tribe of Britain, who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
The Iceni began producing coins c. 10 BC. They were a distinctive adaptation of the Gallo-Belgic “face/horse” design, and in some early issues, most numerous near Norwich, the horse was replaced with a boar. Some coins are inscribed ECENI, making them the only coin-producing group to use their tribal name on coins.