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Boudicca Queen of the Iceni

Boudicca takes a mother's revenge
[Go to Boudicca: Marriage, Rape & Revenge Part I]

Dateline: 05/12/98

A whole troop of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Celt if he called his wife to his assistance. The wife is even more formidable. She is usually very strong, and with blue eyes; in rage her neck veins swell, she gnashes her teeth, and brandishes her snow-white robust arms. She begins to strike blows mingled with kicks, as if they were so many missles sent from the string of a catapault.

Ammianus Marcellinus from "Celtic Women: Women in Celtic Society and Literature," by Peter Berresford Ellis (0802838081), p.82.

The Romans had a very different attitude towards women and rape. The latter was a property crime against the husband or paterfamilias. The story of Lucretia (who stabbed herself rather than allow her name to go through posterity tainted) epitomizes the shame felt by Roman victims.
Lucretia had been such a model of Roman feminine virtue that she enflamed the lust of Sextus Tarquin, the son of the king, Tarquinius Superbus, to the point that he arranged to accost her in private. When she resisted his pleas, he threatened to place her naked, dead body beside that of a male slave in the same state so that it would look like adultery. The threat worked and Lucretia permitted the violation.
Following the rape, Lucretia told her male relatives, elicited a promise for revenge, and stabbed herself. [Source: Livy]

Chiomara and Camma

For the Celts, rape doesn't seem to have been so much shameful as demanding dial , revenge. In the first instance below, the victim is said to have quipped that there should be only one man alive who knows her carnally. In the second case the woman seems to have hated the man so much that she thought it was worth self-sacrifice to get rid of him. The third instance is a bit different. As Antonia Fraser points out in Warrior Queens (0679728163), there the rape was a calculated, political move whose intent was to show the Celts their helplessness against the Romans.
Chiomara, a famous Celtic Queen and the wife of Ortagion of the Tolistoboii, was captured by the Romans and raped by a centurion in 189 B.C. When the centurion learned of her status, he demanded (and received) ransom While the centurion gathered his gold, Chiomara took his head. Peter Berresford Ellis, in Celtic Women: Women in Celtic Society and Literature, by Peter Berresford Ellis (0802838081) attributes this story to a conversation between Polybius and the queen recorded by Plutarch.
Another story from Plutarch concerns that curious eighth form of Celtic marriage, that by rape (lánamnas éicne no sláithe, in Irish Brehon Law, and kynnywedi ar liw ac ar oleu, in the Welsh). A priestess of Brigid named Camma was wife of a chieftain named Sinatos. Sinorix murdered Sinatos, then forced the priestess to marry him. Camma put poison in the ceremonial cup from which they both drank. To allay his suspicions, she drank first.

Boudicca, one of history's most powerful women, suffered rape only vicariously -- as a mother, but her revenge detroyed thousands.
Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, made an alliance with Rome so that he would be allowed to rule his territory (as a client-king). He died in 60 A.D.

9/19/98 Update
In an article from The Independent, Science Editor Steve Connor says Oxford historian Martin Henig now believes the British welcomed the Romans against the Celtic invader in 43 A.D.

"All the evidence suggests Britain's southern rulers were Romanized before the invasion, welcomed the invasion and profited from it."
"They had effectively been conquered by the tribes to the north, who had virtually enslaved the whole area to the south. The inhabitants of southern Britain were really refugees and the Roman "invasion" a "liberation"."
Tacitus reports that he made the emperor and his own two daughters heirs, hoping, thereby, to placate Rome. Such a will was not in accordance with Celtic law; nor did it satisfy the new emperor, for centurions plundered Prasutagus' house, whipped his widow, Boudicca, and raped their daughters.
It was time for revenge ("dial"). Boudicca, as ruler and war leader of the Iceni, led a retaliatory revolt against the Romans. Enlisting the support of the neighboring tribe of Trinovantes and possibly some others, she headed towards the town the Romans called Camulodunum, the new administrative capital of the Roman imperial province. After Boudicca's forces resoundingly defeated the Roman troops at Camulodonum and virtually annihilated the IX Hispania, they headed towards London. The Roman commander chose to sacrifice London, so when Boudicca's troops arrived, they slaughtered all Romans and razed the town.
Then the tide turned. Not to dwell on the sad details -- eventually Boudicca was defeated, but not captured. She and her daughters are thought to have taken poison to avoid capture and ritual execution at Rome.
Now she lives on in legend as Boadicea of the flaming mane who stands towering, in a [ 5/12/98] scythe wheeled chariot -- like the ones used by Darius against Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela.

Online Sources

  • (myron.sjsu.edu/romeweb/LADYCONT/art5.htm) Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni
    The story of Boudicca emphasizing the fight between Boudicca and the Romans. From (myron.sjsu.edu/romeweb/LADYCONT/LADYCONT.HTM) Women in Roman Society.
  • (http://www.athenapub.com/boudicca.htm) Boudicca, the Queen of the Iceni, led a revolt against the Roman military in A.D. 60-61.
    from Athena Review, Vol.1, No.1.
  • (http://www.athenapub.com/britsite/tacitus1.htm) Description by Tacitus of the rebellion of Boudicca
    From Athena Review. Includes accounts of Boudicca's whipping, exhortation of her troops, and final suicide.
  • (http://www.sys.uea.ac.uk/Research/researchareas/JWMP/CaistorRomanTown/crtp2.html) The Rise of Venta
    Venta Icenorum, established by the Romans as administrative center of the Iceni territory. City layout. Coins of Nero and Prasutagus.
  • Scottish Timeline
    Ancient portion deals with the Romans. Includes Hadrian's and Antonine's Walls.

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Boudicca - A Mother's Revenge
This resource is copyright © 1998-2005 N.S. Gill.
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