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Iron Age road link to Boudicca's tribe
Source: BBC News

Queen Boudicca burnt down the city of London but did she burn Silchester too?

Birmingham: Archaeologists may  have found the site of Boudica's burial ground: 25 May 2006:
Birmingham: Archaeologists may  have found the site of Boudica's burial ground: 25 May 2006:;jsessionid=FG2ZLNNQMDBVJQFIQMGSFGGAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2006/05/25/nboad25.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/05/25/ixuknews.html

Boudica’s origins and the Iceni and Trinovantes revolt

The Icenian queen Boudica is world famous for leading a revolt against the Roman invaders of Britain, though very little is known about her childhood. We can’t even be sure of her age or tribal origins, but one popular theory put forward is that she was most likely born around the year AD 30, and that her family were probably important aristocrats who lived somewhere in the East Anglian region. Boudica is often spelt incorrectly with two c’s, and she was known up until recent times as Boadicea, due to a Victorian spelling error during translation of the Latin texts. Boudica, or Boudiga is in fact a ‘Celtic’ name meaning Victory or Victorious. Practically all of our knowledge of Boudica and the Ancient Britons comes from the accounts of Roman historian Tacitus (c. 95 - 120), and the Greek writer/historian Cassius Dio (c. AD 210 - 30) . Both of these accounts differ greatly in content and detail, and both are thought to have been derived from earlier sources which have been lost to history. Boudica is described by Dio as being; 'a Briton woman of  the royal family and possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women'.

Boudica would have spent her early years under guardianship of another aristocratic family. This is where she would have received her training and education, learning about Celtic traditions, local gods, and customs of her tribe. Boudica may have been a druidess or high priestess, as it was recorded that she performed a ritual ceremony to Andraste (Iceni goddess of the sacred grove) involving a hare, before marching on to engage Suetonius and his Roman troops in battle. The customary exchange of children between different families and tribes was an important way of cementing friendships, passing on their ancestor’s knowledge, (as they had no written word) thus preserving Celtic culture as well as establishing loyalty - and keeping good relations between local families and also neighbouring tribes. (fig 1 Sacred Grove of Andraste.)

Popular pronunciations:  
Andraste = Andras-tay
Suetonius = Sway-tonius
Iceni = Eye-seen-eye

For a woman Boudica seems to have possessed great military knowledge, which became apparent during the preparations and war council assemblies she addressed before her forces took on the might of Rome. It was another custom of the Celts for their children to attend special warrior schools - solely   for the purpose of training young girls and boys how to ride horses and fight with swords, spears, and drive chariots.

It is likely that Boudica’s family had strong ties with other important aristocratic families in the southern region of England. Her parents may have been close friends of the Iceni royal family. Because of her noble birthright Boudica was expected to marry into either another aristocratic family, or royal family. In AD 48, when she was around eighteen years old, Boudica married Prasutagus, king of the Iceni. There is every possibility that Boudica could have been king Prasutagus’  second wife as her husband was at least ten years her senior, although in Iron Age Britain it was not unusual for a royal to marry a woman several years his junior. 

At the time of their marriage king Prasutagus was one of the wealthiest Celtic rulers in Britain. King Prasutagus had been ruler of the Iceni for about five years prior to his marriage to Boudica. Celtic kings did not always inherit their position from their fathers. Ricon’s (Celtic for king) were often elected by a council of noble men of the tribe, or sometimes inherited the kingship by marrying the queen.

Following the wedding ceremony there would have been celebrations and lavish offerings made to the Celtic gods, followed by a whole day of great feasting and drinking. With guests and dignitaries invited from all over Britain. Expensive food and imported wine was served with no expense spared. The wedding celebrations were an extravagant display of wealth and power laid on by both sets of families. The feast in honour of their union of marriage was also a way of establishing bonds and great friendship between the aristocracies thus uniting the two tribes.

A year after their marriage Boudica gave birth to her first child, a girl, followed a year later by a second child another girl. We do not know the names of the two royal princesses, even though more than a decade later the fate of the two young girls was to trigger the biggest revolt that Roman Britain had ever known. Royal servants, private tutors and nannies would have been on hand to assist Boudica in raising the two young princesses; no doubt the children of the king would have received the best education and training available in their preparation for their future inheritance.

Several years after the Roman invasion of AD 43 there was great unrest among the south-eastern Celtic tribes of Britain due to the heavy Roman taxes and confiscation of land and by 49/50 the Celts launched an offensive against the Roman occupying forces. This rebellion was easily crushed by the Romans troops.  The leaders of the rebellion were now under Roman control and king Prasutagus was made a client-king he was only allowed to keep his lands and throne provided he abided by Rome’s terms and conditions.

When king Prasutagus died in about AD 60/61, Boudica now about 30 years of age was a very wealthy widow left to bring up their two young daughters on her own, who were about eleven and twelve years of age.

Boudica was immediately appointed regent of the Iceni, their temporary ruler until a new king could be selected by the council of tribal chieftains.

Prasutagus left a will; giving half of his land and estate to the Romans and the other half to his wife Boudica and their two daughters.  This settlement was expected and part of the terms and conditions that Prasutagus would have been forced to accept as client-king of Rome.

Unlike women of other societies Celtic women were entitled to a great many privileges which was unheard of in other societies such as Rome. British women could inherit property from their fathers and husbands often becoming extremely rich and powerful rulers like queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes tribe. However, Roman law did not accept this, and this was probably the major factor behind the Romans reluctance to respect king Prasutagus’ will.

Subsequently the chief financial administrator of Rome affairs in Britain declared that the emperor Claudius had in fact subsidised British chieftains as part of his policy, which was seen as a gesture of goodwill which would enable the British nobility to develop a taste for the Roman lifestyle and the finer things in life. Though after Claudius’ death there was much deliberation and confusion amongst Rome’s hierarchy as they could not ascertain whether the monies owed were grants or borrowed, but eventually Catus Decianus (controller of Britain's treasury) decided that these were outstanding debts or unpaid loans, and took steps to recover the monies owed including interest on behalf of the new emperor Nero.  

Meanwhile in Rome the statesman and philosopher Seneca, demanded that King Prasutagus's widow (Boudica) should acknowledge the debts of her late husband and pay back all monies owed to the state in full plus interest. Catus Decianus then decided he would make an example of the Iceni, to encourage repayment from other tribes.

When the Roman baliffs and tax collectors flanked by soldiers, arrived at Boudica's residence in Norwich, she protested that she could not raise that huge figure and meet their demands. They decided to recover the debt by force, and resorted to violence.

The Roman Historian Tacitus wrote:

"Kingdom and household were plundered like prizes of war, the one by Roman officers, the other by Roman slaves. As a beginning his (Prasutagus's) widow was flogged and her daughters raped".

An outraged Boudica and her entourage fled to their temporary headquarters in Thetford forest, and rallied for supporters who began to flock to her cause as she prepared her resistance. More outrage was to follow in 61 AD; as news of the slaughter of the Druids of Anglesey by the Romans and the destruction of their sacred groves brought further unrest and widespread condemnation amongst the British peoples, as these atrocities were seen as deliberate acts of blasphemy against their Celtic Gods.

Boudica siezed this as her opportunity to gather more support for the planned rebellion from other British tribes, this support came largely from her closest neighbours the Trinovantes, another tribe who inhabited the East Anglia region of Britain. They too had suffered at the hands of the Romans (Re: Gryme's Dyke) and been forced to leave their tribal lands of Camulodunun. Apart from stating the obvious I believe there may have been another very good reason why the Trinovantes were so willing to fight alongside Boudica uniting with their former Icenian adversaries in the war of independence - thus becoming her most loyal of allies.

Which brings me to my theory: I personally believe that Boudica, although queen and regent of the Iceni was actually a Trinovantes by birth. She was probably the daughter of Trinovantes aristocrats, and despite her marriage to king Prasutagus she would have had strong ties with her own tribe. This would explain why the Trinovantes readily came to her aid and were the only tribe to back her 100% in her campaign against the Romans.

Thetford: The (dress pin) brooches - history mystery.

Thetford was a major religious centre and power base of the Iceni - where it is believed the rebel forces gathered for their final meeting prior to the Boudican revolt to plan their assault on Camulodunun. The evidence collected during archaeological investigations carried out inside the giant earthwork seems to suggest there was a huge gathering of people within the fortification around AD 59/60. The discovery of a large quantity of Iron Age (dress pin) brooches – indicates that great crowds of people had become so tightly packed together in a confined space that during the stampede of bodies - the brooches were literally torn from the cloaks or clothing of the Celts during the crowd scuffles and fell to the ground, some of which were damaged - perhaps as a result of being trodden on by hoards of rowdy rebels leaving the fortress. It is also possible that the brooches could have been votive offerings to the gods – and perhaps ‘ritually killed’ then thrown to the ground.

The Trinovantes Dyke System

Pre-Roman Camulodunun, the former royal seat and capital of the Trinovantes was more like a large fortified country estate, where commercial, industrial and farming settlements were protected by a series of deep banks and ditches (dykes). The remains of this elaborate system of earthworks - survive to this day, and are located to the western side of the modern town. Gryme’s Dyke, was once part of the original Iron Age bank and ditch system, made famous as a result of the discovery of several skulls of executed Britons - which were unearthed during on-site excavations.

Gryme’s Dyke, Colchester, Essex; became a  Roman controlled earthwork in connection with land seizure from the Trinovantes - between AD 49-60. Archaeological investigations of the contents of the ditch produced extensive “graphical evidence” of the harsh treatment suffered by the native inhabitants of Camulodunun (ancient Colchester) at the hands of their Roman oppressors. In total six humans skulls were found; one in particular had a deep gash wound caused by heavy sword blow to the head; whilst another had a severe fracture caused by a blunt instrument such as a sword pommel, in both cases the injuries that these individuals suffered had proved fatal. Further tests carried out on the bones revealed that these were the remains of native Britons, brutally put to death by their Roman executioners. It is believed that the murdered Briton’s heads had been impaled on stakes erected within the earthwork enclosure to act as a deterrent to other “would be rebels”; there they remained until they eventually fell down and rolled into the ditch surrounding the legionary fortress - which was backfilled in c. AD55.

Camulodunun, ( Modern Colchester ) means "fortress of the (Celtic) war god Camulos". Former capital of the Trinovantes. Apparently the first tribe based in Britain to establish trade links and friendship with Rome, a treaty dating back to Caesar's invasion of 54 BC. 

I am especially interested in the history of the amalgamation of the two tribes under the rule of the Catuvellaunian king Cunobelinus in c. AD 10 - 40, and the Roman's separation of the two after AD43.

Was Boudica a Brigantian?

I have a number of books on queen Boudica in my personal collection; and I have noticed that quite a few of the authors have put forward several interesting theories regarding her tribal origins. One writer in particular suggests that Boudica may well have been Brigantian by birth, the daughter of Brigantes aristocrats, or perhaps related to the royal familes of queen Cartimandua or king Venutios. She could have been a distant relative of either, perhaps even a cousin or niece. Another author has drawn a comparison between the two famous British queens, and goes on to point out all the things they have in common, I don't know if these theories carry much weight among the rest of the academic world - but, I find it makes fascinating food for thought. Another historian argues that Boudica could have been of Coritani or Corieltauvi extraction – the tribe that occupied a region to the north of the Iceni. 

Though I am more inclined to favour the Trinovantes theory, especially, as there seemed to be a strong bond between the two tribes which became apparent when they stood united in their campaign to drive the invaders from our shores. Together they fought long and hard and very nearly succeeded in vanquishing the Roman conquerors from our land.

When the allied British forces marched on the town of Camulodonum (Camulodunun) (now Colchester), they had very good reasons for this, firstly this is where the Romans had forced the natives off their land as well as confiscating their property, often subjecting them to cruel and harsh punishments and even death if they dared to object, and secondly the Roman garrison is where the officers were stationed who had been responsible for beating and raping Boudica’s two young daughters. 

Thirdly a new temple had been constructed dedicated to the former Roman emperor Claudius, who had been
declared a god shortly after his death. This act of blasphemy against the Celtic gods further outraged the native Britons. The temple as well as the huge bronze statue (mounted on his horse), erected in honour of the now despised “conqueror of Britons” the Roman emperor Claudius - was quite understandably one of the main targets that the Celts set out to destroy. Above photo - of the severed head of Claudius from his bronze statue which was found in a Norfolk river. A bronze piece of the horse was found in Suffolk. 

The destruction of Colchester

The citizens of Camulodunum were completely taken by surprise when the joint forces of the Iceni and the Trinovantes tribe attacked the Roman Colonia.  According to the accounts of Tacitus (the Roman Historian) the Britons led by Boudica totally destroyed the town and massacred its inhabitants, 30,000 men, women and children perished during this siege which lasted for several days.

Boudica’s triumphant forces then marched southwards to Londinium (London) although by this time the inhabitants had received advanced warning of the impending attack and were able to flee to safety. Following the sack of London the forces attacked the town of  Veralamium/Verlamion (St Albans) and once again its occupants had advanced warning of this and were able to escape with their lives.   

After the rebellion was crushed Roman retribution was exceptionally brutal towards the Iceni tribe, several thousands of men, women and children were massacred, and many were taken back to Rome in chains and forced to live and work as slaves.

Stolen booty:

I doubt if the Britons looted the towns and kept the booty for themselves – as their religion forbids the profiteering from the proceeds of, and the hoarding of stolen loot, this act was considered a sin against the Celts gods which was punishable by death. The booty probably ended up being buried in order to placate the gods, perhaps this might explain why so many hoards of buried treasure, containing Roman artefacts have been unearthed in both Suffolk, Norfolk and Hertfordshire to date.

"The inland Celts make an unusual and surprising use of their temples. In sanctuaries and sacred enclosures in
this area a lot of gold is openly displayed as offerings to the gods, and although the Celts have a love of money, none of the natives dare touch it because of religious fear".
Diodorus Siculus. c. 50 BC Book V


History of Boudica Continued

Queen Boudica was described as having a "great mass of  tawniest hair" down past her waistline, and a harsh gravel toned voice, with fierce eyes; and she stood almost 6ft tall by the Roman historians. Obviously blown entirely out of proportion to explain how the defeats of the mighty Romans, were not due to a normal ordinary woman.

The colour "tawny"  is defined as being an orange brown tinged with gold. The Anglo-Saxon definition of this particular shade is known simply as "tan". There are an immense variety of  light, medium and dark browns/tans, so  it would be very difficult to determine what her true hair colour was exactly, but therefore not necessarily the "bright ginger" as we have been led to believe over the years.

Here is an account of Boudica's rallying speech to her troops as she prepared them for battle.

Boudicca in her chariot flanked by her two daughters went before her people, where she addressed each tribe in turn.  Stating her reasons for waging war on the Romans she stressed that although this was a somewhat unusual act – indeed it was not the first time that an army of Britons had been led into battle by a woman.

“They.......(the Romans)....protect themselves with helmets, breastplates and greaves. They provide themselves with walls and palisades and trenches. Why do they adopt such methods of fighting? Because they are afraid! We prefer a rough-and-ready action. Our tents are safer than their walls. Our shields protect us better than their suits of armour.......Let us show them that they are the hares and foxes trying to rule over DOGS AND WOLVES!!!!!!”.

The Iceni moustaches mystery: read about these strange bronze relics of the Iron Age:

RE: Celtic Women:  Boudicca.

The women of the Gauls (Celts) are not only like men in their stature but they are a match for them in courage as well.

Diodorus Siculus c.50 BC.

                                             Tacitus' Account

Boudicca Addresses her army. The Tacitus Annals: chapter 35

Boudicca, in a chariot, with her two daughters before her, drove through the ranks.

She harangued the different nations in their turn: “This”, she said, “is not the first time that the Britons have been led to battle by a woman. But now she did not come to boast the pride of a long line of ancestry, nor even to recover her kingdom and the plundered wealth of her family. She took the field, like the meanest among them, to assert the cause of public liberty, and to seek revenge for her body seemed with ignominious stripes, and her two daughters infamously ravished. From the pride and arrogance of the Romans nothing is sacred; all are subject to violation; the old endure the scourge, and the virgins are deflowered. But the vindictive gods are now at hand. A Roman legion dared to face the warlike Britons: with their lives they paid for their rashness; those who survived the carnage of that day, lie poorly hid behind their entrenchments, meditating nothing but how to save themselves by an ignominious flight. From the din of the preparation, and the shouts of the British army, the Romans, even now, shrink back with terror. What will be their case when the assault begins? Look round, and view your numbers. 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. Though a woman, my resolution is fixed: the men, if they please, may survive with infamy, and live in bondage.”


The Massacre of the ancient Britons.

At a site Atherstone, Mancetter in the Midlands (some prefer Kings Cross station London?), Boudica's forces were gathered around 120,000, victorious due to their recent triumphs at London, Colchester and St Albans, they prepared to do battle with the Romans troops about 10,000 in number. The Queen then made (what turned out to be) a tragic mistake, she allowed Suetonius Paulinus to choose the ground for the battle, his legions took up their positions on a high ridge with a dense forest behind them and open sloping countryside to the front, but that did not deter the Britons fighting spirit as they vastly outnumbered the Romans 10/1. So confident of winning were the Brits that they even brought their families along in wagons to watch the performance, parking their carts in a semi circle, all hoping to get a spectacular view of the Romans final defeat.


Boudica's battle line was so long and wide that Suetonius didn't have enough soldiers to cover it, so he decided to spread out his men into three separate divisions. Next followed one of the bloodiest massacres of our native people that this island had ever known. As time and time again the rebel forces advanced up the slope attempting to break through the Romans shield wall only to be driven back down again. After a day of successive attacks had failed the Romans then came together in a wedge shape formation and started to advance towards the enemy relentlessly pursuing them in a carefully controlled disciplined exercise which forced the Britons back, this eventually led to an outbreak of panic amongst them, fleeing from the enemy they started to turn on each other (Brit fought against Brit) as they tried to break through the wagon enclosure that by now had become a trap for them, some falling over bodies of the dead or dying that now blocked the path to safety, as they tried to escape they were ruthlessly mowed down and hacked to pieces by the Romans. Accounts state that some 80,000 Britons had been slaughtered by nightfall, when compared to the Romans loss which is reputed as being about 400.

Iceni and Trinovantes weaponry.

The Romans had disarmed all British tribes following an uprising elsewhere in the country. Which brings me to this theory; perhaps then the Brits were insufficiently armed when they confronted the mighty legions of  Rome, with makeshift weapons this would be basically anything and everything that they could get their hands on. When you consider all these facts for instance: lack of shields, a few small rounded ones usually made from leather, wood, or flimsy metal, lack of body armour, not enough spears (if any at all), the inferiority of their long swords which were ideal for slashing at the enemy; was absolutely useless weapon for close up hand to hand combat, means they probably killed quite a number of comrades by accident.

So when Boudica made her last stand against the Romans alongside her makeshift (peasants) army of Brits at Manduessedum; now Atherstone, Mancetter, they became engaged in battle with the most deadliest fighting machine the ancient world (in military warfare history) has ever known, (armed with the latest state of the art weaponry)... the Roman legions...perfectly positioned - perched high upon a hillside, the Britons faced an uphill struggle in order to fight the enemy - so what were their chances of securing a victory over the Romans?... most unlikely I'd say! not to mention the caravan entrapment as they tried to make their retreat; barring their exit to freedom ..... success rate lambs to the slaughter...I rest my case!

Tacitus even quoted Suetonius' speech to his legions before the battle;  when he pointed out to his troops that most of the crowd were unarmed women that made up the so-called army of Britons.

Dio Cassius's Account of 'The Boudiccan Revolt'. (Trans. Earnest Cary)

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.

In the meantime, however, Boudicca fell sick and died. The Britons mourned her deeply and gave her a costly burial; but, feeling that now at last they were finally defeated, they scattered to their homes. So much for the affairs in Britain.

Myths & Legends: Site of  Boudica’s last stand?

In the County of Essex in the Waltham/Epping Forest district, is an Iron Age earthworks or fort, this is where it is said that Boudica the Iceni warrior Queen, fought her last battle against the Romans, and where she and her two daughters are supposed to have taken poison rather than fall alive into the hands of their enemies. Even to this day there are rumours that three phantom women have been seen in the dusk walking side by side close to the public road.

Alternative battle sites and grave sites are as follows:

Battle Bridge, London, is the former name for King’s Cross Station, and the battle site where the Icenian forces led by Boudica supposedly fought the Roman troops. Archaeological evidence discovered at the site during the construction work of the rail station suggests that good Queen Boudicca is buried somewhere beneath platform 10. See pic below.



Popular Battlesites

Atherstone Mancetter in the Midlands - battlesite.

King’s Cross Station, London - battlesite

Burial grounds and graves:

Parliament Hill, between Highgate Road and the Vale of Heath, Hampstead, London.

Soldier’s Hill, Garboldisham Heath, Suffolk.

St Andrew’s Church, Quidenham, Suffolk, (near to).

Gop Cairn, Gwaunysgor in Clwyd, Wales

I came across a reference to Gop Cairn near Gwaunysgor in Clwyd, Wales. This rather interesting item suggests that as this is largest cairn in Wales, it is quite possibly the actual site of Queen Boudica's grave. Her followers (the British Celts) were said to have been so devastated by her death and deeply mourned her, that they decided to conduct an elaborate funeral service in her honour, having her body buried at a secret location, merely to avoid Roman retribution/repercussions and desecration.




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