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Boudica, warrior queen of Celts

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Boudica, the warrior queen of the Celts
Boudica's monument in England | Photo: View Pictures / UIG via Getty Images

Boudicca, whose name means Victory (also known as Budyka or Boadicea), was a Celtic queen who in 60 or 61 C.E. rebelled against Roman power in ancient Britain. According to information obtained about her from ancient Roman historians – Tacitus and Cassius Dio, little is known about the previous life of this Celtic ruler.

It is believed that Boudika was born into an elite family in the town of Camulodunum (now Colchester) in the mid-30s. At the age of 18, Boudicca married Prasutagus, king of the Iceni tribe (now in East England). When the Romans made in 43 CE the conquest of South England, most of the Celtic tribes were forced to submit to Roman authority and pay tribute, with the exception of King Prasutagus, who was allowed to continue his rule as an ally of the Roman Empire. This state of affairs lasted until 60 CE. that is, until the death of Prasutagus, who left no male heir. Then the territory of the Iceni tribe was incorporated into the Roman Empire and the property of Prasutagus was confiscated.

Another humiliation of the deceased king’s family was the public flogging of his wife Boudicca and the rape of her two daughters. According to Tacitus, this latest act of violence made Boudica publicly announce that she would take revenge on the Romans. The Queen allegedly said, “There is nothing worse than Roman pride and arrogance, they will defile our idols and defile our virgins. I will win the fight or die, this is what I should do as a woman.” Like other Celtic women, Boudicca trained as a warrior, including learning a variety of fighting techniques and the use of weapons. The promise of revenge was soon put into practice. A manifestation of this was the outbreak of the rebellion led by Boudica, directed against the governor of the province, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, who was leading a war campaign in Wales. After defeating the Roman 9th Legion, the Queen’s forces destroyed the Camulodunum, massacring the local inhabitants and the captain of Roman Britain. A similar fate befell London and Verulamium (now St. Albans).

Meanwhile, Suetonius returned from Wales, who immediately formed an army to face the rebels. The location of the confrontation between Roman forces and the rebels remains unknown (the area from London to Northamptonshire is taken into account). The Romans eventually defeated the British at the cost of very high losses of their own, while Boudicca and her daughters probably took poison to avoid capture by their enemies. According to Tacitus, the total number of Romans and their allies defeated by the rebels led by Boudica is about 70,000. Although Boudica’s rebellion ultimately ended in defeat, and the Romans continued to control British territory until CE 410, Boudica is still considered a national heroine and an example of the struggle for justice and independence.

Rise of Boudica

Author: Zenon Purta (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
Sources

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