The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Roman Britain - the Dawn of

Rome’s First Show of Interest in Ancient Britain

Cassivellanus 55 BC (Julius Caesar Raids Britain)

Cassivellanus was a British war chieftain who caused considerable trouble for Julius Caesar’s Roman army while it was in the middle of a fierce campaign against Vercingetorix of Gaul. Not much is known of him (Cassivellanus) but his impact is marked by Roman historians who wrote of him and brought him a clouded fame, in ancient history, for a short time. Much of what Cassivellanus is or was, remains shrouded by enigma to this day. This strange Briton won Julius Caesar’s attention – enough to cause a side show campaign during the vicious Roman conquest of Gaul. It is important to know that Romans often make an opponent immense. This is to make their victories sound more considerable. It is also worth pointing out that sometimes past British historians have made it seem as though Ancient British warriors drove the Romans away and that Julius Caesar failed in an attempted invasion of Britain.

I don’t think this is the case and believe Julius Caesar launched a successful raid against a British chieftain who was seizing power and control of neighbouring tribes to form a Coron Toutas (Union of tribes.) It is possible that Julius Caesar feared a British Coron Toutas might aid Vercingetorix of Gaul. There had to be a strong reason for Caesar to overstretch his main Gaul campaigns and lead legions on a British expedition. The first landing almost failed due to bad weather wrecking some of his Galleys. This caused logistical problems for Caesar. He left a fortified bridgehead in southern Britain and returned the following year.

From the years of 58 BC to 51 BC, Julius Caesar led his Roman legions upon a huge campaign against Gaul (Today’s France). This was a long war against (Gaul Chieftain) Vercingetorix. To the north of Gaul was the Celtic island of Britain which was strewn with many small feudal nations like Gaul. The tribes of Gaul had become united under one prime chieftain called Vercingetorix. He would lead the sub-chieftains of the Gaul nations against Julius Caesar’s Roman army. For three years this hard fought war had been raging and the Roman Empire appeared to have a difficult task subjugating the Gaul resisters.

In Britain, there was the trade with Gaul and a strong affinity with the people. Many of the Druids of Gaul were schooled in the religion in Britain – the cultures of Britain and Gaul were the same and the Roman invasion must have caused the Britons to be extremely wary of this strange Empire. As an island perhaps other Britons had an ill-deserved confidence of defence, but maybe men like the strange character called Cassivellanus could see the writing on the wall. He may have desired to aid Vercingetorix of Gaul, or emulate him – feeling it was necessary for united British tribes to join the campaign against the strange Roman Empire. This might have brought Cassivellanus into conflict with many chieftains of the feudal British nations – men that were happy with the continuing trade with Gaul and perhaps the Romans too.

These Gaul/British tradesmen must have had some apathy towards Rome while people within Gaul fought the Latin invader. I say this because they seemed to still trade, even when Rome was policing some of the ports. It could also mean that some of the sea traders were not of Gaul but other far-flung lands. Whatever the reasons, industry and commerce continued and with this; news and speculation were probably mixed with the shipping cargo.

In the third year of the Gaul campaign (55 BC) concern was brought to Julius Caesar’s camp when a group of Britons led by a usurped Chieftain came before him. The chieftain’s Latin name was Mandubracius and he was a feudal leader of a tribe called the Trinovantes. They came from the Essex area of today’s England in the south-east and just north of the river Thames. Mandubracius had been usurped from his lands because of a Cassi warrior called Cassivellanus. Although Cassivellanus is believed to have been of the Cassi tribe; other members of the Cassi were with the Trinovante leader (Mandubracius) when standing before Julius Caesar with his news and plea for Roman help.

Mandubracius brought the news: In Britain there was a new man taking charge – one potentially unfriendly to Rome and supportive of Vercingetorix. (Maybe)

It is possible that Cassivellanus might have been a rogue chieftain that sprang up by such means of virtue. Perhaps he won support by voicing the trials and tribulations of Gaul against Rome, and Britain would be next. He may have portrayed other chieftains as being lacklustre in their aid of the Gauls, who were brethren to the Britons. We can only go upon Roman scholar’s writings about the man, but it is fair to assume he was politically motivated rather than an opportunistic conqueror. What was happening in Gaul, at the time, would surely have been big news from the sea traders and perhaps Gaul migrants fleeing the tribulation.

Also the fact that Julius Caesar sent a Roman force to aid these chieftains must have meant there was a deep concern from the Roman point of view, for even though Rome was already in a difficult conflict with Gaul, they still thought the situation in Britain was worthy of immediate attention. There had to be urgency on the part of Caesar, when he decided to send his much needed Roman forces from Gaul to Britain.

It is also unlikely that Cassivellanus was his real name. It is the name attributed to him by the Romans and used by their writing historians of the age. Some believe that this epithet could have been a title that lends this character; Cassivellanus further peculiarity – a strange mystery of a chieftain. He might have been Vellanus of the Cassi. (Obviously Vellanus is a Latin name and not Celtic). The word ‘vellanus’ can mean good or excellent – something high and meaningful. Some Welsh Chronicles call him Caswallawn or Brut y Brenhinedd.

It is also important not to confuse this chieftain with Caractacus who would fight the Romans almost one hundred years later, during the invasion of Emperor Claudius. This is 55 BC and the Roman Republic is still in existence.

When Julius Caesar received the usurped Trinovante chieftain Mandubracius, the Celt is believed to have been the head of a group of other British tribesmen from nations like Cenimagni, Seguntiaci, Ancalites, Bibroci and Cassi. These tribal groups were in areas that would have traded with mainland Europe and would know of the war raging in Gaul against the Romans. It is highly probable that the rise of Cassivellanus and his conquest of different British feudal nations was seen as a similar step to what Vercingetorix was doing in Gaul and the displaced British chieftains decided to ally with Julius Caesar. Maybe Cassivellanus was viewed as a potential ally to the Gauls – more so than the defeated men behind Mandubracius, who had seen his domain over run by Cassivellanus.

For whatever reason, Julius Caesar certainly saw this conquering Cassi-Brit as a threat to his attempts at pacifying Gaul. He needed grateful Celts in Britain – docile ones that might not interfere with his immediate campaign against Vercingetorix. Therefore, I believe Caesar launched an expedition into south east Britain in 55 BC during the late summer. It consisted of two legions. He had an ally chieftain from theAtrebates in Gaul. This chieftain called Commius had not supported Vercingetorix and his kingdom was exempt from occupation and tax. He would negotiate with the Britons. Unfortunately for the Romans, Commius was arrested upon entry into Britain.

This expedition 55 BC almost met with disaster as mentioned earlier. It became a fortified bridgehead from which reconnaissance and fact finding missions began. It did no more than establish a base in today’s county of Kent. Julius Caesar did enter a dialogue with some Brit-Celtic nations and took hostages back to Gaul.

However, the Romans, commanded Julius Caesar, returned in the following year with three more legions and came into conflict with British warriors under the leadership of Cassivellanus. This undertaking was on a grand scale and a very large number of ships were used to transport the Roman army to Britain. There was no resistance according to the memoirs of Julius Caesar and it might be assumed that the Britons had never seen such a large flotilla of ships ever. It is probable that they needed time to organise their resistance.

55 BC

The Romans led their army from the bridge head in Kent, set up all their supply trains and general logistics network, before venturing upon the task of confronting the united British tribes under Cassivellanus. This was left under the command of a Roman soldier called Quintus Atrius while Julius Caesar marched deeper into the island of Britain. He came up against resistance after about fifteen miles in the forest and at a river crossing. The Romans were attacked by a British force, supportive of Cassivellanus, but repulsed them. As the Roman army moved on they came upon a hill fort stronghold where the repulsed Britons had retreated too. This was taken and the defending Britons were mostly able to scatter into the forest. The Romans were unable to peruse because they did not know the terrain. They then suffered a dreadful set back because word came from the bridgehead about a fierce storm in the channel. A great many Roman ships that were anchored had been damaged and also lost. Julius Caesar was forced to return to his bridgehead and make good repairs. He called all his forces back to rectify the situation. It was also believed that the news of his daughter’s death in child birth reached him. She was married to Pompey – a man who would become foe in future years.

54 BC

It was a year before repairs and other logistical matters allowed Julius Caesar to re-send his army into south east Britain. Again, the Britons seemed to use tactics that were mindful of what the Roman armies could do. These were mainly skirmishes and ambush which, on one occasion, resulted in the death of a Roman Tribune called Quintus Laberius Durus, who was said to have taken a spear to the chest. When this tribune fell, it is feasible that the engagement might have been a heavy encounter, though not a full scale battle. The Britons avoided open conflict and used the forest for cover, trying to fight a guerrilla war. This had limited success as the Romans moved deeper into south east Britain to aid Mandubracius regain the Trinovantes kingdom. The Romans were surprised by the use of chariots among the British tribes. They would be steered with some skill to deliver foot warriors and then retreat a distance and watch before coming forward and aiding Britons to evacuate fighting engagements.

Crossing the River Thames

When Julius Caesar reached the River Thames, Cassivellanus had prepared defences by planting spikes under water and on the banks where the ford was. He had fought a retreating action to slow the Romans advance towards his territory, but this had only been marginally successful. Even with his river defence, the Roman army managed to cross and defeat the Britons. Julius Caesar had entered the chieftain’s territory.

However, Cassivellanus had managed to send another force of Britons to attack the bridgehead where Quintus Atrius was in charge. He hoped to divert Julius Caesar’s forces away to protect the Roman bridgehead and supplies at the channel. The Roman forces at the bridgehead stood firm and repulsed the diversionary British attack.

Some of Cassivellanus’ allies among the Trinovantes deserted him and sought a separate peace with Julius Caesar, which was achieved on condition that Chieftain Mandubracius became reinstated as leader. This gave Rome a client king in part of south east Britain. With the loss of support, Cassivellanus also sent diplomats to negotiate a peace. Apart from the storm and the forest skirmishes not much was achieved against the Roman force.

Julius Caesar had more pressing matters with his campaign in Gaul and was forced to abandon Britain with hostages from Cassivellanus’ camp and promise of tribute from the British chieftain, plus agreement to stay out of the Trinovantes nation. This was established with the Atrebate ally (Commius) also being returned to the Roman camp before Caesar and his Roman army turned and went back to the conflict in Gaul.

Caesar also gave Commius (his Atrebate ally) lands in southern Britain. This made the British Atribate an immigrant kingdom loyal to Rome.

This raid on Britain seems to have been a lightening summer conflict that gave the Romans a marginal victory in thwarting possible support for Vercingetorix and his Gauls from united British tribesmen. Cassivellanus imposed himself into the Roman history books with this summer month’s conflict of 54 BC. I can’t help thinking that Caesar may have had a cheaply won victory because, with hindsight, the Britons could have detained the five legions in Britain with Caesar. Vercingetorix and his Gauls may have had a free hand to do more substantial damage. Julius Caesar and his army would have have been unable to stay in Britain when supplies from Gaul were destroyed. They would have been cut off from Rome with all of Gaul between them and their homeland. Perhaps the Britons did not see the broader picture or understand it. Maybe Cassivellanus did not have as strong a leadership of the Coron Totus (Union of tribes) as was necessary. Many other chieftains made a separate peace with Rome while he had retreated to a fortification. 

If this was a political motivated attempt by Cassivellanus to help the Gauls, it lacked boldness on Britain’s part – almost like the going got too rough for them. Many of us Brits like to imagine bold resistance to the Romans and noble defeat. We revere Queen Boadicea of a later age, but I think this expedition by Julius Caesar may have achieved its aim of stopping Britain aiding the Gauls. If so it was a cheaply won victory and the Gauls went on to pay a hefty price when Rome defeated them. An estimated one in four of the Gaul nation would die in the aftermath of resistance to Rome.

Britain would wait a further ninety years before they would become conquered by Rome under the emperor Claudius. By this time many of the southern kingdoms were already trading with Rome and some welcomed them into Britain in 43 AD.

Caractacus of Catuvellauni (42 AD to 50 AD.)

Caractacus was a British warrior chieftain of the Catuvellauni tribe in Ancient Britain during the time of the Emperor Claudius and his Roman Invasion of Britain in 43 AD – around ninety six years after Julius Caesar sent an expedition in 54 BC. After Julius Caesar left, he had established an immigrant kingdom of Atribate in Britain - a client kingdom. They were friendly and traded with Roman merchants at the ports of Gaul. This went on fine for around ninety years, but two men of the Catuvellauni kingdom became ambitious and began to acquire further British territory from neighbouring kingdoms.

The main kingdom to fall victim to this was the immigrant British Atrebates west of the Catuvellauni. There was an Atrebates kingdom in today’s Northern France and Belgium too and the British Atrebates were formed by an Atrebates chieftain called Commius, who had aided Julius Caesar when he sent his expedition in 55 BC. Commius was awarded territory in Britain because the Atrebates of mainland Europe were loyal to the Roman Empire. The Atrebates of Britain would also have reason to be loyal to the Roman Empire over ninety years later. Trade had been going well for Britain and the Roman Empire.

It may have been that the neighbouring Catuvellauni resented the British Atrebates having a monopoly on Roman goods coming into Britain. This is only speculation, but why would the Catuvellauni upset the way of things and invade areas of Rome’s ally, unless they had reason to resent and under estimate the real reach of the Roman Empire. Perhaps they had memory of the British Atrebates carving out territory for themselves back in 55-54 BC. Maybe historical resentment still flourished and two brother warrior chieftains decided to reclaim territory from mainland European Celts. They may have also believed that Rome might have happily traded with Catuvellauni policed Britain instead of British Atrebates having special treatment. If this was so, then the two brothers, Togodumus and Caractacus were wrong.

The expansion of Catuvellauni territory disturbed Rome and the Emperor Claudius decided to take matters in hand. He ordered a full scale Roman invasion of Britain. Not an expedition to establish client kingdoms, but a landing on British soil to establish a permanent presence in Britain. Contrary to popular belief, a number of the south east British kingdoms were helpful to the Romans and the Catuvellauni bit off more than they could cope with.

The Roman Emperor Claudius sent Aulus Plautius and four legions into Britain. The Emperor himself also came to Britain during the campaign. The legions came up against guerrilla tactics but were able to move deep into the island of Britain. They won two major conflicts at the river Medway and the river Thames. At one of these battles Togodumus was killed but Caractacus was forced to flee while the Catuvellauni kingdom fell to direct Roman rule. The Emperor Claudius watched his victorious Legions march into Camulodunum– today's Colchester, Essex, England. It is worth pointing out that Camulodunum is regarded as being in the Trinovante kingdom during Boadicea’s revolt in 60 AD. So maybe the Trinovante, bordering Catuvellauni’s east may have welcomed the Romans as allies or they may also have been over run. Trinovantes certainly went against Rome in the future coming rebellion of the Iceni Queen, during Emperor Nero’s reign.

Caractacus fled west and remained at large, encouraging British kingdoms like the Silures and Ordovices to fight the Roman invaders. These nations were in today’s Wales. Finally in 50 AD, some six years after the fall of the Catuvellauni territory, Caractacus tried to take on the Roman army again. This was at the Battle of Cear Caradoc.

The old Roman commander, AulusPlautius had been relieved of the governorship of Britain in 47 AD. The new Roman commander was called Publius Ostorius Scapula and he was confronted by Caractacus and an army of mainly Ordovices and some Silures warriors at Cear Caradoc Hill. They had built an encampment on the summit with stone ramparts and a river below, before the Roman army. The Celtic British warriors had the geographical advantage but the Romans crossed the river with a hail of missiles falling from the sky. The Romans fashioned their tortoise style formations using there shields as an armoured wall. Front, sides, back and top were covered by shield as they advanced up towards the British ramparts. They over ran them and drove the British off, inflicting another major defeat that left Rome in control of all southern Britain. Caratacus, once again, fled leaving his wife and daughter captured by the Roman army.

This time, he made the most monumental of all his mistakes. He fled north to the Brigantes, hoping to find sanctuary in Queen Cartimunda’s client kingdom that was at peace with Rome. Caractacus was bound in chains and taken before the Romans. He was then transported to Rome and paraded before the senate and the Emperor Claudius to be sentenced to death. However, he made a speech that captured the imagination of the Senate and the Emperor. For this Caractacus was spared execution. Instead, he was taken to a place of seclusion and allowed to live out his days somewhere in Italy. How long he lived, is not known, but he evaded execution to live in captivity.

Mai Dun - Ancient British Great Hill Fort Attacked by Vespasian.

Campaign in West Britain against Durotriges Tribe.

By 43 AD the Emperor Claudius had designs on bringing Britain into the boundaries of the expanding Roman Empire and to this end he decided to send Roman soldiers to invade the Isle and subjugate Britons to imperial Roman rule. It is fair to say that the Britons had little concept of the might and organisation of the Roman forces and many would learn the hard way as to what mighty Rome was capable of.

To the west of Britain, in today’s county of Dorset, England, UK, the second Roman Legion attacked the British kingdom of the Durotriges. There would have been fighting in many areas of Britain as the Roman conquerors began to systematically take over the lower southern part of the British Isle. This particular campaign was noted because of the siege of Mai Dun Fort, where the Durotriges attempted to secure themselves from the Roman Second Legion, commanded by Vespasian – a man from a noble Roman family who would one day become Emperor during the year of four Emperors in 69 AD. However, this was 43 AD and Vespasian was aged 32 and proving himself as a strong Roman soldier who commanded his men well.

Today Mai Dun Fort is known as Maiden Castle, but its original Celtic name of Mai Dun means ‘Great Hill.’ It was a flourishing centre by the time the Romans arrived and had its beginning back in Bronze Age 1800 BC. For over eighteen hundred years people had come to the great hill fort of Mai Dun and it went through various stages of progression with earth works and ramparts being built. It was a huge centre of attraction – perhaps trade and commerce in the form of a huge market town. Around 450 BC the Celts built more extensive earthworks and the place became a larger more fortified town of gathering, industry and commerce among the Britons. It was certainly attractive to the Romans in 43 AD and the Durotriges Britons seemed to have had an ill deserved confidence in their ability to defend Mai Dun against Vespasian and his Second Legion. The Great Hill Fort (Mai Dun) had a huge palisade that was surrounded by various ditches and ramparts that afforded the defenders a good view of any attacking force. They also had thousands of slinging rocks to propel against the Roman Second Legion. The Durotriges defenders probably believed they could withstand a siege from a Roman army with such an arsenal and capability of slinging stone projectiles at an approaching enemy force.

The Roman Ballista weaponry had all types of dart and heavy projectile hurling devices and the Durotriges defenders came up against advanced Roman ballista siege warfare, the like of which they could not imagine. Consequently the defenders of the great hill fort were unable withstand the modern engineering of Rome’s more precise technology. A great siege ensued and the Durotriges finally fell to Vespasian’s Second Legion of Roman soldiers. It is believed to have been a fierce and bloody battle with Roman Legions eventually marching upon the fort after heavy ballista bombardment of darts, fire and stone projectiles. The Durotriges may have held out for a few days because they defenders did have ability to bury dead while siege was in progress.

In the 1930s excavators found several buried bodies of Durotriges defenders that were killed during the siege and one person had an arrow head embedded in his spine, believed to have been shot from a ballista machine equipped to discharge several darts at a time – like a small magazine of multiple arrows. One might imagine a young Durotriges warrior manning the palisade and being taken out of the action by a scattering of high velocity darts, one of which strikes the young defender in the back and fatally injures him. Perhaps these buried men were killed during artillery attacks and were then laid to rest before the fort fell. So it may have been that the Great Hill fort (Mai Dun) held for a few days, at least, while Roman ballista weaponry softened the fortifications before the soldiers attacked.
There may have been a Roman military presence for a short time afterwards and there was a temple erected in the fourth century that fell into ruin, but mainly, the site of Mai Dun became an apocalyptic place as the many people that inhabited the thriving and commercial fort left after it fell to Rome’s Second Legion, lead by, future emperor to be; Vespasian. It became a lonely place of abandoned ramparts and remains so to this day.

Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes (About 43AD to 69AD)

Because Celtic society enabled woman to hold more powers then most; Celtic ladies are often made Icons. Much of this is due to legend and fascinations - plus, of course, Queen Boadicea of the Iceni Britons. Not all were as bold as Queen Boadicea, but perhaps some were more successful then given credit for. It is difficult to say if QueenCartimandua was a traitor or someone trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Cartimandua – Queen of Brigantes probably gets a less kind press then she deserves. I think the reason for this is because she does not have the Boadicea glow of the Celtic warrior queen. Writers of romantic historical fiction and followers of Celtic myth often present her in unkindly ways. On the other hand, she lived in harsh times and perhaps, made tough decisions for the greater good. She was ruling the Brigante long before Boadicea became sovereign of Iceni and ruled for many years after Boadicea’s demise. In all fairness, Cartimandua was more successful than Boadicea – she just did not go out in a blaze of glory. Some say it is better to burn out then fade away, but people should remember that thousands of Iceni and Trinovante paid a heavy price for Boadicea’s monument. Queen Cartimandua’s epitaph is often that of a collaborator. I believe unfairly.

This Celtic queen of Brigantes was in power from 43 AD to 69 AD. She was regent of the Brigantes during the time of the Catuvellauni King Caratacus. He lost his kingdom to the Romans but remained at large trying to rally support to continue fighting the Roman conquerors. Try as he might, the Romans always defeated him whenever he was able to muster support. Finally in 50 AD he fled from the sanctuary he had found in North Wales to the northern kingdom of the Brigantes - ruled by Queen Cartimandua and her husband Venutius. He arrived before Cartimandua requesting sanctuary. Instead, the queen had him bound in chains and handed over to the Romans. She had established good trust with the Romans and had taken power when some of the Brigantes tribe had tried to resist the original conquest, first started by Emperor Claudius in 43 AD.

Caratacus given to the Romans

The section of Brigante tribesman that did resist were defeated by a Roman leader called Publius Ostorius Scapula in 48 AD. Cartimandua might have aided the Romans in some way by restraining tribesman from joining the fight against Rome, or she might have been in power before, and condemned the Brigante sections that did resist. It is difficult to know if she was seizing an opportunity to rule the Brigantes or trying to play intricate politics in difficult situations when already in power. She was wise to what the Romans could do and so offered to collaborate and remain regent.

If this was so, why did Caratacus take the chance of standing before Cartimandua and asking for sanctuary? He had been fighting the Romans for a number of years and would surely know that she was allied to them. Maybe he was trying to reach Caledonia (Today's Scotland) and was captured passing through - who knows?

This act of betraying Caratacus caused a rift among the Briganties and her husband Venutius became opposed to her. He tried to usurp her power and take the Brigante kingdom for himself. This was in 50 AD.

She was able to count on the friendship of a man called Vellocatus who was once a subordinate of her husband Venutius. Also the Romans sent her aid with an army. With the help of Rome and her loyal followers she was able to defeat and drive Venutius away.

The Roman historian Tacitus mentions her as a friend of Rome and for a further 19 years she would remain in control and collaborating with Rome. When the Iceni Queen Boadicea (Boudicca) led her rebellion, Cartimandua would not send Brigante forces to aid the Iceni queen. It is possible that such requests never came to her.

Cartimandua's exiled husband Venutius remained in his sanctuary watching and waiting. Then in 69 AD - some nineteen years after being driven out of the Brigante lands, Rome was weakened by its own internal political strife. It was the year of four Emperors. Venutius launched an invasion of the Brigante lands and Cartimandua could only get limited help from the Roman administration. She was driven out of Brigante and into the sanctuary of Roman held territory. She never returned and history lost account of what became of her.

It is not known exactly when or if Venutius was brought to account for his anti-Roman campaign, but the Brigantes would remain un-pacified for several decades to come until the early part of the second century.

Cartimandua faded from history and no one is certain what happened to her. She never reclaimed her kingdom and many Celts believed her to be treacherous. Maybe the Romans thought so too. Perhaps she was no longer of use to them once she fled the Brigante lands. With no confidence in her abilities, she might have been persuaded to retire into another region of the Empire and live in anonymity. Perhaps Emperor Vespasian needed her in exile while he used the excuse to attack the Brigante and bring the British fiefdom under direct Roman rule. It would be a campaign that would outlast him and his two sons that would follow him as Emperors of Rome.

Rebellion of Queen Boadicea (Boudicca) 60 -61 AD – The Warrior Queen of Iceni

Queen Boadicea is sometimes known as Boudicca or Bouddica. She has a lot of different pronunciations and her name is spelt in many ways. For this blog, she is Boadicea because I like that spelling best.

Queen Boadicea conjures up sorts of imaginations to British people. We are very proud of the myth that is Boadicea and are fascinated that she led a revolt against the might of the Roman Empire. She almost drove the Romans off of the island too, but for one final rallying stand of a Roman general in the Midlands of the country. The harsh reality of her rebellion was that many people would brutally die before her forces were put down and the retribution would also be colossal.

It is thought that Boadicea was born in the A.D. 20s decade -what exact year is not known, though some Roman historians think it was A.D. 25– this is most likely wrong but close. It would mean Queen Boadicea around late 30s or touching 40 at the time of A.D. 61 when she led the Icenian and other British tribes against Roman occupation of Britain.

This was during the time of the Emperor Nero and south Britain had been under Roman occupation for around 20 years. There had been a pact between the Iceni lands (today's Norfolk and Suffolk in South East England) and the Roman occupying forces. The Icenian KingPrasutagus had agreed on some sort of pact that he could rule over his Iceni people without Roman interference.

It is believed that Prasutagus would have payed some sort of levy to the Roman governors and would have been forced to allow direct Roman rule upon his death. This was usual Roman law when occupying new territory. Some historians even go as far as to suggest he would have used Iceni slaves as form of payment to maintain control within his kingdom. Also it is believed that he enjoyed borrowing money from the neighbouring Romans in the occupied Trinovantian kingdom (today's county of Essex in South East England.)

When he died, he left half is kingdom to Rome and the other half to his wife Boadicea. He had two daughters by his wife and he was believed to have been some years her senior. The debt he left behind was due payment and the Romans decreed that the Iceni were liable.

The Romans decided to enforce their own law and annexed all of the Icenian lands, confiscating property from prominent chieftains. Boadicea tried to protest but the Romans had her publicly flogged and her two daughters raped before her. This was to show Icenians that Rome, well and truly ruled over them.

At the same time the Roman Governor of Britain named Gaius Suetonius Paulinus led an expedition of soldiers to the island of Mona (today's Anglessy of North Wales.) There was a sacred Druid gathering on the island. The Romans attacked the gathering and massacred many of the Druids in a wooded area of the island.

Rise of the Warrior Queen of the Iceni

Back in the Iceni lands Boadicea and her subjects were furious at what had been done to them by the Romans. It is not known if the Massacre of Druids on Mona further fuelled the Rebellion about to take place, but Boadicea and the Iceni took advantage of Paulinus' absence. Boadicea seemed to take on powers almost akin to divinity among her Iceni and neighbouring British tribes.

One of the Roman historians (Tacticus) suggests that she pulled a hare from her clothing and performed a ritual in front of an audience of chieftains. This involved watching where the hare ran and from this they were said to have read favourable omens. Of course this is almost certainly not true, but it would not hurt to assume she had presented herself in some divine form to her audience. Divine people are more easily followed and believed in.

In the occupied Celtic kingdom of Trinovantian, the capital had been overtaken by Roman veteran soldiers who were treating the local Trinovi with contempt. They had built a temple dedicated to the late Emperor Claudius who had originally conquered them. The Trinovi had been forced to pay for the building of this temple in the settlement of Camuldunum (today's Colchester, Essex.)

Boadicea and her alliance of other tribes including the Trinovi struck with a vast army of Celts, easily breaching Camuldunum's defences. They ran through out the streets of the settlement - allowing no quarter to any of the Roman veterans who lived there - many had families, but this was to no avail; women and children were horrifically put to the sword - no Roman or anyone loyal to them was spared. A few, who managed to evade the attack, barricaded themselves in the huge temple dedicated to the late Emperor Claudius.

These wretched settlers tried to hold out - the last remnant of Roman veterans, and the surviving women and children. Their fate was to be the same as those who had fallen before them in the burning blood stained streets, where Roman settlers had been put on gibbets and nailed upon crosses.

Women of the retired veteran’s town were impaled on spikes and had their breasts cut off. The ghastly affair was a frenzied orgy of violence by the Britons towards the Roman occupiers and the few Roman survivors in the temple would have a further two days to dwell upon the fact. Eventually the Celts piled wood and other combustibles about the temple and set light to the building with the occupants still inside. It was a hideous and diabolical slaughter by any standard, but the flames of rebellion had been ignited by the humiliating whipping and raping of a Queen and her daughters. The Romans would pay dearly for this.

Massacre of the Ninth Legion

During Queen Boudicca’s Iceni revolt against the Roman Empire in the years of AD 60 to 61 near Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex – Today’s England) ; a large number of soldiers from Rome’s Ninth Legion was almost wiped out. It was the famous Hispania IX Legion, which has become legendary in stories concerning its time in Ancient Britain. Such stories like; Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff caused many to wonder about the famous Ninth Legion. Some historians know that this Hispania IX was permanently stationed in Britain for a long period of time – around one hundred years, but then it suddenly vanished from record and there was no mention of this Legion any more.

The Rosemary Sutcliff novel is, of course, fictitious but tells the story of the Legion being destroyed in Caledonia (Today’s Scotland.) This is almost certainly not true and the most likely probability is; Rome disbanded the Hispania IX. Some of the high ranking officers of the Ninth are later recorded in other Legions in other parts of the Empire. They are recorded as being in areas of Germany and the Netherlands after Britain.

However, in reality; it is known that a large portion of the Ninth was slaughtered in battle by Boudicca’s Iceni, who were allied with Trinovante warriors during her attack on Camulodunum. This Roman relief force was dispatched to march to the aid of the remaining Roman survivors in Camulodunum. The last wretched inhabitants of Camulodunum – a settlement for discharged Roman soldiers and their families. Some of the ex-Roman soldiers had escaped with women and children from Boudicca’s initial attack. They sought sanctuary in the huge Claudian Temple and were besieged by the Iceni and Trinovante. Here the remaining defenders barricaded themselves in and desperately tried to resist Boudicca’s merciless killing.

The unfortunate people of Camulodunum had been slaughtered in horrific ways. Woman and children who were Roman; or British who worked for the Roman settlers, were slaughtered without any moderation – even slaves. Many were believed to have been impaled as the town was set ablaze. In Colchester today; there is a layer of ash in the ground and archaeologists know that anything below the ash layer is pre-Boudicca attack AD 60.

A Roman soldier named QuintusPetillius Cerialis was legate of the Hispania Ninth Legion and ordered by Suetonius (Roman Governor of Britain) to rescue the last remaining survivors of the besieged Claudian Temple. His forces were spread in various locations around the Cambridgeshire area some 75 miles away from Camulodunum. In surrounding forts of the marshy and flat Fenlands; Quintus commanded around 5,000 troops. He was able to muster about 2,500 Roman soldiers, around fifty percent of his overall command. Once this was done, Quintus Petillius Cerialis hurriedly set off for Camulodunum. It is believed that the location was just north east of the besieged town where the Iceni and Trinovante Britons lay in ambush along a path way leading through dense woodland. Their own scouts would have learnt of the relief force and it is thought that 10,000 plus warriors were included in the British force that would confront the advancing Roman cohorts.

The Claudian temple, where the last remaining survivors were, might have fallen already by this time. It held for two days before being set ablaze with everyone inside perishing. This might have given Boudicca more time to prepare for the conflict that would come about. Compared to the massacre of Camulodunum, then the further events of Londinium, Verulamium and the final Battle of Watling Street; the defeat of the Ninth Legion seems to be over shadowed. It was, however, a significant defeat upon Rome as the Britons were up against a more organised resistance. It might have been what led the British tribes to have ill-deserved confidence when they finally faced Giaus Seutonius Paulinus at the Battle of Watling Street.

What the conditions of the conflict with the Ninth Legion were, is not properly known, though the ambush in dense woodland seems plausible. The Roman soldiers could have been rushed while on the march and from close proximity. They would have been spread out along a road carrying their equipment, allowing no time to form organised battle formations. The foot soldiers and other auxiliaries were overwhelmed and slaughtered. Only the troops on horseback escaped – among them Quintus Petillius Cerialis. Around 80% of the 2,500 troops were lost and this left the rest of the Ninth hold up in fortifications in the Fenlands of today’s Cambridgeshire, awaiting new instruction from Suetonius. These events were recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus and the British force that attacked the Ninth Legion was believed to be in excess of 10,000 warriors.

Quintus Petillius Cerialis was able to make some amends by taking part alongside Giaus Suetonius Paulinus during the final confrontation with Boudicca’s warriors at Watling Street. He would later become the Roman Governor of Britain in AD 71, some ten years later. After AD 69 – (Year of four Emperors,) he was favoured by Emperor Vespasian. and would lead campaigns against Venutius of the Brigante and may have destroyed the Great Hill Fort, thus redeeming honour further in future years.

Boadicea calls upon her warriors

Next the vast Celtic alliance under Queen Boadicea marched on Londinium (today's London.) This was a comparatively new settlement that had grown in the past twenty years of Roman occupation. It was full of merchants and other traders - a hive of activity.

The Roman Governor of Britain was marching his men back from North Wales and had tried to gather other armies to his cause. He managed to acquire a force of 10,000 soldiers but he knew this was not enough to combat or defend Londinium (London.) He sent word to evacuate the settlement. Those that were foolish enough to remain felt the anger of Boadicea's forces. Once again there was death and slaughter of all. Again none were spared and the unfortunate Romans and those who served them were put to death in another frenzied ritual of slaughter. Again, children and women were included in the orgy of killing. The entire settlement was burnt to the ground as the Celts fury was brought to bear. Even to this day when archaeologists dig up London or Colchester, there is a layer of ash from the time of this terrible upheaval.

Attacking Roman settlements

Boadicea then went to the next settlement of Verulamium (today's St Albans.) Here she exacted further revenge on the people at this settlement - crucifixion, gibbet hangings, impaling and burning. There was no mercy shown, at any time, to any Roman that crossed the rebellious Briton's path. Traitors who had aided the Romans - servants and friends etc were also dispatched in the same brutal way. This whole area of south east Britain was a slaughter ground of murder and mayhem.

Those who did abandon London were hurriedly making for the south coast to flee into Gaul (today's France.) By this time Boadicea had a following of around 200,000 people. Not all of these were fighters - large numbers were women and children following the men folk - a gigantic caravan of Celts, hell bent on slaughter of anything Roman. Britons across the country were flocking to her cause. Word came of the Roman Governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus and his 10,000 soldiers. Boadicea decided to confront the Roman Governor of Britain and this is where she and her chieftains made their colossal mistake.

In the Midlands of Britain at a destination not known exactly, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was able to choose his ground. Some people believe it was near to today's city of Leicester, but no exact location can be sure. The Roman Governor General was able to choose a gully entrance to form his army. This offered his flanks natural geographical protection. He then arranged his troops in a line of triangular block formations - a line of arrow head shapes.

When Boadicea and her followers arrived they formed a vast arc of waggons so that the many thousands of women and children who followed the Celtic army could watch the battle. The British had such superior numbers that they were confident of fighting the Romans in open formation. It was confidence that was very ill deserved.

The Britons Attack

As the Britons attacked, the Roman formations held firm and the multitude of British warriors were caught - locked by their numbers in the triangular formations of the Roman soldiers. The Romans used their shield walls to contain the squashed Britons who were being pushed by their own forces from behind. The Romans then began their tried and trusted methods of stabbing through and over their large shields - killing Britons with every stab and thrust of their short swords.

In a short time the Britons broke rank and began to flee. Hordes had been killed during the crush. Once the Britons started to flee, the Roman horsemen were let loose to complete the route. They fell upon the encampment of women and children and the slaughter was brought upon all who tried to flee before the horsemen. This time British women and children felt the same anger and vengeance as the Romans had done in Camulodunum, Londinium and Verulamium.

Many of the chieftains fell and it is believed that Boadicea, fearing capture, decided to poison herself. The Britons would have known what Romans did to conquered and defeated Celts. Many would have known the fate of Gaul's Vercingetorix during the time of Julius Caesar.

Boadicea poisoned herself

Many are of the opinion that Boadicea took poison and was buried or burnt. Her where abouts are unknown.

As the Britons had brought murder and destruction upon Roman settlers, so too, did Gaius Suetonius allow his Roman soldiers to exact equal revenge upon the Iceni and Trinovante. The rebellious British were ruthlessly put down. A few years later Rome relieved Suetonius, Governor General of Britain, from his post and put in a more lenient Governor to rule Roman Britain.

There is the romantic view of Boadicea which often over shadows the desperate and terrible circumstance that brought about the Iceni rebellion of 60-61 AD.

Gaius Suetonius Paulinus (Boadicea's Nemesis)

Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was a high ranking Roman soldier that peaked in history, though his beginnings and eventual end are not known. He comes to historical attention in the year of AD 41 during the reign of Claudius. At this time, Rome had trouble with the client kingdom of Mauretania.

This client kingdom existed around the borders of modern day Morocco and Algeria and was inhabited by Moorish people. Although the client kingdom had a monarchy of its own; it was subservient to the Roman Empire. In AD 40 it was ruled by King Ptolemy – a puppet ruler for Rome. He was a grandson of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. However, the Emperor Caligula had called the king of Mauretania to Rome and after greeting Ptolemy with proper diplomatic formality, he had him executed. This caused a revolt by the Moorish people of Mauretania. The following year saw the assassination of Emperor Caligula and his uncle Claudius suddenly proclaimed new Emperor of Rome. I suspect that it was the moment for ambitious young men to make their mark and somehow Gaius Suetonius Paulinus had captured some high ranking official’s attention.

It is hard to guess at Suetonius’ age, but I would be inclined to stick my neck on the block and think he was a young man. This is because he would not meet Boadicea – Queen of Iceni Britons until AD 61, twenty years later.

I picture Suetonius to be around mid-twenties to thirty in AD 41 when he was created Praetor to lead a Roman army to the kingdom of Mauretania. Again, I remind the reader, that I’m guessing because of his later involvement in the British rebellion. The Emperor Claudius had just been proclaimed Caesar with the Praetorian Guard firmly behind him. Perhaps Suetonius had friends among the Praetorian Guard or that he was part of that armed body – who knows? What is known is that AD 41 was the big moment for Gaius Suetonius Paulinus.

History would record him as he put down the Moor revolt of Mauretania. Not too much is made of this, but once this was accomplished he led his Roman army over the Atlas Mountains and came through the other side venturing into the Sahara. For what reason he went upon this quest is not clear. Maybe he was perusing a rebel Moor force or perhaps just exploring. His Roman army was said to have reached the Niger River and most believe this to be Northern Mali. His army also came across a number of villages inhabited by black tribesmen.

Eighteen years later, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was given the post of Governor of Britain. The previous governor had died in office. It was AD 59 and five years into the Emperor Nero’s reign. Claudius had died in AD 54. Not too much is known about Suetonius when he returned from his quest beyond the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara, though he would have probably been performing duties of importance for Rome. This new British posting would once again propel him into the history books because he would arrive in Britain during a very turbulent time.

In AD 61, after two years of subjugating British kingdoms, Suetonius led an army into Northern Wales. He led an assault on the Isle of Mona, which is today’s Anglesey. The isle had become a sanctuary for British fugitives who sought protection within the Druid stronghold. There followed great slaughter as the Roman forces attacked the Druids, killing many before forcing the survivors of the attack to agree terms.

Queen Boadicea of Iceni British Celts

However, to the east of Britain, in the Iceni kingdom; a warrior queen named Boadicea had stirred up a vast force of her people and neighbouring tribes. She had led them to destroy Colchester, slaughtering everyone within the settlement. From Colchester she marched her army upon London after destroying a Roman relief force.

Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was upon the moment he would burn his name into the records of history. He wanted to march to London and defend it, but realised he had not enough soldiers to do this. Therefore, he sent orders to evacuate the entire settlement. Most did, but there were some fool hardy enough to remain. These wretched souls suffered the same terrible rape and slaughter that Colchester’s inhabitants had.

Suetonius needed to regroup as many Roman soldiers as possible. He had XIV Gemina, detachments of a force called XX Valeria Victrix and various other auxiliaries. These hurriedly assembled men numbered ten thousand troops. A request for another force stationed at Exeter was not met. The prefect of the Exeter garrison called Poenious Postumus would not allow his Roman soldiers of the II Augusta to go to the aid of Suetonius, who faced the oncoming force of Queen Boadicea and her estimated two hundred thousand Britons. As the British tribesman travelled across country they were attracting more and more followers, even women and children of the warriors she commanded.

The plight of Suetonius was desperate and Roman rule in Britain would be smashed if his force fell against the vastly superior force of Britons. He had one advantage that all other vanquished Romans had not, when faced with Boadicea’s army. He knew she was coming and had time to prepare for the battle. The Iceni Queen would not be able to fall upon the force of Suetonius and take them by surprise. The Roman could choose his ground and this he would do wisely, using the natural elements and the lay of the land to protect the flanks of his mish-mash collection of Roman soldiers. It is believed that Suetonius had a wooded area behind his men and gully inclines to protect the flanks of his soldier’s formations. Also the centurions had lined up in arrow head formations – the manned ranks zigzagged out to a shielded point and back to an inner triangle point. When the Britons attacked they massed into these formations and were crushed in the triangle wedges, making them easy targets as they were squashed into the Roman shields. The short Roman swords viciously stabbed and slashed into the wretched ranks of Britons and as the fell, the organised and highly trained Romans stepped over the fallen enemy and advanced inflicting more mutilation upon the panicking British ranks. Eventually the Celtic forces broke and fled. Straight towards the caravans where British women and children had been watching the battle. The frenzied panic of the Britons was made worse when Roman cavalry completed the route. The slaughter and mayhem that followed was horrendous.

Again, Suetonius fell into history’s mist for another eight years until reappearing once more in AD 69 during the year of four emperors. Gaius Suetonius Paulinus is recorded as being a senior adviser and general to a force caught up in the civil strife following the death of Emperor Nero. His force was defeated and he was captured. However, he was pardoned and then vanished from history again for the last time.

No one knows when Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was born or died, but parts of his military career found their way into the history books. Mainly his journey across the Atlas Mountains after defeating the revolt of the Kingdom Of Mauretania and his superb victory against Iceni Queen Boadicea of Celtic Britain. His life must have been a grand one, but he may also have been a rather ruthless soldier. I suppose in that day and age a leader had to be capable and mean - win or die.

Info Sources:

Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia


History OF War


On Line Library

CLIO History Journal

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