Boadicea (DNB00)

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BOADICEA (d. 62) was the wife of Prasutagus, king of the Iceni or Eceni, a people occupying the district which now forms the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Iceni were a powerful and warlike race, who, however, had come to terms with the Romans as early as the time of Cæsar. About the year 50 the harsh policy of the proprætor Ostorius led to a revolt, headed by the Iceni; but this insurrection was speedily quelled, and the Iceni were reduced once more to the rank of tributaries, Prasutagus being permitted to retain his former position as king, or possibly, as has been suggested, being now set over the Iceni by the Romans. Prasutagus, a man of great wealth, died about the year 60, bequeathing his property to the Roman emperor jointly with his daughters, hoping by this means to secure his kingdom and family from molestation. These precautions had, however, a contrary effect; the will was made by the Roman officials a pretext for regarding the whole property as their spoil. Boadicea, the widow of Prasutagus, was flogged, her daughters outraged, and other members of the family were treated as slaves, or deprived of their ancestral property. Roused to desperation by such treatment and fearing worse in the future, the Iceni, under the leadership of their queen Boadicea, headed a revolt, in which they were joined by the Trinobantes, a people occupying what are now the counties of Essex and Middlesex, in whose midst was the Roman colony of Camulodunum (Colchester), where a body of Roman veterans kept the native inhabitants in subjection by a system of terrorism. Taking advantage of the absence of Suetonius Paullinus, the Roman governor, in the island of Mona (Anglesey), the Iceni and their allies broke into open revolt. Camulodunum was taken and destroyed, and the temple of Claudius, which was considered to be in a peculiar degree a monument of the British humiliation, was stormed, and after a siege of two days so completely demolished that its site is undiscoverable at the present day. The devastation quickly spread far and wide. Suetonius hastened up to Londinium, collecting soldiers on his march, but did not yet feel sufficiently strong to encounter his enemies, and was forced to leave Londinium, which, as well as Verulamium, soon shared the fate of Camulodunum. The Romans were massacred in great numbers, seventy thousand according to Tacitus having been put to death, none being spared to be kept or sold as slaves. But Boadicea's triumph was of short duration. Suetonius succeeded in gaining a position in a narrow valley where it was impossible for the Britons to employ their tactics of outflanking. Tacitus gives a picturesque account of the preparations for battle on both sides. Boadicea, accompanied by her daughters, drove in her chariot through the lines of her army, reminding them of the wrongs which they had endured at the hands of the Romans, and of the mortal insults to which she and her daughters had been subjected, and inciting them to revenge. Suetonius encouraged his men in a different fashion, exhorting them not to fear multitudes consisting more of women than of men. The battle was quickly decided. Suetonius, with a force of not more than ten thousand men, inflicted an overwhelming defeat upon twenty times the number of his opponents. Eighty thousand Britons were killed, the Roman loss being only four hundred; while Boadicea, in despair at the crushing nature of her defeat, destroyed her life by poison. This battle completely put an end to the revolt and finally established the Roman supremacy in Britain.

The form of the name Boadicea which is here adopted as being sanctioned by long popular usage is without authority. The more correct form is probably Boudicca or Bodicca, which, along with the masculine Bodiccius, are found in Roman inscriptions. These names are presumed to be connected with the Welsh budd, advantage (Irish búaid, victory), Welsh buddugol, victorious; so that as a proper name Boudicca may be considered equivalent to Victoria.

[Tacitus, Ann. xiv. 31–7, Agricola, c. 15, 16; Dion Cassius, lxii. 1–12; Elton's Origins of English History; Rhys's Celtic Britain.]

A. M.