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British/Roman wars and Boadicea

The British war Heroin

ST.PAUL IN BRITAIN #8

by R.W.Morgan (published in 1860)


THE MIGHTY BOADICEA - THE BRITISH WAR HEROIN


     The Iceni and Coranidae had entirely forfeited the name of
Britons, and their oppression alone might have been regarded in
the light of a just retribution, but the Menai massacre merged
all other feelings in one torrent of universal indignation and
horror. Boadicea soon found herself at the head of 120,000 men in
arms. The Roman accounts impress us vividly with the profound
gloom in which their forces were plunged, by the heavy shadows of
the forthcoming disasters. 
     Portent on portent is recorded. At Colchester the statue of
Victory, like that of Dagon at Joppa, fell backward and was
shattered to fragments. A Pythoness, agitated, like Cassandra on
the eve of the fall of Troy, with the insuppressible spirit of
divination, caused the streets to re-echo with the cry - "Death
is at hand." In the senate-house the British war-cry, uttered by
invisible tongues, terrified and dispersed the councillors. The
theatres resounded with the shocks and groans of a field of
battle. In the waters of the Thames appeared the mirage of a
Roman colony subverted and in ruins. The channel between Dover
and Calais ran at high tide with blood. On the tide receding, the
sands revealed, in long lines, the impressions of files of bodies
laid out for burial. The Menai massacre had, in fact, terrified
the consciences of its perpetrators, as it had roused to fury,
the passions of the whole Druidic population. The return of
Caradoc also about this period to Siluria, though bound by solemn
stipulation, which he faithfully observed, not to bear arms again
against Rome, augmented the general commotion. The British army,
assembled at Caer Llyr (Leicester) under Venusius, was harangued
by Boadicea in person. Boadicea was a near relative of Claudia.
     We have seen the latter princess cultivating the belles
lettres, throwing her palace open to Martial and the literati of
the capital of Europe, receiving apostles, establishing the first
Christian Church in her own household, uniting the graces of
religion with refined art and high personal accomplishments. This
is the royal Christian lady, such as we should expect to find,
presiding, surrounded by the elite of Roman society, over the
household of a Roman senator of ample possessions and powerful
connexions. Dion Cassius gives us a sister picture of her cousin
the Druidic queen, under very different circumstances during the
same year in Britain., It is a grand and imposing composition,
quite unique in history. Greece and Rome shew us nothing like it.
The Maid of Orleans, in more modern times, is the only approach
to it, but all the terrible features are supplanted by gentler
ones. We see a queen, stung to madness by the wrongs which most
nearly affect womanhood, leading a whole nation to battle; the
sense of injury has changed her whole nature into that of a
Bellona, an incarnate goddess of war, and she lives only for
revenge. In her eyes every Roman is a monster already doomed. She
would have been less than woman not to have felt her dishonour,
more than human not to have panted for the hour of retribution. 


     "Boadicea," writes Dion, "ascended the general's tribunal;
her stature exceeded the ordinary height of woman; her appearance
itself carried terror; her aspect was calm and collected, but her
voice had become deep and pitiless. Her hair falling in long
golden tresses as low as her hips, was collected round her
forehead by a golden coronet; she wore a tartan dress fitting
closely to the bosom, but below the waist expanding in loose
folds as a gown; over it was a chlamys, or military cloak. In her
hand she bore a spear. She addressed the Britons as follows." -
We give only her peroration:-

"I thank thee! I worship thee! I appeal to thee a woman to a
woman, O Andraste! I rule not, like Nitocris, over beasts of
burden, as are the effeminate nations of the East, nor, like
Semiramis, over tradesmen and traffickers, nor, like the
man-woman Nero, over slaves and eunuchssuch is the precious
knowledge these foreigners introduce amongst us---but I rule over
Britons, little versed indeed in craft and diplomacy, but born
and trained to the game of war: men who, in the cause of liberty,
stake down their lives, the lives of their wives and children,
their lands and property. Queen of such a race, I implore thine
aid for freedom, for victory over enemies infamous for the
wantonness of the wrongs they inflict, for their perversions of
justice, for their contempt of religion, for their insatiable
greed; a people that revel in unmanly pleasures, whose affections
are more to be dreaded and abhorred than their enmity. Never let
a foreigner bear rule over me or these my countrymen: never let
slavery reign in this island. Be thou for ever, O goddess of
manhood and of victory, sovereign and queen in Britain. 9" 


     Colchester was carried on the first assault by the British
army. The temple, garrisoned by the veterans, held out for two
days, then shared the same fate. Petilius Cerealis,
the Roman lieutenant, was defeated, with the loss of the ninth
legion, at Coggeshall (Cocci Collis). Cerealis himself, with a
few horsemen, escaped into camp. The municipal town of Verulam
was then stormed, gutted, and burnt. London had received a Roman
garrison, under the name of a colony, within its walls. Against
it the British army, now swelled to 230,000 men, directed its
vengeance. A battle was fought and lost in its defence, at
Ambresbury, between Waltham and Epping. 10 
     Such of the inhabitants as possessed the means fled, at the
approach of the British Queen, to Regnum and Rutupium. The rest,
including the Roman citizens and foreign merchants, took refuge
with the garrison in the fortifications of the Praetorium,
extending from the temple of Diana to the White Mount. The
ramparts were escaladed, the city fired, public and private
edifices reduced indiscriminately to ashes, the walls levelled,
and above 40,000 residents put to the sword.  Leaving

......

9 Dion Cassius, Xiphilini Excerpta, printed in the government
Monumenta Britannica, ad an. 58,59.

10 The spot of Boadicea's camp is approached across the old
Ermine Street by the Camlet (Battle-way). Its figure is described
in Cromwell's "Colchester," vol. i. p.32 as irregular, containing
twelve acres, surrounded by moats and high ramparts, overgrown
with oaks and hornbeams.

......

behind this terrible example of a metropolis in conflagration,
quenched with blood, Victoria swept westward to intercept
Paulinus. Tacitus records but two, Dion many engagements, between
her and the Roman forces. Her British epithet, Buddig, or Vuddig
(the Victorians), implies that in more than one battle success
followed her standard. Tacitus localizes the last battle on the
margin of Epping forest - a plain error. The British traditions
place it on the Wyddelian road, near the modern town of
Newmarket, in Flintshire. The names still attached to the various
sites of the field confirm this statement. Here are "Cop
Paulinus," the "Hill of Arrows," the "Hill of Carnage," the
"Hollow of Woe," the "Knoll of the Melee," the "Hollow of
Execution," the "Field of the Tribunal," the "Hollow of No
Quarter." Half-a-mile further is a monolith, the "Stone of
Lamentation," and on the road to Caerwys was formerly - now
removed to Downing - the "Stone of the Grave of Vuddig." Turning
to the pages of Dion, we read the description of a conflict such
as these names suggest - a  deadly melee of legionaries,
auxiliaries, archers, cavalry, charioteers, mingled together and
swaying to and fro in all the heady currents of a long-sustained
and desperate combat. Towards sunset the fortune of the day was
decided in favour of the Romans. The Britons, driven back on
their intrenchments, left a large number dead on the field, or,
prisoners in the hands of the enemy. They prepared, however, to
renew the conflict, but in the interim, Victoria died, by poison
according to Tacitus - in the course of nature according to the
Greek historian, who adds that her obsequies were celebrated with
extraordinary magnificence. Her death little affected the spirit
or resources of the western and northern Britons, who continued
hostilities with unabated vigour under Arviragus, Venusius, and
Gwallog, or Galgacus. 11 

     Harassed by the same anxieties that had undermined the
constitution of Ostorius Scapula, Paulinus, at the expiration of
the year A.D.61, resigned his command to Petronius Turpilianus.
The whole of the Roman empire elsewhere continued to enjoy
tranquility, Syria alone excepted, the disturbances in which were
pacified in a few months by Corbulo. Whatever emperor occupied
the throne, the military service was never deficient in generals
of the highest order of ability. The war had now lasted eighteen
years, and the Roman province was still limited by the Exe and
Severn westward and the Humber on the north. Even within these
lines its bounds fluctuated with the success of reverses or the
imperial arms. 12

......

11 We have elsewhere observed that the gallant and successful
resistance of Britain to the Roman invasions was mainly due to
the patriotic spirit and exalted doctrines with regard to the
indestructibility of the soul breathed by their Druidic religion.
Seneca was the indirect cause of the Boadicean war. His nephew
Lucan, in the first book of Pharsalia, attributes the British
fearlessness of death to Druidic teaching in the following fine
lines:- 

"Certe populi quos despicit Arctus,
Felices errore suo, quos ille timorum
Maximus haud urget, lethi metus. Inde ruendi 
In ferrum mens prona vivis animaeque capaces 
Mortis et ignavum rediturae parcere vitae."

Cicero had noted the fact before-- "In proelio morituri exultant
Cimbri." - Tuscul. Disp., lib. ii.

12 "Non poterant Britanni sub Romana ditioni teneri," is the
frank admission of the Augustini Scriptores, p.68.

......

                            ..................

To be continued

Note:

So great and so mighty a war leader was Boadicea that she is
honored in London and Britain, with a splendid statue of her in a
war chariot. The truth of the matter is that Rome only accupied
parts of Britain, but NEVER conquered it. As history records Rome
never even accupied Scotland, they could not defeat the Scots and
Picts, and to keep them from coming down and driving the Romans
out of England they had to errect a wall right across the
Northern part of England, called Adrian's Wall, as it was
errected under the leadership of the Roman general Adrian.

The real truth of Rome and Britain in the first and second
century A.D. was hardly ever given to my generation of High
School students in the 1950s. The truth can be known and
hopefully it is not hidden any more as once it was - Keith Hunt

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