Boudicca by Tami Wicinas

boudicca1Queen Boudicca by Tami Wicinas

“But heaven is on the side of a righteous vengeance; a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight.” —Queen Boudicca of the Iceni, quoted in The Annals by Tacitus

“A treacherous lioness butchered the governors who had been left to give fuller voice and strength to the endeavors of Roman rule.” —Gildas Sapiens

An avid enthusiast of Ancient Roman History, I have a certain level of respect for rulers and peoples not afraid to put them in their place. Queen Boudicca’s uprising against the Romans was an event that need not have happened had those in charge given consideration to playing nice. For those not familiar with the history, Boudicca’s husband, King Prasutagus of the Iceni, was a client monarch and ally of the Romans. In his will he left his kingdom to his two daughters and the Emperor. Unfortunately, in what amounts to a dick move by a asshole trying to establish his authority, the emperor’s procurator, Decianus Catus, confiscated all of the late king’s property and sacked the palace, then had Boudicca flogged and her daughters raped.

Rallying the Iceni and their allied tribes against this outrage, Boudicca led some 100,000 tribesmen in the sacking and burning of the settlements of Colchester, Londinum, and Verulam, slaughtering all inhabitants they caught. Following the destruction of Colchester, Roman commander Quintus Petillius Cerialis led Legion IX Hispana against the Iceni horde. His vexillation of two thousand found itself swamped by the sheer number of barbarians and was overwhelmed. Only Petillius and a number of his cavalry managed to escape annihilation.

Rushing back from his conquests in Wales and the isle of Mona, Roman General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus brought with him Legion XIV, part of Legion XX, and any auxiliaries he could muster to counter Boudicca’s reign of terror. Suetonius led his cavalry ahead to defend Londonim, but was unable to rally any additional defense for the wall-less city. Realizing he’d never be able to defend against the oncoming horde, he made the harsh, but strategically-sound, decision to abandon the city and rejoin his legions. After regrouping to meet Boudicca’s forces, Suetonius chose a defensible battlefield where the flanks and rear were protected by dense woodlands, forcing the Iceni to attack his 10,000 legionaries head on. Before the unwieldy horde could get into battle array and charge, the legionaries and cavalry rushed the barbarians and routed them in the confusion. Their own supply wagons blocking the way, the Iceni found themselves unable to escape and were utterly slaughtered by the outnumbered Romans. Boudicca committed suicide by poison following the battle.

boudicca2I’ve seen many representations of Boudicca by classical and contemporary artists, but this image by Tami Wicinas remains one of my favorites. She has an air of calm, cold contempt in her expression, posture, and stride—far more intimidating and authoritative than some scream of barbarian rage. She very much looks the role of a warrior queen, comfortable both commanding from the throne and fighting on the line.

While I don’t know enough about the history to know if Boudicca dressed precisely like this, I like the overall look of her outfit and feel it’s thematically appropriate, historical accuracy be damned. The wolfskin cloak works well for me, as animal pelts are great against the cold and elements, plus wolf and bear hides make for kind of a hardcore trophy. Her dress and tunic are appropriately Celtic, dyed green possibly to blend with the forest—or from the plain fact that green dyes have always been easiest to make. Boots are sturdy leather for traversing fens and woodland or striding confidently amid a field of slain legionaries. Her wrists are protected by sturdy leather bracers. And her weapon of choice is a Celtic broadsword.

Most of all, I love her armor, though. Boudicca’s torso protection of choice is a jack, or brigantine, a relatively easy-to-make armor, consisting of plates of metal or leather riveted to a woolen or leather jacket or vest. Boudicca’s jack is made from hardened leather plates, offering similar protection from spears and arrows found in a hardened leather breastplate, but with added comfort and flexibility. While we don’t know if Boudicca ever wore a brigantine, it’s a type of armor that certainly would have been available in during her time period, and would remain in use well into the Renaissance.

Thanks once again to Tami for letting me borrow Boudicca, and as always thanks for reading, everyone! Take care and stay awesome.

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One Response to Boudicca by Tami Wicinas

  1. One cautionary note I’d like to add about Boudicca: while a fearsome warrior queen and a rousing war-leader, I feel like too often she is lauded as a freedom fighter and great general for no other reason than that she fought against the Romans and defeated one of their legions. Firstly, her destruction of Legion IX was a result of sheer numbers, rather than any trick or tactic on her part. Additionally, her army was destroyed largely because she allowed Suetonius to choose the battlefield. Part of what made the legions so formidable was their commanders’ ability to force their opponents to fight on unfavorable terrain—the chief reason they were able to beat the well-trained pike phalanxes of Macedon and Seleucia, and the reason Caesar and Pompey’s legions spent more time maneuvering than fighting during the Civil War. Suetonius’s strategy was to force Boudicca’s horde to attack his legionaries from the front by cutting off their access to his army’s flanks. This was about as basic a bottlenecking tactic as it gets, and one that would have made any competent strategist reevaluate her approach. But our Boudicca rushed her Iceni directly into the legionaries’ swords and javelins.

    Secondly, I have difficulty viewing her as a freedom fighter in light of her utter destruction of Colchester, Londinum, and Verulam. Historians of the time estimate and archeological studies confirm that as many as 70,000 people were slaughtered in her sacking of these cities—nearly all of them noncombatants. Too, not one of these three cities served as a legionary base; in fact none of the even had walls, and thus were in no way military targets. While it can certainly be argued that Boudicca fought for her people’s freedom, her wanton and brutal destruction of these cities definitely brings her motives and long-term strategy into question.

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