BOUDICCA, WARRIOR QUEEN

Women have moved to the front lines of every endeavor. Politics, business, finance, religion, etc.

It was not always so. It has been a struggle. Isolated incidents of female leadership. Gender discrimination common place. Woman treated as second class citizens. When conquered, subject to beatings, rapes, torture and death. Suicides prevalent.

Hillary Clinton is recognized by many as the outstanding feminist of the day. There are others. Through the ages. Women like Carly Fiorina, Angela Merkel, Condoleeza Rice, Oprah Winfrey, Indra Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Margaret Thatcher, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Peron, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth I, Joan of Arc, Catherine de Medici, and Cleopatra.

In their own way, each lead. Each stood up for what she considered correct. No vacillating. They took the ball and ran with it. Proving in many instances women can be from Mars as well as Venus.

Going way back in history, it is difficult to identify female leaders. Before the birth of Christ, at the time, and in the immediate years following His death. The reason was chronicles were not kept by most peoples. A written history does not exist.

Which means the lady who is the subject matter of this column might have remained unknown. Even though she was wildly known throughout Britain and the Roman Empire during her time. What is recorded of her exploits is found in Roman writings.

Her name Boudicca. She and her husband Prasutagus were King and Queen of a Celtic tribe in Britain known as Iceni. They governed Iceni for many years. Lived lavishly and spent money like there was no tomorrow. Governed well. Shared the wealth. Kept everyone happy.

Rome was the power at the time and for several hundred years thereafter. Rome was a force in Britain. They had conquered certain areas and effectively controlled other areas.

Where a tribe or group was conquered, Rome had the legions govern. Where a tribe for example never fought Rome and was happy to live peacefully with Rome, Rome left that tribe alone to govern itself.

Prasutagus and Boudicca were King and Queen from the mid 30s AD to 60 or 61 AD.

Prasutagus died. He left a will. The will gave Iceni to Rome and his wife Boudicca and their two daughters. All as joint heirs. This did not set well with Rome. The arrangement Rome had with Prasutagus was that at the time of his death, everything became Rome’s. Nothing to the wife or daughters. Such was by agreement and custom. The custom phase was women could not hold title to property. The second class citizen thing.

Rome immediately sent legions to Iceni to put down what they considered a revolt. Which it technically was not. The Romans wasted no time. They killed the Iceni nobles. Flogged Boudicca and raped her two daughters in front of her. Additionally, the Romans arranged for the bankers to call in all loans the people of Iceni, including Boudicca, had outstanding.

The time was 60 or 61 AD. Historians are not certain as to the specific year.

Boudicca was not a happy woman. A strong willed individual. She led a revolt against Rome. Her army consisted of Icenians and some other tribes. Her army immediately grew to 100,000. She destroyed the Roman colony of Colchester. Colchester was a settlement for discharged Roman soldiers and also the site of a temple to Emperor Claudius.

Boudicca destroyed everything and everyone. Killed the Romans and burned areas to the ground. A Roman legion of 1,500 hurried to save Colchester. She ambushed and annihilated all 1,500 of Rome’s finest warriors.

Then Boudicca moved onto London. The Roman leader had nowhere the 100,000 fighting men Boudicca had. He left town with his soldiers before she arrived. Boudicca burned London to the ground and slaughtered any persons left in London. No mercy shown once again.

Boudicca then proceeded to St. Albans. Destroyed it in the same manner as Colchester and London.

In the three communities, she cut throats, hanged, burned and crucified. Soldiers and citizens. The tables turned. The Romans became terrified of her.

Nero was Emperor. He had no taste for this crazy woman. He considered withdrawing all Roman legions from Britain. The Battle of Watling Street, which the Romans won, changed his mind.

Rome sent a force to deal with her. Though Boudicca had many more troops, the Romans were better trained. The Roman soldiers slaughtered tens of thousands of Boudicca’s troops.

Boudicca had no desire to fall into the hands of the Romans. She took poison rather than be captured. Somewhat in the same vein as Cleopatra and the asp.

Gender discrimination was prevalent during these times. It is reflected in the words of the historian Dio Cassius who said Boudicca was “possessed of greater intelligence than often belonged to women.”

It must be noted that pain and suffering were inflicted by both sides. Some historians believe Boudicca was a bit harsher. She had no interest in taking prisoners. She slaughtered them by gibbet, fire or cross.

A gibbet was any instrument of public execution. Boudicca had two favorites. One was  hanging a person on a gallows type structure till dead. The other placing a condemned person in a metal cage and leaving the person to die of thirst.

Boudicca was less than pleasant to captured noble women. She impaled them on spikes, had their breasts cut off, and then sewed to their lips.

As indicated, the Romans were only slightly less severe than Boudicca in killing prisoners. Neither side wanted prisoners. They had to be killed. Both sides engaged in rapes, killings, torture, beheadings, cutting throats, hanging, burning alive, and crucifixions.

Makes one wonder if man has learned anything over the centuries. Al Qaeda and ISIS perpetrate similar acts today. An example that history repeats itself.

Boudicca used women and children as a last line of defense.  She would ring the battlefield with them so the Romans might be dissuaded to kill such innocents. The Romans were not dissuaded.

Boudicca became known as the Warrior Queen.

Who can know if she was right in killing and destroying as she did. The opposition was committing similar atrocities. She gave what she got. Sort of a what is good for the goose is good for the gander thing.

Additionally, Boudicca saw her daughters raped. Heavy. In such a situation, vengeance for some is no longer in the hands of God. It becomes man’s right.

Rome continued to control Britain for three more centuries. There were no more Boudiccas during that time.

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