Monday, July 28, 2008

A woman with crotch Part 2

Dear Readers,
This is Part 2 of Maggie Grover's A Woman With Crotch. I promise to

resume my regular posts

on August 15th.
Delilah Marvelle

Hello again from the middle of the first century CE. For those of you who didn’t read my last posting, this blog is the second of two parts about Boudica, a woman who stood up, spoke up, and made a difference (AKA a woman with crotch) -- despite five Romans and one Iceni king (Prasutagus, her husband) doing their darndest to make life difficult.
To refresh your memory, Boudica was a queen from the Iceni tribe who was called a tall, tawny-haired woman with a fierce aspect. Basically, a woman capable of scaring the pants off the men of the Roman Empire. Her country had been invaded by two famous Romans -- Julius Caesar and Claudius -- and things were not going well.
When Claudius was assassinated, Nero, the third Roman, became Emperor. This wasn’t a good thing for Britain. Nero, as did his predecessors, looked to Britain to fill his coffers.
Boudica’s husband, Prasutagus, died (of natural causes) after years of working with Rome in an effort to ease the suffering of his people. His last act of appeasement was to change his will. Did he have Boudica’s advice and consent? We don’t know, but given what happened, I wonder. Prasutagus was a man who was longa opulentia clarus – long renowned for his wealth -- yet he didn’t fully appreciate the avarice of either Nero or Decianus Catus, the Procurator of Britain. He's the fourth Roman and he lit the spark to the whole thing.
Prasutagus left half his estate to their two daughters and half to Nero. He named Boudica as regent. It wasn’t Boudica being named queen that was the problem. It was the “half of the estate” that wasn’t going to Nero -- it was the Roman version of “show me the money!”
Decianus Catus had orders from Nero to inventory everything Prasutagus had and then, to, well, just take it. He could, of course, keep a finder’s fee, if he was unscrupulous. Turned out he was. Boudica objected. Strongly. After all, there were treaties in place between their two people. There was a long history of mutual benefit. She was a queen, a woman, and as such, deserved respect. Decianus Catus didn’t want to hear any of it. He thought of her, and her people, as low-life rabble to be swept aside for the glory that was Rome. There was only one way to subdue rabble intent on rebellion. He ordered Boudica stripped and flogged and her two daughters, as spoils of war, to be raped.
This practice had worked well in other areas of the Roman Empire, but Decianus Catus had severely underestimated the Celts. Boudica was a warrior+queen+priestess. He had just violated one of the most sacred people of a tribe of warriors, and violated her daughters as well. Decianus Catus had thought it rebellion, well, now he really had one.
Boudica called her people to war. For specific details, I recommend Richard Hingley’s Boudica; Graham Webster’s Boudica and Antonia Fraser’s The Warrior Queens. I’ll just touch the highlights –
Boudica and her army went after Camulodunum (modern Colchester), the first colonia in Britain, which means it was inhabited pensioned soldiers. The traditional reward for Roman service was to be given the lands of the conquered. Beats having to shell out money for an employee IRA. To make matters worse, the veterans drove the locals from their lands, forced them into slavery and ordered them to build a Roman temple -- the highest insult for it was not to be a sacred place of worship in a grove, but rather a stone and mortar symbol of their subjugation. Boudica, and her army, cornered the soldiers in the temple and "took no prisoners".
Next, Boudica sent a party to ambush a legion. A legion! Needless to say, afterwards, the commander had some serious explaining to do to avoid being ordered to fall on his own sword.
Boudica, with the successes compelling her on, set her sights on Londinium (modern London) – it didn’t rank as a true Roman settlement, but was a vital center for commerce – Roman fortunes were being made there. They burned it to the ground and sacrificial offerings made of the inhabitants who’d “commerced” with the Romans.
Then, Verulamium (modern St. Albans), a smaller settlement populated by Britons friendly to the Romans was conquered – perhaps as a lesson to anyone “sleeping with the enemy”?
It seemed it might actually be possible to throw off the Roman yoke at last.
Enter the fifth Roman. The Governor of Britain, Suetonius Paulinus was in Wales, campaigning (so jolly-sounding a word for something that included enslaving the locals, taking their property) when he received word. He mustered an army of 10,000 men, but apparently was heavily outnumbered, so he chose his battle site carefully. The annals speak of a place where there was a sharp rise in the ground. Unfortunately for Boudica and her army, it was good planning on the part of Suetonius. The Celt battle strategy was to instill fear by using a headlong, weapon swinging, war-cry shouting race forward. If the Romans had the high ground, the Celts would have to run uphill. After a valiant battle, Boudica and her army lost.
Afterwards, Britain was not a happy place for years. However, Rome was so shocked by Boudica's rebellion, they re-vamped their policies to be more understanding towards Britain and other territories.
And what of Boudica? One source says she took poison, the other postulates she died on the field of battle. Either way, I like to think her spirit lives on in every woman who draws the line in the sand and says, “Treat me with respect, treat me as an equal. Or else.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A woman with crotch

Dear Readers,
As I am still on holiday, and will be for a bit longer (believe me, I bloody needed it), I have pulled in yet another fabulous resource to help me post while I am away. The fabulous and talented Maggie Grover. Please post! This is but post 1 of 2. I promise to begin posting once again come August 15th.
Delilah Marvelle

First, I’d like to thank Delilah for inviting me to her blog. She and I go back many years. I won’t reveal how many, for a woman never posts her age, nor the age of her friends. Suffice it to say, I’ve known Delilah since shortly after she first learned to play the pianoforte and she is quite accomplished at it now. It’s truly an honor to post here, as I, too, share her great love of stories as well as her passion to discuss things that most would shy away from. Perhaps this passion stems from both of us being voracious readers and we’ve learned to never underestimate the power of reading, especially the power of reading banned books. It causes you to ask questions. Questions about the story of Adam and Eve. Questions about sex. And, as Delilah put it in her first post, questions about why, even in the earliest forms of writing about history and culture, men controlled women’s sexuality and the telling of their stories. We wanted to know more about HER-story, not HIS-story.
So, my postings will be about women who stood up, spoke up, and made a difference. Or, as a friend of mine calls it, women who have crotch. And, yes, there were plenty of women before our times who had crotch, we just haven’t heard about most of them. As I mainly write historical novels about the people of Great Britain, I’ll tell you the tale of one of their all-time favorite heroines who had uber-crotch. She was Boudica (or Boudicea) by name, warrior+queen+priestess by game. And what a game it was. Limited written sources do exist, and two Roman historians (Dio Cassius and Tacitus) speak of a tall, tawny-haired woman with a fierce aspect. Basically, a woman capable of scaring the pants off the men of the Roman empire – well, not literally, because the Romans wore a garment more like a tunic. Anyway, you get the idea, she made the Romans tremble -- and not in a good way. Tacitus researched his biography of Boudica by reading documents of the time. Dio Cassius interviewed his father-in-law, one of the Romans who had his pants scared off. I think Dio Cassius described the Roman mindset best when he wrote, “Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame.” What was the ruin? Well, again with Dio Cassius -- a “great shock to the Roman government for rarely in their annals had there been a rebellion of such magnitude and ferocity.”
Rebellion? Led by a woman? But why? How? Well, around 60 CE, Boudica lived near what is now Norfolk, England and was married to an Iceni king, although she most likely was a queen in her own right – some say from the Iceni tribe itself, or possibly even as far away as Ireland. Either way, she was a woman of power, from the upper class, which if you were a Celt, meant you were trained in the art of a warrior, and more than likely, in the spiritual, or druidic arts as well, for the Celts were a people with a rich and complex culture, worthy of a series of their own blog-postings. Which reminds me, Boudica’s story is no less rich, so to do her justice, this will be a two-part posting.
Now, the backstory to her rebellion. Five Romans and one Iceni king (Boudica’s husband) figure in the mix. Three of the men you’ve probably heard of - the other three, probably not. The first was a Roman general who really, really liked being in charge of Rome and its provinces. Think of it – all that power, all that money, and throw in the possibility of being made a god by the people? What upwardly mobile male worth his testosterone wouldn’t like that? So, he asked himself, how can I expand on this? Why, simple -- get more resources for Rome or save Rome from Her enemies. What kind of resources? Iron and tin. And who were her enemies? Well, let’s see, Rome in 55 BCE pretty much included everything bordering the Mediterranean, give or take a few countries like Egypt with her soon-to-be Queen Cleopatra (this is a hint as to who the general was). Said general decides that the most exciting place left was a mysterious island across the channel from what we now call France. The place was inhabited by, as viewed by the Romans, sword-wielding, grove-worshipping barbarians. And, what a coincidence, the barbarian’s land just happened to have iron and tin. This general assured the Roman senate that the resources weren’t what the conflict was really about. He simply wanted to bring the benefits of a Roman way of life to them. The general’s name? Julius Caesar.
It wasn’t really much of an invasion, but it did lay the groundwork for the next one, and Caesar did get a really nice triumphal parade out of it. Jump ahead almost 100 years. Claudius, the fourth Roman emperor, realizes he, too, needs to have a military triumph. Where better? So, off Claudius went to the mysterious island. He invaded, made a slew of treaties with the local Celtic kings he had no intention of keeping, then returned to Rome just in time for his triumphal march. Only thing is, the men he left behind weren’t exactly, shall we say, politically correct? Jump ahead a few years, the cost of living is up, slavery is on the rise, local resources are being plundered and it’s time for a fiddle-playing emperor to come to power. It’s also the time for Boudica’s husband to die…and alas, I'm out of space. The rest of Boudica's story will have to wait until my next post. In the meantime, feel free to post your favorite uber-woman from history and be sure and tell us why.