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.”


Eliza Knight said...

Fabulous post!!! I was excited to read the 2nd half. I think a little bit Boudica lives in me!


Maggie Grover said...

Thanks, Eliza! I'm glad you enjoyed the second half. Boudica's story has always struck me as a powerful example of a Heroic tale - only with a female as the lead (yay). I'm also delighted to hear Boudica's spirit lives in you -- that means you must be one awesome woman!