Boudicca & the Revolt

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The spoils of wars, invasions, rebellions, and triumphs have plagued British history. Yet, perhaps one of the most defining moments of its’ past is the Icenian revolt led by Boudicca against the Roman Rule in an attempt to re-establish Celtic power, in 61 AD. With the revolt being largely recounted by two of the most influential Roman historians of the ancient world, Cornelius Tacitus and Cassius Dio, the British were successfully presented to be of a barbaric nature; leaving behind a legacy of destruction and massacre that resulted in military failure and brought forth little success. But despite the obvious Roman agenda that has been intertwined within the recounts of Tacitus and Dio, they remain to be the only credible primary sources of information and provide the most accurate reports of the revolt’s eruption, core and aftermath.

Differences and contradictions exist in both accounts of the revolt, with Tacitus harbouring a more lenient attitude towards the British in his collections, ‘Agricola’ and the ‘Annals’. Tacitus suggests that the underlying cause of the revolt was the mistreatment of the Iceni tribe by the Romans following Prasutagus’ death. Tacitus writes in Agricola, ‘the Britons dwelt much amongst themselves on the miseries of subjection…’ introducing the idea that the native’s rights had been suppressed and that the revolt was partly at the fault of the Roman government. Tacitus, in the Annals, proposes that frustration and resentment grew within the Iceni after the Romans ignored Prasutagus’ will to share the rulership of the tribe between the emperor and his two daughters. Instead, Roman officers and slaves alike attacked his kingdom, publicly flogging his wife, Boudicca, and raping his two daughters. Outrage ensued within the humiliated tribe, subsequently leading to the rise of the revolt. Tacitus’ account of the events that led to the revolt display a soft tone of sympathy towards the natives, whilst also openly criticizing and...
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