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Boudica

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 11 March 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and mythologisation of Boudica.

On the eve of battle with the Roman Empire, an East Anglian leader roused her forces by declaring: 'It is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom'.

Her name was Boudica, warrior Queen of the Iceni.

In 60AD, Boudica's husband Prasutagus died and Roman troops tried to incorporate his lands into their Empire. Soldiers publicly flogged Boudica and raped her daughters. In retaliation, she led an army of tribesmen and sacked Camulodunum, modern day Colchester, before marching on London. Such was the ferocity of Boudica's attack that she came close to driving the Roman Imperial power out of Britain before she was finally defeated.

Boudica was largely forgotten in the Middle Ages, but her image reappeared during the rule of Elizabeth I as a striking symbol of female power and heroism, before being denigrated by Elizabeth's heir, James I. In Victorian Britain, Boudica once again emerged, this time as a symbol of British Imperial power. The challenger to the Roman Empire had been transformed into the icon of the British Empire and to this day her statue stands guard outside the Houses of Parliament.

With Juliette Wood, Associate Lecturer in Folklore at Cardiff University; Richard Hingley, Professor of Roman Archaeology at Durham University; and Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Professor of Archaeology in the School of History and Archaeology at Cardiff University.

  • FURTHER READING

    Aldhouse-Green, Miranda, ‘Boudica Britannia: rebel, war-leader and queen’ (Harlow, England; New York: Pearson Longman, c2006)

    Aldhouse-Green, Miranda, ‘Exploring the World of the Druids’ (Thames & Hudson, 2005)

    Hingley, R. & Unwin, C., ‘Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen’ (London:
    Hambledon and London, 2005)

    Hingley, Richard, ‘The Recovery of Roman Britain 1586 to 1906: A Colony So Fertile’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

    Hingley R., ‘Roman Officers and English Gentlemen’ (London: Routledge, 2000)

    Mikalachki, Jodi, ‘The Legacy of Boadicea: Gender and Nation in Early Modern England’ (London: Routledge, 1998)

    Sealey, Paul, ‘The Boudican Revolt Against Rome’, 2nd Edition (Shire Archaeology, 2004)

    Watts, Dorothy, ‘Boudica’s Heirs: Women in Early Britain’ (London: Routledge, 2005)

    Webster, Graham, ‘Boudica: The British Revolt Against Rome AD 60’ (London: New York: Routledge, 1993 rev. edition)

    Wood, Juliette, ‘Celtic Goddesses: Myths and Mythology’ in ‘The Feminist Companion to Mythology’, ed. Carolyne Larrington (Pandora Press, 1992)

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