Saturday, September 01, 2012


For Dr. Michael (Urspo) Rockwell

-------------------From Timeline of Kings & Queens from Charlemagne to Elizabeth II by Gordon Kerr---------------------
AD 903  Rome: Leo V becomes pope for 30 days before being deposed and murdered by antipope Christopher.

AD 904  Rome: Antipope Christopher is ejected and strangled; Pope Sergius III becomes pope, beginning the 30-year era of the Pornocacy, a time of great excess and violence; he is the only pope to have ordered the murder of another pope, and the only pope to father an illegitimate son who also became pope.


Michael Rockwell of Spo Reflections, wished to know more about Boudicca, the Celtic Queen who proved to be significantly more than a speed bump in the Roman occupation and assimilation of Britain.  So here is a bit of her amazing story:

"She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell to her knees: She wore a great twisted golden necklace, and a tunic of many colors, over which was a thick mantle, fastened by a brooch. Now she grasped a spear, to strike fear into all who watched her...…" -Roman historian Dio Cassius 

The Romans arrived in Britannia under Julius Caesar in 55BC but departed the next year.  The major invasion and settlement began in AD43 during the reign of Emperor Claudius.  Urban centers were established in Camulodunum (modern day Colchester), Londinium (London) and Virulamium (St. Albans).

In Colchester a massive temple to the deified Claudius was built on an enormous raised podium; it was then the largest Roman temple, and one of the largest buildings of any kind in the world (model based on archaeological evidence, above).

In AD60 Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni, a Celtic tribe he ruled as an independent Roman ally near Colchester, died, leaving his lands jointly to his sons and Emperor Nero.  But a couple of hotshot young Roman commanders decided to seize all Iceni territory as a conquered Province.  Then they went a step (way) too far, flogging Prasutagus' widow Boudicca and raping her daughters.  BIG mistake.  Huge.

Boudicca gathered her people and other local tribes while Suetonius, the Roman Commander of Britannia was in Wales.  They burned Colchester, destroying the Temple of Claudius -- only the huge vaulted podium remained, now the foundation of Colchester's medieval castle.  Suetonius and his army raced back from Wales, realized that Boudicca was marching on Londinium and evacuated the city, which her army burned to the ground over a three day period.  Modern archaeologists easily recognize the thick ash layer filled with some coins and many pottery shards and some other artifacts that is the remains of Boudicca's destruction of the first London.

From London, she turned north and destroyed Virulamium.  Estimates of the number of Romans killed in Boudica's onslaught vary from a low of 20,000 to a high of 80,000.  By this time Suetonius had his troops organized and confronted Boudicca and her much larger force in the midlands, defeating them soundly.

What happened next is not clearly documented; Boudicca died, perhaps of disease contracted in her military camps, but more likely from taking poison to avoid falling into Roman hands and being paraded in chains behind Suetonius's chariot through the streets of Rome.  Although she was defeated by the Romans, Boudicca influenced Roman policy toward assimilating the Celts more completely into becoming contented and loyal Roman citizens as Britannia was rebuilt.

As the linguistic origins of Boudicca's name indicate that it meant victory or victorious (Bouda = victory in Celtic), interest in her was revived in the 19th century as a kind of precursor to Queen Victoria.  Poems were written, ships named, operas composed, and Prince Albert commissioned the great bronze statue of Boudicca and her daughters in her chariot that stands near the Houses of Parliament as a tribute to Victoria, his wife.

Boudicca, ironically classically Romanized in her magnificent memorial in London.  Her name here is in the spelling history books used to give.  The very observant and accurate Roman historian Tacitus spelled her name Boudicca, which spelling has been restored by recent historians.

So she died like Cleopatra, if not by an asp's bite. How fascinating. I didn't realise there was such a vivid description of her. Surprised there hasn't been a
Hollywood film about her (or maybe there has). Now, what about Caractacus?
I can't find any Hollywood films, but British films were made in 1928 and 2003, with a TV series in 1978. Purcell's last work was apparently about her.

As for Caractacus, his uniform gets a nice mention in HMS Pinafore!
I have a great fondness for 'warriors' who did not cower to the Powers that Be. I am especially fond of "Warrior Queens" - she has this archtypal energy is spades !

thank you for posting it !
Those films and the TV series passed me by; thanks for checking.

Pedant's corner - Caractacus's uniform, rhyming with 'Babylonic cuneiform', is mentioned by the Major-General in Pirates, not Pinafore.
Right -- I've even sung it in public and should have known better!
If not for the poison her story sounds like a prologue for Titus Andronicus.
"She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice."
I myself have met such a warrior 'queen'. ;-)
It sounds as if there is a story there, Dave. Perhaps you will tell it . . .?
Well, practically no potential for enlightenment if I were to, as I suspect we've all met large/angry/loud queens at one time or another. I have, however, written yesterday with a small reference aimed at you and Michael;-)
Thank you, Will, glad SPo asked, because I sure have learned something here.
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