| FORUM | ARCHIVE |                    | TOTAL QUIZ RESULT |


  New Posts New Posts RSS Feed - Boudicca: Television or Tacitus?
  FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login


Welcome stranger, click here to read about some of the great benefits of registering for a free account with us and joining us in our global online community.


Boudicca: Television or Tacitus?

 Post Reply Post Reply
Author
caldrail View Drop Down
Moderator
Moderator
Avatar

Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Rushey Platt
Status: Offline
Points: 1235
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Boudicca: Television or Tacitus?
    Posted: 28 Aug 2019 at 01:47

Whilst I was on holiday I saw a television broadcast of a dramatised documentary about Boudicca's rebellion against Rome in AD60. Entertaining stuff, however biased toward the Roman account, which is admittedly our only source and written back in the day to conform to their readers expectations of an interesting and dramatic anecdote. But as I watched, I realised the presenter was making fundamental errors about Rome's provincial policies.

 

In short, I hereby examine three statements made during the program.

 

1 - That Rome ruled by violence and oppression

2 - That Rome relied on the invincibility of her army

3 - That the rebellion illustrates the truth of what life was like under Roman rule.

 

1 - Rome ruled by violence and oppression

This is a common conception. Rome is seen as a monolithic nation state that assimilates populations to produce indentikit citizens with a generation or two.

 

This was simply not so. Rome was at heart a city state with influence over a network of territories of varying status and native populations owing them loyalty and taxes. it is true that many regions were brought into the empire via conquest of one sort or another, but let's not forget that the realm of Iceni was a client state that Rome expected to inherit.

 

Tacitus tells us that...

 

The imperial agent Caisu Decianus, horrified by the catastrophe and his unpopularity, withdrew to Gaul. It was his rapacity which had driven the province to war

Annals (Tacitus)

 

Imperial agent? So Decianus was there at the orders of Nero to make sure the man the Senate had sent to make sure the province was doing fine, was doing fine. Whilst the habit of being rapacious, greedy, clumsy, and brutal was an unfortunate tendency of senior Romans in Provincial assignment, clearly not all of them were. Therefore violence and oppression was a policy pursued by individual Romans at their discretion rather than any tyrannical regime the Romans had foisted upon the unfortunate Britons. But then, the Romans didn't like tyrants all that much, never mind the Britons.

 

 

2 - Rome relied on the invincibility of her army

Rome's legions were not invincible and they knew it. The sources contain many references to utter defeats and indeed, some describe one legion or another as barely resembling a military unit at all. But let's read what Tacitus says about a military mission to relieve the sack of Camulodunum.

 

The Ninth Roman legion, commanded by Quintus Perilius Cerialus Caesius Rufus, attempted to relieve the town, but was stopped by the victorious Britons and routed. its entire infantry force were massacred, while the commander escaped to his camp with his cavalry and sheltered behind its defenses.

Annals (Tacitus)

 

Oh dear. The commander ran away with his horsemen, perhaps two or three percent of a full strength legion. How invincible was that?

 

 

3 - That the rebellion illustrates the truth of what life was like under Roman rule.

The 'savage' Britons ran riot, attacking Londinium, Veralumium, and eventually meeting another legionary force under the senatorial governor Suetonius, at the Battle of Watling Street. Tacitus kindly gives us the speech made by Boudicca - which is clearly invented since no-one would have recorded it for the benefit of a Roman historian. The Britons lose, and Boudicca is said to have poisoned herself - a standard Roman style fate. Nero sends replacements for the casualties suffered by the Ninth Legion. And hot off the boat is Decianus' replacement.

 

Still the savage British tribesmen were disinclined for peace, especially as the newly arrived Imperial Agent Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, successor to Caius Decianus, was on bad terms with Suetonius, and allowed his personal animosities to damage the national interests.

Annals (Tacitus)

 

Should have all been sorted. Calmly, confidently, and decisively. But as happens in these anecdotes of Roman disorder, personality is the flaw rather than politics. Nero senses things aren't working out, and sends his freedman Polyclitus to investigate, who travelled with a seriously large entourage that stretched the patience of Italy and Gaul. it even intimidated the Roman legions. The Britons were, by all accounts, quite amused.

 

But all this was toned down in Polyclitus' reports to the emperor. Retained as governor, Suetonius lost a few ships and their crews on the shore, and was then superseded for not terminating the war. His successor, the recent consul Publius Petronius Turpilianus, neither provoking the enemy nor provoked, called this ignoble inactivity peace with honour.

Annals (Tacitus)

 

One imperial agent ran away, his replacement pursued intrigue rather than the rebels.. The senatorial governor got the sack, his replacement did nothing until the leaderless rebels gave up.

 

 

Conclusion

The television presenter stopped at the defeat of Boudicca, describing Rome as a tyranny that trampled rebellions with violence and oppression. What Tacitus describes is a catalogue of folly. Greed, cowardice, intrigue, indecisiveness, and clumsiness. The war is not won, merely left to fizzle out.

 

Violence and oppression? Truth was the Romans were too busy making mistakes.

http://www.unrv.com/forum/blog/31-caldrails-blog/
Back to Top
Sponsored Links


Back to Top
Vanuatu View Drop Down
Administrator
Administrator
Avatar

Joined: 24 Feb 2015
Location: New England
Status: Offline
Points: 2073
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Aug 2019 at 12:06
Did the 9th Legion ever recover the Eagle Standard from the Britons?

In the documentary when they describe the final battle where Boudicca's army becomes trapped by the nature landscape, they are slaughtered easily by Rome- but wouldn't the Iceni know the land better than Rome?  
Does that part of Tacitus' account sound plausible?
Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)
Back to Top
toyomotor View Drop Down
Moderator
Moderator
Avatar

Joined: 15 Feb 2014
Location: Tasmania, AUST.
Status: Offline
Points: 5309
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Aug 2019 at 13:55
Didn't the 9th Legion disappear in Scotland?

As for the battle record, history, invariably, is written by the victors. Never let the truth interfere with a good story.
“The biggest surprise in a man’s life is old age.”
Back to Top
Vanuatu View Drop Down
Administrator
Administrator
Avatar

Joined: 24 Feb 2015
Location: New England
Status: Offline
Points: 2073
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Aug 2019 at 23:48
Originally posted by toyomotor toyomotor wrote:

Didn't the 9th Legion disappear in Scotland?

As for the battle record, history, invariably, is written by the victors. Never let the truth interfere with a good story.
Hi toyomotor, yes Caldrail covers the fact that a whole 9th division was lost. Found a tidbit about Caledonia, I love this stuff;Wiki http://https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caledonia
This article is about Caledonia as the Latin name for Scotland. For other uses, see Caledonia (disambiguation).

Caledonia (/ˌkælɪˈdniə/) is the Latin name given by the Romans to the land north of their province of Britannia, beyond the frontier of their empire, roughly corresponding to modern-day Scotland. The etymology of the name is probably from a P-Celtic source. Its modern usage is as a romantic or poetic name for Scotland as a whole.

On the second question, it is possible that the Romans had complete control and directed their enemy into a fatal mistake. I'm just wondering whether the accepted version seems the most likely. There are two different accounts from Rome. Tacitus and later Cassius Dio both wrote about the fight to bring the Iceni to heel and their accounts give different reasons for important facts, (I think). 

Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)
Back to Top
caldrail View Drop Down
Moderator
Moderator
Avatar

Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Rushey Platt
Status: Offline
Points: 1235
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Sep 2019 at 21:42
Quote In the documentary when they describe the final battle where Boudicca's army becomes trapped by the nature landscape, they are slaughtered easily by Rome- but wouldn't the Iceni know the land better than Rome?  
Does that part of Tacitus' account sound plausible?

Impossible to be sure because as I understand it, the exact battlefield site isn't known (I am happy to be corrected on that). The Britons, featuring mainly Iceni and Trinovantes tribesmen, arrived en masse - the numbers are from Roman accounts and therefore bound to be exaggerated - with their families watching from the sidelines expecting a great victory.

Since the Romans relied on heavy infantry and ordinarily chose the battlefield whenever they could contrive to do so, the lack of impact made by iron-age mobility (chariots essentially) does conform to a limited frontage. Nonetheless, the experienced legionary forces under the senatorial governor, Suetonius, certainly did account for themselves spectacularly well.
http://www.unrv.com/forum/blog/31-caldrails-blog/
Back to Top
Vanuatu View Drop Down
Administrator
Administrator
Avatar

Joined: 24 Feb 2015
Location: New England
Status: Offline
Points: 2073
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Sep 2019 at 21:51
Battle of Watling Street, I didn't realize the exact spot is unknown. That seems impossible. 



Edited by Vanuatu - 15 Sep 2019 at 22:00
Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)
Back to Top
toyomotor View Drop Down
Moderator
Moderator
Avatar

Joined: 15 Feb 2014
Location: Tasmania, AUST.
Status: Offline
Points: 5309
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2019 at 13:14
Originally posted by Vanuatu Vanuatu wrote:

Battle of Watling Street, I didn't realize the exact spot is unknown. That seems impossible. 


The precise location of many past events is muddied by folk tales and inter-village rivalries.

In many cases, movies and television programs, poorly researched, lead viewers to have a view of history which is wrong. And worse still, they seldom admit their errors.
“The biggest surprise in a man’s life is old age.”
Back to Top
caldrail View Drop Down
Moderator
Moderator
Avatar

Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Rushey Platt
Status: Offline
Points: 1235
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Sep 2019 at 20:15
Even established locations are sometimes proven wrong. For instance, Bosworth Field. Recent archaeology has shown the likely spot five miles from the accepted location. More pertinently, the only reason we know where the Varian Disaster took place was because a retired army major dug up some archaeology.
http://www.unrv.com/forum/blog/31-caldrails-blog/
Back to Top
 Post Reply Post Reply
  Share Topic   

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 12.01
Copyright ©2001-2018 Web Wiz Ltd.

This page was generated in 0.172 seconds.