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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
Quote:The News Quiz pantomime was much more fun...
Oh, no it -- oh, wait, yes it was! :wink:
posted by Duncan B Campbell
Regarding evidence of destruction at Silchester there is evidence to suggest that the Romans continued to permit the town to evolve along its Iron Age spread. There is also evidence of burning and destruction which could easily have been caused by an accidental fire or indeed deliberately by the Romans in revenge, disregarding tribal identities, in the aftermath of the rebellion. Though the offered theory is of Queen B coming further west than originally thought. Personally I suspect twas revenge.

A hearty mixture of advice.
Tying Boudicca to the burning at Silchester seems at best fanciful, at worst, a cynical use of the "B" word to garner media attention, which certainly seemed to be the case with the piece on "Digging for Britain".

The obvious weakness of Websters case for Mancetter has given licence for all and sundry to speculate at both a strategic and tactical level regarding the campaign (we do it here well enough). This is fun but is not good history or science, it's a pub game. There are currently a number of candidates on the table, each of which has an advocate who is prepared to make a case, but of all these sites lie in a relatively tight cluster along Watling Street, with the exception of Appleby's "Arbury Banks", however, even that site is within what one could describe as a core area (as is Dunstable Downs).

The western hypothisis, as far as I can tell, is just a strategic speculation which is not site based and has no advocate prepared to name or describe a specific site. As a theory, it may have gained some currency as an alternative to the Watling Street area simply due to the frustration at Mancetter, and there being no credible Watling Street site at the time of Fuentes writing, and no one was prepared to look systematically at Watling Street. If Silchester is to make these claims credibly, a bit/lot more rigor is going to be required. This is significant for archaeology.

The weakness of the Webster case also exposes a potential weakness/credibility gap in the profession of archaeology for site interpretation and prospection. Most of the current advocates are not archaeologists, they are individuals who do not recognise archaeology's exclusivity in this field they are given encouragement by what passes for process in Websters work and it's persistent repetition by "historians". So the credibility of archaeology and some archaeologists is at stake when the "B" word is trotted out potentially to garner media attention, or write books or appear on the media trotting out the Mancetter dogma, or worse still stating the site can probably never be found/proven due to it being "picked clean" an excuse I've heard applied to both Mancetter and Cuttle Mill.

If the site is ever located, there will be a lot of very positive outcomes for archaeology and some archaeologists. However the site will have been under some archaeologists/historians noses for a considerable period and they will potentially feel a bit miffed that they missed it. Hind sight is a bitch and every County, District and village in middle England has a clutch of dedicated archaeologist/historians, professional and amateur, the real site is inevitably under the feet of some of them. There may therefore be a vested interest in some parts in not finding/authenticating the site;

i) to keep egg off professional faces,
ii)loose the ability to play the "B" card when you want to sex up some burning layers.

So, Silchester and Thames Valley champions, can you find a site and interpret it and publish it to the extent that the Watling Street guys have? until then it would appear to be a minority sideshow. I didn't mean to end with a challenge, but why not?
Quote:I didn't mean to end with a challenge, but why not?
Hmm... back to the armchair then! Confusedmile:

If your challenge involves advancing alternative (ie non-Watling) sites, I'm afraid there won't be too many takers - but I think I can try and answer the 'why not?' part. I agree that Silchester seems unlikely as a Boudican candidate: as I said above somewhere, there are plenty of reasons for burning other than enemy action. That doesn't rule out the western route as an avenue of 'strategic speculation' though. A brief summary of the two main areas of possibility might help:

1. In the blue corner, the 'northern' route, up Watling Street towards the midlands.

Pros: Even setting aside Webster's proposal of Mancetter (which relies too much, as I've said, on the untenable idea that Paulinus would leave his legionary troops behind on the road somewhere and dash off down to London), a northern retreat route makes a lot of sense. This was the main military route across Britain, and Paulinus would have known the ground well. He possibly had forts placed along the road where he could collect men and supplies, and it was his line of communication with the rest of his army in Wales. It was also (approximately) the direction that Boudica and her army would need to take to return home - by keeping between the Iceni and their homeland, he could potentially force them to a confrontation, or put pressure on their western flank and compel them to attack him on ground of his choosing. There's also the small matter of St Albans being destroyed - although this could have been done by a subgroup of Boudica's force, or even by the local population rebelling against their pro-Roman leaders (but would Tacitus have mentioned this?)

Cons: the people along the Watling route are said to have been 'hostile' (Tacitus), and Paulinus could have found himself beset on all sides. Boudica's force had increased in size by the time of the battle, which might suggest this 'hostile population' had joined her. Also, by withdrawing northwards Paulinus would leave the wealthy (and presumably pro-Roman) Thames valley area unprotected against enemy devastation.

2. So, in the red corner, the 'western route' - out of London on the Roman road via Staines, towards Silchester...

Pros: If we can assume that the people to the west were better disposed to Rome than those of the midlands, Paulinus would be keeping a freindly force to his rear, and one that might resupply him - he could also protect them rather than leaving them to the mercies of the Iceni. By heading west, he could have kept contact with the channel ports (supply is important here - both sides are said to have been running short of food). Whether the second legion had left camp or not, they were somewhere to the west and could feasibly march in support of Paulinus' small force.

Cons: by surrendering Watling street, Paulinus would allow his main line of communication to be cut. The hostile peoples of the Midlands would be free to rise, and a major conflagration would cut Britain in half. Boudica's line of retreat would also be left open - rather than facing the Romans in battle, the Iceni could happily return home with their loot.

So both routes are militarily viable, but both have problems. In terms of archeology, however, it's obvious why the northern route has continued to exercise so many minds. Watling Street is still clearly visible as the A5, and the line provides a relatively narrow band of possible sites. The western road, on the other hand, reaches Staines and then vanishes for several miles - Fuentes suggested that it might have run either north or south of Virginia Water, but there's no evidence either way.

Secondly, for the majority of the route, aside from conurbations like Milton Keynes, the A5 runs through open farmland, available to the speculative eye of the chinscratching amateur archeologist. The Thames valley, conversely, is covered in houses, roads and railways, and even if we did know which route the Roman road took it would be fairly unavailable for study. The hilly area behind Virginia Water is parkland, but is covered with thick (recent, I think) woods. Open fields are few indeed.

Fuentes' suggestion of the vicinity of Virgina Water station is still a good one, I think - although, being scrupulous, he surely saw the pointlessness of attempting any further specificity on the issue.

I might, at this point, suggest Callow Hill (to the the north of the wooded area) as another option, which could work if the road ran north and not south of the hilly bit around Virginia Water itself. Plenty of defiles, no doubt. But since, as far as I can tell, that whole region is either wooded parkland or covered with expensive suburban houses, I don't imagine anyone will be rushing down there with a metal-detector any time soon!

However, as I've said previously - if we set aside Webster's theory of a delayed legionary force trudging across the Midlands, I still think the battle would be located somewhere within a 60-mile radius either north or west of London itself: three days march for a Roman army escorting refugees. From what we know of Paulinus' character and reputation, I don't see the campaign as one of rapid movement, but (in its latter stages at least) one of strategic delay and slow careful manoeuvring. Of the contending sites at present, Church Stowe seems perhaps the most likely, but I'm still inclined to think that the truth lies somewhere else - buried under a golf course or tennis club, perhaps... Wink
Nathan Ross
Purely out of interest (and my inability to leave this topic alone :wink: ), I've tried to come up with a hypothetical chronology of the Boudica uprising and Paulinus' campaign. I've used a comparison of movement speeds between the various forces to try and plot positions, and my principal arguments here are the campaign itself could have been completed within a relatively short time frame, spring to autumn AD61, including all communications with Rome, and that Paulinus could have advanced all the way to London with his legion force.

For the sake of argument I've gone for a northern route out of London, and placed the final battle site at Dunstable - with a few days leeway it could easily have happened either further north-west around Church Stowe, or to the west beyond Staines.

I must repeat that all dates and places are entirely hypothetical!

Movement speeds are as follows:

Legion march rate: 18-25 miles per day.
Roman messenger: 50 miles per day.
Message from Britain to Rome, or vice versa: 10-20 days.
Journey from Rome to Britain: 1 month.
British advance: variable, up to 10 miles a day.

AD60 – December – Prasutagus, King of the Iceni, dies. His will divides the Iceni kingdom between Rome and his own two unmarried daughters. His widow Boudica becomes regent.

AD61 - March – After questioning the terms of Prasutagus's will, Procurator Catus sends men to flog Boudica and rape her daughters. Boudica vows revenge and begins to muster her forces.

April – Iceni begin mobilisation, uncovering caches of 'decommissioned' weapons. Catus, informed of this, sends a message to Governor Paulinus at his campaign headquarters at Wroxeter.

May 1st – Paulinus begins his campaign against the Ordovices, marching north and west from Wroxeter.

May 10th – Boudica holds giant tribal assembly. Message sent to Catus from Colchester.

May 18th – Boudica’s force moves south into Trinovante territory. Catus sends 200 men from his bodyguard to reinforce Colchester, and another message to Paulinus.

May 20th – Paulinus’s army reaches the Mona Strait opposite Anglesey. Catus’ 200 men reach Colchester.

May 22nd – Catus’ second message (unrest amongst Iceni, gathering forces, threat to Colchester) reaches Paulinus at his camp on the Mona strait.

May 25th – Paulinus’s army crosses the strait and attacks Anglesey.

May 27th – Romans destroy the remaining enemy forces on Anglesey.

May 28th – Romans burn sacred Druidic groves on Anglesey. Paulinus then pulls his army back across the straits, and sends an express messenger to Cerialis to advance to reinforce Colchester.

May 30th – Paulinus begins a rapid march back towards Wroxeter with the Fourteenth legion and several cohorts of the Twentieth.

June 2nd – Paulinus arrives at Chester.

June 3rd – Iceni attack Colchester. Civilians barricade themselves inside the temple. Cerialis, legate of the Ninth Legion at Longthorpe, receives the order to advance in support of Paulinus's main column.

June 4th – Paulinus arrives back at Wroxeter. Cerialis, outpacing the main column with his lightly-equipped force, marches 22 miles from Longthorpe to Godmanchester.

June 5th – last defenders of the Colchester temple die by fire. Message of destruction despatched to London. Paulinus on the march east down Watling Street. Cerialis marches 15 miles to Cambridge.

June 6th – Iceni looting and burning Colchester. Paulinus arrives at Mancetter. Message reaches the Second Legion base at Gloucester, but their Prefect does not give the order to move. Cerialis marches 20 miles on the Via Devana to Wixoe.

June 7th – Cerealis’s force ambushed and destroyed on the Via Devana between Wixoe and Colchester.

June 8th - Paulinus's advance reaches Towcester. Catus flees for Gaul by ship.

June 9th – Paulinus, still on Watling Street, meets Catus’ messenger coming north with news of the fall of Colchester. Catus arrives in Gaul and sends a message to Rome, reporting the imminent loss of the province. Iceni begin to muster outside Colchester and advance south-west towards London.

June 10th – Paulinus marches into St Albans and meets a second messenger with news of the defeat of Cerialis and flight of Catus.

June 11th – Paulinus marches on from St Albans and enters London. He learns that the Second Legion have not advanced to meet him. Iceni plundering in the area of Romford.

June 12th - Paulinus, deciding that London cannot be held, orders the inhabitants to evacuate the city.

June 13th – Paulinus destroys his supplies and retreats from London to St Albans.

June 14th – Iceni sack and burn London, but are running short of supplies. Paulinus retreats from St Albans to Dunstable.

June 15th – Iceni begin advance north from London on Watling Street. Paulinus draws up his force at the junction of Iknield Way and Watling Street.

June 16th – Iceni sack and burn St Albans. Paulinus rests and prepares his position.

June 17th – Iceni advance from St Albans to just short of Dunstable.

June 18th - Battle is joined. Roman victory. Boudica defeated.

June 19th – Paulinus rests his troops after the battle.

June 20th – Paulinus enters the ruins of St Albans.

June 21st – Paulinus enters the ruins of London. Catus’ initial message of disaster arrives at Rome. Nero considers giving up the province.

June 22nd – Paulinus establishes camp outside London and sends a victory message to Rome. Classicianus ordered to Britain as replacement procurator.

June 24th – Paulinus enters the ruins of Colchester.

July 1st-28th – Roman troops spread out across Iceni land burning crops and villages. Boudica takes poison and dies. Paulinus’ message of victory reaches Rome. Order for reinforcements sent from Rome to the Rhine.

August 10th - Classicianus reaches Britain as Procurator. Reinforcement order reaches the Rhine.

August 15th – Polyclitus, ordered to investigate the situation in Britain, sets out from Rome with a huge retinue. Reinforcements sent from the Rhine.

September 15th – Polyclitus reaches Britain.

September 20th – Reinforcements start to reach Britain.

October 1st – Paulinus sends his main army into winter quarters. Detachments continue devastating Iceni lands. Polyclitus sends report to Rome.

October 14th – Polyclitus departs Britain.

November 18th – Several ships wrecked on the coast of East Anglia in a storm while supporting land troops in counter-insurgency operations. Classicianus sends report of the losses, and the severity of Paulinus's actions, to Rome.

December 15th – Classicianus’ report reaches Rome. Turpilianus (ordinary consul of that year) nominated to replace Paulinus as governor of Britain.

March AD62: Turpilianus arrives in Britain and replaces Paulinus.

Nathan Ross

Not unreasonable, good work.
Nathan said: I still think the battle would be located somewhere within a 60-mile radius either north or west of London itself: three days march for a Roman army escorting refugees. From what we know of Paulinus' character and reputation, I don't see the campaign as one of rapid movement, but (in its latter stages at least) one of strategic delay and slow careful maneuvering.
Speculation of course; I find it unlikely Paulinus would have taken the refugees under his wings and escorted them up Watling. Taking civilians (despite the fact this happened often in the past) Paulinus would lose some of this units attributes (i.e. mobility) > I find it more likely that Paulinus said to the civilians go that way probably S,SE (likely thinking the rebellion would follow the legions, instead of the refugees)and we will go this way. History is filled of exacerbations within the text, trying to make someone look good...look at some of the things Caesar wrote.
Quote:I find it unlikely Paulinus would have taken the refugees under his wings and escorted them up Watling. Taking civilians (despite the fact this happened often in the past) Paulinus would lose some of this units attributes (i.e. mobility)
Sending them across the Thames might seem a sensible option, but our sole literary source (Tacitus) is quite clear that Paulinus took the refugees with him:

Quote:The laments and tears of the inhabitants [of London], as they implored his protection, found him inflexible: he gave the signal for departure, and embodied in the column those capable of accompanying the march: all who had been detained by the disabilities of sex, by the lassitude of age, or by local attachment, fell into the hands of the enemy. (Annals XIV.33)
There doesn't seem to be any whitewashing here - Paulinus abandons those who can't keep up with his legionaries.

The note from Histories I quoted above somewhere is still our best clue, I think, in determining the general area of the battle - Paulinus was 'skillful' and often chose 'delay'. Think of him, perhaps, as a master chess player. Essentially, his task was to place his small force in a position where the Britons had to engage him, on ground where the discipline of Roman troops could make the effective difference.

Interesting note in Dio's description of the battle (62.12) - the British advanced against the Roman line 'at a walk'. So not so much the wild 'Highland charge' effect of popular imagination!
Nathan Ross
As I see it, there could be two reasons for Paulinus to take the northern route up Watling Street. First, having hurried down to London with a flying column, he was returning to rejoin his main army still making its way south. This notion has been pretty much discounted in this thread and, even if true, it would probably have been safer for him to have remained in London and to have let the army join him there. Secondly, he may have intended to intercept the rebels on the way back to their homeland, assuming that they would take Watling Street as far as Dunstable and then join the Iknield Way. This would place the site of the final battle at or near the junction of the two ancient roads or somewhere between St. Albans and Dunstable. Any site further north makes little sense. However, this would inevitably have left the enemy behind him, cutting him off from any possibility of reinforcement from legio II. Nor could he rely upon the rebels taking that route. According to Tacitus, the Iceni had not planted crops that year, relying upon getting supplies from Roman stocks. There was nothing awaiting them in their homeland except a winter of famine and hardship which, in the event, is what occurred.

The western route would have held attractions for both sides. For the rebels, the territory of the Atrebates, where crops would have been sown, would have provided supplies. They could either have sought to convert the tribe to their cause and to persuade them to share their crops or, more likely, have attacked them for their pro-Roman sympathies and taken what they wanted. Ahead lay the riches of Silchester and Cogidubnus' royal complex, wherever that was at the time. For the Romans, taking that route would have represented a strategic withdrawal into friendly country. There, refuge could have been found for the civilians accompanying the column, if that was a matter that concerned Paulinus, and preparations made for a counter-attack. Contact could have been made with legio II, which Paulinus still expected to join him, auxiliary units called up from the West Country, and a consolidated force then led out against the enemy. If reinforcements needed to be brought from the Continent, Paulinus would have been in a position to link with units disembarking at Chichester or other south coast ports and to add them to his army.

As it happened, there was no time for any of this. Learning that the rebels were proceeding in the same direction as he was and were coming up hard upon him, Paulinus selected a battlefield suited to the forces that he had available and waited for the rebels to come to him, with the result that we know. Given the development that has taken place along the putative Thames Valley route, it is unlikely that the site of the battle will ever be identified with certainty.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
Well done Michael - that's the most succinct and convincing defence of the 'western route' I've yet read!

It also explains Paulinus' decision to 'break off delay' and fight - why would he be delaying, if not due to the possibility that the indecisive Postumus and his Legio II were somewhere on the road and might arrive in support? Good point about the unattractive prospects back home in Icenia too.

Of course, as with any discussion of the western route, we arrive back at a certain novelist, whom we are forbidden by the terms of the original post to mention, who outlined precisely this scenario back in 1968... :wink:
Nathan Ross
ok ok consider the towel thrown in from my end, the west wins Wink
Quote:ok ok consider the towel thrown in from my end, the west wins Wink
Without the south-east option even being seriously considered Confusedhock:

Mike Bishop
You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles

Blogging, tweeting, and mapping Hadrian\'s Wall... because it\'s there
Quote:consider the towel thrown in from my end
Hold on there! Confusedmile: There are still quite a few points that might mitigate against a western battle site:

1. Boudica's force was a tribal band rather than an army. Did she or her commanders have the political will and control to motivate a further advance into foreign territory? Going after food supplies would be a good reason - but did the Trinovantes not have food? The Catavallauni? There must be some study somewhere of the movement and morale of mass 'native' tribal groups - to what extent will they fall back on their own homeland, even if they know it to be unprovisioned? This is one of the many 'known unknowns'!

2. We assume that the peoples of the southern region were better disposed towards Rome, and would therefore offer a safer base for Paulinus' counter-attack - but can we know this?

3. There is still the consideration that Paulinus would have to ensure that the Britons fought him, rather than hanging about the areas they'd already captured or going home. Again, the supply problem might give the Britons a reason to move west, but the possibility of their returning northwards and leaving the Roman governor apparently skulking on the sidelines might have made this too much of a risk...

4. The destruction of St Albans. If this is indeed Tacitus' third city, the attack warranted mention, and was therefore more than just a mild roughing-up. The Britons could have made a side-trip north after capturing London; the force that defeated Cerialis could have moved west and sacked St Albans (after Paulinus passed by?), or the locals could have risen up against their pro-Roman masters... But the chronology in Tacitus might at least point to a definite sequence of attacks, leading us north...

There's an element of devil's advocacy in this, of course!

Big Grin
Nathan Ross
It's a war of attrition and Church Stowe just lost, I'm off to hunt lead mining Aquitanians instead
John1 post=307008 Wrote:ok ok consider the towel thrown in from my end, the west wins Wink
Without the south-east option even being seriously considered Confusedhock:

Mike Bishop
The problem with the south-east route is that taking it would have separated Paulinus even further from any hope of reinforcement. If the rebels were to move behind him, he would have been cut off from it altogether. There may well have been some troops in the south-east but they are unlikely to have been there in appreciable numbers. According to Tacitus, Paulinus' combined force amounted to 10,000 men, whereas some estimates placed the number of Britons killed in the battle as high as 80,000. Even if this figure is grossly exaggerated, it seems more than likely that the Romans were greatly outnumbered. Tacitus implies as much in the speech that he gives to Paulinus before the battle. As a prudent commander, he would ideally have wanted to gather as many men as possible before facing the enemy.

He had part of legio XX with him; the remainder was probably holding North Wales. If he were prepared to abandon the conquests there and bring the rest of the legion south, it would have had a highly hazardous march down through hostile country and rebellious natives, if it were to join him south of the Thames. IX Hispana had been badly mauled and, if there were any elements still capable of assisting, it would have been virtually impossible for them to get to him through a vast expanse of hostile territory and across the Thames. The one substantial source of reinforcement available to him was legio II and he would have wished to maintain contact with it at almost any cost. This would not have been achieved by marching away from it into the south-east. He would have preferred, I suggest, to move towards it.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)

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