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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
(01-12-2021, 12:53 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Little, perhaps, but not none. We've mentioned and discussed both points here before, although many years ago - and it's good to reiterate things for the benefit of anyone who does not care to read through the entire thread!

My memory must be failing me!  I remember myself suggesting that Suetonius set out initially to relieve Colchester, intending to rendezvous with Cerialis in the vicinity of Godmanchester.  However, I don't remember the impracticality of civilians being expected to keep up with a fast-moving column of cavalry being discussed.


(01-12-2021, 12:53 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: But yes, it is only Tacitus's dramatic narrative presentation, I think, that gives the misleading impression that Paulinus did not hear about the uprising until after the siege of Colchester had already commenced.

I see what you mean, although I had not read it quite that way.  I saw Suetonius being informed of the uprising and then Tacitus explaining the reason for it and recounting its progress up to the defeat of Cerialis.  He then continues the narrative with Suetonius proceeding to London but not placing that immediately after his having learned of the crisis.


(01-12-2021, 12:53 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: In reality he could have been informed very soon after Boudicca first began mustering her forces, and begun his march soon afterwards, which removes any necessity for explaining the apparent speed of his movement down to London.

Indeed.  That was what I was trying to convey.


(01-12-2021, 12:53 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Incidentally, I don't think we know that Ceralis started from Lincoln (or Longthorpe), do we? Nothing in our sources says that he was not (for example) simply leading the vanguard detachment of Suetonius Paulinus's troops, and decided to hurry on ahead when he heard about the siege of Colchester. Either option is perfectly possible.

If I am right in thinking that the Second, Fourteenth and Twentieth Legions were all involved in the Anglesey campaign, with their veterans being left guarding their base fortresses, having the Ninth (even if only a part of it) there as well looks a bit like overkill.  At risk of introducing another factoid into this discussion, I see the Ninth being divided, with the greater part with the legionary commander at Lincoln and a smaller contingent being outposted at Longthorpe.  On hearing of the emergency, Cerialis hurried to Longthorpe to take command there, leaving the main part of the legion at Lincoln and ultimately leading the Longthorpe contingent to Colchester.  This would explain why only 2000 men were required to bring the Ninth up to strength after the revolt.
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)
Reply
(01-12-2021, 05:50 PM)Renatus Wrote: My memory must be failing me!

Or perhaps mine is!... I certainly remember some discussion of the civilians issue, although finding anything in this monstrous thread gets quite difficult... The thing about Paulinus being warned in advance I factored into some proposed chronology or other many years ago, and I think we discussed it then.

(01-12-2021, 05:50 PM)Renatus Wrote: I see what you mean, although I had not read it quite that way.

It's been some time since I revisited Tacitus. But this seems a good opportunity for a recap...

So, Annals Book 14, 30-31: Suetonius Paulinus completes his conquest of Anglesey. "A force was next set over the conquered, and their groves... were destroyed. Suetonius while thus occupied received tidings of the sudden revolt of the province." (haec agenti Suetonio repentina defectio provinciae nuntiatur)

So the Anglesey campaign is already over (as Dio also points out). But what are these 'tidings'?

The next section (14.31) skips back in time to describe events from the death of Prasutagus to the Iceni 'flying to arms' and planning their attack on Colchester.

Next (14.32) we have the omens at Colchester. The veteran settlers "as Suetonius was far away... implored aid from the procurator, Catus Decianus", who sends 200 men.

As I'm sure we've mentioned, Catus Decianus would have been a very stupid subordinate not to have passed this message on to his boss. This, then, would have been the 'tidings' that Paulinus received only a few days later at Anglesey.

Only then do we have the attack on Colchester and the fall of the Temple of Claudius after three days. "The victorious enemy [then] met Petilius Cerialis, commander of the ninth legion, as he was coming to the rescue, routed his troops, and destroyed all his infantry. Cerialis escaped with some cavalry into the camp, and was saved by its fortifications."

Only in the following section (14.33) do we return to Paulinus: "Suetonius, however, with wonderful resolution, marched [or just 'went'] amidst a hostile population to Londinium" (At Suetonius mira constantia medios inter hostes Londinium perrexit).

At first reading this might suggest that Suetonius Pauilinus did not act until after the fall of Colchester, or even the defeat of Cerialis, which would leave him insufficent time to get to London ahead of the rebels. But I think instead that Tacitus is just writing dramatically - Suetonius was marching on London (or indeed on Colchester) while the preceding action was taking place, but there was no need for T to stress that. Paulinus reached London after Cerialis's defeat, but must have left Anglesey some considerable time beforehand.

Reading it like this, we are freed of the need to explain his miraculously speedy march, and to invent galloping recce missions. We are also, of course, freed of the assumption that Cerialis must have been operating completely independently of Suetonius.


(01-12-2021, 05:50 PM)Renatus Wrote: At risk of introducing another factoid into this discussion, I see the Ninth being divided, with the greater part with the legionary commander at Lincoln and a smaller contingent being outposted at Longthorpe.

Maybe, yes. Do we know that Lincoln was occupied at this time? I would think it just as likely that the governor would use detachments of all the legions at his disposal, but we don't know enough about troop dispositions or numbers to be sure.
Nathan Ross
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(01-12-2021, 09:44 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: The thing about Paulinus being warned in advance I factored into some proposed chronology or other many years ago, and I think we discussed it then.

Your proposed chronology is on p.5 of this thread.  I quoted from it with a comment on p.25 and used it as the basis for my revised chronology on p.26.  Of course, opinions have changed since then.

There seem to be two factors in working out when Suetonius might have been warned of the emergency.  First, when the colonists in Colchester first became aware of the danger and, secondly, Cerialis' response to being informed of it (I still see him being in the east, not forming part of Suetonius' campaigning force).  As to the first, this might have been when they realised that the Iceni were on the march and coming in their direction or earlier when they became aware that Boudica was stirring the tribes up for revolt and anticipated that they would be the first target.  In either case, I see the commander of the small military force in the colony sending out riders to seek aid from all potential sources, Catus in London, Cerialis in Lincoln and Suetonius in North Wales, each of whom reacted in their different ways.

As to the second, Cerialis may have set out immediately to nip the revolt in the bud but, nevertheless, reached the region of Colchester too late.  This would indicate a very short warning period.  Alternatively, he might have proceeded to Longthorpe to await Suetonius and his force, to the intent that they should advance together to defend the colony and quell the revolt.  In the event, he realised that the situation had become critical and that Suetonius would not arrive in time.  He, therefore, set off with just his part-legion but still too late.  Nevertheless, this would suggest a longer period for Suetonius to receive warning and to advance to the relief of the colony.
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)
Reply
(01-13-2021, 06:15 PM)Renatus Wrote: I see the commander of the small military force in the colony sending out riders to seek aid... Cerialis may have set out immediately to nip the revolt in the bud

Possibly, yes, although all of this has to go in the 'things we don't know' pile!

Tacitus only mentions the colonists informing Catus Decianus. Presumably he would then have informed Paulinus, and perhaps Cerialis too if he was elsewhere. There might have been a chain of command problem with the colonists writing to Cerialis directly? Would Cerialis even have been able to act without orders from Paulinus?

T later stresses 'with what a serious warning the rashness (temeritas) of Petilius had been punished', which implies he was acting on his own initiative. But this might just mean he pressed on too fast with the vanguard and left himself without support, or failed to take proper precautions when advancing into enemy territory. (Or, of course, Tacitus could simply be developing his implied link between Suetonius Paulinus and Fabius Maximus 'Cunctator', with Cerialis cast in the role of Minucius...)

As for Lincoln - it seems the current thinking is that it was already a legion base by c.AD61. Although, like so much we've been discussing, the dispositions and strengths of various legions at the time of the revolt are still very cloudy!
Nathan Ross
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(01-13-2021, 08:33 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Tacitus only mentions the colonists informing Catus Decianus. Presumably he would then have informed Paulinus, and perhaps Cerialis too if he was elsewhere. There might have been a chain of command problem with the colonists writing to Cerialis directly? Would Cerialis even have been able to act without orders from Paulinus?

I really don't see Cerialis being with Suetonius.  As we have repeatedly said, Suetonius was a cautious general and he would probably have wanted to attack Anglesey with overwhelming force but to do so with virtually the whole legionary garrison of the province seems a bit much, even for him.  In fact, his caution could militate against this for two reasons.  First, he might wish to keep a legion in the east to keep an eye on the unconquered northern tribes who might be tempted to cause trouble while he was far away in the west.  Secondly, we do not know when Prasutagus died or how long it took for his territories to be annexed or for Boudica to foment her revolt but these things did not happen overnight and Suetonius may have known that the annexation had taken place or was pending before setting out on his campaign.  In either case, while not expecting a full-blown revolt, he might have anticipated the possibility of some resistance, in which case he would probably have wanted to leave Cerialis and his legion on hand to deal with it.

I see no problem with the colonists or the commander of the small military force that Tacitus speaks of on their behalf contacting Cerialis direct.  When your colony is threatened by a horde of vengeful barbarians intent on destroying it, chain of command is probably the last thing on your mind.  If you prefer that Catus be contacted first and that he relayed the message to Suetonius and Cerialis, I see no particular difficulty with that.  Provided that he acted promptly, it would only take a few hours longer for Suetonius to receive the message than if he were contacted direct.

There is certainly no problem with Cerialis acting without orders.  If he had sat back and allowed the colony to be destroyed simply because he was waiting for orders from Suetonius, he could expect little sympathy in  Rome.  In any event, from what we know of Cerialis, it would be entirely in character for him to act on his own initiative.
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)
Reply
(01-14-2021, 01:08 PM)Renatus Wrote: In any event, from what we know of Cerialis, it would be entirely in character for him to act on his own initiative.


Very likely, yes.

However, this is neverthless one of several elements that rest on assumption rather than evidence, but which have been absorbed into the popular narrative almost without question. While it's considerably more plausible than the debunked 'cavalry dash' theory, we should always keep in mind that we might just have it all wrong!
Nathan Ross
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(01-14-2021, 03:13 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: While it's considerably more plausible than the debunked 'cavalry dash' theory, we should always keep in mind that we might just have it all wrong!

Of course.  With such a paucity of evidence, we have to pick up hints and draw what inferences we can from them.  It's just that some inferences are more plausible than others.
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)
Reply
(05-09-2020, 08:17 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Richard Hingley's Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen remains the best study of the revolt I've yet read. Hingley does opt in a kind of luke-warm way for Mancetter, but his book covers the background to the events very thoroughly.

I have just got round to reading this (the first part anyway) and I'm not sure that he opts for Mancetter in even a luke-warm way.  He outlines its credentials, such as they are, and goes on:

'The idea of Mancetter as the site of Boudica's final stand is based upon little more than several layers of supposition . . . there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that this was the site of the battle.  In fact, the suggestion for the battle site in the midlands is based on a number of assumptions . . . It is quite possible that Suetonius Paulinus's army was in fact in southern Britain in the vicinity of London and Verulamium when the battle took place, indicating a more southerly location for the site.'

He later says:

'The location of Boudica's final defeat may eventually be found by searching for relevant archaeological remains at likely sites across the south of Britain.'
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)
Reply
(02-14-2021, 06:00 PM)Renatus Wrote: I'm not sure that he opts for Mancetter in even a luke-warm way.

Ah yes, that's a significantly cooler appraisal than I remembered! But it's been nearly ten years since I read that book, I think... [Image: shocked.png]
Nathan Ross
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I have continued to search for the battle site as I have not been able square exactly the choices of the current main sites locations with the battle itself and the final outcome

This is especially true as the result totally relied on the Brythons not being able to leave the field because of the random placement of their baggage train which would seem to be unlikely and that no site appears to have two separate defiles approaching the battleground.

I include my own preferred site in this.

Have we misinterpreted and not given Seutonius Paulinus the credit a general of his standing deserves?

A general that had three successful campaign seasons in conquering the Ordovices and destroying the Druids on Mona as well as his earlier military successes in North Africa.

The translation of Tacitus has given us the impression that he was in the process of withdrawing and was forced to eventually fight to survive.
On the other hand the phrase “breaking off delay” could imply that he had time to regroup and to pick a location that gave him the opportunity to pull in as many forces as possible from other forts, by also choosing in advance a site that could defend his forces but where he could win decisively.

So this puts a different perspective on the battle plan for Seutonius Paulinus as being proactive rather than reactive because now he knew what he had to do to and what he needed to prepare for, including food and water in desert and mountainous conditions.

It was whilst I was revisiting some of the posts that are here and an explanation of John Pegg’s regarding the difficulty of understanding the translation of “faucibus” as in plurals and explanation of defile/s and gullet that I ran the Latin through a computerised translator and instead of a defile the translation mentions  a narrow isthmus as an access to the site as opposed to the standard translation of a  defile.

The only site that I have come across (and I have investigated a lot) that had that type of access (although it being a land bridge joining Aylesbury Plain to the raised area) was at Pitstone Hill near Ivinghoe Beacon. Whilst I was looking at this I also noticed on closer inspection that there was another defile on the other side of the open space and also that the combined entrances and the space in between was in the shape of a gullet including the stomach and the beginning of the intestines. 

Could this have been the missing piece that caused confusion of course it could be co-incidence

I have come to believe that this is indeed the site as it fits a number of criteria that are mentioned:

1. It has only one an access point that is narrow for wagons.
2. A further defile (800 yards) that can be used as a protection for the Roman Army.
3. Surrounding hills that can be used as a trap.
4. A battlefield that is a third of a mile deep and three quarters of a mile wide
5. Protected by woods and a step sided valley as described.
6. Near two major military road (Watling Street and Akeman Street)
7. Overlooks the Icknield Way
8. Within one day’s march of St Albans
9. Water within 1.8 miles
10. Room for a camp.

I seem to remember that somewhere back in the dim and distant past Nathan asked could this area be a site but it was felt not to be suitable however as time has gone on our knowledge has increased.

This site does not appear to have any roman fortifications but does have a Grimms Ditch associated with the site.


Attached Files
.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 6.pdf (Size: 303.49 KB / Downloads: 12)
.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 5.pdf (Size: 530.05 KB / Downloads: 11)
.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 4 .pdf (Size: 563.84 KB / Downloads: 8)
.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 3.pdf (Size: 110.38 KB / Downloads: 7)
.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 1 .pdf (Size: 613.28 KB / Downloads: 7)
.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 2.pdf (Size: 93.25 KB / Downloads: 9)
.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 8.pdf (Size: 58.83 KB / Downloads: 6)
.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 7.pdf (Size: 216.58 KB / Downloads: 7)
Deryk
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(03-06-2021, 01:55 PM)Theoderic Wrote: Pitstone Hill near Ivinghoe Beacon.

Ah yes, that's the same general area as the site at Aldbury that I suggested back in 2015 (I suppose that counts as the 'dim and distant past'!), but with a reversed direction of attack...

If the area of tree growth was the way I think (woods on the north-west slopes of the Chilterns) then the Britons would be advancing through the woods to get to the Romans. And they'd need to have already circled around behind Paulinus in some way to attack from the opposite direction to their advance (presumably) from St Albans. But all these things are possible.

I don't think we really know any more about the battle now than we did back in 2015 though!
Nathan Ross
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Nathan Wrote:

If the area of tree growth was the way I think (woods on the north-west slopes of the Chilterns) then the Britons would be advancing through the woods to get to the Romans. And they'd need to have already circled around behind Paulinus in some way to attack from the opposite direction to their advance (presumably) from St Albans. But all these things are possible

I think that SP would have gone up the Gade Valley as it is the shortest route from St Albans. In which case the Brythons would have followed him and not have taken the longer route from St Albans up Akeman Street.  

In that case they wouldn't have come from the Aldbury end of the valley.

From pictures of the early 1900s it would appear that trees grew all through the valley around Aldbury so at least the conditions for tree growth were there.

According to the Viatores there were Roman roads along the Gade Valley to Ivinghoe Beacon and beyond but not necessarily military ones, and they may not have been there at that time but built later. 

As you say anything is possible but I certainly like this as a site as it doesn't rely on the random siting of the wagons to create a blockage to allow the slaughter, which was just an unexpected bonus as far as the Romans were concerned.
Deryk
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(03-06-2021, 03:42 PM)Theoderic Wrote: I think that SP would have gone up the Gade Valley as it is the shortest route from St Albans.

The only Roman roads that we know existed at the time were Akeman and Watling, both leading to major troop concentrations - Akeman to Alcester and Cirencester/Gloucester, and Watling to Wroxeter. Paulinus would surely have taken one or other of these roads, I would think, rather than chancing a minor track or valley route in between. He would have needed to stay on the main military roads if he wanted to be reinforced, or to fall back on a fortified position.


(03-06-2021, 03:42 PM)Theoderic Wrote: From pictures of the early 1900s it would appear that trees grew all through the valley around Aldbury

Could you share the pictures? They sound useful. The only reference I could find was this elderly archaeological paper, mainly concerning prehistoric earthworks.

It does contain this plan though, which is quite interesting, showing woodland around Aldbury Nowers, the Stocks (where the golf course is now) and the Coombe. I would imagine the Britons advancing from the lower left, through Barley End, to a battle site between Pitstone Hill and Clipper Down - the Roman position being just southwest of the place called (evocatively, although sadly not originally!) 'The Citadel'.

   

The end result would look a bit like this, maybe:

   
Nathan Ross
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(03-06-2021, 01:55 PM)Theoderic Wrote: no site appears to have two separate defiles approaching the battleground.

So what?  Why do we need two  defiles?
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)
Reply
(03-06-2021, 04:08 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote:
(03-06-2021, 03:42 PM)Theoderic Wrote: I think that SP would have gone up the Gade Valley as it is the shortest route from St Albans.

The only Roman roads that we know existed at the time were Akeman and Watling, both leading to major troop concentrations - Akeman to Alcester and Cirencester/Gloucester, and Watling to Wroxeter. Paulinus would surely have taken one or other of these roads, I would think, rather than chancing a minor track or valley route in between. He would have needed to stay on the main military roads if he wanted to be reinforced, or to fall back on a fortified position.


(03-06-2021, 03:42 PM)Theoderic Wrote: From pictures of the early 1900s it would appear that trees grew all through the valley around Aldbury

Could you share the pictures? They sound useful. The only reference I could find was this elderly archaeological paper, mainly concerning prehistoric earthworks.

It does contain this plan though, which is quite interesting, showing woodland around Aldbury Nowers, the Stocks (where the golf course is now) and the Coombe. I would imagine the Britons advancing from the lower left, through Barley End, to a battle site between Pitstone Hill and Clipper Down - the Roman position being just southwest of the place called (evocatively, although sadly not originally!) 'The Citadel'.



The end result would look a bit like this, maybe:

Nathan wrote:

Could you share the pictures? They sound useful. The only reference I could find was this elderly archaeological paper, mainly concerning prehistoric earthworks.

Of course - please see attached


.pdf   ALDBURY 3.pdf (Size: 443.95 KB / Downloads: 3)


.pdf   ALDBURY 2.pdf (Size: 365.2 KB / Downloads: 3)


.pdf   ALDBURY 1.pdf (Size: 475.12 KB / Downloads: 3)


Nathan wrote:

I would imagine the Britons advancing from the lower left, through Barley End, to a battle site between Pitstone Hill and Clipper Down - the Roman position being just southwest of the place called (evocatively, although sadly not originally!) 'The Citadel'.

In many ways I can see exactly why you think that and although it ticks some of the boxes I have concerns with being exposed with the backs of the Roman position to the North.


.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 8.pdf (Size: 58.83 KB / Downloads: 3)

.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 7.pdf (Size: 216.58 KB / Downloads: 3)

.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 6.pdf (Size: 303.49 KB / Downloads: 2)

.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 5.pdf (Size: 530.05 KB / Downloads: 2)

.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 4 .pdf (Size: 563.84 KB / Downloads: 2)

.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 3.pdf (Size: 110.38 KB / Downloads: 2)

.pdf   PITSTONE HILL 1 .pdf (Size: 613.28 KB / Downloads: 3)

(03-06-2021, 04:40 PM)Renatus Wrote:
(03-06-2021, 01:55 PM)Theoderic Wrote: no site appears to have two separate defiles approaching the battleground.

So what?  Why do we need two  defiles?

Hi Michael

The text state that the Roman line shelters in a defile at the beginning of the battle but also that the opposing army came through a defile or narrow access to get to the battle site.


Attached Files
.pdf   ALDBURY 3.pdf (Size: 443.95 KB / Downloads: 1)
.pdf   ALDBURY 2.pdf (Size: 365.2 KB / Downloads: 1)
.pdf   ALDBURY 1.pdf (Size: 475.12 KB / Downloads: 4)
Deryk
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