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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
#64
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
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Messages In This Thread
Re: Calling all armchair generals! - by Ensifer - 03-11-2010, 03:13 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Nathan Ross - 01-06-2012, 08:43 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-18-2012, 06:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 12:02 AM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 02:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 05:40 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 11:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 05:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 09:42 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 10:10 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:25 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 08:36 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-26-2012, 02:57 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-27-2012, 01:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 08-05-2012, 02:24 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-07-2014, 02:18 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-08-2014, 01:50 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-11-2014, 02:03 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-18-2014, 07:54 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-20-2014, 02:37 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-25-2014, 08:29 AM

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