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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
Deryk,

I will try to deal with the points in your prepenultimate post in a single narrative, rather than piecemeal as we usually do, and hope that your threat to retire to your cave was made in jest.

London was a major commercial centre, perhaps the major commercial centre, in the province. It was a wealthy town and thus a tempting target for the Britons. For the Romans, it was probably the administrative, as well as a mercantile, centre and, therefore, not to be given up except in the most dire of circumstances. Its significance, therefore, was both material and symbolic.

It was the next obvious objective for the Iceni and Trinovantes after the fall of Colchester. If they had not proceeded with their campaign but had withdrawn within their tribal boundaries to await Roman retaliation, they would not only have lost the impetus generated by their earlier successes but would have handed the initiative to the Romans. If their ultimate goal was to drive the Romans from the country, they would have needed the assistance of the majority of the other British tribes. To gain this, they would need to have demonstrated that they were carrying the battle to the Romans and that they were doing so successfully. If they had merely freed their own territories from Roman control and then remained within their homelands, it would have indicated to the other tribes that this was simply a local dispute and they would not have been encouraged to join in. Moreover, Boudica might have been quite keen to get into the territory of the Atrebates to demonstrate to the other tribes what happened to those who backed the wrong side.

Tacitus tells us that, when Paulinus reached London, he was uncertain whether to use it as his base for operations (sedem bello) because of the insufficient number of his troops (infrequentia militis). It therefore seems most likely that his original intention had been to launch his counter-attack from there. As you suggest, he is likely to have ordered the Second Legion to rendezvous with him there and, when it was clear that it would not do so, he had to rethink his plans. He had three options. First, he could have marched out to confront the advancing rebels with the forces that he had but, in doing so, he ran the risk of suffering the same fate as Cerealis and the Ninth. (Incidentally, the Ninth was not attacking the rebels’ homelands, as you seem to suggest. Tacitus makes it quite clear that it was advancing to the aid ( in subsidium adventanti) of Colchester. As a further digression, it is most unlikely that the Romans would consider launching a punitive raid into the enemy’s territory whilst it still had an army active in the field. They would defeat the army first and then take retaliatory action against its homeland to deter future insurrection – I think the term is atrocitas, which says it all. The only reason to launch such an action while the enemy army was undefeated would be to raise a siege. There was no siege of Colchester. The town had no defences and was overrun immediately. The colonists held out in the temple of Claudius for two days but that can hardly be called a siege.)

The second option open to Paulinus was to remain in London to await reinforcements but, if they did not arrive before the rebels (and it seems almost impossible that they could have done so), he would have been left trying to defend the town with inadequate forces. The third option was to withdraw.

It is difficult to ascertain the precise reasoning lying behind Paulinus’ decision, as Tacitus puts it, “by the loss of one town to save everything” (unius oppidi damno servare universa). He may have hoped that, having seized and plundered London, the rebels would be satisfied and return home (Robert makes the excellent point that, once they had secured enough plunder, the less politically committed elements of the rebel army would tend to drift away). He may have hoped that the rebels would waste enough time in plundering the town to enable him to link up with his reinforcements. Or (and I am beginning to favour this explanation) he may have decided simply to preserve his army for future action, even if this meant exposing the town to occupation and devastation. Coupled with these explanations is the question of whether Paulinus would have destroyed the stocks of grain and other foodstuffs before departing. If he did not, the rebels might have been able to seize enough to see them through the winter and thus be encouraged to return home. Alternatively, the time that the rebels spent in collecting it might have given him the time he needed to join his reinforcements. The danger, of course, was that he would, in effect, be supplying the rebels and enabling them, if they were so minded, to continue their depredations without having to worry about finding food. If he destroyed the stocks, the rebels’ advance would be slowed down by the necessity for them to forage as they went along.

In the event, if Dio is to be believed, none of this worked. The plundering of London did not delay the rebels overmuch and Paulinus realised that they were coming upon him much faster than he had anticipated, forcing him to give battle with the forces that he had unreinforced. He was fortunate and astute enough to be able to choose a battle site that suited his limited resources and disadvantaged the enemy.
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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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 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 Renatus - 09-27-2012, 02:24 AM
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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