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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.

In the plans you provided for the Cunetio site with marked up photographs you place one or other of the opposing sides having to cross the river/stream/obstacle at some point to actually join battle and from the topography and dispositions you gave probably that would be fairly early on .

The river provides an ideal killing ground for more modern considerations, but I am not going to go into that any further as Tacitus does not mention a river in his description of the battle be it dried up/dammed/in spate or whatever. There is no river mentioned and although Tacitus may be negligent in sone respects, I think he would have mentioned this if he's talking about defiles.

Are you saying that because Tacitus does not mention a river he means that it is dried up? That's a possibility but I feel stretching the point too far. If the river is NOT the obstacle you think it, why on earth do you refer to Batavian cavalry???? They swam the Rhine not the Kennet; the rivers are significantly different and the comparison, frankly, absurd. Horses HAVE to swim in deeper water when they can't touch the bed (the Rhine). The problem for them in shallower water is the river bed (stones) and the banks (mud).

You cannot have it both ways!

I'm losing the will to live even writing this...
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
Hi Vindex

This is getting us nowhere.

You cannot see what I am driving at and vice versa.

Lets leave it at that.

Kind Regards - Deryk
Agreed Deryk - so lets move on:

Virginia Water, Nathan? Or Dunstable?

John - pros and cons of Church Stretton?

Anyone got another site to offer?

I have no paticular axe to grind (except rivers! Wink ) but I DO believe (as said on page one I thnk) that Paulinus withdrew over ground he had already been over. In doing so he had had the opportunity to recce the ground and know where his strengths lay. As the enemy were advancing towards him he knew he could withdraw and bring them to battle on ground of his choosing.

Question is, as always, which piece of ground?
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
Church Stowe
- on the route from Angelsey to London, so we know SP passed by there
- South of High Cross so retaining communication security
- On Watling Street so blocking force to the garrisons he has left on the way to Mona.
- Great access to both Watling Street and Fosse Way
- Historic navigational pinch point at Watford
- at the centre of the country mid point for muster of IX and II
- at the confluence of 4 major river systems (Brit and roman navigation)
- Nene as a highway into Iceni land or to SP's rear
- stratgicly located to be a threat to Iceni land within 50 miles
- perfect 360 degree defensive terrain, as a free standing "horse shoe" ridge with VERY long views all around.
- has a broad plain in front (Nene Valley)
- ridge forms a "narrow defile" but all other approaches are compromised by water courses.
- a section of the ridge is of a sufficiently low angle for the Romans to advance down in good order
- There is an ideal point from which the families could grandstand the assault, and park their wagons.
- multiple spring heads on ridge top for water supply
- not compromised by a water course
- 7 separate features which appear to have characteristics of Roman field fortifications and work logically as a network
- Pre-prepared redoubt in the form of Castle Dykes
- very limited archaeo excavation produced a spear and 1st century BC brooch
- local folklore association
- The wings of the Roman positions are anchored by terrain.
- A BBC psychic thought it was "most definitely a possibility". Sick

- SP may not have schlepped his force back up Watling St after his sight seeing trip to London.
that's it for cons, sorry con, from me please feel free to add to the list but I'll have my fingers in my ears and will be chanting lalalalalalalala.

I'm claiming CS is the best candidate to date for;
a) Strategic location
b) Quality of defensive terrain (including water supply)
c) Terrain fit for Tacitus' description
d) Architecture, the unproven fort traces
e) Archaeology, the brooch and spear shaft from the 50's

I am NOT claiming this is the site, I am claiming it is the most credible candidate at the moment and further analysis would be desirable to knock it off the list and bring another site forward. But I'll be gone then as I'll still be trying to figure out what the CS complex is if it isn't the battle site.
Hi John - welcome back!

Quote:- perfect 360 degree defensive terrain, as a free standing "horse shoe" ridge with VERY long views all around... ridge forms a "narrow defile"...

I'm not sure how a ridge can form a defile... ;-)

You mean, I suppose, that the defile is next to or below the ridge... So you're putting the Roman line on top of the ridge then? I would see this as a flaw in the plan - Tacitus's original Latin makes it clear (as much as T is ever clear!) that the Romans were in the defile, with rising ground protecting their flanks. Various translations have confused this point...

Quote:7 separate features which appear to have characteristics of Roman field fortifications... Pre-prepared redoubt in the form of Castle Dykes

'Field fortifications' may not play any part in this. They were very rare, in fact - although you could cite examples (Caesar at Dyracchium and elsewhere... Belisarius?), these I think are exceptions to the general rule. In fact, there's a suggestion in the Annals (III.20) that the Roman army considered fighting from behind fortifications a 'disgrace' - more practically, their style of warfare suited combat in the open. The only fortifications necessary to this scenario would be Paulinus's marching camp - large enough for 10,000 men. As I've mentioned before, you be best looking for it on the flattish ground beside the river to the north-west.

So your earthworks 'complex' around Church Stowe may have been something - but they're not, I think, securely dated to the Roman period, let alone the time of this battle!
Nathan Ross
So... Dunstable.

Still my favoured location - although, as John says, this is all strictly hypothetical!

As you know, I've already given my reasons for supporting a northward withdrawal from London here.

The main points in favour of Dunstable in particular are as follows:

1) The site is the closest defensible upland position to London and blocks a major route north. It allows reinforcement from and strategic movement towards the west (Iknield/Akeman), north (Watling) and east (Iknield). It's also on familiar territory for Paulinus and his troops, and commands their route home to their base and families at Wroxeter.

2) The site is only 9 miles from St Albans, the last known position of the rebels. Bringing both slow-moving forces to the battlefield would not present any logistical difficulties. The site further allows Paulinus to keep within observation range of the British (which fits with the ‘Fabian’ delay strategy), rather than retreating constantly and hoping they chase him...

3) The topography matches Tacitus’s description. The Roman line occupies a defile feature with rising ground to either side, which opens ahead of them onto a level plain bordered by hills. There are no rivers or obstructions on the plain. The high ground flanking the Roman line has steep escarpments on both sides to the north-west, making it difficult to outflank, and the area behind it was very probably wooded in antiquity.

To these points I would add the following two, addressing particular issues raised more recently in this thread:

4) Nineteen Roman or pre-Roman wells have been found in the vicinity of Dunstable, together with natural springs fed by two working aquifers - Manshead Archaeological Society estimate these springs could have supplied sufficent water for a force of c10,000 men. Evidence from the continent suggests that springs could be used to supply water to Roman forces camping in the field.

5) There are a number of Roman ditches and other earthworks around the site of modern Dunstable. One in particular (Pastscape Monument 359980) is a straight ditch 7ft 6 inches wide and 3 deep, containing first century debris, and possibly predates the establishment of the town itself. Tenuous perhaps, but if this is a Roman marching camp ditch, the camp could have been laid out in the angle of Watling street and Iknield, or across Watling itself, and directed southwards towards an enemy advancing from London.

Meanwhile, I've recently revised my hypothetical plan of the Dunstable position. My original version (here) had the British baggage train parked in the southern approach to the site, around 2kms from the Roman line. This made for a long thin battle plan.

However, it occurs to me that the British carts must have been much closer to the Roman position, as the Romans would need to charge all that distance – how far could you run, in full armour with shield, on a summer’s day, fighting all the way, and still have the energy to slaughter thousands? Well under a mile, I suspect.

I’ve therefore moved the British carts up closer to the Roman position, which also allows them to spread out onto the slopes to either side (much better view of the battle!), but further constricts escape routes from the site. This also, coincidentally, makes the 'plain' more obvious!

The diagonal red lines are range markers, measured from the Roman position. 300m would be maximum effective bowshot. 500m would be well out of range of anything the Romans could shoot. The initial clashes of the battle would happen within 30m or so of the Roman line.

I’ve roughly erased most modern developments from the map where possible, and I’ve patched in woods to the north-west. As I’ve said, this area was very probably wooded at the time.

Anyway - see what you think:


I've given Paulinus four cohorts of auxiliary infantry and four alae of cavalry (one of which could have been made up of equites from several cohortes equitatae, as suggested by Arrian).

Potential problems for this plan include:

1) the woods to the north-east (Little John's/Castlecroft) might block the Roman cavalry attack into the valley. However, while the north-western slopes of Chilterns were heavily wooded, on these slopes the woods may have been in pockets, as they appear to be today. So the cavalry could have found a route through – and the woods would screen their deployment from the Britons on the slopes below...

2) There are lateral oblique valleys providing a route up onto the higher ground from the road to the south. These have obliged me to position strong cavalry forces on the heights, which I think would deter any attempted outflanking moves from this direction. Also, there are steep escarpments to the north-west which would make getting down behind the Roman position very difficult!

Any improvement on the old plan?  Confusedmile:
Nathan Ross
Time for a recap (and, perhaps, some new ideas). Not entirely unbiased, I admit, but I hope helpful.

The Revolt

This was a major rebellion. We know of only two of the tribes involved by name, the Iceni and the Trinovantes, but it is clear that there were others. Dio speaks of a terrible disaster in Britain in which “the island was lost to Rome” (Loeb); Tacitus, in the Annals, speaks of a grave disaster (gravis clades) and the revolt of “the province” and, in the Agricola, of everyone (universi) taking up arms, of Paulinus being recalled from Anglesey by the rebellion of the whole of Britain (rebellione totius Britanniae) and of his having the glory of recovering the province (recuperatae provinciae gloria). In his march south from North Wales, Paulinus had to pass through the midst of the enemy (medios inter hostes), from which one may infer that the territories through which he passed, if not in open revolt, were at least unfriendly. Some tribes will have held back from immediate rebellion to see if the uprising prospered. In the aftermath of the rebellion, Paulinus devastated the lands not only of those who had openly revolted and but also of those who had been doubtful in their loyalties (quodque nationum ambiguum aut adversum fuerat). We can point with some confidence to only one British ruler, Cogidubnus of the Atrebates, who may be assumed to have remained loyal and who was to be praised by Tacitus, in the Agricola, for his constancy. One may conclude, therefore, that, although Dio and Tacitus were undoubtedly exaggerating in saying that the island was lost and that the whole of Britain rebelled, a substantial part of the province was in open or potential revolt and that, in Roman eyes, this was akin to its loss.

The Rebel Army

Apart from the Iceni and the Trinovantes, an unknown number of tribes contributed to the rebel army. In his description of the build-up to the revolt, Tacitus speaks of the Iceni inciting to rebellion the Trinovantes and others not yet crushed by servitude (alii nondum servitio fracti) with a view to regaining their former freedom. Before the final battle, he has Boudica taking her chariot to each of the tribes to exhort them. This is possibly a rhetorical invention by Tacitus but serves the purpose of emphasising that the Romans faced a variety of disaffected tribes.

There is disagreement as to whether, in the early stages of the rebellion, the rebel army consisted of a single horde which attacked first Colchester and then London, before following the same route as Paulinus to the eventual site of the final battle, or whether it was divided, with part of the Icenian force remaining in its homeland to guard against Roman retaliation, while the remainder proceeded to Colchester. While it may seem sensible to modern eyes for the rebels to have adopted the latter course, it is doubtful that they did. The sources give no indication of such a strategy and it may be doubted whether a substantial number of Icenian fighters would have been content to remain behind against a threat that might not materialise, while their colleagues seized all the glory and booty expected from attacking and pillaging the Roman towns. The families of rebel fighters were present at the final battle and Tacitus says that those of all ages took to the field but this is not to say that entire tribes took part in the invasion, leaving their territories uninhabited. Many would have been unable or unwilling to leave and would have remained behind to protect their farmsteads (they would, of course, have been no match for the Romans, had they chosen to attack). However, one might expect that all, or at least most, of the men of fighting age would have made up the rebel army. Dio gives a figure of 120,000 for the force gathered by Boudica at the beginning of the revolt, which is probably intended to represent the number of men contributed by the Iceni. The army had almost doubled in size to 230,000 by the time of the final battle, no doubt including the number said to have been added by the Trinovantes and other tribes. The figures are probably grossly inflated but the proportions may be about right. Nathan suggests that, if (pace Dio) these figures include non-combatants and if the ratio of non-combatants to combatants is 4:1, the actual number of fighting men in the final battle would have been 57,500. However, the model upon which his calculation is based is not entirely applicable to the situation and the basic figures may be exaggerated in any case. It is, therefore, difficult to estimate the strength of the rebel army.

The Roman Army

Paulinus had four legions, the Second, Ninth, Fourteenth and Twentieth, and several units of auxiliaries to call upon, yet he had only the Fourteenth, the veterans of the Twentieth and the auxiliaries from the nearest forts at the final battle. Where were the others? The answer may lie in the composition of the force with which Paulinus attacked Anglesey and in the possibility of local circumstances which may have tied an individual legion to its area of responsibility. The Ninth Legion was clearly not with Paulinus, as its legate was with it in the east. I have postulated that the other three legions were involved in Paulinus’ campaign but left their veterans to guard their fortresses. This may seem too large a force for a limited campaign but Paulinus, being a cautious general, may have wished to attack with overwhelming force to achieve a speedy and complete victory. Deryk and Nathan have respectively argued that the Twentieth remained in South Wales and the Second in the south-west, presumably to guard against possible local unrest. They would, however, need to explain why only the veterans of the Twentieth were sent to reinforce Paulinus and why the Second had been left under the command of its praefectus castrorum. If they are both right, only the Fourteenth was with Paulinus on Anglesey and, if so, he must have abandoned his conquest immediately in order to counter Boudica’s rebellion. If I am right, he will have left the Second and Twentieth to consolidate his conquest and taken only the Fourteenth because, perhaps, he underestimated the extent of the revolt and, in any event, expected to be supported by the Ninth. We know from Tacitus that Agricola had to re-conquer Anglesey because Paulinus had been recalled from its occupation by the rebellion but it is not entirely clear whether this relates to the withdrawal of troops to deal with the revolt itself or for the subsequent mopping-up operations for which Paulinus concentrated his entire army.

The Progress of the Rebellion

Tacitus states that the Iceni and other tribes formed a secret conspiracy to regain their freedom. Nathan has plausibly suggested that this would have taken place at a tribal assembly attended, I would infer, by various tribal chiefs and their nobles. Such a gathering is unlikely to have passed unnoticed and its purpose would have to be concealed in some way. Celebration of the vernal equinox in mid-March could, perhaps, have provided a pretext for the meeting. It is reasonable to suppose that, after such an assembly, the chiefs intending to join the revolt would disperse to their homelands to raise their armies and to eliminate any centres of Roman influence there. The Iceni, apparently, overran the Roman military posts in their territory and moved into the lands of the Trinovantes to attack Colchester. This attack was, no doubt, carried out by the combined forces of the two tribes plus any others that may have joined them by that stage. After the fall of Colchester, the rebel horde moved on towards London. There is disagreement as to whether the rebels paused beforehand to gauge the Roman response and advanced on London only when Paulinus left it or whether they set off immediately after sacking Colchester. The sources give the impression of a continuous course of action without a delay and, indeed, if there were such a delay, Paulinus would have been able to put a considerable distance between himself and the rebels before they resumed their advance, not to mention the further delay likely to have been caused by the sacking of London. The sources, on the contrary, indicate that the distance between the two forces was comparatively small.

An unexplained occurrence is the destruction of Verulamium. If, on leaving London, the rebel force moved up Watling Street, the town would be a natural target and, indeed, the specific intention to pillage it could provide a motive for the rebels to take that route. Alternatively, Deryk has suggested that Boudica’s “second army”, that left behind to guard the Icenian homeland, may have been responsible, while making its way to join the main force. The town is not on the direct route to London but the army may have diverted from that route to assault the town or it may have intended to link up with Boudica somewhere west of London and attacked the town en route to the rendezvous. There are alternative explanations, however, that do not involve Boudica’s forces at all. It could have fallen victim to a local uprising; the local tribe could have destroyed the town as a centre of Roman influence prior to joining the main revolt; or a tribe travelling down Watling Street from further north may have attacked it on the way to join the rebellion.

The Roman Response

Upon hearing of the revolt, Paulinus’ first instinct would have been to march on East Anglia with his available troops and, with the support of the Ninth Legion, to quash the rebellion there. He will have taken the Fourteenth from his campaign force; the veterans of the Twentieth may have joined him later. When he learned of the fall of Colchester and the defeat of Cerialis, he changed his plans and, anticipating that London was likely to be the rebels’ next target, proceeded there at his best speed. Cerialis, in the meantime, had set off to relieve Colchester. Whether he did so on Paulinus’ orders or on his own initiative is uncertain. I suspect the latter, arising from his having received news of the critical situation in the colony. At some stage, he encountered a rebel force which defeated him. Deryk would argue that this was Boudica’s “second army”, pouncing upon him as he passed by or through Icenian territory. From Tacitus’ description, I infer that it was the force, or part of the force, that had just stormed the Temple of Claudius and extinguished the last resistance in Colchester. The personification of the “victor Briton” could apply to either but my feeling is that this description refers to the force that had actually achieved the victory. The encounter is often referred to as an ambush but there is little in the sources to justify this. In the Annals, Tacitus applies the adjective obvius to the “victor Briton”, which implies that the enemy was ‘meeting’ Cerialis. In the Agricola, he speaks of intercepted armies (intercepti exercitus) – the plural is rhetorical – which, again, implies that Cerialis was met on the march, rather than attacked from ambush. After the rout of his legion, Cerialis and his cavalry escaped to a camp. The consensus seems to be that this was his last marching camp. If so, it should not be too close to Colchester or to the site of his defeat. I have suggested that he was not pursued or, if he were, it was by the rebel cavalry alone. If the camp were near enough for the rebel infantry to pursue him there, it would surely have been overrun. The cavalry force that escaped with him would, I suggest, have been comparatively small and certainly not sufficient to man the perimeter of a camp built to house half a legion.

On arriving in London, Paulinus assessed the situation and concluded that he did not have the manpower to attack the rebels or to defend the town. It is postulated that the Second Legion was supposed to have rendezvoused with him there but failed to do so. Paulinus decided to abandon the town to the rebels and left, taking with him such of the civilian population as was able and willing to accompany him. His reasons for taking the civilians are not explained and the only explanation that I can offer is that they were those whose wealth and expertise would be needed in reconstructing the province after the defeat of the rebellion.

Withdrawal and Pursuit

After Paulinus had left London and the rebels had sacked it, both forces found themselves moving in the same direction. This may have been deliberate or coincidental and, if the former, would have been a decision of the rebels. It is necessary to consider the direction of travel and the considerations that may have caused either side to choose it. Two alternatives have been examined: northwards up Watling Street and westwards into the territory of the Atrebates. It is likely that Paulinus’ principal concern would have been to seek reinforcements for his force, which he had already decided was inadequate to challenge the rebel horde and to defend London. If he moved north, there are three possible sources of reinforcement, all of which have their difficulties. First, he might have ordered troops remaining in North Wales to follow him down Watling Street and to meet him somewhere on the way. We have no evidence in the sources to indicate that he did this and, if he did, one might expect them not to have been too far behind him and that a rendezvous would have taken place before he was obliged to engage the rebels. Secondly, he might have hoped that the remnants of the Ninth Legion would proceed along the Icknield Way to Watling Street and join him at or south of Dunstable. We hear nothing of the Ninth after Cerialis’ disastrous encounter with the rebel army. We know that approximately half the legion had been lost and nothing of the morale of the remainder. This must be regarded as a very dubious source of assistance. Thirdly and most likely would be troops coming from the south-west and South Wales. These could reach him by three possible routes, depending upon where he was at the time: along Akeman Street to north of St Albans, along the western section of the Icknield Way to Dunstable, or along the Fosse Way to High Cross, south of Mancetter. The problem is that, the further north he went, the further his reinforcements would have to travel to join him. However, the principal objection to his taking a route along Watling Street is that the territory was hostile, as he would have known from his journey south. Withdrawal into hostile territory would have been militarily unwise and the more so without the certainty of reinforcement. Nathan has suggested an initial withdrawal to St Albans and, when reinforcements did not arrive and the enemy approached, further withdrawal to Dunstable. St Albans would have provided a temporary safe haven but, with the rebel band to the south and hostile or potentially hostile tribes to the north, he would have been in danger of being cut off there without adequate forces to defend the town. To withdraw northwards would only take him deeper into hostile territory, without the certainty of any help from the remnants of the Ninth. If he had gone to St Albans and had been obliged to withdraw from there, his safest escape route would have been westwards along Akeman Street, which would also have brought him closer to his potential reinforcements.

The alternative withdrawal route from London to the west, on the other hand, would have had several advantages. It would take him into the territory of the friendly king of the Atrebates, Cogidubnus; it would bring him nearer to the Second Legion and the auxiliaries in the south-west, as well as troops stationed in South Wales; and it would have put him in a position to call for reinforcements from the Continent who could land at the southern ports. He would have been well-placed there to gather the forces with which to mount a counter-attack and to regain the province.

As noted above, the route taken by the rebels on leaving London was the same as that taken by Paulinus. If this was a deliberate decision on the part of Boudica, it would indicate that the rebels were actively pursuing the retreating Romans with the intention, presumably, of destroying Paulinus’ force before it could be reinforced and launch a counter-attack. In doing so, they could dispose of the one Roman army actually in the field and then deal with the other scattered elements piecemeal. However, if that were the intention, it is unlikely that they would have encumbered themselves with a slow-moving wagon train which the Romans could easily outpace. This could have been left behind under guard, while the warband conducted the pursuit. If they were not prepared to do this, as the eventual outcome indicates, they would effectively be abandoning the idea of active pursuit. If taking the same route as Paulinus was coincidental, the objectives of the rebels would depend upon the direction in which they were moving. If they were going north up Watling Street, the intention, in the case of the Iceni, would no doubt have been to return to their homelands via the Icknield Way for the autumn planting. The objection to this is that Watling Street is not the most direct route for them to have taken and, of course, would have been of no use at all to the Trinovantes. On the other hand, if they were travelling west into the territory of the Atrebates, their objectives may have been to exact revenge upon Cogidubnus for his pro-Roman sympathies, to seize whatever stocks of food they needed to see them through the winter, and to raid the tribal capital at Silchester and also, possibly, Cogidubnus’ royal complex.

It has been suggested that, in his conduct of the withdrawal, Paulinus was engaging in Fabian delaying tactics and that, in so doing, he remained relatively close to the rebels. As their rate of progress is likely to have been considerably slower than that achievable by his army, in matching his pace to theirs, he would inevitably have been delaying the time when he might have linked up with his reinforcements. He would also have made himself vulnerable to a sudden advance of the faster warband, which indicates that he is unlikely to have adopted such a tactic while still accompanied by the civilians. When and if he divested himself of the civilians is not mentioned in our sources. The precise purpose of such a tactic is somewhat unclear. It may have inhibited the rebels in foraging for food, for instance, and by drawing out the campaign Paulinus may have hoped to induce numbers of the rebels to desert and return home. However, if he did adopt such tactics, it is doubtful whether he gained any substantial advantage by doing so.

Eventually, Paulinus felt obliged to halt his withdrawal and stand and fight. Dio states that he did so against his better judgement because he was running short of food and the enemy was pressing relentlessly upon him. Tacitus says that he simply decided to put an end to delay. I have expressed some doubt as to why Paulinus was unable to outstrip a slower-moving enemy but Deryk has plausibly suggested that Dio’s statement does not necessarily mean that the rebels were close to him but rather that their advance was simply relentless. On this analysis, Paulinus may have assessed that the rebels were not going to stop their advance, whereas the reinforcements that he had summoned would take too long to join him. He, therefore, chose a battle site and waited for the rebels to catch him up.

The Battle Site

Tacitus’ description of the site chosen by Paulinus may be trusted as reasonably accurate, as he no doubt obtained his information from his father-in-law, Agricola, who had been on Paulinus’ staff at the time. He says that Paulinus drew up his forces in traditional fashion with the legionaries in the centre and auxiliaries and cavalry on the wings in a narrow defile (artis faucibus) with a wood behind him, to ensure that the enemy did not circle round and attack him in the rear, and with an open plain to the front. This is a classic position for an army numerically inferior to its foe, blocking a defile, with its rear protected and rising ground at its sides preventing the enemy from outflanking it. The rebels massed in the plain, placing their families in their wagons on the extreme edge of the plain to watch the fun. There is no need to describe the battle, save to say that Tacitus probably makes light of it and that Dio’s hard-fought contest is likely to be nearer the reality.

Various sites have been proposed for the battle, depending upon the route thought to have been taken by the combatants. Those favouring the Watling Street route have suggested Dunstable, Church Stowe and Mancetter, while, in the west, Cunetio and sites in the vicinity of Virginia Water and east of Crowthorne have been put forward. The proponents of some of these sites have recently argued their cases in detail and I will not attempt to summarize them. However, those on the northern route are all subject to the objection previously stated that Paulinus is unlikely to have gone in that direction because it would have involved withdrawing into hostile territory. That said, if I understand the arguments correctly, the battle plans drawn up for the sites at Mancetter and Church Stowe require the rebels to attack across the defile, rather than along it, which would defy the logic of Paulinus having chosen such a position. Mancetter would also have the rebels attacking across a river which is not mentioned by Tacitus. Both sites are too far along Watling Street, in my opinion. Nathan’s latest plan for his site near Dunstable closely follows Tacitus’ description.

Of the western sites, only that for Cunetio has been argued in detail. Deryk has extolled its advantages from a communication point of view and these make it a plausible candidate for Paulinus’ rallying point for his reinforcements. However, its claim to be the final battle site is questionable. Again, it requires the rebels to attack across the defile and across a river not mentioned by Tacitus. It is also west of Silchester, which the rebels may well not have reached. Nathan has argued strongly for the merits of a site in the vicinity of Virginia Water (his second choice after his preferred site near Dunstable) and has also identified a possible site near Crowthorne. He mentions the presence of streams there as a possible disadvantage and also comments on the wetness of Virginia Water. These problems need not necessarily be insuperable. The climate at the time may have been different from that at present (I believe that there is evidence that it was warmer) and the season, probably late summer, is also relevant. When the battle took place, the streams may have been dry or, at least, substantially reduced in size. However, if the ground was actually boggy, this would be a major objection.

The Aftermath

Paulinus did not have the manpower to follow up his victory and a large number of Britons escaped and vowed to continue the war. There is little evidence that they actually did so, however, and the death of Boudica may have put paid to any such ambitions. Paulinus brought his whole army together for the subsequent mopping-up operations and it may have been at this point that his conquests on Anglesey were abandoned. The territories of those tribes who remained hostile or whose loyalties were suspect were devastated with fire and sword, and the fear of further retribution may have deterred any continued resistance. If so, his policy was to that extent successful. However, Paulinus was too much the soldier to secure the peace. The Britons still under arms feared to surrender, expecting savage punishment if they did, and consequently remained a threat, even if they did not engage in any military action. Deryk has suggested that the Roman forces were overstretched at the time of the revolt but the evidence of subsequent action taken by the authorities offers little support, at least so far as legionary troops are concerned. 2000 legionaries were transferred from Germany but these served only to bring the Ninth up to strength. Eight cohorts of auxiliary infantry and 1000 cavalry were also brought in and stationed in new winter quarters. Their role, no doubt, was to maintain watchful control of the previously hostile tribes. If they replaced any units lost in the revolt, we are not told and it may be that any such losses were made up by normal recruitment. Eventually, Paulinus was replaced and the more conciliatory policies of his successors, Petronius Turpilianus and Trebellius Maximus, secured the peace that his harsh methods had failed to achieve.

More immediately, Poenius Postumus, praefectus castrorum of the Second Legion, committed suicide because, as Tacitus tells us, he had cheated his legion out of its share of glory and, in breach of military discipline, had disobeyed the orders of his commander (quia pari gloria legionum suam fraudaverat abnueratque contra ritum militiae iussa ducis). That is all that Tacitus says and we are not told what form his disobedience took. However, it has been long considered that his fault lay in failing to join Paulinus in confronting the rebels when ordered to do so. Neither are we told the reasons for his disobedience. One theory is that, concerned with local issues, his military background prevented him from seeing the broader picture and realising that, if Paulinus were defeated and the province lost because of his failure to support him, his own local difficulties would become irrelevant. Tacitus’ use of the verb abnuere and his comment that Postumus’ inaction was in breach of military discipline (literally, ‘against the rule of military service’) indicates that this was an outright refusal to obey, not a tardy or incompetent attempt to comply.

The Twentieth and Fourteenth Legions were granted the cognomina of Valeria Victrix and Martia Victrix respectively. Previously, the Twentieth had been known by its number alone (see, e.g., the tombstone of the centurion, M. Favonius Facilis, at Colchester (RIB 200)) and the Fourteenth by the single cognomen of Gemina. It has been suggested that these additional titles were awarded as a result of their part in the defeat of the revolt (R. Mcpake, ‘A Note on the Cognomina of Legio XX’, Britannia 12 (1981), 293-295). It is possible, however, that it could have been because their role in Paulinus’ Anglesey campaign. If so, they would have been the only legions involved and the whole of the Second would have remained in the West Country. This raises again the question of why that legion had been left under the command of its praefectus castrorum and where the legate and the tribunus laticlavius were at the time. Against this, it may be argued that the commemoration of Paulinus’ achievements was kept low-key (see G. Gambash, ‘To Rule a Ferocious Province: Roman Policy and the Aftermath of the Boudican Revolt’, Britannia 43 (2012), 1-15 at p.6) and that, consequently, they are less likely to have been reflected in honours bestowed upon his legions. One might also add that, if additional titles were habitually conferred upon units involved in successful campaigns, these two legions, as well as the Second and the Ninth, should perhaps have received them after the invasion in AD43 and that the legions taking part in Agricola’s campaigns in Scotland might have expected to be similarly honoured. In addition, the prevailing practice was to give the minimum of publicity to provincial revolts (ibid., p.7), so this to some extent militates against McPake’s theory. One may also wonder whether the success of a comparatively small section of a legion, in this case the veterans of the Twentieth, would justify the honouring of the whole unit. That said, the sheer scale of the success of the men of the Fourteenth and Twentieth, a victory against overwhelming odds that saved an entire province, may well have been thought sufficiently remarkable as to warrant special recognition.
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)
Quote:Time for a recap (and, perhaps, some new ideas).
But not the one with which I started this thread, it seems :wink: Nowt so entrenched as military historians, it seems.

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
Renatus post=323908 Wrote:Time for a recap (and, perhaps, some new ideas).
But not the one with which I started this thread, it seems :wink: Nowt so entrenched as military historians, it seems.

Mike Bishop
If you ask the question, "Where was Boudica's last stand?", why complain if people try to answer it, especially if no-one supports the "entrenched", i.e., Mancetter, option?
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)
Quote:But not the one with which I started this thread, it seems :wink:

I'd be very interested to see a case for the 'southern' route, with some suggested locations - I quite liked East Meon / Butser Hill myself, till I discovered that the A3 wasn't actually a Roman road... Then there's the Dorking Gap...

But it would need somebody to come forward and stake their claim, I think... Wink
Nathan Ross
Quote:Time for a recap (and, perhaps, some new ideas).

An excellent and very detailed summary, Michael - thanks. I have a few responses (of course), but I'll try not to repeat myself too much...

Quote:Celebration of the vernal equinox in mid-March could, perhaps, have provided a pretext for the meeting.

Very convincing! This would fit with the timescale as I imagine it. I also like your points about the extent and composition of the revolt - detailed examination of the original source texts is always welcome.

Quote:Paulinus decided to abandon the town... His reasons for taking the civilians are not explained and the only explanation that I can offer is that they were those whose wealth and expertise would be needed in reconstructing the province after the defeat of the rebellion.

I would assume that he principally took Roman citizens with him. Loss of citizen lives, especially after the fall of Colchester, would blacken his reputation much more than the loss of a flimsy little trading settlement or two...

Quote:It is likely that Paulinus’ principal concern would have been to seek reinforcements for his force

I'm not sure. Paulinus did, apparently, consider making a stand in London. He couldn't rely on being reinforced, and possibly always believed that he had the men to defeat Boudica. His 'principal concern', I think, would be to find a location where a small disciplined force could defeat a larger one.

Actually, if P was after reinforcements, surely finding a safe central location and staying there waiting for them to come to him would be preferable to heading off across the map looking for them? We've already discussed the difficulties of long-distance coordination...

Quote:Withdrawal into hostile territory would have been militarily unwise and the more so without the certainty of reinforcement.

A colonial governor with a small force facing a potential tribal insurgency has two options, it seems to me. He could withdraw from the hostile area, in the hope of returning later with more men. Or he could remain in the vicinity of the hostiles in the hope that his presence will deter an outbreak. Both strategies have their risks. By moving away, the threat is removed from potential rebels, leaving them free to lead an uprising. Staying close, there is a risk of being surrounded and overwhelmed.

In this case, as an uprising in the Midlands would divide the province and cut Paulinus' route to his only sure source of reinforcements (north Wales), I consider it more likely that he would have remained on Watling street in an attempt to deter an open outbreak. But it's a gamble either way.

Quote:The alternative withdrawal route from London to the west... would take him into the territory of the friendly king of the Atrebates, Cogidubnus

Ah, but as I've said - how could Paulinus know he was friendly? There's a risk here too - if Cogidubnus decided to throw in his lot with the rebels, or his people threw off their allegiance to him and attacked the Romans, Paulinus would be totally sunk - no defensive position, and his whole army and refugees cut off in open country. How much did Paulinus know of Cogidubnus? Intelligence networks in the south would probably fall into the procurator's ambit; with the flight of their chief, they would be in chaos.

I don't think it's impossible, of course - but we can't rely on it either. I think Paulinus would be hesitant about committing his security so heavily to the goodwill of a native king. Far better to look to his own defence and act independently...

Nathan Ross
the battle plans drawn up for the sites at Mancetter and Church Stowe require the rebels to attack across the defile
not in the case of CS, definitely an attack along the defile.



the battle plans drawn up for the sites at Mancetter and Church Stowe require the rebels to attack across the defile, rather than along it

absolutely not, CS is an attack along the defile to the Romans who "lie poorly hid behind their entrenchments" - Tacitus "The narrow defile gave them the shelter of a rampart." they were on the ridge behind entrenchments :wink:




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Quote:"lie poorly hid behind their entrenchments" - Tacitus "The narrow defile gave them the shelter of a rampart." they were on the ridge behind entrenchments

Ach, I dunno I dunno...

angustias loci pro munimento retinens means 'retained the narrowness of the place as a barrier'. No mention of ramparts or earthworks! That's just a translator's gloss.

As I've said, Roman tactics didn't favour defending field fortifications anyway, and Tacitus seems pretty clear that Paulinus was in the defile.

However, this doesn't rule CS out of my consideration - not at all. I just think you need to give up those entrenchments and move down into the valley a bit...


Or even push the Roman line right back into the western end of the valley, if you need more room:


That would fit the description as I see it! Smile

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Nathan Ross
yep very, very happy with that interpretation, still puts the impact point spot on my wagon location between Weedon Hill and Stowe Wood. Both make more sense of the triple ditch sequence at the Larches which I had been struggling to incorporate in the narrative. Thank you for another building block, although I would have liked to build in the spear, brooch and burning from Castle Yard into the assault.

The top of your plan shows White Hall, this is the site of a Roman villa over looking the site, no significance to what we're talking about but a great site if anyone is interested;

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