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Q: With reference to examples in film, art and iconography, to what extent is the legend of Boudica more powerful than the actual women?
The legend of Boudica was evidently greater than the actual women herself because there is more information about the legend compared to the women. This is because we have very limited knowledge on the women due to there being only two primary written sources and those sources being written by romans. However, the story of Boudica did have to start somewhere. The impact of the legend has been very significant as due to the limited evidence on the women, the legend has flourished.
The legend of Boudica that has developed over time illustrates her as a fierce, strong and vengeful warrior queen.
Boudica was the Queen of the Iceni during the early occupation of Britain, however, when her husband Prasutagus died and he left his property to his daughters, the Romans did not respect his wishes and they took the land and the possessions. This is when Boudica began her rebellion and vengeance (Boudica – Who Was She?, 2019). Dio Cassius refers to Boudica as “appearance most terrifying, glance in her eye was most fierce” (Dio Cassius Roman – History LXII 1-2) which depicts to us her appearance. This develops the legend of Boudica as Dio Cassius mentions her appearance was most terrifying and the gland in her eye was most fierce which conveys warrior Queen traits. Dio states that this source depicts Boudica’s ‘invariable attire’ which means she rarely wore other clothing which reassure the idea of her being fierce. Due to the evidence not being first-hand information it makes historians question how much truth there is to it. The Film Boudica Warrior Queen (Anderson, 2003) portrays Boudica as a strong female warrior who wants to lead her tribe to victory. The legend is portrayed throughout the entire film as she is characterised as fierce and vengeful which gives viewers a greater knowledge of the warrior queen as it shows the way she acted, however, the film is fictional which does means parts have been over dramaticised and manipulated to engage the audience. As a result, the legend of Boudica has been represented as a fierce and vengeful warrior queen through both historians and film makers. As no one know a lot about the woman, the legend is more powerful due to many people illustrating her as a warrior queen.
Although the Legend of Boudica has evolved over the years, the story had the start somewhere and that is through the woman herself.
Boudica was believed to be born around 30 AD and she was born into an elite family in Camulodunum, however, the only information that we know about the women is provided by Tacitus and Dio Cassius (Who Was Boudica?, 2019). The Romans viewed women warrior as indicative of an immoral, uncivilised society as they believed women were meant to stay at home. (Boudica the Warrior Queen , 2018). “I am fighting as an ordinary person for my lost freedom, my bruised body, and my outraged daughter” (Tacitus Annals 14). This source from Tacitus reveals to us the way that Boudica was feeling. It the depicts to us the reasons as to why she is furious at the romans as well. Boudica speaks about being an ‘ordinary person’ person which could be referring to her being a royal descent. “A person who was worthy to be their leader and who directed the conduct of the entire was, was Boudica” (Dio Cassius Roman History VIII). This source reveals to us Boudica’s life. It explains to us how many cities were destroyed which we can gather that Boudica’s tribe was very strong. This source, similar to Tacitus, mentions that Boudica is from a royal descent and she was very intellectual. Dio also mentions that the Romans were in great shames after the defeat which refers to during that era women were very negative and not as superior as men. Although we do receive some information and there is some consistency Kohout states “Tacitus states she poisoned herself and Dio states that she fell ill” but also she mentions “both Tacitus and Dio Cassius describe her as a woman of royal descent. It is unclear though whether or not she was of the Iceni nobility or of an outside group” (Kohout, 2005)which does reveal to us that although information is provided it is not enough to make a fully judgement on what happened. The two primary written sources do provide some information on the women and some of the information from both historians are consistent. Nevertheless, we have very limited knowledge as our two and only primary sources are produced by Romans which makes it hard for historians to write about the women.
There have been many different interpretations of Boudica over the years, but the two main ones are the women and the legend. With the limited information that we know about the women, according the Tacitus and Dio Cassius Boudica was a widowed queen of Prasutagus, the Roman-appointed client-king of the Iceni tribe who stepped outside the normal role of a wife and instead fought in battle to gain vengeance. “Around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of diverse colours…fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire” (Dio Cassius Roman History LXII). This source reveals to us Boudica’s appearance. Through this source we can base that the women came from a wealthy family as she wore a ‘large golden necklace’ and her ‘invariable attire’ which means she rarely wore any other clothing. Through Dio Cassius describing Boudica’s attire, this painting “Boadicea Haranguing the Britons” by John Opie was created (see appendix). This painting was created in the 18th century imagining what Boudica would have looked like. In this painting you can see that she is being praised by some members of the Iceni which does convey her leadership (Boadicea Haranguing the Britons, 2014). Because we have barely any information about the women, the legend of Boudica has flourished and she is recognised as a fierce warrior Queen. A bronze statue was created in 1905 and Located next to Westminster bridge and the Houses of Parliament. It was commissioned by Prince Albert and executed by Thomas Thornycroft. This statue represents the legend of Boudica as it shows her on a chariot with her daughters standing tall and fierce which does portray the theme of leadership (see appendix) (Queen Boudica, 2014). One other artwork was created to represent the legend of Boudica (see appendix). In this artwork you can see her holding her hand up in the air like she is guiding her tribe before the battle. This shows her being a strong fearless leader which portrays to us the legend of Boudica as in this artwork you can see the warrior queen being portrayed. Overall, the legend is bigger than the women as we do not have enough information about the women as there is only two primary written sources and no written evidence from Boudica and the Iceni which made the legend flourish.
To conclude, the legend of Boudica is more powerful than the women as through the legend we can gather more information about her being a fierce warrior queen. Although the story of Boudica did have to come from somewhere which is represented through the women, we just don’t have enough first-hand information of her to gain enough understanding and knowledge over the women which makes the legend stand out much more
- Anderson, B. (Director). (2003). Boudica Warrior Queen [Motion Picture].
- Boadicea Haranguing the Britons. (2014, April 16). Retrieved from Ancient History Encyclopedia : https://www.ancient.eu/image/2585/boadicea-haranguing-the-britons/
- Boudica – Who Was She? (2019). Retrieved from History’s Heroes : http://historysheroes.e2bn.org/hero/whowerethey/2
- Boudica the Warrior Queen . (2018, November 6th ). Retrieved from Aeon: https://aeon.co/essays/boudica-how-a-widowed-queen-became-a-rebellious-woman-warrior
- History’s Heros . (2019). Retrieved from Boudica – Who Was She?: http://historysheroes.e2bn.org/hero/whowerethey/2
- Kohout, N. (2005). Boudica, what do we really know?
- Queen Boudica. (2014, March 8). Retrieved from Ancient History Encyclopedia: https://www.ancient.eu/image/2357/queen-boudica/
- Who Was Boudica? (2019, March 7th). Retrieved from History: https://www.history.com/news/who-was-boudica
(Statue of Boudica)
(Boadicea Haranguing the Britons painting)
(Painting of Boudica leading her tribe)
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