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From Readings in English History Drawn From The Original Sources by Edward P. Cheyney, Ginn and Company; Boston; 1908; pp. 23-26.

Elf. Editor comments in brackets


YEAR 61 A. D.

Tacitus’ The Conquest of Anglesea and
the Revolt of Boadicea.1

The attack on the island of Mona or Anglesea, which thus gave opportunity for a revolt of the still but half-conquered Britons, and the subsequent events of this year of war, A. D. 61, are more fully described in another of Tacitus’ works, his Annals.

16. The
Druids on
the island
of Mona
On the shores was standing the battle line of the enemy, bristling with arms and men, while women were running back and forth, after the fashion of the Furies; in funereal garb, with disheveled hair, they were bearing torches before them; and the Druids around, with hands raised to the sky, pouring out their dreadful prayers, struck our soldiers with consternation by the novelty of the sight, so that just as if paralyzed they offered their immovable bodies to wounds. Then at the exhortation of the leaders, and encouraging themselves not to fear this cowardly and fanatic array, they charged, overthrowing their opponents, and enveloping them in their own attack. Then a garrison was placed over the conquered, and the groves devoted to superstitious rites were cut down, for they considered it right in the sight of their gods to make their altars reek with the blood of captives and to seek their gods by divination from the entrails of men.

News of the revolt of the natives under Boadicea, and of the destruction of a vast number of Roman troops, 24 merchants, and their families, now reached the ears of the Roman governor Suetonius.

The earliest
of London
But Suetonius with wonderful firmness pushed on through the midst of the enemy to London, a place not distinguished by the name of colony, but a depot for merchants and especially celebrated for its traffic. He was doubtful whether he should retain this place as a base for his operations, but when he considered the small number of his troops, . . . he determined to sacrifice this single town for the sake of saving all the rest. Nor was he influenced by the wailing and tears of those begging his aid to refrain from giving the signal for departure, He received within his line of march any one who wished to accompany him, but those who, because of their sex, age, or charm of locality, remained behind were crushed by the enemy. The modern
St. Albans
The same disaster befell the municipality of Verulamium, because the barbarians, delighted with the booty and averse to the hardships of war, neglected the small forts and scattered guards of soldiers, and turned their whole attention to that which would prove fruitful to the plunderer and which was unguarded by the defenders. It is agreed that about seventy thousand Roman soldiers and their allies fell in those places which I have mentioned. For the enemy were not eager to capture or sell, or do anything else which had to do with the trade of war, but hastened to murders, to the gibbet, to fires, to the cross, as if about to be punished they sought to wreak their vengeance first. . . .

Suetonius had now an army of almost ten thousand men, consisting of the fourteenth legion, together with the veterans of the twentieth and the auxiliaries from the neighborhood. He no longer delayed, but prepared for a regular battle. He chose for this a piece with a narrow entrance and closed in the rear by a forest, clearly seeing that there would be no trouble from the enemy except in front, and as the plain was open he was without fear of ambuscade. Then the legionary soldiers were stationed in close ranks, on either side the light-armed troops, while the cavalry crowded together in a mass took their stand in the wings. The troops of the Britons were rushing hither 25 and thither in bands of foot and horse, in greater number than anywhere before that time; and so confident were thy of success that they brought with them their wives as witnesses of their victory, and placed them in wagons which they had stationed on the extreme edge of the field. . . .

Speech of
Boadicea riding along with her two daughters in her chariot, as she approached each tribe called them to witness that it was customary for the Britons to wage war under the leadership of a woman, but that at this time not as one descended form great ancestors did she come to recover her kingdom and her resources, but as one descended from the people to avenge her lost liberty, her body lacerated with blows, the honor of her daughters violated. The desires of the Romans had gone so far that they did not leave undefiled the bodies even of the aged and of the maidens. Nevertheless the gods were aging in the just punishment of these men: one legion had already fallen which had dared to engage in battle; the rest were in hiding in the camp or were watching for a chance of flight; they would not endure even the clamor and shouts of the multitude, much less the attacks of the soldiers. If they would reflect on the number of their armed men and on the reasons for the war, they would feel they must either conquer in the battle or die. This was the decision of a woman: let the men live if they wished, and be subservient to the Romans. . . .

Defeat of the
British rebels
At first the legion did not move from its position, but held itself within the narrow pass as a fortification, after it had exhausted the weapons with unerring aim upon the enemy who came a little nearer; then suddenly the legion rushed forth in a wedge-shaped column. The ardor of the auxiliaries was equally great; and the cavalry with uplifted weapons broke whatever stood in their way. The enemy not actually engaged turned their backs, but escape was difficult, since the wagons which they had previously placed there hindered their flight. The soldiers did not regain from killing even the women, and the cattle pierced with weapons increased the heaps of the dead. Famous indeed was the victory gained on that day, and equal to the victories of ancient times. There are those who say that not much less than eighty thousand Britons fell then, while only 26 about four hundred of our men were killed and not many more wounded. Boadicea ended her life with poison; and Poenius Postumus, prefect of the camp of the second legion, when he learned of the successful deeds of the soldiers of the fourteenth and twentieth legions, killed himself with his sword, because he had defrauded his own men of equal glory and had, contrary to military laws, disobeyed the orders of his general. . . .

ing of the
Then the entire army was gathered and held in the tents to complete the rest of the war. The emperor increased the forces by two thousand legionary soldiers sent from Germany, eight thousand auxiliaries, and one thousand horsemen, upon whose arrival the ninth legion was filled out with legionary soldiers. The cohorts and the cavalry were supplied with new winter quarters. Whatever tribe was doubtful or adverse to the Roman people was ravaged with fire and sword.


1   From Tacitus, Annales, Lib. xiv, c. 30, 33-38.


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