Encyclopedia Womannica

Warriors: Boudicca

Episode Summary

Boudicca (c. 30-c. 60) was an ancient warrior queen of Britain. She rose up to lead a rebellion against one of history’s most feared military powers, and remains a symbol of strength against adversity to this day.

Episode Notes

Every weekday, listeners explore the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of groundbreaking women throughout history who have dramatically shaped the world around us. In each 5 minute episode, we’ll dive into the story behind one woman listeners may or may not know -- but definitely should. These diverse women from across space and time are grouped into easily accessible and engaging monthly themes like Pioneers, Dreamers, Villainesses, STEMinists, Warriors & Social Justice Warriors, and many more. Encyclopedia Womannica is hosted by WMN co-founder and award-winning journalist Jenny Kaplan. The bite-sized episodes pack painstakingly researched content into fun, entertaining, and addictive daily adventures.

Encyclopedia Womannica was created by Liz Kaplan and Jenny Kaplan, executive produced by Jenny Kaplan, and produced by Liz Smith, Cinthia Pimentel, and Grace Lynch. Special thanks to Shira Atkins, Edie Allard, and Luisa Garbowit.

Special thanks to our guest host, Dena from @Women_ofHistory

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Episode Transcription

Hello! From Wonder Media Network, I’m Jenny Kaplan. And this is Encyclopedia Womannica.

Today we’re talking about ancient Britain’s warrior queen. She rose up to lead a rebellion against one of history’s most feared military powers, and remains a symbol of strength against adversity to this day. Meet Queen Boudica.

Boudica was likely born around 30 CE into the Iceni tribe of ancient Britain. Her birth wasn’t historically recorded, but her marriage certainly was. Her husband was Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni.

When the Romans invaded in the year 43, Pragsutagus became a "client king," meaning he promised loyalty and financial support to the Romans in exchange for being able to keep some power and land.

This meant that Boudica, her husband, and their two daughters probably lived in relative luxury. That didn’t mean they sat on their laurels. Britons of this era were also often trained as warriors -- including women.

When Pragsutagus died, he made the mistake of bequeathing only half of his wealth to the Roman emperor, leaving the remaining half to his daughters. The Romans saw this as a sign of disrespect. In response, they brutally attacked the Iceni kingdom and tortured Boudica and her daughters.

For the Iceni, the ruling class also played an important religious and cultural role, making this attack on their leaders unforgivable. They thirsted for rebellion, and Boudica took up the mantle as leader.

Boudica plotted the uprising with a neighboring British tribe, gathering a sizable army. While the Romans were occupied with another battle, Boudica's forces caught the Empire by surprise by attacking the capital of Roman Britain in the year 60. The few thousand citizens of the city were killed, and the buildings burned to the ground.

Boudica’s army moved on to attack another new Roman trading town. Many of the 30,000 residents fled before she arrived. Just like the previous city, this one was left in ashes. From there, Boudica’s forces turned their sights on a British city filled with Roman collaborators. That town was also evacuated.

Despite many citizens fleeing before Boudica’s armies arrived, some historians place the death toll due to her troops at around 70,000 Roman citizens. That number may be exaggerated, but indubitably Boudica made an impact.

Eventually Roman troops rose to meet her. Boudica’s forces numbered around 230,000 and the Romans numbered around 10,000. Those odds seem good for the Britons, but the Romans were known for being precise, tactical, and organized--and that style won out over Boudica’s guerilla strategy. The Romans trapped her soldiers on a plain, blocked their retreat and wiped them out completely.

Some historians say Boudica committed suicide with poison to avoid capture. The lands of the Iceni and their allies were destroyed by the Romans, who continued to rule over Britain for hundreds of years.

Though Boudica wasn’t ultimately successful in her mission to overthrow the Romans, she undeniably left her mark on history.

We’re taking a break for the weekend. Tune in on Monday to learn about another warrior.

Special thanks to Liz Kaplan, my favorite sister and co-creator!

Talk to you Monday!