BOADICEA, THE HEROINE OF BRITAIN
 PRASUTAGUS, the king of the Icenians, a tribe of the
ancient Britons, had amassed much wealth in the course
of a long reign. On his death, in order to secure the
favor of the Romans, now masters of the island, he left
half his wealth by will to the emperor and half to his
two daughters. This well judged action of the barbarian
king did not have the intended effect. No sooner was he
dead than the Romans in the vicinity claimed the whole
estate as theirs, ruthlessly pillaged his house, and
seized all his effects.
This base brigandage roused Boadicea, the widowed
queen, to a vigorous protest, but with the sole result
of bringing a worse calamity upon her head. She was
seized and cruelly scourged by the ruthless Romans, her
two daughters were vilely maltreated, and the noblest
of the Icenians were robbed of their possessions by the
plunderers, who went so far as to reduce to slavery the
near relatives of the deceased king.
Roused to madness by this inhuman treatment, the
Icenians broke into open revolt. They were joined by a
neighboring state, while the surrounding Britons, not
yet inured to bondage, secretly resolved
 to join the cause of liberty. There had lately been
planted a colony of Roman veterans at Camalodunum
(Colchester), who had treated the Britons cruelly,
driven them from their houses, and insulted them with
the names of slaves and captives; while the common
soldiers, a licentious and greedy crew, still further
degraded and robbed the owners of the land.
The invaders went too far for British endurance, and
brought a terrible retribution upon themselves.
Paulinus Suetonius, an able officer, who then commanded
in Britain, was absent on an expedition to conquer the
island of Mona. Of this expedition the historian
Tacitus gives a vivid account. As the boats of the
Romans approached the island they beheld on the shore
the Britons prepared to receive them, while through
their ranks rushed their women in funereal attire,
their hair flying loose in the wind, flaming torches in
their hands, and their whole appearance recalling the
frantic rage of the fabled Furies. Near by, ranged in
order, stood the venerable Druids, or Celtic priests,
with uplifted hands, at once invoking the gods and
pouring forth imprecations upon the foe.
The novelty and impressiveness of this spectacle filled
the Romans with awe and wonder. They stood in stupid
amazement, riveted to the spot, and a mark for the foe
had they been then attacked. From this brief paralysis
the voice of their general recalled them, and, ashamed
of being held in awe by a troop of women and a band of
fanatic priests, they rushed to the assault, cut down
all before them, and set fire to the edifices and the
sacred groves of the island
 with the torches which the Britons themselves had
But Suetonius had chosen a perilous time for this
enterprise. During his absence the wrongs of the
lcenians and the exhortations of Boadicea had roused a
formidable revolt, and the undefended colonies of the
Romans were in danger.
In addition to the actual peril the Romans were
frightened with dire omens. The statue of victory at
Camalodunum fell without any visible cause, and lay
prostrate on the ground. Clamors in a foreign accent
were heard in the Roman council chamber, the theatres
were filled with the sound of savage howlings, the sea
ran purple as with blood, the figures of human bodies
were traced on the sands, and the image of a colony in
ruins was reflected from the waters of the Thames.
These omens threw the Romans into despair and filled
the minds of the Britons with joy. No effort was made
by the soldiers for defence, no ditch was dug, no
palisade erected, and the assault of the Britons found
the colonists utterly unprepared. Taken by surprise,
the Romans were overpowered, and the colony was laid
waste with fire and sword. The fortified temple alone
held out, but after a two days' siege it, also was
taken, and the legion which marched to its relief was
cut to pieces.
Boadicea was now the leading spirit among the Britons.
Her wrongs had stirred them to revolt, and her warlike
energy led them to victory and revenge. But she was
soon to have a master-spirit to meet. Suetonius,
recalled from the island of Mona
 by tidings of rebellion and disaster, marched hastily
as far as London, which was even then the chief
residence of the merchants and the centre of trade and
commerce of the island.
His army was small, not more than ten thousand men in
all. That of the Britons was large. The interests of
the empire were greater than those of any city, and
Suetonius found himself obliged to abandon London to
the barbarians, despite the supplications of its
imperiled citizens. All he would agree to was to take
under his protection those who chose to follow his
banner. Many followed him, but many remained, and no
sooner had he marched out than the Britons fell in rage
on the settlement, and killed all they found. In like
manner they ravaged Verulamium (St. Albans). Seventy
thousand Romans are said to have been put to the sword.
Meanwhile Suetonius marched through the land, and at
length the two armies met. The skilled Roman general
drew up his force in a place where a thick forest
sheltered the rear and flanks, leaving only a narrow
front open to attack. Here the Britons, twenty times
his number, and confident of victory, approached. The
warlike Boadicea, tall, stern of countenance, her hair
hanging to her waist, a spear in her hand, drove along
their front in a war-like car, with her two daughters
by her side, and eloquently sought to rouse her
countrymen to thirst for revenge.
Telling them of the base cruelty with which she and her
daughters had been treated, and painting in vivid words
the arrogance and insults of the Romans,
 she besought them to fight for their country and their
homes. "On this spot we must either conquer or die with
glory," she said. "There is no alternative. Though I am
a woman, my resolution is fixed. The men, if they
prefer, may survive with infamy and live in bondage.
For me there is only victory or death."
Stirred to fury by her words, the British host poured
like a deluge on their foes. But the Roman arms and
discipline proved far too much for barbarian courage
and ferocity. The British were repulsed, and, rushing
forward in a wedge shape, the legions cut their way
with frightful carnage through the disordered ranks.
The cavalry seconded their efforts. Thousands fell. The
rest took to flight. But the wagons of the British,
which had been massed in the rear, impeded their
flight, and a dreadful slaughter, in which neither sex
nor age was spared, ensued. Tacitus tells us that
eighty thousand Britons fell, while the Roman slain
numbered no more than four hundred men.
Boadicea, who had done her utmost to rally her flying
hosts, kept to her resolution. When all was lost, she
took poison, and perished upon the field where she had
vowed to seek victory or death. With her decease the
success of the Britons vanished. Though they still kept
the field, they gradually yielded to the Roman arms,
and Britain became in time a quiet and peaceful part of
the great empire of Rome.