Decisive Roman victory
* End of Boudica's revolt * Roman rule secured
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
10,000 Dio claims 230,000; Plus women, children and non-combatants
CASUALTIES AND LOSSES
* v * t * e
Roman invasion and occupation of Britain
* Caesar\'s invasions (55–54 BC)
* Conquest of Britain (43–76 AD)
* Medway * Capture of Camulodunon * Caer Caradoc * Menai
* Boudica\'s uprising (60–61 AD)
* Scotch Corner (71 AD)
* Mons Graupius (83 AD)
Siege of Burnswark (140 AD)
* Caledonia (208–210 AD)
Carausian Revolt (286–296 AD)
* Usurpation of
Magnentius (350–353 AD)
Carausius II (354–358 AD)
The BATTLE OF WATLING STREET took place in Roman-occupied Britain in AD 60 or 61 between an alliance of indigenous British peoples led by Boudica and a Roman army led by Gaius Suetonius Paulinus . Although heavily outnumbered, the Romans decisively defeated the allied tribes, inflicting heavy losses on them. The battle marked the end of resistance to Roman rule in Britain in the southern half of the island, a period that lasted until 410 AD.
Historians are dependent on Roman sources for accounts of the battle.
The precise location is not known, but most historians place it
Londinium and Viroconium (
* 1 Background
* 2 Battle
* 2.1 Location
* 3 Aftermath * 4 References * 5 External links
In AD 43, Rome invaded south-eastern Britain. The conquest was
gradual. While some kingdoms were defeated militarily and occupied,
others remained nominally independent as allies of the
One such people was the
Iceni in what is now
Roman Governor of Britain ,
Gaius Suetonius Paulinus , was
campaigning on the island of Mona (
Boudica and her army headed for Londinium (London). So did Suetonius and a small portion of his army, but, arriving ahead of the rebels, he concluded he did not have the numbers to defend Londinium and ordered the city evacuated before it was attacked. Londinium, too, was burnt to the ground and the Roman historian Tacitus claims every inhabitant who could not get away was killed.
While Boudica's army continued their assault in
Suetonius had chosen his battleground carefully.
He selected a narrow gorge with a forest behind him, opening out into
a wide plain. The gorge protected the Roman flanks from attack, while
the forest would impede approach from the rear. This would have
Boudica from bringing considerable forces to bear on the
Roman position, and the open plain in front made ambushes impossible.
Suetonius placed his legionaries in close order, with lightly armed
auxiliaries on the flanks and cavalry on the wings.
As their armies deployed, the commanders would have sought to motivate their soldiers. Tacitus, who wrote of the battle more than fifty years later, claims to relate Boudica's speech to her followers:
"'But now,' she said, 'it is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the outraged chastity of my daughters. Roman lust has gone so far that not our very persons, nor even age or virginity, are left unpolluted. But heaven is on the side of a righteous vengeance; a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight. They will not sustain even the din and the shout of so many thousands, much less our charge and our blows. If you weigh well the strength of the armies, and the causes of the war, you will see that in this battle you must conquer or die. This is a woman's resolve; as for men, they may live and be slaves.'"
Although the Britons gathered in considerable force, they are said to
have been poorly equipped, as the
Iceni had been disarmed before the
rebellion. They placed their wagon train in a crescent at their end
of the field, from which point their families could watch what they
may have expected to be an overwhelming victory. Two Germanic
Boiorix of the
Ariovistus of the
Suebi , are
reported to have done the same thing in their battles against Gaius
"Ignore the racket made by these savages. There are more women than men in their ranks. They are not soldiers—they're not even properly equipped. We've beaten them before and when they see our weapons and feel our spirit, they'll crack. Stick together. Throw the javelins, then push forward: knock them down with your shields and finish them off with your swords. Forget about plunder. Just win and you'll have everything."
Although Tacitus, like many historians of his day, was given to
invent stirring speeches for such occasions, Suetonius's speech here
is unusually blunt and practical. Tacitus's father-in-law, the future
Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Boudica led her army forward across the plain and into the narrowing field in a massive frontal attack. As they advanced, they were channeled into a tightly packed mass. When the Romans had exhausted their missiles, they rushed out in a wedge-like column. The Romans, with a clear advantage in armour, weapons, and discipline, had a decisive advantage in the close quarters fighting against the tightly packed Britons. The Roman cavalry, lances extended, then entered the battle. As the Britons' losses increased, the Britons tried to retreat, but their flight was blocked by the ring of wagons and the Britons were massacred. The Romans killed not only the warriors but also the women, children, and even pack animals. Tacitus relates a rumour that 80,000 Britons fell for the loss of only 400 Romans. However the figures quoted for the campaign in the ancient sources are regarded by modern historians as extravagant.
Boudica is said by Tacitus to have poisoned herself; Cassius Dio says Boudica fell ill and died and was given a lavish burial. Poenius Postumus , prefect of the 2nd legion, which had failed to join the battle, having robbed his men of a share of the glory, committed suicide by falling on his sword.
The site of the battle is not given by either historian, although Tacitus gives a brief description. A wide variety of sites, all consistent with an army attacking from the area of London toward the Roman forces concentrating from the direction of Cornwall and Wales, has been suggested. One legend places it at Battle Bridge Road in King\'s Cross, London , although from reading Tacitus it is unlikely Suetonius returned to the city.
Most historians favour a site in the Midlands, probably along the
Roman road of
Watling Street between
Londinium and Viroconium
In March 2010 evidence was published suggesting the site may be located at Church Stowe , Northamptonshire. The Kennet valley, close to Silchester has also been suggested as a candidate site for the battle.
More recently a suggestion has been made that the battlefield was on
the A5 just south of
It is said that the emperor
Fearing Suetonius's punitive policies would provoke further