Book 1, Chapter 3, 55 BC to 78 AD – The Romans Revenge – Continued
By this time Suetonius had collected about ten thousand regular troops, and he resolved on giving battle to the numerous but tumultuous hordes. He made choice of a spot defended by defiles, and closed in the rear by a forest, while an open plain before him relieved him from all fear of ambuscades. The British bounded about, an innumerable multitude, expecting a certain victory, their wives and families occupying wag gone in the rear. Boadicea, with her daughters, rode in a chariot among them, exhorting them to fight for their liberty and honour. Suetonius also addressed his troops, urging them not to fear the numbers of their enemies, or their terrible shouts and yells. The battle then began, and was long and fiercely waged. Hundreds upon hundreds of the British were cut down or speared, but hundreds more took their places, dashing upon the solid ranks of the Romans like waves upon a rock, but only to be thrown back. At length, steady discipline prevailed, and the natives were completely routed, and then the Romans took a bloody revenge, giving no quarter, but committing an indiscriminate carnage, in which Tacitus says that eighty thousand men, women, and children, were slain. He compares this with the most glorious victories of ancient Rome, and if ruthless butchery and the mere number of victims constitute glory, his comparison is just.
Boadicea would not survive the ignominy of this defeat, but put an end to her existence by poison. Her country was overrun by the Romans now reinforced by nearly eight thousand fresh troops from Gaul, yet, though broken and scattered, the people were not subdued. At length, it began to be suspected at Rome that Suetonius had been too rigorous, and that a policy of conciliation would be the wisest one. He was therefore recalled, and during the next sixteen years, down to A.D. 78, the country was governed by five successive propraetors, who did not extend the Roman conquests, but sought for the most part to tranquilize the people. Mutinies in the army, and contests among rival competitors for the imperial dignity, greatly weakened the occupying force, and prevented any attempts being made against the northern parts of the island.
Thus after a permanent occupancy of thirty five years and one hundred and thirty three years after Julius Cesar first landed, the Romans had not really subdued even the southern half of Britain, nor had they succeeded in leaving the impress of their own civilisation, while the northern half, with the whole of Wales and Ireland, were unknown to them. It is amusing to read, in some of the Roman poets of that day, the imaginary descriptions of what neither they nor their countrymen had ever seen. The native tribes, designated “barbarians” by the super refined courtiers and poets, had shown a spirit of bravery, endurance, and patriotism which Roman force could not subdue, but a new system was about to be inaugurated, which led to important and beneficial results.
Chapter 3, Julius Caesar
Chapter 3, Caractacus
Chapter 3, The Romans Revenge
The Romans Revenge
Categories: Book 1