With Dr. Eireann Marshall
The second century historian Cassius Dio gives a memorable description of portents heard in Rome which foretold of disaster in Britannia. Foreign words mingled with laughter were heard in the senate house, while cries and lamentations were heard in the theatre. This heralded the revolt led by Boudica, the widow of Prasutagus, King of the Iceni, which resulted in the destruction of Camulodunum, Verulamium and Londinium and, according to Tacitus, the death of 80,000 or so Romans and Britons. While Boudica was decisively beaten by the governor, Suetonius Paullinus, in the end, Nero was thought to have considered abandoning Britannia. What is all the more striking is that the revolt was led by a woman who led as many as 120,000 people against a well-trained Roman force. Dio memorably focuses on her gender and describes her as terrifying with her height, hip-length auburn hair and fierce eyes. An aberration of gender norms, she had to have been extraordinary to have been followed by so many and have inflicted defeat on a Roman legio. She was an icon from the time of Tacitus, who describes her fighting for the freedom of her people, to the Elizabethans who rediscovered her and to the Victorians who likened her to their monarch whose name bore the same meaning.