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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
Love the map.
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Nathan wrote:

(Of course, it would all have been quicker by tube! As this rather neat (if perhaps speculative) map makes clear: Roman Roads in Britain)

Brilliant map  Smile

Akeman Street linking Verulamium to Alchester and Corinium was perhaps well established as Verulamium was made a Municipium in AD50.
Deryk
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Renatus wrote:

Thus, a normal peacetime marching day of 14 miles at the slower rate would be approximately 3.5 hours. Put that way, it does not seem very much but in times of peace it is not necessary to stretch the men and in wartime both the pace and the hours of marching could be extended.

Just as an aside, I assume that the force marching to London would have been mixed with men, horses, and a baggage train with mules / native ponies.

Although I don't have a problem with the distances covered it would appear that for all concerned to be able to march for any length  of time and be fit at for battle at times all the average time for a marching army (which would be laden) would be about 3 mph (or so)

Typically this would be the same for the average unladen human but as the Roman soldier was trained for marching as a pre-requisite they would have had the stamina to march for hours on end laden at 3 mph - which was a big difference.

Although horses in a group could travel much faster the laden mules would be limited to 25 miles per day and in theory so would the Roman legionary if they were to retain their strength.

Consistently fast moving cavalry would have more than one horse or be able to pick up a fresh mount at relay stations regularly to maintain high speeds.

Similarly the Brythons would also have had cavalry of horses (and chariots) but their infantry would have walked at about the same speed of 3 mph unladen. 

The defining difference is that the Brythonic infantry would not have had the stamina of the Roman soldier (nor would the London civilians who were unfit) but if the baggage train was made up of oxen to carry supplies and weapons of the Brythons there would have been a loss of pace of 0.5 mph because of the oxen who would have required far less corn than horses or mules as their advantage.

So if both sides travelled for 8 hours a day, SP and his force would have increased their lead over the Brythonic infantry by some 4 miles per day but not necessarily distancing themselves from the Brythonic cavalry or chariot warriors.
   
This was summer and the daylight hours in July would be 15 hours, August 14 hours and September 13 to 12  hours plenty of time to do the mileage and build a camp. 

It would seem to me that there must have been a very good reason for SP to stop to fight when he was weighed down with civilians - either his baggage train was being chivied by the Brythonic cavalry (who wouldn't need to protect their columns) or his retreat was leading him into another force about to cut him off in an ambush that his scouts had found.

He had to find a place where he could defend the civilians, sustain a siege whilst awaiting reinforcements  and also to use as a spring board to unexpectedly attack from.
Deryk
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(12-27-2017, 06:35 PM)Theoderic Wrote: as the Roman soldier was trained for marching as a pre-requisite they would have had the stamina to march for hours on end laden at 3 mph - which was a big difference.

Herbert Benario's paper Legionary Speed of March before the Battle with Boudicca (Britannia 17, 1986) cites a number of examples of very fast moving legionaries.

In 207BC Claudius Nero marched his army for six days at 44-47 miles per day, fought a battle, and then two days later marched the same distance back in the same time. (Livy, 27, 44-50)

(Caesar, Gallic Wars, 7.40-41): "He urged the troops not to be disturbed by the fatigue of a march which the emergency rendered necessary, and then... advanced for five-and‑twenty miles... and then, having given the army three hours of the night for rest, struck camp for Gergovia... Caesar reached the camp before sunrise, by a supreme effort of the troops." (This is 50 miles in 24 hours, with only a 3-hour rest).

(Tacitus, Histories, 3.21): "six Vitellian legions and all the force that had been stationed at Hostilia, after marching thirty miles that day... were now preparing for battle"

Paulinus almost certainly did not match these speeds, at least during his initial advance from North Wales to the area of the revolt. But, again, Tac. Agr. 16 has provinciae motu propere subvenisset - 'he rescued the province with rapid motion'.

I tend to think that mira constantia medios inter hostes Londinium perrexit might refer to the second stage of his march, after he learned of the fall of Colchester and the defeat of Cerealis, and diverted down Ermine Street, directly to London.

I would guess that 18 miles per day (20 Roman miles) on roads would be a decent estimate for Paulinus, and for the reinforcements converging on his position.

At that pace, troops from North Wales could have reached Godmanchester in 12 days (217 miles), and London in 14 days (249 miles). Troops coming up from Exeter could have reached Silchester in 7 days (130 miles), Alchester in 8 days (143 miles), and either London (175 miles) or St Albans (180 miles via the Fosseway and Akeman Street) in 10 days. From Gloucester it would be 4.5 days to Silchester (81 miles), 5 to St Albans (91 miles).

But, as you say, the important thing is not the speed of the march, but the stamina of the troops in continuing to march for hours and make the distances day after day; something that untrained men could not hope to match.


(12-27-2017, 06:35 PM)Theoderic Wrote: there must have been a very good reason for SP to stop to fight... He had to find a place where he could defend the civilians, sustain a siege whilst awaiting reinforcements  and also to use as a spring board to unexpectedly attack from.

I think Paulinus's 'delay' (cunctatio) indicates that he was staying in one place, rather than constantly retreating before the rebel advance.

So my guess would be that he pulled back from London with his refugees to Silchester or (more likely) St Albans and held his position there, waiting for reinforcements while watching the movements of the enemy; he was in friendly territory, at a strategic road junction, and would have been close enough to defensible terrain that he could pull back there in a single day's march if the rebels got too close.

His withdrawal from London may have been followed by a quite lengthy period of inaction: perhaps ten days or so. Boudica had fulfilled her initial objectives, and her people were busy plundering the valley of the Thames, revelling in the fruits of their conquest and gathering supplies for their onward march. Paulinus was staying put and waiting for reinforcements from Wales and the western garrisons. Neither side was eager to force a confrontation.

Only when Paulinus 'grew short of food' and the rebels began finally to move in his direction and 'pressed relentlessly upon him' (Dio) did he decide, realising that the Second Legion were not coming, and his reinforcements from Wales would not reach him in time, to 'break off delay and fight a battle' (Tacitus).
Nathan Ross
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(12-27-2017, 06:35 PM)Theoderic Wrote: Similarly the Brythons would also have had cavalry of horses (and chariots) but their infantry would have walked at about the same speed of 3 mph unladen. 

What... is the land speed velocity of an unladen Brython?
   
(sorry couldn't resistt)
Robert Vermaat
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FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
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(12-28-2017, 11:26 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote:
(12-27-2017, 06:35 PM)Theoderic Wrote: Similarly the Brythons would also have had cavalry of horses (and chariots) but their infantry would have walked at about the same speed of 3 mph unladen. 

What... is the land speed velocity of an unladen Brython?

(sorry couldn't resistt)
 
I suppose it would depend on if they were in a dive (or had a quick swalllow) after their sack of Colchester?  Wink
Deryk
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Nathan wrote:

 
I think Paulinus's 'delay' (cunctatio) indicates that he was staying in one place, rather than constantly retreating before the rebel advance.
 
So my guess would be that he pulled back from London with his refugees to Silchester or (more likely) St Albans and held his position there, waiting for reinforcements while watching the movements of the enemy; he was in friendly territory, at a strategic road junction, and would have been close enough to defensible terrain that he could pull back there in a single day's march if the rebels got too close.
 
His withdrawal from London may have been followed by a quite lengthy period of inaction: perhaps ten days or so. Boudica had fulfilled her initial objectives, and her people were busy plundering the valley of the Thames, revelling in the fruits of their conquest and gathering supplies for their onward march. Paulinus was staying put and waiting for reinforcements from Wales and the western garrisons. Neither side was eager to force a confrontation.
 
Only when Paulinus 'grew short of food' and the rebels began finally to move in his direction and 'pressed relentlessly upon him' (Dio) did he decide, realising that the Second Legion were not coming, and his reinforcements from Wales would not reach him in time, to 'break off delay and fight a battle' (Tacitus).
 
I totally agree with SP travelling to Verulamium after he went to London for all the reasons that you mention. Both its strategic and political importance were paramount and it served as the gateway to the East from the North and the West where most of the Roman army were based at this time so an excellent place to re-group whilst awaiting re-inforcements as you state.
 
There does seem to be a slight anomaly regarding the delay for the rebels to catch up. SP would appear to leave London in a hurry as he doesn't want anyone who slows him down to come with him and leaves them to the advancing army. If he ended up waiting 10 days at Verulamium there was obviously no rush and he could have taken them with him.
 
This would imply that the "horde" or parts of the Brythonic Army were moving quickly or is there another explanation.
 
You mention the speed of movement of armies earlier and one that springs to mind is that of Harold Godwinson. He and his trained army of Thanes and Housecarls marched from London to York in 4 days and on the 25th of September 1066 defeated the Vikings and Harold's brother at Stamford Bridge utilising the local men. Three days later William landed at Pevensey and Harold and his trained army marched the 241 miles to intercept William and on reaching London gathered the local men from the South as his infantry, which took a further few days before erecting earth works at Senlec Hill near Hastings for the battle on the 14th of October.  
 
It seems plausible to me that the Brythons had a similar set up with a warrior caste in their tribes, that although often fought each other, banded together in times of mutual need - this can be seen by the joining of the tribes in the rebellion not just the Trinovantes and the Iceni but others are also mentioned. One could also mention Caractacus as a war leader of the Catavellauni  leading the Silures and the Ordovices earlier in the occupation.
 
The Brythonic Tribes were undoubtedly a formidable fighting force to be reckoned with; highly mobile and effective, dangerous in battle (it took the combined Roman Army of tens of thousands of men to cross the Medway in a 2 day battle, years for South Wales to be conquered) and it does the various Roman Generals such as Julius Caesar, Vespasian, Aulius Plautius, Publius Ostorius Scapula, Aulus Didius Gallus, Quintus Veranius and Seutonius Paulinus great injustice to imply that the Brythonic Army was just a drunken rabble.
 
We know that they had cavalry and chariots, warriors and infantry when they fought Caesar and Aulius Plautius and later a letter from Vindolanda mentions Brythonic cavalry a hundred years or so after this.
 
Yet they also traded successfully with Rome as we know and wheat was a major export (in fact some more recent scholars believe that the main reason for the invasion in AD43 was to protect the wheat supply as pro Roman feeling was coming to an end).
 
So there was a warrior caste (a professional tribal army that was raised when necessary but also farmers and other tradesmen who were possibly also called on to fight when numbers were required (perhaps not that much different to today's "call up" in times of war).
 
No doubt there were people that over celebrated, or looted or killed indiscriminately (as many invading armies did) or re-took possession of their farms and were delayed but even so the distance from Colchester to London is only around 60 miles and according to Nathan's figures (which I do not disagree with) it would have taken 14 days + (4 days for the message to reach SP from the Ninth and to set off from Anglesea at least) – let’s say 18 days and yet the Brythons had not yet reached London by the time that SP got there.
 
Yet somehow they had burned Colchester and were leaving when part of the Ninth tried to stop them and were defeated according to some.
 
Even if they only travelled at 6 miles per day they would have been in London in 10 days , 5 miles a day 12 days…..less than a 2 hour day for the average walker…..unlikely. 6 days before SP got there.
 
The only reason that this slow speed is accepted is to explain how SP got to London before the Brythons….

This is how the slow "horde" movement is explained but what about the Brythonic charioteers and the cavalry - surely it is not to be expected that they would just hang around doing nothing? 
Deryk
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(12-28-2017, 06:14 PM)Theoderic Wrote: a slight anomaly regarding the delay for the rebels to catch up.

Perhaps so - but we know that Paulinus had intended Postumus's detachment of the Second Legion to join him in time for the battle. Assuming he only summoned them after he'd heard of the defeat of Cerealis (which we don't know for sure!), he must have considered that he had enough time for Postumus to march from wherever he was stationed - which was probably Exeter.

As I think Michael has said before, if Postumus actually didn't have enough time to have joined Paulinus, he would not have had to kill himself in shame!

Pulling back to St Albans would have taken Paulinus and the refugees out of immediate danger, as the rebels were heading for London. The 20 miles between the two towns, and the close proximity of the Chilterns, would have acted as effective protection, I think. But Paulinus would still be close enough to observe what the rebels were doing, and anticipate their next movements.


(12-28-2017, 06:14 PM)Theoderic Wrote: the joining of the tribes in the rebellion not just the Trinovantes and the Iceni but others

If we base our estimates on the places where there's evidence of destruction tied to the revolt (Putney, Brentford, Staines, Silchester, Winchester), then the 'other tribes' might have been those in the south-east: the Cantiaci, Regni, Belgae, and perhaps parts of the Atrebates.


(12-28-2017, 06:14 PM)Theoderic Wrote: great injustice to imply that the Brythonic Army was just a drunken rabble.

I don't think anyone has suggested it was! But the Iceni and Trinovantes had been disarmed 14 years beforehand, and only their middle-aged warriors would have had fighting experience. Prior to the capture of Colchester, they would have few weapons either. I don't doubt that a certain amount of drinking went on, although that doesn't make them a rabble - but they were not, I would say, a disciplined army with a clear chain of command, capable of marching for days on end at a steady pace.


(12-28-2017, 06:14 PM)Theoderic Wrote: let’s say 18 days and yet the Brythons had not yet reached London by the time that SP got there.

As we've discussed before, this delay is only necessary if we assume that Paulinus know nothing of the revolt until the fall of Colchester.

If, as seems likely, he had been informed of the impending uprising by Catus some time before, he could have reached the vicinity of Godmanchester by the time the rebels took Colchester and defeated Ceralis. From there he could have marched down to London 'through the midst of the enemy' in only three days.

Even at a steady wagon-pace of ten miles a day, the rebels would have taken two days longer to move the 52 miles down to London. But it's very likely that they took even longer than that - Dio mentions rituals and human sacrifice of prisoners following the fall of Cochester, and the country between there and London was ripe for plundering; all that would have slowed down progress considerably.

In any case, we know that Paulinus did reach London before Boudica, so either the Romans were moving implausibly fast, or the Britons were (far more plausibly) slow!


(12-28-2017, 06:14 PM)Theoderic Wrote: what about the Brythonic charioteers and the cavalry - surely it is not to be expected that they would just hang around doing nothing? 

I would expect the rebel army would not be rolling along in a single column (as in John's favourite 'parade theory'!) but spreading out across the landscape, plundering settlements and villas and gathering food and forage as they went. Chariots (if the rebels actually had them) and cavalry would be good for scouting and skirmishing, but against formations of Roman infantry they'd be fairly useless. Only by keeping their force together could the rebels confront Paulinus effectively.
Nathan Ross
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Nathan wrote:


If, as seems likely, he had been informed of the impending uprising by Catus some time before, he could have reached the vicinity of Godmanchester by the time the rebels took Colchester and defeated Ceralis. From there he could have marched down to London 'through the midst of the enemy' in only three days

I think that the timing of the messages from Catus and Cerialis to SP are important regarding this and there are further mysteries here.

For some reason (apart from the portents mentioned by Tacitus) the citizens of Colchester were concerned enough to ask for extra soldiers from Catus but he only sent 200 poorly armed soldiers although there were some other soldiers in the town already.

It is a mystery why Colchester would ask the Procurator rather than the local commander for troops and one that we have not really addressed.

Yet whatever threat was perceived it didn’t seem to be so serious, in fact no defences were constructed and the women and children also stayed.

As we have discussed before, Catus probably would have sent a message to the local commander, Cerialis (and perhaps SP) that he had transferred soldiers to Colchester (possibly wanting replacements from the Legion for himself) and this message is important to the timeframe.

If Cerialis was at Longthorpe with half his Legion and his cavalry, he may have been concerned enough to send out scouts into the Iceni territory and found that population was far more sparce than normal and realised that the situation could be serious and felt that as he was the local commander with area responsibilities and as the Governor was days away in Anglesey, he needed to act.

Sending a message to his superior of his intentions he left but he was too late and was overwhelmed by the “victorious Brythons” who had already destroyed Colchester.

I does seem incredible that no one had noticed the uprising coming or “the horde” moving at a slow pace down to Colchester.

Cerialis does not seem to have been chastised for his actions apart from being thought of as impetuous and went on to higher command and a glittering career. 

Nathan wrote:
 
.....we know that Paulinus had intended Postumus's detachment of the Second Legion to join him in time for the battle. Assuming he only summoned them after he'd heard of the defeat of Cerealis (which we don't know for sure!), he must have considered that he had enough time for Postumus to march from wherever he was stationed - which was probably Exeter. 

As I think Michael has said before, if Postumus actually didn't have enough time to have joined Paulinus, he would not have had to kill himself in shame!


Good point that Michael makes but that doesn’t really alter the timescales – obviously SP sent for re-inforcements at some stage but when?

At what stage did anyone hear of the destruction of Colchester and the defeat of half of the 9th Legion? Possibly this was sent from Catus before he fled, fearing that “the Horde” would descend on London swiftly, which was obviously not the case.
There are two options here depending on when the message reached SP on the march.

If it was early on before he left Watling Street to Godmanchester his obvious action was to carry on along Watling Street to St Albans to protect those Roman citizens and once they were secure then to carry on to London.

Or if he was already committed to Godmanchester the scenario that Michael and you favour holds true although he could have diverted to St Albans via Braughing before reaching London.

Although this was obviously a changing situation there had to be one place allocated where SP would meet with his reinforcements. 

The obvious place would be St Albans.

If he did take the route to Godmanchester and then on to London he could not have made that decision until he retreated to St Albans having scouted out London.

If on the other hand he went to London via St Albans he had the option then to regroup at St Albans with his reinforcements or to fight at London and call his re-inforcements to London from St Albans.

Therefore the Watling Street route seems more likely to get the reinforcements in time to meet the enemy, especially if he sent the messages whilst on the march before High Cross so the messages could be sent along the Fosse Way (with its posts to obtain horses) to Cirencester, Gloucester, Alchester and Exeter.

Nathan wrote:

At that pace, troops from North Wales could have reached Godmanchester in 12 days (217 miles), and London in 14 days (249 miles). Troops coming up from Exeter could have reached Silchester in 7 days (130 miles), Alchester in 8 days (143 miles), and either London (175 miles) or St Albans (180 miles via the Fosseway and Akeman Street) in 10 days. From Gloucester it would be 4.5 days to Silchester (81 miles), 5 to St Albans (91 miles).

Totally agree with your timings.
 
Nathan wrote:

In any case, we know that Paulinus did reach London before Boudica, so either the Romans were moving implausibly fast, or the Britons were (far more plausibly) slow!

As you know I am not of the opinion that the Iceni went to London as part of their original campaign as to do that they would have left their land open to pillage from SP in retribution with nowhere for them to settle. I have always been of the opinion that the farmers went home to gather their crops and that the army watched the roads to ambush any Roman columns (a classic Brythonic tactic) or to be able to re-call the infantry for a pitched battle if necessary.

Rome’s tactic was to attack towns or ravage crops to force a formal confrontation which they were likely to win with the support of the cavalry but SP obviously felt that he needed more troops to bolster his army and especially legionaries who in a formal battle put the Brythons at a disadvantage.

This is in my opinion why the Brythons waited and it wasn’t until SP had committed, visited London and then retreated (away from their homelands) that they then pushed on to London and St Albans (perhaps the Trinovantes to London and the Iceni to St Albans).   
 
Nathan wrote:

I would expect the rebel army would not be rolling along in a single column (as in John's favourite 'parade theory'!) but spreading out across the landscape, plundering settlements and villas and gathering food and forage as they went. Chariots (if the rebels actually had them) and cavalry would be good for scouting and skirmishing, but against formations of Roman infantry they'd be fairly useless. Only by keeping their force together could the rebels confront Paulinus effectively.

…….the Iceni and Trinovantes had been disarmed 14 years beforehand, and only their middle-aged warriors would have had fighting experience. Prior to the capture of Colchester, they would have few weapons either. I don't doubt that a certain amount of drinking went on, although that doesn't make them a rabble - but they were not, I would say, a disciplined army with a clear chain of command, capable of marching for days on end at a steady pace.

It depends to a degree whether the Brythons had time to re-arm in secret and train the young warriors and this is not unknown in more recent times (Nazi Germany is a typical but not unique example). Obviously the Brythons had carts, from which chariots could be made and we have discussed that the uprising was not a “knee jerk reaction” but a planned rebellion across tribes so weapons could have been smuggled in (the Iceni were not a poor tribe).  

Nathan wrote:

If we base our estimates on the places where there's evidence of destruction tied to the revolt (Putney, Brentford, Staines, Silchester, Winchester), then the 'other tribes' might have been those in the south-east: the Cantiaci, Regni, Belgae, and perhaps parts of the Atrebates.

Well this is a new one on me as the tribes that I had thought that rose up were in the Midlands, West MIdlands and East of the country but there have been “burning episodes” in the South as you rightly point out and if this was the case it takes the revolt to a higher level…
 
Nathan wrote:

Pulling back to St Albans would have taken Paulinus and the refugees out of immediate danger, as the rebels were heading for London. The 20 miles between the two towns, and the close proximity of the Chilterns, would have acted as effective protection, I think. But Paulinus would still be close enough to observe what the rebels were doing, and anticipate their next movements.


I would agree with you regarding the spreading out across the landscape and that in a pitched battle with the Roman army the only way for the Brythons to win was by overwhelming numbers but these would take a while to muster and get to the battle scene which is why I would also agree that SP would have had plenty of time to prepare a suitable battle site.
Deryk
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(12-29-2017, 05:07 PM)Theoderic Wrote: why Colchester would ask the Procurator rather than the local commander for troops

The procurator was the senior man in the province after Paulinus, although as an equestrian he wouldn't have been able to command legionary troops or issue orders to senatorial legates like Cerealis. I doubt there was another equestrian officer in the neighbourhood - unless there was a fort nearby, all the auxiliary commanders would probably have been away with Paulinus in Wales or garrisoned on the western frontier.


(12-29-2017, 05:07 PM)Theoderic Wrote: he had the option then to regroup at St Albans with his reinforcements... especially if he sent the messages whilst on the march before High Cross

Maybe. Although T says that Paulinus considered choosing London as a 'seat of war' (sedem bello) before he got there, and I would estimate that he wouldn't have known about the defeat of Ceralis before he was south of High Cross anyway. BUt there's no way to be more exacting about the chronology of this stage, I think.


(12-29-2017, 05:07 PM)Theoderic Wrote: it wasn’t until SP had committed, visited London and then retreated (away from their homelands) that they then pushed on to London

Yes, I think that's quite likely. A lot of suggestions about this campaign (both ours ond those of others) rely on the assumption that Boudica and co were just busting to attack the Romans and couldn't wait to rush towards them. But I think this is unlikely - however outnumbered, a Roman legion in the field would be a serious proposition, especially for a largely untrained and poorly equipped rebel horde, and many people would die in the forthcoming battle. I doubt the Britons would be eager to go into a direct confrontation like that unless they had little choice about it.

So I agree - we could well imagine Boudica and the Britons lingering in their advance from Colchester, waiting to see what Paulinus was going to do, and only when he pulled out of the town did they capture and sack it.

(I'm tempted to imagine that P might have intended to use London and the surrounding area as bait, letting the rebels have it and plunder it at will to buy himself time to regroup. But that's just speculation.)


Eventually, of course, the Britons did fight a set-piece battle with Paulinus. Why that might have happened when it did is unclear, and relies on a lot of unknowns!


(12-29-2017, 05:07 PM)Theoderic Wrote: the tribes that I had thought that rose up were in the Midlands, West MIdlands and East of the countryI had thought that rose up were in the Midlands, West MIdlands and East of the country

That's the usual assumption, based on mira constantia medios inter hostes Londinium perrexit - 'with amazing courage/steadfastness he pressed on through the midst of the enemy to London'.

Although as far as I know there's no evidence of destruction linked to the revolt north of the Chilterns or west of the Wash.

The alternative idea is that Paulinus redirected his advance on Colchester southwards to London, perhaps down Ermine Street and the Lea Valley, thereby passing through the edge of Trinovantes territory, and this is what Tactius calls 'the midst of the enemy' - although the exact phrase seems to suggest more of a geographical middle!
Nathan Ross
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Just to widen the debate a little (perhaps!) I thought I might have a look for a site close to Silchester.

The town possibly shows signs of destruction connected to the revolt. It would have made a good fallback option for Paulinus after he left London, convenient for reinforcements, and while not as good as St Albans he would at least have been putting some extra distance between his force and the rebels. So - if he went there, where might he have chosen to fight the battle?

I would guess that any rebel advance westwards from London would have followed the cultivated and settled Thames valley from the vicinity of Staines, swinging north through modern Windsor towards Reading, rather than taking the Roman road straight across the rather desolate upland heaths around Bagshot. So the Britons would have been approaching Silchester from the north or north-east.

The Portway heads west/southwest from Silchester towards Salisbury and (eventually) Exeter - after ten or twelve miles it climbs some steep gradients onto the edge of the North Wessex Downs. It seems possible, though, that the original British road or track from Calleva would have kept to the more level ground, rather than climbing straight up the slopes, perhaps running due west from Wolverton and across the grounds now occupied by the Kingsclere Estate.

Just to the south of the hamlet of Old Burghclere, there is a pass in the escarpment, guarded on both sides by hillforts. It appears that an old route passed through here, as the valley leading further south towards Litchfield and the Portway is lined with Iron Age barrows, earthworks and the remains of field systems. This would have been a route that the local Britons probably knew well, and the pass or defile with the forts on either flank would have been an ideal place for Paulinus to confront the rebels.

Here's the large-scale map, showing some possible routes from Silchester:

   

And here's a more detailed plan of the site:

   

As you can see, the topography below Beacon Hill appears to match the description in Tacitus very well - it's about the most pronounced 'throat' of any we've looked at, I think.

There are, of course, a couple of obvious problems with the site. If the Britons had continued along the Portway rather than going west along the valley through Sydmonton, they would have come out behind the Roman position! There are, as I mentioned above, some steep gradiants on this route, particularly the one just north of Hannington, which might have been difficult for wagons; but even a light or mounted force going along here could have made things very difficult for the Romans. 

I might suggest, though, that Paulinus would have been aware of this possibility and had scouts watching the road in this direction, and the other gaps in the escarpment too - if the Britons sent a force in this direction he would soon know about it, and redeploy accordingly (which would make sense of the note in Tacitus about ensuring there were only enemies in front of him).

The second problem is the lack of water on the chalk downs. Paulinus might have needed to camp his force up there for several days while they waited for the rebels to arrive. How much of a problem this is I don't know - the Romans could, I suppose, have remained in the vicinity of Wolverton until the day came to move up to the battle site, although a camp position behind their defensive line would have been far better.

Anyway, I'd be interested in anyone's thoughts on this. It's a very nice looking site, I think, even considering the problems. I still think it far more likely that Paulinus pulled back to St Albans, and fought his battle at Newground, but looking at alternative options is never a bad idea.
Nathan Ross
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Nathan wrote:
 
Anyway, I'd be interested in anyone's thoughts on this. It's a very nice looking site, I think, even considering the problems. I still think it far more likely that Paulinus pulled back to St Albans, and fought his battle at Newground, but looking at alternative options is never a bad idea.
 
I agree that it is a nice looking site but then so is the Dorking Gap (and in its way, similar) but there are various questions that need answering.
 
Certainly the westward route out of London through Staines then Silchester towards Speen and then Cirencester would be equally valid as going on the Northern route to Cirencester St. Albans through Alchester to Cirencester.
 
St Albans was a Roman town and the inhabitants of Silchester certainly were close allies (recent archeaology shows that the town was laid out very early on based on a grid pattern) so there were parallels for using both routes, perhaps to protect Roman citizens.
 
If SP was hoping to meet up with reinforcements he would have had to go towards where his forces were and the ones that he could use were in the West.
 
I favour the Northern route as Verulamium (St Albans) was made a roman municipium in AD50 and therefore its inhabitants were Roman Citizens, therefore had to be protected, especially as the Roman Citizens of Colchester had been slaughtered on SP's watch.
 
Secondly although the distance between London and Tring (37 miles) and the distance between London and Burghclere (55 miles) is not that much, the distance between Burghclere and Bury St Edmunds, in the heart of the Iceni territory, is around 120 miles whereas from Tring to Bury St Edmunds it is 66 miles.
 
The Brythons were travelling as an army however loosely, it was not a migration, they were fighting to take back their land not move off it. The women were, like in most armies in history, camp followers or necessary back up to support their menfolk many of whom would have been farmers and land labourers.
 
Tacitus mentions that much of the decimation of the tribes was not only SPs actions in rooting out the rebels and slaughtering, not even enslaving them, as an example no doubt,  but that there was starvation amongst the tribes.
 
From what we can estimate of the timescales it would appear that the final battle would have been late Summer and the tribes had harvested this years grain but had yet to plant next year’s harvest.
 
We know that it was late in the fighting season because the re-inforcements from Germany and the army from “Wales” was rejoined but spent their winter under canvass .
 
The Brythons  had to get back in time to do the planting and the further away they moved the later it got in the season and the less chance that the wheat could be sown successfully. Tacitus again mentions that the Brythons were relying on capturing Roman grain, and interestingly the wheat found in the burnt layers was sourced from abroad.
 
Having said this and there maybe a kernel of truth in this thought but the tribes would not have relied on this, they were too numerous; the provisions for 40,000 men would simply not have been enough to feed their tribes.
 
So the farmers would have wanted to return to plant their crops which was their forte so every day that they marched away from their land was another day to march back.
 
As it happened there were so many killed (and possibly a huge amount of women, a major part of the workforce) when the baggage train was overrun that there simply weren’t enough people to sow the seed.
 
There has been surprise over how the leaders of the Brythons managed to keep them together for so long and this has been the case for every non professional army throughout history which of course did not apply to the Roman forces.
 
So I would agree with Nathan that this is an excellent site but that doesn’t mean it is THE site, although I don’t think that the lack of immediate water would have been a problem if there was time to prepare. Much could have been stored in barrels for the immediate timeframe of the battle. SP was used to mountain warfare and would have been prepared for shortages. Also the position could be turned to face the enemy whichever way they came.
 
It is simply that past Silchester is probably a step too far.
Deryk
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(01-19-2018, 06:16 PM)Theoderic Wrote: the inhabitants of Silchester certainly were close allies... Verulamium (St Albans) was made a roman municipium in AD50 and therefore its inhabitants were Roman Citizens

Probably only the local nobility or tribal chiefs in St Albans had been given citizenship. There was certainly something going on at Silchester too though - recent excavations have uncovered what appears to be a massive central temple complex dedicated to Nero... I wouldn't be surprised if Silchester too had become a municipium, either shortly before or immediately after the revolt.

Quite possibly the ongoing investigations of the town (which are set to continue this summer, I think) will turn up some interesting things, whether they settle the issue of the location's possible connection to Boudica or not...

Of course, if Silchester was actually a much bigger and more prestigious place than St Albans at the time, the lack of a mention in Tacitus appears all the more telling!



(01-19-2018, 06:16 PM)Theoderic Wrote: this is an excellent site but that doesn’t mean it is THE site

No, I doubt it is. But it helps to broaden the search a bit. And it's the best site I can find in the Silchester area.

Otherwise, I'm almost entirely convinced that the battle happened at Newground!... [Image: wink.png]
Nathan Ross
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Photo 
"Broaden the search a little." Good idea; the following might help with that.

The use of multi-attribute analysis and template matching was applied to much of southern England (as far west as the Severn/Fosse Way and beyond the Wash in the north) in 2015. Over 2700 potential Boudica battle sites were initially found, then clipped to over 850 sites which were then ranked. Details are in the essay 'Finding the site of Boudica's last battle: multi-attribute analysis of sites identified by template matching.' It's a long read but well worthwhile (maybe).

Essay available on my website: Finding the site of Boudica's last battle: multi-attribute analysis of sites identified by template matching

or at Academia.edu: as above

So, if you are laboriously searching for battle sites in Google Earth (GE) then the following map and battle site lists (KMZ/KML files, data from the essay work above) might improve your productivity. Simply load them into GE and spend many happy hours wondering why you have the Boudica bug. At the very least they may demonstrate the small scale of activities in southern England, and that going west along the Portway from London was the most obvious and sensible thing for Suetonius.

The map, geomap-edit.kmz (25 meg.), is described in the essay referenced above as:

"Coloured areas are: plains in yellow; ridges in red; ridge slope areas of less than 5 degrees in green; slopes greater than 5 degrees in purple. Areas without colour are those without ridges, slopes, etc. and with topographic depressions less than 15 m in depth, e.g. low relief plains and valleys. The coastline is displayed to aid the reader and was not included on the main scene."

The blue lines are rivers/streams with flows => 0.0089 cumecs, sufficient to supply the men of the Roman army, beasts and civilians (c.15,000 humans). The river values are reconstructed for a drier-than-mean, August in 60/61 AD (computational details in the ref. essay and others on my website).


The file, RAT-top_sitesV7.kml, contains c.1100 prospective Boudica battle sites (I've saved you the anguish of looking at 2700 sites!) - they are not ranked.

The file, top-100-sites.KMZ, contains the top 100 Boudica battle sites from the work described in the essay above.

If all files are loaded to GE then you will see something like the area in the map below, east of Old Burghclere and the prospective defiles mentioned by Nathan. Leaving aside other variables, neither are suitable because they could be too readily flanked. Ranked sites 94 and 99 are within a topographic depression but generally are very poorly placed, hence the low ranking. The good news is that for these sites to even make the top 100 suggests that the really prospective sites will be very much more statistically supported by the attributes used in the ranking. This was shown to be correct, with the top 6 battle sites more significant than the remainder; this is discussed in the essay.

   

Have fun and good hunting, Steve Kaye.

P.S. I'm putting these files up as aids but will not be responding to queries - takes too much time and most answers are in the essay(s) (but I may change my mind).

P.P.S. the best site along the Portway-Silchester route is at Ogbourne St. George (rank 4).
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(01-21-2018, 04:37 PM)Steve Kaye Wrote: It's a long read but well worthwhile (maybe).

It certainly is, and I've read through it several times with great interest. Unfortunately I've never been able to get any of your attached maps and files to load though.


(01-21-2018, 04:37 PM)Steve Kaye Wrote: At the very least they may demonstrate... that going west along the Portway from London was the most obvious and sensible thing for Suetonius.

We've discussed this many times, but it still seems to me that a northward retreat to St Albans, and a battle site very close to there, would make far more strategic sense - many of the reasons are mentioned in your paper, while Deryk lists a few more in his post above, although ultimately these debates are almost entirely subjective and based on numerous unknowable factors. The fact that Tacitus mentions St Albans (and not Silchester) cannot be overlooked, however.


(01-21-2018, 04:37 PM)Steve Kaye Wrote: neither are suitable because they could be too readily flanked. Ranked sites 94 and 99 are within a topographic depression but generally are very poorly placed, hence the low ranking.

Thanks for the map - I'd noticed 94 and 99 on one of your larger maps and wondered where they might be, but couldn't get your full site list to open...

The site could, of course, be flanked (like almost every other site in southern England, to some extent!), but it would involve a lengthy detour of several miles which would not escape the attention of the Romans, I think.


(01-21-2018, 04:37 PM)Steve Kaye Wrote: the best site along the Portway-Silchester route is at Ogbourne St. George

I've never really warmed to Ogbourne, as it has a river running through it and appears to be directed into a narrow valley rather than out of one - but again we've discussed such things before.

Looking at your final list (p.77) - if we remove those sites which have rivers passing through or adjacent to the proposed Roman position (Dorking, Berkhamstead, Ogbourne and Donhead St Andrew) the top site appears to be Shalbourne; the terrain there is very good, but (as you say in the paper) probably requires too distant a diversion from any route that either side might be following. That leaves Tring Station and Newground occupying four of the remaining top spots - which I would say is entirely justified.
Nathan Ross
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