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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
(01-12-2021, 12:53 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Little, perhaps, but not none. We've mentioned and discussed both points here before, although many years ago - and it's good to reiterate things for the benefit of anyone who does not care to read through the entire thread!

My memory must be failing me!  I remember myself suggesting that Suetonius set out initially to relieve Colchester, intending to rendezvous with Cerialis in the vicinity of Godmanchester.  However, I don't remember the impracticality of civilians being expected to keep up with a fast-moving column of cavalry being discussed.


(01-12-2021, 12:53 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: But yes, it is only Tacitus's dramatic narrative presentation, I think, that gives the misleading impression that Paulinus did not hear about the uprising until after the siege of Colchester had already commenced.

I see what you mean, although I had not read it quite that way.  I saw Suetonius being informed of the uprising and then Tacitus explaining the reason for it and recounting its progress up to the defeat of Cerialis.  He then continues the narrative with Suetonius proceeding to London but not placing that immediately after his having learned of the crisis.


(01-12-2021, 12:53 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: In reality he could have been informed very soon after Boudicca first began mustering her forces, and begun his march soon afterwards, which removes any necessity for explaining the apparent speed of his movement down to London.

Indeed.  That was what I was trying to convey.


(01-12-2021, 12:53 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Incidentally, I don't think we know that Ceralis started from Lincoln (or Longthorpe), do we? Nothing in our sources says that he was not (for example) simply leading the vanguard detachment of Suetonius Paulinus's troops, and decided to hurry on ahead when he heard about the siege of Colchester. Either option is perfectly possible.

If I am right in thinking that the Second, Fourteenth and Twentieth Legions were all involved in the Anglesey campaign, with their veterans being left guarding their base fortresses, having the Ninth (even if only a part of it) there as well looks a bit like overkill.  At risk of introducing another factoid into this discussion, I see the Ninth being divided, with the greater part with the legionary commander at Lincoln and a smaller contingent being outposted at Longthorpe.  On hearing of the emergency, Cerialis hurried to Longthorpe to take command there, leaving the main part of the legion at Lincoln and ultimately leading the Longthorpe contingent to Colchester.  This would explain why only 2000 men were required to bring the Ninth up to strength after the revolt.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
Reply
(01-12-2021, 05:50 PM)Renatus Wrote: My memory must be failing me!

Or perhaps mine is!... I certainly remember some discussion of the civilians issue, although finding anything in this monstrous thread gets quite difficult... The thing about Paulinus being warned in advance I factored into some proposed chronology or other many years ago, and I think we discussed it then.

(01-12-2021, 05:50 PM)Renatus Wrote: I see what you mean, although I had not read it quite that way.

It's been some time since I revisited Tacitus. But this seems a good opportunity for a recap...

So, Annals Book 14, 30-31: Suetonius Paulinus completes his conquest of Anglesey. "A force was next set over the conquered, and their groves... were destroyed. Suetonius while thus occupied received tidings of the sudden revolt of the province." (haec agenti Suetonio repentina defectio provinciae nuntiatur)

So the Anglesey campaign is already over (as Dio also points out). But what are these 'tidings'?

The next section (14.31) skips back in time to describe events from the death of Prasutagus to the Iceni 'flying to arms' and planning their attack on Colchester.

Next (14.32) we have the omens at Colchester. The veteran settlers "as Suetonius was far away... implored aid from the procurator, Catus Decianus", who sends 200 men.

As I'm sure we've mentioned, Catus Decianus would have been a very stupid subordinate not to have passed this message on to his boss. This, then, would have been the 'tidings' that Paulinus received only a few days later at Anglesey.

Only then do we have the attack on Colchester and the fall of the Temple of Claudius after three days. "The victorious enemy [then] met Petilius Cerialis, commander of the ninth legion, as he was coming to the rescue, routed his troops, and destroyed all his infantry. Cerialis escaped with some cavalry into the camp, and was saved by its fortifications."

Only in the following section (14.33) do we return to Paulinus: "Suetonius, however, with wonderful resolution, marched [or just 'went'] amidst a hostile population to Londinium" (At Suetonius mira constantia medios inter hostes Londinium perrexit).

At first reading this might suggest that Suetonius Pauilinus did not act until after the fall of Colchester, or even the defeat of Cerialis, which would leave him insufficent time to get to London ahead of the rebels. But I think instead that Tacitus is just writing dramatically - Suetonius was marching on London (or indeed on Colchester) while the preceding action was taking place, but there was no need for T to stress that. Paulinus reached London after Cerialis's defeat, but must have left Anglesey some considerable time beforehand.

Reading it like this, we are freed of the need to explain his miraculously speedy march, and to invent galloping recce missions. We are also, of course, freed of the assumption that Cerialis must have been operating completely independently of Suetonius.


(01-12-2021, 05:50 PM)Renatus Wrote: At risk of introducing another factoid into this discussion, I see the Ninth being divided, with the greater part with the legionary commander at Lincoln and a smaller contingent being outposted at Longthorpe.

Maybe, yes. Do we know that Lincoln was occupied at this time? I would think it just as likely that the governor would use detachments of all the legions at his disposal, but we don't know enough about troop dispositions or numbers to be sure.
Nathan Ross
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(01-12-2021, 09:44 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: The thing about Paulinus being warned in advance I factored into some proposed chronology or other many years ago, and I think we discussed it then.

Your proposed chronology is on p.5 of this thread.  I quoted from it with a comment on p.25 and used it as the basis for my revised chronology on p.26.  Of course, opinions have changed since then.

There seem to be two factors in working out when Suetonius might have been warned of the emergency.  First, when the colonists in Colchester first became aware of the danger and, secondly, Cerialis' response to being informed of it (I still see him being in the east, not forming part of Suetonius' campaigning force).  As to the first, this might have been when they realised that the Iceni were on the march and coming in their direction or earlier when they became aware that Boudica was stirring the tribes up for revolt and anticipated that they would be the first target.  In either case, I see the commander of the small military force in the colony sending out riders to seek aid from all potential sources, Catus in London, Cerialis in Lincoln and Suetonius in North Wales, each of whom reacted in their different ways.

As to the second, Cerialis may have set out immediately to nip the revolt in the bud but, nevertheless, reached the region of Colchester too late.  This would indicate a very short warning period.  Alternatively, he might have proceeded to Longthorpe to await Suetonius and his force, to the intent that they should advance together to defend the colony and quell the revolt.  In the event, he realised that the situation had become critical and that Suetonius would not arrive in time.  He, therefore, set off with just his part-legion but still too late.  Nevertheless, this would suggest a longer period for Suetonius to receive warning and to advance to the relief of the colony.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
Reply
(01-13-2021, 06:15 PM)Renatus Wrote: I see the commander of the small military force in the colony sending out riders to seek aid... Cerialis may have set out immediately to nip the revolt in the bud

Possibly, yes, although all of this has to go in the 'things we don't know' pile!

Tacitus only mentions the colonists informing Catus Decianus. Presumably he would then have informed Paulinus, and perhaps Cerialis too if he was elsewhere. There might have been a chain of command problem with the colonists writing to Cerialis directly? Would Cerialis even have been able to act without orders from Paulinus?

T later stresses 'with what a serious warning the rashness (temeritas) of Petilius had been punished', which implies he was acting on his own initiative. But this might just mean he pressed on too fast with the vanguard and left himself without support, or failed to take proper precautions when advancing into enemy territory. (Or, of course, Tacitus could simply be developing his implied link between Suetonius Paulinus and Fabius Maximus 'Cunctator', with Cerialis cast in the role of Minucius...)

As for Lincoln - it seems the current thinking is that it was already a legion base by c.AD61. Although, like so much we've been discussing, the dispositions and strengths of various legions at the time of the revolt are still very cloudy!
Nathan Ross
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(01-13-2021, 08:33 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Tacitus only mentions the colonists informing Catus Decianus. Presumably he would then have informed Paulinus, and perhaps Cerialis too if he was elsewhere. There might have been a chain of command problem with the colonists writing to Cerialis directly? Would Cerialis even have been able to act without orders from Paulinus?

I really don't see Cerialis being with Suetonius.  As we have repeatedly said, Suetonius was a cautious general and he would probably have wanted to attack Anglesey with overwhelming force but to do so with virtually the whole legionary garrison of the province seems a bit much, even for him.  In fact, his caution could militate against this for two reasons.  First, he might wish to keep a legion in the east to keep an eye on the unconquered northern tribes who might be tempted to cause trouble while he was far away in the west.  Secondly, we do not know when Prasutagus died or how long it took for his territories to be annexed or for Boudica to foment her revolt but these things did not happen overnight and Suetonius may have known that the annexation had taken place or was pending before setting out on his campaign.  In either case, while not expecting a full-blown revolt, he might have anticipated the possibility of some resistance, in which case he would probably have wanted to leave Cerialis and his legion on hand to deal with it.

I see no problem with the colonists or the commander of the small military force that Tacitus speaks of on their behalf contacting Cerialis direct.  When your colony is threatened by a horde of vengeful barbarians intent on destroying it, chain of command is probably the last thing on your mind.  If you prefer that Catus be contacted first and that he relayed the message to Suetonius and Cerialis, I see no particular difficulty with that.  Provided that he acted promptly, it would only take a few hours longer for Suetonius to receive the message than if he were contacted direct.

There is certainly no problem with Cerialis acting without orders.  If he had sat back and allowed the colony to be destroyed simply because he was waiting for orders from Suetonius, he could expect little sympathy in  Rome.  In any event, from what we know of Cerialis, it would be entirely in character for him to act on his own initiative.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
Reply
(01-14-2021, 01:08 PM)Renatus Wrote: In any event, from what we know of Cerialis, it would be entirely in character for him to act on his own initiative.


Very likely, yes.

However, this is neverthless one of several elements that rest on assumption rather than evidence, but which have been absorbed into the popular narrative almost without question. While it's considerably more plausible than the debunked 'cavalry dash' theory, we should always keep in mind that we might just have it all wrong!
Nathan Ross
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(01-14-2021, 03:13 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: While it's considerably more plausible than the debunked 'cavalry dash' theory, we should always keep in mind that we might just have it all wrong!

Of course.  With such a paucity of evidence, we have to pick up hints and draw what inferences we can from them.  It's just that some inferences are more plausible than others.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
Reply


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