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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
Sounds like a vote for the cavalry recce. ;-)
Any thoughts on a location on Akeman/Fosse, Steves maps are pretty barren of options on Akeman.
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Renatus wrote:

I also think likely, he halted at the junction of Akeman Street with the Icknield Way


I can support that Smile
Deryk
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Quote:he halted at the junction of Akeman Street with the Icknield Way to observe the movements of the enemy force

Quote:Steves maps are pretty barren of options on Akeman.

Yes, there's nothing much beyond Tring, defile-wise. So you're stuck in that immediate vicinity. If you don't want the river in your way you'd either have to back up a narrow valley somewhere, fight from a reverse position (Deryk's plan, I think) or use Aldbury, which looks good but is in a dry valley rising up to Ivinghoe Beacon, and a bit easy to outflank from the north-west.
Nathan Ross
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John,

You've been busy.

Thought I'd start by mentioning things we don't know (in case any new readers think otherwise):

1) Suetonius' route from N. Wales to London

2) the size and composition of Suetonius force in London

3) Suetonius' route when marching away from London (and the time he took before offering battle)

4) who were the hostiles that Suetonius marched amongst on his journey to London

5) what the Ninth was doing after its defeat (the last report says it escaped to a 'camp' [possibly fort])

6) where the tribal boundary was between the Catuvellauni in the west and the Iceni and Trinovantes in the east

7) the extent of the low-lands south of the Wash (The Fens). Your map shows the Fens extending a little too far to the east onto the chalk (where Icknield Way traverses north). Plus, in 60/61 AD the whole land area would have been roughly 1.4 metres higher relative to the sea-level - this is an approximation based on my calcs for the areas around London and the SE of England (Kent, SUssex, Hants). And, although generally the water-levels peaked during the the Iron Age it might be that Summer passage was relatively easy for 'war-bands' (units smaller than a horde)

8) the rebels motive(s) after destroying London

9) the time-table of events (even the sequence can be questioned)

10) where was the 2nd and what it was doing

11) what Suetonius' original plan was before the loss of the Ninth and destruction of London

The above are in no particular order. Other unknowns are available.

Just to help a little: Cambridge borders the Fens to the north and sits on Grey Chalk outliers and the Gault and Upper Greensand, i.e. it is/was relatively dry. Icknield Way (the Romanised trackway) passes 11 km to the south-east (nearly always routes across the White Chalk as far south as Tring [may have gone further]).


“We know the horde followed him”. Well we might have to differ here, we know he was harried, this need not have been a horde as this would have been too slow harry effectively and we don’t know the threat was from the South, it may have been from the East. (unleash the Cavalry dash argument).

Just to be clear, the cavalry-dash was a wicked, modern contrivance to support a battle-site somewhere (take your pick) along Watling Street.


Your idea of a general, diffuse flow of rebels across their western homeland boundary is designed to support Church Stowe but it is not really supported by what we do know. At Colchester Tacitus says, "Surprised, as it were, in the midst of peace, they [people of Colchester] were surrounded by an immense host of the barbarians. All else was plundered or fired in the onslaught; the temple where the soldiers had assembled, was stormed after a two days' siege. The victorious enemy 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."

An immense host suggests a horde at Colchester and to destroy units of a marching legion, the Ninth, would also require a large body of warriors - a horde. No sign here of a general flow. But then we should not expect otherwise, because that was the form of movement the barbarians in Europe were reported to have used by the Roman writers. There would have been a lumpen mass of men with the carts and faster-moving young warriors pushing forwards and outwards (even some crossing the Fens to become the hostiles worrying Suetonius as he marched to London).

For what it is worth, I do think it possible that there were two hordes; a largely Trinovante one at Colchester and another of Iceni progressing from the north-east. The second I presume destroyed the Ninth. Both arrived at London because their target by that stage was Suetonius.

You say, "I would anticipate a weighting [of an attribute called 'distance to tribal borders'] to significantly favour any site close to the known positions of the protagonists." You then request the downrating of sites more than 75 km from the border and south of the Thames. 75km - that's convenient for Church Stowe! First problem is that you are now talking of two attributes, tribal boundary and south of Thames. How many more? Second problem is how do you propose to weight the distances - linear, log, exponential, inverse distance? Anything other than linear will drop Church Stowe even further down the ranking (unless you choose an arbitrary distance cut-off point - but that is simply a special pleading too far).

And that encapsulates the problems we get into when having a favourite site: first pick site and then make facts, ideas, speculation fit the site (just like the cavalry-dash for Mancetter).

Oh and you use the word recce for the motive behind the cavalry-dash. Recce - you subltly invoke the concepts of speed, elan, youth and glory - hah! - when it would have been more like a fortnight long pony trekking expedition.

Sorry John, I'm not convinced by your arguments in favour of another attribute 'distance to tribal borders' and I'm definitely against another attribute designed to downgrade sites south of the Thames [in part because that was the mistake I made in earlier essays] - far too partisan.

Regards, Steve
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There have been a number of concerning comments about rivers adjacent, or running through, my candidate battle-sites. Commentators suggest the river degrades the rank status of the candidate.

In post #365870 I outlined that all river parameters were reconstructed from first principles (topography, rainfall, temp, evapotranspiration etc.) for the Summer of 60/16 AD and, furthermore, an attribute called 'Effect of a river flowing through the front-line' was also applied rivers.

It is not possible to examine modern rivers on Google Earth or maps and then assume they represent the condition in the 1st C. AD.

Elsewhere I have written:

"Human activity alters all of these parameters [of rivers], such that a reach of a modern river in SE England will have a different width, depth, velocity, etc. in comparison to its ancient, natural self. Human agency has been so pervasive that the Environment Agency (UK) estimates that less than 15% of UK rivers are natural today (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)); there are almost certainly none in SE England. To quote further from the CEH:

The need to drain land, to protect it from flooding, to control the flow of water for water supply or hydropower, or to use the watercourses for navigation, fishing or recreation, have all imposed change [on natural rivers] to a greater or lesser degree."


These comments are taken from my essay Invasion of Britain, 43 AD: riverine, wading and tidal studies as a means of limiting the possible locations of the invasion-ground and the two-day river battle. A shorter article will be published in Archaeologia Cantiana in 2015. That essay contains details of some of the hydrology calculations that have (maybe) shown that the two-day river battle in 43 AD could only have happened on the Medway.

The point I'm striving to make is that casual comments on river attributes derived from views of modern rivers is dangerous/misleading/confusing/results in gross errors but archaeologists/historians do this too frequently (for example, claiming that the two-day river battle mentioned above occurred alongside the river Arun at Pulborough).

As examples, we can examine the depths, widths, velocities etc. of the rivers Mole and Bulbourne at my candidate sites 1 and 3 in the summer, respectively. For the avoidance of confusion, these are reconstructed values for summer (July) 60/61 AD; they are not modern values.

Site 1, Mole, Dorking:

Width = 2.4 m, average depth = 0.52 m, Thalweg(depth) = 0.67, velocity = 0.87 m/second, flow (Q) = 1.1 m3/second.

Site 3, Bulbourne, Alyngton:

Width = 0.69 m, average depth = 0.29 m, Thalweg(depth) = 0.38, velocity = 0.60 m/second, flow (Q) = 0.12 m3/second.


The values for the Bulbourne are so low that a modern soldier would chuckle if you were to suggest he should be concerned about its presence. A Legionary, constantly crossing much larger rivers, would also dismiss the Bulbourne. The same could be said of the tribespeople (chariots included).

The Mole was larger, but even so an average depth of 0.5 m (knee height) would not pose a crossing problem for Legionaries, auxiliaries or cavalry. Furthermore, site 1 had a thalweg depth greater than 0.5 m and so has been penalised under the attribute 'Effect of blocking or trapping by large rivers' - page 17 - and also penalised by the attribute 'Effect of a river flowing through the front-line' (page 16) because the Mole clips the right of the frontline. Nevertheless, primarily due to the superior topography of the the site, it still ranks as number one.

As for the placement of the river in 60/61 AD, the Mole flows south on the far right flank of the front-line and directly against Box Hill, i.e. it would have protected the Roman right. The river does swing across in front of the Roman front-line but at a distance of approx. 1 km and, in this case, would hinder the tribespeople both in advance and retreat, i.e. Suetonius and his men might have viewed that as beneficial.

The point of these examples is, I hope, to demonstrate that casual examination can lead to inappropriate conclusions. Care and calculation are required.

Steve Kaye
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Quote:As for the placement of the river in 60/61 AD, the Mole flows south on the far right flank of the front-line and directly against Box Hill, i.e. it would have protected the Roman right. The river does swing across in front of the Roman front-line but at a distance of approx. 1 km and, in this case, would hinder the tribespeople both in advance and retreat, i.e. Suetonius and his men might have viewed that as beneficial.
The trouble with this is that Tacitus places some emphasis on the topographical features of the battlefield, i.e., the defile, the wood at the rear and the open plain to the front of the Roman position. If a river had been present to offer an advantage or detriment to either side, one might have expected him to have mentioned it. Also, a small river may present a minor obstacle in its pristine state but, after it has been churned up by the passage and re-passage of thousands of soldiers and animals, it becomes much more of a problem.
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)
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Quote:It is not possible to examine modern rivers on Google Earth or maps and then assume they represent the condition in the 1st C. AD.

In most cases I agree - the condition of rivers, like patterns of forestation, can change greatly.

However, in the case of valleys that have been extensively canalised, like the Bulbourne, I think it's worth looking further into whatever evidence might be available.

The Bulbourne today is, as you say, a rather insignificant chalk stream, rising a little below Dudswell. However, construction of the Grand Junction Canal in 1799 appears to have dramatically changed the source and volume of the river. Prior to the canal, the Bulbourne rose at Bulbourne Head, close to the hamlet of Bulbourne. Construction of reservoirs north of Tring, boreholes and the Three Valleys Water extraction point at Newground seem to have severely depleted the supply of water to the river.

That the Bulbourne originally carried a greater volume of water is also suggested by the records of at least three mills on the river, two of them at Berkhamsted (one in the vicinity of Bank Mill Lane, one of your listed sites).

The river valley also appears to have featured water meadows, willow copses and extensive cress beds, which perhaps argue for a wet floor beyond the confines of the river itself.

(This page has some pictures of the river today, while this one has some more information on 19th-century changes to the water supply)

None of this definitely disqualifies the site, of course - there's always the possibility of a very dry summer depleting the water volume and drying the ground - but we should be careful, I think, about making these assumptions.

As for Dorking, I'd agree that it looks very promising, and there's a wide enough area of open ground west of the river to fight the battle - the Roman front line perhaps just north of Dorking Station, parallel to Bradley Lane and with its right flank on the river, the British wagon encampment on the higher ground around the village of Westhumble. However, the lack of any mention of a river by Tacitus is still a bit troubling, although perhaps not critical as in this case it would play only an incidental role in the course of the battle itself.

* the river might also present a problem for the right-flank cavalry, who would have to form on the riverbank itself and advance along it, as the slopes of Box Hill are too steep. Not sure if riverbank vegetation might count as 'ambuscades', but that would only affect the cavalry and auxiliaries on the right.
Nathan Ross
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Steve Kaye wrote:

The point I'm striving to make is that casual comments on river attributes derived from views of modern rivers is dangerous/misleading/confusing/results in gross errors but archaeologists/historians do this too frequently (for example, claiming that the two-day river battle mentioned above occurred alongside the river Arun at Pulborough).


Could this then mean that Mildenhall / Cunetio becomes a major site? Smile

Nathan Ross wrote:

.....that the Bulbourne originally carried a greater volume of water is also suggested by the records of at least three mills on the river, two of them at Berkhamsted (one in the vicinity of Bank Mill Lane, one of your listed sites).


Regarding the waters being changed by the building of the 4 reservoirs at Tring; the “Wendover Stream” that fed mills at Weston Turville, Halton and Aylesbury was also partially diverted to form the “Wendover Arm” of the canal and those mill owners were compensated and eventually their mills purchased by the water company.

I mention this to show that from the area around the “Tring Gap” there was a plentiful water supply fed from springs based on the aquifers within the local escarpments and the chalk ridges.

Also that there were two rivers either side of the Tring Gap – one going North (the Wendover Stream) and one going South (the River Bulbourne) for the time we are interested in.

As opposed to rivers and lakes being a source of fresh water, do natural springs or the ability of the Roman Army to bore wells, figure in any of the calculations of where it might be reasonable to obtain water for an army camp?
Deryk
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Quote:As for Dorking, I'd agree that it looks very promising, and there's a wide enough area of open ground west of the river to fight the battle - the Roman front line perhaps just north of Dorking Station, parallel to Bradley Lane and with its right flank on the river, the British wagon encampment on the higher ground around the village of Westhumble. However, the lack of any mention of a river by Tacitus is still a bit troubling, although perhaps not critical as in this case it would play only an incidental role in the course of the battle itself.
Tacitus' failure to mention a river is not just troubling; it is fatal. One of the classic ways to protect a flank is to anchor it on a river. If Suetonius had done this, Tacitus would undoubtedly have said so. Instead, he describes the Romans being drawn up in a defile. In other words, both flanks were protected by higher ground. That is the sort of site we should be looking for. Forget rivers.
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
Steve Kaye wrote:

....But then we should not expect otherwise, because that was the form of movement the barbarians in Europe were reported to have used by the Roman writers. There would have been a lumpen mass of men with the carts and faster-moving young warriors pushing forwards and outwards...

I know that we have talked about this before but I have come to the conclusion that we are talking about a totally different movement of people.

In the Gallic Wars where Caesar stops the movement of tribes, for example the Helvetii, this is a migration not an army and certainly the description that Steve mentions does reflect a migration.

The events we are describing is regarding armies which is different.

Therefore the movement would also have been different.

If we look at events around the Battle of the Medway the Brythons managed to amass a considerable force on the Medway (we assume it is considerable because they held a Roman army of some 40,000 men in battle for two days) in a short time scale.

This was however after two previous skirmishes between the opposing forces prior to this battle. The Brythons escape and reform at the Medway.

After the battle of the Medway the Brythons although beaten retreat swiftly and reform at the Thames.

Caratacus later in what was to become Wales also moves swiftly from place to place and even after his capture, the Silures appear where they are not expected and semi destroy a Roman Legion foraging.

Even after the battle where Boudica is defeated there is still resistance.

Tacitus states:
“The majority still remained under arms being exercised by a guilty sense of rebellion and a personal terror of the Governor.”

“The whole army was then brought together and kept under canvas to finish the remainder of the war.”


So although the battle was a turning point it was never the “final soloution”.

This was always the problem for the Legions, although they would beat the Brythons time and again in formal battle, the Brythons would retreat (or flee) and then rebuild for a further attack.

It was rare from what is recorded for baggage trains to be captured (Caratacus family after his final battle in Wales would be an example) although he escaped.

The only way that the Roman Army had to inflict a severe defeat was to either trap the warriors or to have enough cavalry to catch them in open pursuit.

Boudica's battle or the earlier suppression of the Iceni at Wandlebury Ring or Stonea Camp in AD47.

Anyway – the point that I am trying to make is that neither were the Brythons a moribund, amorphous blob, trudging along the tracks, nor were they unskilled in war as many a Roman general had already found out.

And they were quick on their feet....
Deryk
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Quote:For the avoidance of confusion, these are reconstructed values for summer (July) 60/61 AD; they are not modern values.

I've just noticed this point (a new addition?). I don't think anybody is 'confused', but I don't know how you manage to 'reconstruct' the river conditions of the 1st C AD in such detail, when the rest of your post is so clear about the near-impossibility of doing this.
Nathan Ross
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Don't now choose Dorking, Bulbourne or Ogbourne St. George - no, that is inappropriate. Better to identify the most prospective sites and then develop a programme to investigate them all.

".. it seems sensible to suggest that the actual battle-site probably does lie at one of the Portway sites – Ogbourne St. George being top of that list – or at Dorking, or at one of the higher-ranking sites within the Bulbourne river valley. That leaves three locations to be studied further, two of which are quite small in area, Ogbourne St. George and Dorking, and the third stretches linearly along a river, the Bulbourne. That should be simple enough! But, if that fails, other top 20 sites await."


Renatus wrote, "The trouble with this is that Tacitus places some emphasis on the topographical features of the battlefield, i.e., the defile, the wood at the rear and the open plain to the front of the Roman position. If a river had been present to offer an advantage or detriment to either side, one might have expected him to have mentioned it. Also, a small river may present a minor obstacle in its pristine state but, after it has been churned up by the passage and re-passage of thousands of soldiers and animals, it becomes much more of a problem."

Tacitus might have simply failed to mention the river or, it being so small, felt it not worth mentioning. In anycase, he didn't mention more important information - which road Suetonius took from London and where the battle occurred! As for the churned ground, that would benefit the Romans until they had advanced approx. 1 km and then they still had the relative advantage because of hobnails.

Renatus wrote, "Tacitus' failure to mention a river is not just troubling; it is fatal. One of the classic ways to protect a flank is to anchor it on a river. If Suetonius had done this, Tacitus would undoubtedly have said so. Instead, he describes the Romans being drawn up in a defile. In other words, both flanks were protected by higher ground. That is the sort of site we should be looking for. Forget rivers."

The Mole was too small to fully protect a flank; no anchoring possible. Plus, there are too many unknowns in Tacitus' account to allow us to be quite so certain.

Nathan Ross wrote, "The Bulbourne today is, as you say, a rather insignificant chalk stream, rising a little below Dudswell."

I'm confused by this and the comments that follow. I was not writing about the modern Bulbourne. Have you misunderstood that the figures I gave for the Bulbourne and Mole are for 60/61 AD - they are not modern? I've altered my text to reflect this possibility.

As a general point, What later folk did with the available Bulbourne water is of no consequence to the examination of the candidate battle-site in 60/61 AD.


Deryk wrote, "Also that there were two rivers either side of the Tring Gap – one going North (the Wendover Stream) and one going South (the River Bulbourne) for the time we are interested in."

Correct in as much as there was a watershed at about Tring Station. But, Wendover Stream used to run in the valley south of the BUlbourne and exit the Chilterns escarpment at Wendover before joining the Thame; nothing to do with Bulbourne valley.

Deryk wrote, "As opposed to rivers and lakes being a source of fresh water, do natural springs or the ability of the Roman Army to bore wells, figure in any of the calculations of where it might be reasonable to obtain water for an army camp?"

Nearly all spring water flows to streams > rivers. Are you asking about 'temporary marching camps' in general or Suetonius' camp in particular? If the former, then reading some chap's essay here on marching camps, their placement, and reliance on water from rivers might help. Roman military did dig wells and used those they came across. Suetonius would not have had time to dig new wells for his force (15,000 humans, 2500 mules and unknown horses) and in anycase his requirement could not have been satisfied by wells.

Nathan Ross wrote, "the river might also present a problem for the right-flank cavalry, who would have to form on the riverbank itself and advance along it, as the slopes of Box Hill are too steep. Not sure if riverbank vegetation might count as 'ambuscades', but that would only affect the cavalry and auxiliaries on the right."

The right flank would have been tight and difficult for cavalry, but there is an area of lower gradients where they could have stood. Plus, we don't know how many cavalry there were - might have been small. As for vegetation, it's a reasonable supposition that Suetonius had been at the site for a number of days. During that time he would have prepared his ground, much as he did during the later civil war (Cremona, 69 AD).
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Quote:
Steve Kaye post=366085 Wrote:For the avoidance of confusion, these are reconstructed values for summer (July) 60/61 AD; they are not modern values.

I've just noticed this point (a new addition?). I don't think anybody is 'confused', but I don't know how you manage to 'reconstruct' the river conditions of the 1st C AD in such detail, when the rest of your post is so clear about the near-impossibility of doing this.

I said in my last note above, written before I read the above text, that I'm confused because your points could only be made if you thought I was discussing the modern conditions and values. I wasn't.

As for this, "I don't know how you manage to 'reconstruct' the river conditions of the 1st C AD in such detail, when the rest of your post is so clear about the near-impossibility of doing this." ..... my post makes no mention of the near-impossibility of reconstructing rivers in 60/61 AD. Reconstruction is difficult and time-consuming but not impossible.

Do you think that I have not reconstructed the rivers?
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Quote: I'm confused because your points could only be made if you thought I was discussing the modern conditions and values. I wasn't... Do you think that I have not reconstructed the rivers?

It doesn't seem that way, I'm afraid!

Your stats for the Bulbourne (Width = 0.69 m, average depth = 0.29 m) look rather like the river as it is today, rather than an attempt to estimate the size before the canal was built. I don't see how a stream only 2 feet wide and less than a foot deep could have powered three water mills...

How did you determine the reconstruction?
Nathan Ross
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Quote:The Mole was too small to fully protect a flank; no anchoring possible.
For my money, Dorking is a non-starter anyway for the strategic reasons I have mentioned but, as a matter of interest, how does one calculate the course and flow of a minor river 2000 years ago? (Nathan's question framed another way, I think.)
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)
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