This article is part of a series where we look back in history at strong women – from real life, fiction, or the blending of both into legend – who blazed new trails, had great adventures, and stood up for what was right. They are the originals that our grandmothers and generations of women before admired and who became the stepping stones for us, the Geek Gals of today. We shall call these female forbearers our Classic Geek Gals.
I’d like to introduce to you our next Classic Geek Gal: Boudica, Celtic Warrior Queen.
So… who is Boudica?
The first time I heard of Boudica was through an alternate spelling – “Boadicea” – as a song by the artist Enya. The song played in the Stephen King movie Sleepwalkers. It’s a haunting song that somehow manages to be both sad and strong at the same time. I was so captivated by the song (more than the movie, haha), I had to look up the history of its namesake.
There are many sources that talk about Boudica, the Celtic Warrior Queen who lived during the time of the Roman Empire. But the facts are all second-hand and filtered through scholars who have their own opinions and agendas. What does seem to be in agreement is that she was married to the King of the Iceni tribe and served alongside him as his queen during an uneasy alliance with the Romans. When her husband died with no male heirs, the Romans seized Boudica’s lands and wealth, flogged her in public, and Roman soldiers raped her daughters.
All of this after the recent death of her husband, and what does she do? She vows vengeance on the Romans and is recorded as saying, “Nothing is safe from Roman pride and arrogance. They will deface the sacred and will deflower our virgins. Win the battle or perish, that is what I, a woman, will do.”
That’s why she’s our latest Classic Geek Gal!
Now let’s look at some specific qualities and attributes.
She brought warring factions together.
While many of the Celtic tribes fought each other before the Roman Empire in small wars and skirmishes, during the occupation they were equally subjected to the harshness of Roman rule. Leaders and common folk alike could have their worldly goods seized, be tortured or enslaved, or murdered on a whim. Boudica and her determination to make the Romans pay gave the Iceni tribe and others like it a reason to band together and fight back. She became a symbol of the rebel uprising, uniting the Celts against a common enemy.
She fought back.
Boudica gathered her forces. Like a hawk against the sun, she shouted her vengeance to the sky as they attacked and burned ancient cities, such as Colchester, St. Albans, and even London itself. It is estimated that around 70,000 Romans and British died at the hands of her army. It was written that Boudica said to her followers, “It is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the outraged chastity of my daughters,” and concluded, “This is a woman’s resolve; as for men, they may live and be slaves.”
She continues to inspire.
Even after all these years, Boudica continues to inspire people and is often seen as a British folk hero. Artworks showcasing her fierceness and determination have been displayed in places of honor throughout England. Ironically, the most prominent statues are in the three cities she burned. Books, poems, plays, and movies have been written about her rebellion, along with songs that sing her story of struggle and bravery. Her legacy enjoyed a strong comeback during Queen Victoria’s era when many compared the two strong queens whose names have similar sources.
Boudica is our Classic Geek Gal.
While Boudica was not the most experienced or strategic war general and did not succeed in her rebellion (she and her daughters later supposedly committed suicide by poison rather than be taken as prisoners by the Romans), the quality that truly makes her our classic geek gal is her grit. She must have looked around at the Celtic tribes that fought with each other over so much and wondered if they could ever come together to fight the Romans. Nevertheless, she persisted. She knew that their weapons were not as sophisticated as the Romans and their resources were finite. Nevertheless, she persisted.
And at the final battleground where she rode her chariot with her daughters at her side along the front line and told the men that they could fight and die or live and be slaves, she was taking the risk that they could choose a life in chains over death and might walk away. Nevertheless, she persisted. She had to have known, as one small tribal queen facing an entire empire, that her plans would not ultimately succeed. Nevertheless, she persisted.
She truly is a Classic Geek Gal.
Who is your Classic Geek Gal?
Read up about the Greek goddess Athena, who we also consider a classic Geek Gal. 😉
Featured image credit: Historynotes.info