Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
Tribunicus Potestus

Could Boudicca have turned the tables at Mancetter?

Recommended Posts

Edited by Tribunicus Potestus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Edited by Virgil61

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you. You raise many fine points. I think I was primarily pointing out the difference a leader makes to the outcome of battle and how it is more important to defeat your enemies plans than to defeat his forces. Sorry to say, but I take a different position on Sun Tzu. British Captain B. H. Liddell Hart whom you may know of with J. F. C. Fuller as the fathers of modern warfare. When Captain Hart travelled to Nationalist China to speak to the Chinese military academy he was told that his works were studied religiously there. He said to them "you already have the best teacher, Sun Tzu." It was in reading Captain Hart's work that I first became familiar with Sun Tzu back in the 60s long before he became a household name.

 

You are probably right that opposing commanders usually know (understand) their opponent and that would explain why most battles and wars are indecisive. It is when one side does not and I think in the case of Boudicca she did not understand Suetonius that massive disasters can occur.

Edited by Tribunicus Potestus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I reread your post and saw that you said Suetonius if anyone took the above advice and that is exactly right. He knew his own forces and he knew the Celts. What I conjured was a Boudicca he did not know, one with a copy of "The Art of War".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I reread your post and saw that you said Suetonius if anyone took the above advice and that is exactly right. He knew his own forces and he knew the Celts. What I conjured was a Boudicca he did not know, one with a copy of "The Art of War".

There are more what if's to history than actually happened; one of which is the suggestion that the 'final' battle of the Boudican Revolt occured at Mancetter. There are several other possible sites while evidence for troop build-ups in the area upon which this claim seems to have been based could equally in my eyes have been in advance of the assault on Mona.

 

Unless and until we find mass graves and assorted equipment which can be dated to the period and tied to the Iceni in the immediate area I would be loath to make such a specific claim for Mancetter over any other possible site.

 

But to answer your question at the end of the day Boudicca did not have either 20-20 hindsight or a copy of Sun Tzu in her back pocket so the events of the revolt worked out the way they did more or less as Tacitus recorded them. The general impression of the revolt is of an apparently widespread but still fairly localised uprising of loosely allied units but with no one overall general.

 

While they could bring force of numbers to more or less undefended locations they could sweep all before them but when it came to a disiplined army which made the best use of the terrain and let the enemy come to it their cause was lost.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I reread your post and saw that you said Suetonius if anyone took the above advice and that is exactly right. He knew his own forces and he knew the Celts. What I conjured was a Boudicca he did not know, one with a copy of "The Art of War".

There are more what if's to history than actually happened; one of which is the suggestion that the 'final' battle of the Boudican Revolt occured at Mancetter. There are several other possible sites while evidence for troop build-ups in the area upon which this claim seems to have been based could equally in my eyes have been in advance of the assault on Mona.

 

Unless and until we find mass graves and assorted equipment which can be dated to the period and tied to the Iceni in the immediate area I would be loath to make such a specific claim for Mancetter over any other possible site.

 

But to answer your question at the end of the day Boudicca did not have either 20-20 hindsight or a copy of Sun Tzu in her back pocket so the events of the revolt worked out the way they did more or less as Tacitus recorded them. The general impression of the revolt is of an apparently widespread but still fairly localised uprising of loosely allied units but with no one overall general.

 

While they could bring force of numbers to more or less undefended locations they could sweep all before them but when it came to a disiplined army which made the best use of the terrain and let the enemy come to it their cause was lost.

Thank you. I was aware that the location is in doubt. But knowing that does not further the premise of the "what if". This was a fanciful notion prompted by my immediate reaction to reading an account of the battle and seeing the options available based solely on that cursory account. The stratagem I have used for the story came to me immediately but it took me many hours to understand why I had seen it and how to explain its basis. In reality Boudicca had no chance, she did not have the background of her opponent, culturally she was probably hampered in many ways and unable to think in ways that are effortless for you and me. But I still found it fun.

 

The "she did not have a copy of the 'Art of War'" was really a metaphor for "she could not think like we of the 21st century." I placed myself in her situation looking at the description I read, trying to imagine that I did not have 20 - 20 knowledge of what happened and "what would I do in the same situation." But I am not an ancient Celt with no knowledge of warfare or burning desire for revenge of course. A second option would have occurred to me that she would also not have thought of and that would be the Fabian strategy. Ignore the romans in place and continue rampaging the countryside. But she would not have my knowledge of the roman war with Hannibal, nor would she understand why the Fabian strategy was such an effective response to Hannibal. Even the romans had a hard time comprehending the brilliance of it. At least until Cannae.

 

"Attack where your enemy cannot defend, defend where your enemy cannot attack." " Second best is to attack your enemies alliances." Sun Tzu 500 B.C.

 

Hannibal tried to apply the second but Fabius just did it right back at him. Note: The second dictum above is out of context and does not refer to the first. Perhaps you can recognize how Suetonius applied the first dictum and I just served it back at him.

Edited by Tribunicus Potestus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Even supposing the improbable that somehow Boudicca was touched by the gods and saw what she should do, defeating Suetonius would have availed her nothing. Trebbia, Trasimene, and Cannae did Hannibal no good. In the end Carthage was crushed.

 

Only a grand strategic plan would have a hope of success. Her enemy in that case would be the Empire not one governor of a backwater colony. Military defeat of Rome would be impossible. So where would you fight the battle? I would see my opponent as the mind of the Emperor. What does he want? I could not deny him what he wants but perhaps I could give it to him in a way that best protects my interests. It would be a bitter pill to swallow but to win one must be ruthless even against ones own cultural bias. The outline is this analyze what the heck he wants on this god forsaken island? First send or hire spies in the capitol and try and determine how decisions are made there. Who has the emperors ear? Who does he listen to? How can we approach them? What do they want? After gathering this necessary intelligence formulate a plan.

 

This is where it gets tough, selling the idea at home. But it is the only hope. Anyone opposing your plan must either be discredited or eliminated. This is not for the squeamish. Remember survival depends on ruthlessness.

 

To get the Emperor to accept the plan you will have to lobby your cause through the right people, those you have already discovered in the first phase. You will have to grease a lot of palms so dig up your hoards. You will need a propaganda machine to push your version in an acceptable form among the people of Rome softening their anger. Sell Boudicca's daughters as later day Lucretias only her mother took up arms to avenge her daughters rape. Play up the dignity and righteous outrage of Boudicca comparing her to Roman women. Invent stories that show Boudicca behaving as a typical Roman Matron. How about a story where Boudicca reluctantly takes up arms with her praying to the Emperor at night hoping for him to understand. Bring the people to tears, this will make it easier for the Emperor to take a cynical route. Having prepared the ground you can then move into the next phase. You will need to determine if your plan is acceptable to the Emperor privately, before sending a formal Embassy.

 

The broad outlines might be something like this.

Sweeten the offer as much as possible, we want to tempt remember?

Offer a heavy payment for the Emperors losses to date.

Offer to pay indemnities to the widows and families of those killed in the unfortunate misunderstandings.

Offer land for the Emperor to give to veterans from around the Empire as rewards for services rendered at no cost to the Emperor.

Offer to declare the Emperor a god of Britain.

Offer to swear allegiance to the Emperor.

Offer a guaranteed supply of whatever the heck he wants from Britain. Tin? Gold? Etc.

 

In return

Ask for a blanket amnesty (it was just an unfortunate misunderstanding after all) Boudicca could come to Rome head dutifully bowed and kiss the Emperors feet and ask to be forgiven and he could make a great show of magnanimity and explain the wrongs were on both sides and to the thunderous applause of the Plebs wag his finger and say sternly "don't let it happen again." Turning to the crowd and stretching out his hands "Why don't we all go now and attend the lavish games being provided by the people of Britain?" [this would all have been carefully choreographed and agreed to before hand and the piles of gold already in the emperors hands]

 

Ask for Governors of Britain to be exclusively Britons. With candidates chosen by the ruled. Subject to the Emperors approval.

Ask for representation in the Senate.

Ask for citizenship to be extended to all Britons.

Ask for all legions in Britain to be raised from the British. Commanded by foreigners fine, but the rank and file must be local. (the British would pay all costs for raising and maintaining these legions}

 

It might not sell but what else is there?

 

"If you can't whip 'em, join 'em" a not so ancient american dictum

"Make him an offer he can't refuse" a fictional american dictum

Edited by Tribunicus Potestus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

more or less as Tacitus recorded them.

 

He was born in 56 AD so it's entirely possible he spoke with veterans of that war though the 100k enemy figure is a bit suspect. Of course a fishing story is much better if the fish in question is size of VW bus though in this case there is a lot of subtext to the whole thing; patriotism, barbarian savagery, etc.

Edited by Virgil61

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

more or less as Tacitus recorded them.

 

He was born in 56 AD so it's entirely possible he spoke with veterans of that war though the 100k enemy figure is a bit suspect. Of course a fishing story is much better if the fish in question is size of VW bus though in this case there is a lot of subtext to the whole thing; patriotism, barbarian savagery, etc.

...and of course it was aimed at his audience in Rome so played up to standard themes which may have had little or no reality so far as the revolt was concerned but highlighted themes Tacitus felt were worth espousing.

 

If we discounted the very limited 'written' record the Boudican Revolt may have been led by a 90 year old grandmother complaining that her false teeth had been damaged by a drunken Roman soldier. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Had Boudicca thought a little more like Sun Tzu...

Well there's your answer - it was never going to happen. Instead of being an intellectual thoughtful man of influence, Boudicca was an iron age hot tempered lady with a very real grudge leading men whose lives were intrinsically violent and prone to certain behavioural traits.

 

It's pointless going on about how commanders so often fail to realise the strengths of their armies - in most cases they were well aware of them, but battlefield command is not as easy as pushing toy soldiers on a tabletop or clicking a bitmap on a computor monitor. Commanders on the field in anciemnt times had limited perspective, very little command and control, and usually fought in a manner prescribed by cultural tradition. To do otherwise may well have caused the army to weaken its morale because they were told to fight in a manner they were not comfortable with, and they would instinctively doubt a leader who did not satisfy their perceptions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Had Boudicca thought a little more like Sun Tzu...

Well there's your answer - it was never going to happen. Instead of being an intellectual thoughtful man of influence, Boudicca was an iron age hot tempered lady with a very real grudge leading men whose lives were intrinsically violent and prone to certain behavioural traits.

 

It's pointless going on about how commanders so often fail to realise the strengths of their armies - in most cases they were well aware of them, but battlefield command is not as easy as pushing toy soldiers on a tabletop or clicking a bitmap on a computor monitor. Commanders on the field in anciemnt times had limited perspective, very little command and control, and usually fought in a manner prescribed by cultural tradition. To do otherwise may well have caused the army to weaken its morale because they were told to fight in a manner they were not comfortable with, and they would instinctively doubt a leader who did not satisfy their perceptions.

You are of course correct. But have some fun. Play armchair general and see if you can come up with an alternate strategy that may have worked. I'd love to hear it. Just try and be entertaining, please. No need to be stuffy with a "what if" Thread. You might incorporate the cultural biases of the two opponents. Or what ever you like.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[You are of course correct. But have some fun. Play armchair general and see if you can come up with an alternate strategy that may have worked. I'd love to hear it. Just try and be entertaining, please. No need to be stuffy with a "what if" Thread. You might incorporate the cultural biases of the two opponents. Or what ever you like.

 

Before this thread goes any further I think it appropriate to remind everyone of the forum guidelines Specifically this bit of 2a seems appropriate:

 

2a) Do not require proof of established consensus history. Obviously there are many items open to debate, but if you bring an unestablished opinion here, you must attempt to prove it before making an unsupported statement and requiring others to prove you wrong. (This goes along with general debate courtesy)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[You are of course correct. But have some fun. Play armchair general and see if you can come up with an alternate strategy that may have worked. I'd love to hear it. Just try and be entertaining, please. No need to be stuffy with a "what if" Thread. You might incorporate the cultural biases of the two opponents. Or what ever you like.

 

Before this thread goes any further I think it appropriate to remind everyone of the forum guidelines Specifically this bit of 2a seems appropriate:

 

2a) Do not require proof of established consensus history. Obviously there are many items open to debate, but if you bring an unestablished opinion here, you must attempt to prove it before making an unsupported statement and requiring others to prove you wrong. (This goes along with general debate courtesy)

I was not asking anyone to prove me wrong. In fact I ceded to your points. But If you insist on a debate I will provide a rebuttal. Forthwith. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Was Boudica's army even an army in the real sense? or was it just a mob of people riding on anger and hatred of the Romans. Afterall they brought their wives and children with them to the battle of Watling Street. boudica's biggest mistake (if it really was Boudica leading the army) was to pit tribal warriors against much more professional soldiers in an open battle. She ought to have stuck to guerrilla warfare.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×