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Why was Venutius of the Brigantes silent until 69ad?

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Venutius was the husband of Queen Cartimandua of the huge Brigantes tribe, or conglomeration of smaller tribes, a client kingdom in what is loosely Yorkshire today, since 43ad when '12 kings' submitted to Emperor Claudius.


Whatever Venutius, perhaps a minor British noble who married 'above' himself, was doing prior to his huge rebellion in ad69 (until 72ad when the tribe was crushed?) we aren't sure? Why did he, as a presumably anti-Roman with much support amongst the tribes (and Welsh anti-Roman tribes?), not revolt in 51ad after his wife's 'treacherous' handing over of the heroic Caratacus to Rome?


  • Was it due to the fact that Venuitius' own family were held as hostages by his wife?
  • Was Venutius ill during ad60-61, or serving abroad?
  • Was there an arrangement between him and Cartimandua, to put aised differences and keep the Brigantian peace?
  • Was he biding his time for what he saw as 'the right moment' (69 when Rome was weakened and embroiled in a bitter civil war?)?
  • Was he fearful of Rome's solid support of his pro-Roman wife and queen, especially after seeing the doomed first Iceni revolt?

Or was he only stirred into action when his queen and ex-wife married Vellocatus? Possibly this new lover/husband was a Roman (author Nicki Howarth suggests -

Edited by Hus

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The Brigantines did not really submit to Claudius in AD 43. For the first few decades of the conquest, the Romans had their hands full south of Brigantia, with everything from Iceni in the east to Silures in the West.


So they only got around to Brigantia in AD 70 when they had the huge army handy which had been used to defeat the rebellion of Civilis and the Batavi over the channel. The marital ructions of Cartimandua provided the necessary excuse/motivation.


Since the Romans adapted names they couldn't pronounce, the name of Vellocatus is more probably Romanized than Roman (what would a Roman be doing as shield bearer to a barbarian chief?). Also the 'V' to 'B' pronunciation shift you mention is generally attributed to the third century AD, so a bit late for this gent's monicker.


As to why Venutius was relatively passive before AD 69 (the Romans did have to intervene earlier when he and Cartimandua had their first marital bust-up), my guess is he simply lacked the political support. The Romans were happy with Brigantia as a client kingdom, and the Brigantines were not going to take on Rome unless they had to. If Venutius had the chops to get involved, his best shot would have been during the rebellion of Boudicca in AD 60, when all that stood between him and Roman Britain were the remnants of the Ninth Legion at Peterborough.


And if Venutius had gotten involved then, the fate of Boudicca herself suggests what would have happened next. Venutius was wise not to take the risk, even if Cartimandua could have been persuaded.

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Hi Maty, thanks for that excellent post!


I think you've probably nailed it on the head, Venutius lacked the military and perhaps the factional support to take his [ex] queen/wife on. I am disliking Nikki Howarth's book on Cartimandua less and less.


Although the Brigantes seem to have revolted in 47ad (and 51 and 69) at the same time as the Iceni did the first time?

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