Iceni

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Iceni
Approximate extent of the Iceni Territory
Geography
Capital Venta Icenorum
(Caistor St. Edmund)
Location Norfolk
Suffolk
Rulers Canduro[...],
Aesu[...],
Saemu[...],
Antedi[...]
Prasutagus
Boudica
British Celts, Iceni, gold stater,
earlier Freckenham Type (15 BC - 20 AD).
Obv: Celticized horse right, large wheel above, daisy below horse.
Rev: Flower superimposed on cross of pellets, curved lines in angles of pellet-cross.

The Iceni /ˈsn/ or Eceni were a Brythonic tribe in Britannia (or Britain) who inhabited an area corresponding roughly to the modern-day county of Norfolk from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. They were bordered by the Corieltauvi to the west, and the Catuvellauni and Trinovantes to the south. The tribe turned into a civitas during the Roman occupation of Britannia. Their capital was Venta Icenorum, located at modern-day Caistor St Edmund.

Julius Caesar described the Cenimagni submitting to him during his second expedition to Britain in 54 BC: the Cenimagni may have been a branch of the Iceni[1] or it could be a corruption of Iceni Magni meaning "Great Iceni".

Archaeology[edit]

Iceni coin

Archaeological evidence of the Iceni includes torcs — heavy rings of gold, silver or electrum worn around the neck and shoulders. The Iceni began producing coins circa 10 BC. Their coins were a distinctive adaptation of the Gallo-Belgic "face/horse" design, and in some early issues, most numerous near Norwich, the horse was replaced with a boar. Some coins are inscribed ECENI, making them the only coin-producing group to use their tribal name on coins. The earliest personal name to appear on coins is Antedios (ca. 10 BC), and other abbreviated names like AESU and SAEMU follow.[2]

It has also been discovered that the name of Antedios’ succeeding ruler Prasutagus appears on the coins as well. H. R. Mossop in his article “An Elusive Icenian Legend” discusses coins that were discovered by D. F. Allen in Joist Fen, Suffolk and states, “It is the coins Nos. 6 and 7 which give an advance in the obverse reading, confirming Allen’s attractive reading PRASTO, with its implied allusion to Prasutagus” (Mossop and Allen 258).[3]

Sir Thomas Browne, the first English archaeological writer, said of the Roman occupation, Boudica and Iceni coins:

Iceni coin.

That Britain was notably populous is undeniable, from that expression of Caesar. That the Romans themselves were early in no small Numbers, Seventy Thousand with their associates slain by Bouadicea, affords a sure account... And no small number of silver pieces near Norwich; with a rude head upon the obverse, an ill-formed horse on the reverse, with the Inscriptions Ic. Duro.T. whether implying Iceni, Durotriges, Tascia, or Trinobantes, we leave to higher conjecture. The British Coyns afford conjecture of early habitation in these parts, though the city of Norwich arose from the ruins of Venta, and though perhaps not without some habitation before, was enlarged, built, and nominated by the Saxons.[4]

The Icknield Way, an ancient trackway linking East Anglia to the Chilterns, may be named after the Iceni.

John A. Davies and Tony Gregory conducted archaeological surveys of Roman coins that appeared during the period of Roman occupation of Norfolk. Their study showed that the bulk of the coins circulating before AD 60 was Icenian rather than Roman. They speculated that Roman coins were not adapted into the Iceni area until after AD 60.[5] The coin study also showed that there was not a regular supply of Roman coinage from year to year:

The predominance of specific issues at sites across the province and relative scarcity of coins of some emperors illustrates the point that supply was sporadic and that there were periods when little or no fresh coinage was sent to Britain from the imperial mints.[6]

In certain rural regions of Norfolk, Davies and Gregory speculate that the Iceni farmers were impacted very little by the civitas, seeing as there is a scarce presence of coinage and treasures. On the other hand, their surveys found "coin-rich temple sites, which appear to have served as centres for periodic fairs and festivals and provided locations for markets and commercial transactions within their complexes and environs. In such rural areas, producers and consumers would have been attracted to these sites for commerce from afield"[7]

The Roman invasion[edit]

The meaning of the name Iceni is unknown. Icenian coins dating from the 1st century AD use the spelling ECEN,:[8] another article by D. F. Allen titled “The Coins of the Iceni,” discusses the difference between coins with the inscription ECE versus coins with ECEN. This difference, Allen posits, tells archeologists and historians when Prasutagus started his reign because the coins did not start reading the name of the tribe until around AD 47. Allen suggests that when Antedios was king of the Iceni, the coins did not yet have the name of the tribe on them but instead the name of its ruler, stating, “If so, the coins suggest that the Prasutagus era commenced only after the events of 47” (Allen 16).[9]

Tacitus records that the Iceni were not conquered in the Claudian invasion of AD 43, but had come to a voluntary alliance with the Romans. However, they rose against them in 47 after the governor, Publius Ostorius Scapula, threatened to disarm them. D. F. Allen explains in further detail, in his article “The Coins of the Iceni,” that Scapula had been “preoccupied with defense against the unconquered Silures in South Wales and Brigantes in Yorkshire.” Allen informs readers that this was how Prasutagus had come to gain full control over the Iceni (Allen 2). The Iceni were defeated by Ostorius in a fierce battle at a fortified place, but were allowed to retain their independence.[10] The site of the battle may have been Stonea Camp in Cambridgeshire.

Statue of Boudica by Thomas Thornycroft near Westminster Pier, London, with her two daughters upon a chariot

A second and more serious uprising took place in AD 61. Prasutagus, the wealthy, pro-Roman Icenian king, who, according to a section in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography titled "Roman Britain, British Leaders". was leader of the Iceni between AD 43 and 50 (Todd 4),[11] had died. It was common practice for a Roman client king to leave his kingdom to Rome on his death, but Prasutagus had attempted to preserve his line by bequeathing his kingdom — which Allen believes was located in Breckland, near Norwich (Allen 15) — jointly to the Emperor and his own daughters. The Romans ignored this, and the procurator Catus Decianus seized his entire estate. Prasutagus's widow, Boudica, was flogged, and her daughters were raped. At the same time, Roman financiers called in their loans. While the governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was campaigning in Wales, Boudica led the Iceni and the neighbouring Trinovantes in a large-scale revolt:

...a terrible disaster occurred in Britain. Two cities were sacked, eighty thousand of the Romans and of their allies perished, and the island was lost to Rome. Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame.... But the person who was chiefly instrumental in rousing the natives and persuading them to fight the Romans, the person who was thought worthy to be their leader and who directed the conduct of the entire war, was Buduica, a Briton woman of the royal family and possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women.... In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire.[12]

The revolt caused the destruction and looting of Camulodunum (Colchester), Londinium (London), and Verulamium (St Albans) before finally being defeated by Suetonius Paulinus and his legions. Although the Britons outnumbered the Romans greatly, they lacked the superior discipline and tactics that won the Romans a decisive victory.[13] The battle took place at an unknown location, probably in the West Midlands somewhere along Watling Street.[14] Today, a large statue of Boudica wielding a sword and charging upon a chariot can be seen in London on the north bank of the Thames by Westminster Bridge.

Bronze coins of the Iceni. Museum of London.

The Iceni are recorded as a civitas of Roman Britain in Ptolemy's Geographia,[15] which names Venta Icenorum as a town of theirs. Venta, which is also mentioned in the Ravenna Cosmography,[16] and the Antonine Itinerary,[17] was a settlement near the village of Caistor St. Edmund, some five miles south of present-day Norwich, and a mile or two from the Bronze Age Henge at Arminghall.

After the Romans left Britain, it is possible that some of the Iceni migrated west away from the Angles into the inhospitable marshlands around The Wash known as the Fens. The possibility of this occurrence is supported by the Life of Saint Guthlac—a biography written about the East Anglian religious hermit who lived in the Fens during the early 8th century—it is stated that Saint Guthlac was attacked by people he believed were Britons living in the Fens at that time, 200 years after the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, although Bertram Colgrave in the introduction to The Life of Saint Guthlac states that is very unlikely due to the lack of evidence for British survival in the region and the fact that British placenames in the area are "very few".[18]

Fiction[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 5.21
  2. ^ Graham Webster (1978), Boudica: the British Revolt Against Rome AD 60, pp. 46-48
  3. ^ Britannia, Vol. 10, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 1979
  4. ^ Sir Thomas Browne (1658), Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial
  5. ^ Britannia, Vol. 22, The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, (1991) pg. 90
  6. ^ Britannia, Vol. 22, The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, (1991) pg.67
  7. ^ Britannia, Vol. 22, The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, (1991) pg.
  8. ^ http://www.predecimal.com/p1celtic.htm
  9. ^ Britannia, Vol. 1, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 1970
  10. ^ Tacitus, Annals 12.31
  11. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  12. ^ Dio, Cassius. Roman History. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1987.
  13. ^ Cambridge Latin Course Textbook, Unit 2
  14. ^ Agricola 14–17; Annals 14:29-39; Dio Cassius, Roman History 62:1-12
  15. ^ Ptolemy, Geography 2.2
  16. ^ Ravenna Cosmography (British section)
  17. ^ Antonine Itinerary (British section)
  18. ^ Felix's Life of St. Guthlac, Text, Translation & Notes, Bertram Colgrave (ed.) 1965, Cambridge University Press

Bibliography[edit]

  • Allen, D. F. "The Coins of the Iceni." Britannia (1970): 1-33. Web. 12 March 2013.
  • Bunson, Matthew. “Britannia.” Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. New York: Facts on File, 1994. Print.
  • Bunson, Matthew. “Iceni.” Encyclopedia of Ancient Rome. 3rd Ed. New York: Facts On File, 2012. Print.
  • “Britain, Roman.” The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.
  • Davies, John. A., Gregory, Tony. "Coinage from a 'Civitas': A Survey of the Roman Coins Found in Norfolk and their Contribution to the Archaeology of the 'Civitas Icenorum'" "Britannia" (1991): 65-101. Web. 12 March 2013.
  • Dio, Cassius. Roman History :. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1987. Print.
  • Gardiner, Juliet, and Neil Wenborn. “Civitas.” The Columbia Companion to British History. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print.
  • Mossop, H. R. and Allen, D. F. "The Elusive Icenian Legend." Britannia (1979): 258-259. Web. 12 March 2013.
  • Williamson, Tom. The Origins of Norfolk. Manchester University Press: 1993.

External links[edit]