Londinium lies smouldering, totally destroyed by Queen Boudica and her Iceni tribesmen. Camulodunum and Verulamium have suffered a similar fate before the Britons were crushed by Roman legions returning from Anglesey.
As thousands die of malnutrition with crops left rotting in the fields, Londinium Lite asks: How could it have been allowed to happen?
Our veteran analyst, Cassius, has reported on events in Londinium for nearly 15 years.
Ask a soldier and you get a simple answer. ‘We’re introducing civilisation here’, the commander-in-chief, Suetonius Paulinus, told me. ‘Sure we allowed Boudica’s husband to keep his kingdom north of Camulodunum, but that was only a stepping-stone to full integration. Once he died, the tribe had to become part of the province. Did that justify rebellion?’
Power and glory
But Paulinus has his critics. Some say he was only campaigning in Anglesey because he wanted a high-profile victory to match his rival Corbulo’s in Turkey. Perhaps he should have supervised the hand-over of the kingdom personally. Instead he relied on local centurions who failed to brief their soldiers properly - discipline broke down when they took charge. Flogging an enemy queen and raping her daughters is fair enough in war, but the Iceni were our allies.
One officer believes the problems go back further. Gnaeus Julius Agricola, a tribune who helped defeat Boudica, knows Britannia well. ‘Our strategy’, he explained, ‘has been wrong from the day we landed nearly 20 years ago. Plautius was a great field commander but he cut corners. Letting the Iceni keep their kingdom protected his flank but invited future problems. No sooner had Plautius gone than they were causing trouble – that uprising back in 47 was hard enough to deal with.’
The solution, Agricola believes, is to educate the Britons and get them to govern themselves in the Roman way. This will take more than just lending chieftains money and expecting them to invest in public services. Some leaders recently defaulted on their loan repayments, and their resentment fanned the flames of the rebellion.
A fresh start?
Official sources say that a new procurator, Gaius Julius Classicianus, will be arriving shortly. Born in Gaul, he is likely to be sensitive to the needs of the Britons.
In the meantime, soldiers are clearing the debris to turn the area immediately north of the Thames crossing into a heavily fortified camp.