Whoosh! Issue 32 - May 1999

XENA AND BOADICEA:
ETHICS AND TACTICS

IAXS project #551
By Ketz Gouldthorpe
Content copyright © 1998 held by author
1955 words



A Widowed Queen (01-03)
The Warrior Queen (04-06)
The Warrior Princess and the Warrior Queen (07-11)
Boadicea's Undoing (12-13)
Xena's Battle "Smarts" (14-15)
"We Few, We Happy Few..." (16-17)
A Comparison of Ethics (18-21)
Conclusion (22-23)
Bibliography
Biography



Xena and Boadicea: Ethics and Tactics



Your hair is better than mine.  I must kill you now.


Xena and Boadicea have a tense reunion in THE DELIVERER.



A Widowed Queen

[1] To understand the different tactical standpoints of Xena and Boadicea, one must first understand what shaped these women into the people they were. At the time of the Roman invasion, the Iceni tribe was one of the largest Celtic communities in Britain. They decided not to fight the invasion. Instead, they forged a treaty with Rome and became her ally. This allowed them to maintain their own government without a military presence.

[2] This arrangement continued until King Prasutagus died and left a queen and two daughters, but no male heir. From that point on, the Romans treated the Iceni as a defeated people with no leader. The Romans confiscated lands and money. Boadicea, the widowed queen, was then publicly whipped and her two daughters raped. Boadicea made a call to arms to avenge the outrage of her people, but more poignantly her family. It was her defining moment. It changed her and history forever.

[3] This story is vastly different from Xena's. The main difference between the two is the matter of tactics.


The Warrior Queen

Early White Sales and the fierce competition they inspired


Boadicea makes a strong entrance.


[4] Boadicea was a queen. She could command an entire tribe with no experience in warfare or conflict. She relied upon her other chiefs for her tactical guidance. Unfortunately, the tribe's tactics for waging war were still very primitive. They were only familiar with fighting other tribes of similar stature. These people were poorly armed and not trained. They relied heavily on the size of their army and raw aggression.

[5] Boadicea led her army first to the town of Colchester, which they destroyed, burning the town and annihilating the population. They then marched upon London, which suffered the same fate as Colchester. Boadicea then moved her army northwards to attack the city of Verulanium, an important town they, again, destroyed.

[6] Where were the Romans when all this was happening? Commander Suetonius was trying to regroup his forces in an attempt to stop the advancing army. He managed to group together a force of ten thousand well-trained legionnaires. His only hope was for the Iceni army to attack in a pitched battle.


The Warrior Princess and the Warrior Queen

[7] This is where Boadicea could have used Xena's knowledge of when to run, when to fight, and how to assess one's chances. What Suetonius must have feared above all else was that this would turn into a guerrilla war. Boadicea's army would be able to use their advantage of local knowledge to launch surprise attacks and be able to continue the conflict for years if need be. Unfortunately, the Britons were so elated by their earlier conquests that they decided to go head to head with the Roman legions.

[8] This enabled Suetonius to choose his own battlefield. He chose well. He positioned his army so that dense woodland protected the rear of his army. The battleground in front of him was a flat plain where the Britons waited in no particular formation. The Britons had no tree cover in which to retreat or in which to stage an ambush.

[9] Xena's experience would probably have saved the Britons. The emotions among them were euphoric. They felt invincible. In some ways, Gabrielle can be seen as Boadicea's Britons, namely because they were a total emotional force (like Gabrielle, who is ruled by her sensibilities), whereas Suetonius was an experienced commander. He had been in many battles before and was not thinking in terms of a cause, but more in a calculating "win-the-war" way, very much as Xena would.

[10] The Battle started with the legionnaires launching their javelins into the oncoming Britons. The Romans advanced forward in close formation, battering the Briton's with their shields and using their short swords with deadly precision. In these tight formations, the lack of any body armor among the Briton's proved to be disastrous and cost them dearly.

[11] The other fatal flaw in Boadicea's battle plan was bringing the women and children to watch the battle from wagons and carts. I can just picture Xena giving "the look" to anyone who even jokingly suggested bringing the women and children to watch. Even in her warlord days she still imposed the rule of respecting the lives of women and children. Xena would have seen having the families of her army on a battlefield a severe weakness. If nothing else, it would have been an Achilles' heel for the entire world to see.


Boadicea's Undoing

Oh drat!  I left my breast dagger in my other BGSB!


Gabrielle and Khrafstar are captured by the Romans.


[12] Boadicea had placed these vehicles at the rear of the army, thus they could not retreat backwards away from the advancing Romans. They were, therefore, forced into a trap of their own making. The Romans did not show any mercy. They slaughtered the animals, the women, and anything that looked even remotely like a Briton. The slaughter was so immense that Tacitus, a Roman historian, says eighty thousand Britons fell as compared to only 400 Romans.

[13] Boadicea survived this battle, but she took her own life and those of her daughters to avoid capture and execution by the Romans. I do not think Xena would not have chosen the poison. She has proven repeatedly that where there is life, there is hope. Even while being crucified, she still fought to live, and that was before she met Gabrielle.


Xena's Battle "Smarts"

[14] So why is Xena a better tactician and commander? We should look at where she came from. Xena was an innkeeper's daughter. She had to create her own army and fight to become the Destroyer of Nations, and with each battle came more experience. This is the most telling difference between the Xena and Boadicea. Xena knew her army's capabilities. She knew how far she could push them and when to back down and regroup.

[15] Although the experience accounted, in part, for her unparalleled success, Xena's own personality is another essential factor. What would have destroyed some people only fueled her will, making her stronger. After her first encounter with Caesar, she grew stronger, not better, but most definitely stronger.


"We Few, We Happy Few..."

Leadership ability is directly proportional to looking constipated


Every inch a leader.


[16] Boadicea, had she have lived, might have been the greatest of all warrior queens. She certainly had a brave and courageous heart. She stood up against the might of the Roman Empire and was nearly victorious. What she lacked in experience she made up for in passion and spirit. This is what she said to her army before they advanced upon the Romans:

"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. Roman lust has gone so far that not our very persons, nor even age or virginity are left unpolluted.

"But heaven is on the side of the righteous vengeance; a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight. They will not sustain even the din and the shout of so many thousands, much less our charge and our blows.

"If you weigh well the strength of the armies, and the causes of the war, you will see that in this battle you must conquer or die. This is a woman's resolve. As for the men, they may live and be slaves!"
   --Annals Of Tacitus

[17] Boadicea knew how to rally her troops, and she knew that this battle would be the deciding factor in the whole conflict. I do not think Xena could have delivered a better call to fight unless she had had Gabrielle to write it for her! This one battle changed the course of the Britons' history for the following 350 years.


A Comparison of Ethics

[18] What do we know about Boadicea's ethics? When Boadicea's army took Colchester, they slaughtered everyone regardless of age or sex. The Briton's did not take any prisoners or keep anyone for slavery. These people were hanged, crucified, burnt, or put to the sword. Unlike Xena's army, this was not just killing for killing's sake, however. These people were sacrificed to the Celtic gods of war. These early Briton's saw no ethical dilemma in sacrificing these people to their gods.

[19] Before Xena "reformed" she was equally brutal, but she did not do this for any religious purpose. She wanted to inflict fear and ultimately her control over towns and villages. Does it make Boadicea any better because she slaughtered in the name of religion? Whichever way you look at it, it was murder. I doubt these people went willingly to their deaths, but Boadicea and Xena lived in brutal times where the value of a life was not held as dearly as it is today.

[20] One could imagine there were plenty of young Callistos left in Boadicea's wake (now that is a scary thought). Boadicea would not have been remorseful about the deaths of Callisto's relatives. She would have seen it as a great honor to be sacrificed to the gods. As we know, Xena's social conscience plagued her, and she could not help but face up to the fact that what she had been doing was morally wrong. She has been trying ever since to atone for these deeds and find redemption.

[21] Boadicea would never have come to the same conclusion. She did not see these deaths as anything but religious practice. She did have a strong moral conscience, however. When she saw the injustices inflicted upon her people and family, she took a stand. In fact, if it had not been for Boadicea's moral outrage there would have been no rebellion.


Conclusion

I say we're NOT lost, and *I* won't look at the map either!


Boadicea and Xena plot strategy.


[22] The Warrior Princess and the Warrior Queen were two women who stood up and fought for what they thought was right. If nothing else, they deserve our respect for that alone. It takes courage to take that step from the crowd to the stage.

[23] I will leave you with the last known description of Boadicea, a Warrior Queen only rivaled by a certain Warrior Princess:

"In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of an 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".
   --Cassius Dio (Greek historian)

Bibliography

The Boudican Revolt Against Rome by Paul Sealey
Defending The Isle by Norman Longmate



Biography

Ketz Gouldthorpe Ketz Gouldthorpe
I'm from St. Albans (Verulanium) in England. I've always had a fascination with Boadicea, after all she did level my hometown! I am a stay-at-home mum at the moment, but before motherdom beckoned, I was Plant propagator, and I really loved it. I have two Dalmatians and therefore enjoy walking long distances in all types of weather.
I first started watching Xena when I was pregnant with my daughter, and now I am addicted to the show. I really enjoy the way Xena and Gabrielle's relationship has developed over time.

Favorite episode: BEEN THERE DONE THAT (48/302)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "I'll rise, but I refuse to shine" BEEN THERE DONE THAT (48/302)
First episode seen: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110)
Least favorite episode: FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216)

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