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Early Church History: Part 19--The Boadicean War

Aug 17, 2007

While the Apostle Paul was being detained in Caesarea and occasionally questioned by Felix, who hoped that Paul would pay him a freedom fee, an insurrection in Britain struck the Romans with great fury.

The territory of the Iceni tribe in Britain was rich in lead, and the mines there had made those people wealthy. When the Romans conquered that part of Britain, they immediately seized the lead mines to increase their own wealth, and this cut off one of their most important sources of income. It forced the king to borrow money from Seneca, the wealthy Roman philosopher and Nero's tutor in his childhood.

Nero's legate in Britain, Aulius Didius, was then replaced by Suetonius Paulinus, who vowed to conquer more territory in Britain. He was, of course, opposed by British forces, which was considered to be a "revolt." It was always a "revolt" when anyone resisted Rome's conquests, just as anyone outside the Roman Empire was a "barbarian." Such is the nature of propaganda.

At about the same time of this "revolt," the old king of Iceni tribe was about to die. The Roman historian, Tacitus, tells us about this in his Annals, XIV, x,

"Prasutages, King of the Iceni, famed for his long prosperity, had made the Emperor [Nero] his heir along with his two daughters, under the impression that this token of submission would put his kingdom and his house out of reach of wrong."

In other words, the king gave half of his estate to Nero and the other half to his two daughters.

"But the reverse was the result, so much so that his kingdom was plundered by centurions, his house by slaves, as if they were the spoils of war. First, his wife Boudicea was scourged, and his daughters outraged [raped]. All the chief men of the Iceni, as if Rome had received [been given] his whole country as a gift, were stript of their ancestral possessions, and the king's relatives were made slaves."

This seizure was done under the pretext of "foreclosure" on the high-interest loan made to Seneca earlier. Obviously, though, it was a case of simple greed by the head of the Roman military, whose ambitious commander wanted to make a reputation for himself by increasing Rome's territory. Tacitus continues,

"Roused by these insults and the dread of worse, reduced as they now were into the condition of a province, they flew to arms and stirred to revolt the Trinovantes and others who, not yet cowed by slavery, had agreed in secret conspiracy to reclaim their freedom. It was against the veterans that their hatred was most intense. For these new settlers in the colony of Camulodunum drove people out of their houses, ejected them from their farms, called them captives and slaves, and the lawlessness of the veterans was encouraged by the soldiers, who lived a similar life and hoped for similar license."

Many retired army veterans had been given land in various new Roman colonies (cities) in Britain. They decided to seize the farms and houses of the British people. This is a remarkable admission from a Roman historian, and Tacitus places the blame for this uprising fully upon the veterans and Roman soldiers. The Ninth Legion of Rome was virtually destroyed, along with Roman colonies and one of their prominent temples "erected to the Divine Claudius." Tacitus tells us:

"About seventy thousand citizens and allies, it appeared, fell in the places which I have mentioned."

About 40,000 of them were from London alone, called "Londinium."

Meanwhile, Queen Boadicea went from tribe to tribe inciting the people to join in the revolt. Tacitus gives an example of her speech:

"But now, 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 a righteous vengeance, a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight."

Isabel Hill Elder's book, Celt, Druid, and Culdee, p. 41, quotes Dion Cassius, who gives us more of the Queen's words:

". . . I implore your aid for freedom, for victory over enemies infamous for the wantonness of the wrongs they inflict, for their perversion of justice, for their insatiable greed; a people that revel in unmanly pleasures, whose affections are more to be dreaded and abhorred than their enmity. Never let a foreigner bear rule over me or over my countrymen; never let slavery reign in this island."

She found herself leading a huge army of outraged Britons, and Rome lost battle after battle. Finally, however, she was defeated, and appears to have been poisoned in Flintshire (according to Tacitus). The war then continued on a smaller scale, led by Arviragus, Venusius, and Gwallog. Arviragus had been continuing the resistance ever since his cousin Caradoc had been captured and brought to Rome in 52 A.D.

After the dust had settled, Suetonius Paulinus resigned his post in 61 A.D. and was replaced by Petronius Turpilianus.

This same year, far to the east, Felix was replaced by Festus in Caesarea. Festus resolved to send Paul back to Jerusalem, where he faced certain death, so Paul appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11). This meant that Paul would have to be sent to Rome to appear before Nero himself. The ship left in a few months around September of 61 A.D. And so Paul was detained in Caesarea until the Boadicean War had ended in Britain.

But before Paul left Caesarea, he had a visit from Herod Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice. Bullinger tells us in his notes on Acts 25:13, "His relations with his sister Bernice were the occasion of much suspicion." But Herod had come to pay a social visit to the new procurator, who had replaced his brother-in-law, Felix.

Herod also wanted to meet Paul and hear what he had to say. When Paul told him his testimony and expounded the law and the prophets to him, he concluded by saying in Acts 26:27, "King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do."

Herod had to admit, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian" (NASB). Paul responded to this king of the Idumean dynasty,

". . . I would to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains."

I want to add one more comment to this. The Idumeans (i.e., Edomites) had been incorporated into Jewry in 126 B.C. when conquered by John Hyrcanus. Idumea, or Edom, ceased to exist as a nation at that point, and all of the end-time Bible prophecies about Edom and Idumea would have to be fulfilled from within Jewry itself. Those who say that the Palestinians are modern Edom are simply engaging in the same sort of lying propaganda that accompanies all wars.

The Idumean heritage of the Herodian family, however, did not prevent Paul from sharing the Gospel with Herod Agrippa II, nor is there any indication that salvation would have been denied him if he had believed. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that although Bible prophecy is not so kind to Edom-Idumea as a nation in general, this does not mean that individual Edomites are excluded from salvation if and when they believe. In fact, by their conversion, they may avoid the judgments prophesied to come upon the nation itself, because by faith their citizenship is transferred from the jurisdiction of darkness to "the Kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13).


This is the nineteenth part of a series titled "Early Church History." To view all parts, click the link below.

Early Church History


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Dr. Stephen Jones


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