“Historians constantly reinterpret the past”. Discuss this statement in relation to the changing interpretation of Boudicca.

Essay by saramillerHigh School, 12th gradeA+, January 2013

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"Historians constantly reinterpret the past". Discuss this statement in relation to the changing interpretation of Boudicca.

Throughout the past, historians have been constantly reinterpreting Boudicca's story and relating her significance to events of the time. At several points in history, the image of Boudicca has been glorified and shaped to complement other significant people in society, such as Queen Victoria. Today, the understanding of Boudicca stems from this Victorian interpretation and has become a figure of national British identity, indeed quite altered since the first historical mention of her in the writings of Roman historians Tacitus and Dio Cassius.

In Roman writings, Boudicca was portrayed as a fierce and terrifying woman who "possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to a woman" (Dio Cassius, Roman History c.150-235AD). At the time, Romans had strict principles about the capabilities and social standing of women, therefore the dominant and influential nature of Boudicca would have caused a great shock to them.

It can also be assumed that both Tacitus and Dio Cassius, the Roman historians, would have exaggerated their depictions of Boudicca to attract the interest of their Roman audience, since such a powerful and fierce woman would have been received with astonishment and disbelief from the Romans. Both of the Roman historians also conveyed a sense of barbarianism surrounding the image of Boudicca, Dio Cassius writes that "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…" This animalistic description of Boudicca would have incited fear in the Roman audience and also contributed to the overall barbaric depiction of the Celts by the Romans.

The main issues surrounding the written sources of the Roman...