Wednesday saw the interwebs all agog with the live raising of a Roman tombstone in southern Britain near Cirencester, complete with an inscription seen for the first time in nearly eighteen hundred years. Those outside the world of Classical archaeology might not have seen this as a very big deal – new inscriptions, and for that matter, new burial grounds, are discovered all the time. Indeed, this is part of a larger excavation of a Roman cemetery which has thus far yielded the remains of fifty-five graves. What is fantastic about this is the fact that we have both a tombstone and corporal remains in situ: matching an actual skeleton to a named individual is rare, especially for Roman Britain, and the only example to come out of this burial site. The name itself, recorded on the tombstone in Latin, is sure to spark even further interest and speculation. The inscription reads:
I(unoni) / D(is) M(anibus) / Bodicacia / coniunx / vixit anno / s XXVII.
‘To the genius of the shades of the departed, Bodicacia, wife, lived twenty seven years.’
The dedication to Iuno is hardly unusual, and in fact appears in the funerary record of Pompeii. The inclusion of the Manes is a bit difficult to date precisely, but this far from Italy probably indicates a date in the 2nd century AD. Whist there is still some speculation as to whether this should be translated as a single name, or split to read Cacia, wife of Bodus, as I am not a linguist, this is a debate with which I don’t feel qualified to engage. What is interesting is that a number of the news stories have also offered the alternative of Bodica, and at least one I came across gave a full history of the infamous Boudica, clearly linking this burial to the Celtic rebel who fought Rome.
Although the burial of this warrior queen has never been located, and likely never will, there has been much desire to find it, and speculation of location ranges from the barrow of Parliament Hill to under a platform at King’s Cross to a McDonald’s in Birmingham (the latter no doubt inspired by the location of Richard III in a car park in Leicester). It seems very clear to me that this particular burial cannot be *that* Boudica. Not only is it miles away from both her area of origin (East Anglia) or the final battle between the Iceni and the Roman legions (the Midlands), but it is in Latin, follows Roman conventions for a funerary epitaph including a dedication to the Roman gods of the dead, and if the Twitter speculation is correct, bears Roman religious iconography in the form of the god Oceanus. Let’s face it: there is no way a woman synonymous with revolt would have been buried following the practices of those she saw as her oppressors.
But this leads me to a far more interesting question: was the name Boudica (or one of its many variants) a popular one? With this tombstone we potentially have the second known person to bear this name in the British Isles. Are there more? A quick search of the Epigraphik Databank Clauss / Slaby reveals that there are a number of occurrences of this name, with the initial root of Boudic-, Bodic-, and Boudig-. Whilst none of them are found in Britain, they do originate in other provinces with some Celtic antecedents, namely Lusitania and Germania Superior. There are three funerary inscriptions from Civitas Igaeditanorum (modern Idanha-a-Velha in Portugal), all of which demonstrate a combination of Roman and Celtic names.
CIL II 455 = ERBeira 229 = AE (1988) 697
Quintus Modesti f(ilius) a(nnorum) XXV / Placida Modesti f(ilia) a(nnorum) XIII / Boudica Flacci f(ilia) Modestus / Celtiatis f(ilius) liberis uxori sibi feci[t].
Bassus Maturo/vi et Boudica Sem/proni sibi et Bassi/no filio an(norum) XXX.
ERBeira 33 = AE (1967) 170
[L]ovio Caenonis f(ilio) patri / Boudicae Tongi f(iliae) matri / Cilio Tapaesi f(ilio) socro Cileae / Cili f(iliae) uxori Caeno Lovi f(ilio).
The texts from the province of Germania are also funerary in nature. One is from Bingium (modern Bingen am Rhein), a name thought to be Celtic in origin in and of itself, and the second is found in Ingelheim am Rhein:
CIL XIII 7519
D(is) M(anibus) / Focuroni(a)e Pat/t(a)e fili(a)e et Firmi/nio [—]esinto ge/nero s[u]o Lutoria / Bodic(ca?) mater / de suo [vi]va pos(u)it.
D(is) M(anibus) / Martialio / Miccioni / et Ibliomari(a)e / Bodic(a)e patribu(s) / Miccionia / Ammisia / filia / f(aciendum) c(uravit).
What I find intriguing, however, is an inscription found on an altar in Bordeaux. This small monument appears to have been erected by a man as part of a vow regarding his passage from York (where the stone was sourced) to Gaul in AD 237:
ILTG 141 = AE (1922) 116
Deae Tutel(a)e Boudig(ae) / M(arcus) Aur(elius) Lunaris IIIIII/vir Aug(ustalis) col(oniarum) Ebor(aci) et / Lind(i) prov(inciae) Brit(anniae) inf(erioris) / aram quam vover(at) / ab Eboraci evect(us) / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) / Perpetuo et Corne(liano).
‘In honour of the goddess Tutela Boudiga, Marcus Aurelius Lunaris, sevir Augustalis of the colonies of Eboracum and Lindum, in the province of Britainnia Inferior, set up the altar he vowed on starting from Eboracum. Willingly and rightly he fulfilled his vow, in the consulship of Perpetuus and Cornelianus’.
A more detailed discussion of the altar can be found here, but what I find compelling about this (and of course, the other texts) is that the name of Boudica, so often associated with an Iceni queen, with revolt, and re-appropriated during the reign of Victoria to symbolise the might of the British Empire, has a place in Roman history far beyond one individual. The name itself, in all its versions, divine or otherwise, was an example of the creation of a Romano-Celtic culture that held a place of some significance in the provinces.