DiscoverA.D. History PodcastBoudicca Resists Rome & The Aeolipile: The Unknown FIRST Steam Engine | 51AD – 60AD
Boudicca Resists Rome & The Aeolipile: The Unknown FIRST Steam Engine | 51AD – 60AD

Boudicca Resists Rome & The Aeolipile: The Unknown FIRST Steam Engine | 51AD – 60AD

Update: 2020-02-24


The Celtic Iceni tribe’s resistance lead by Queen Boudicca against Roman dominance in ancient Britannia remains a founding pillar for modern British pride. The collaboration of Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes is far less known. Even less known is Hero of Alexandria’s inventing the Aeolipile, a proof of concept that is believed to be civilization’s first known steam engine.

Paul and Patrick explore the very different courses of action taken in ancient Britain regarding Roman domination. Foremost contrasting the immense fight to repel Roman occupation by Boudicca, against the outright cooperation and aid provided by Cartimandua. As well as looking at the Aeolipile, debating whether this overlooked concept at the time, under different circumstances, could have jump started the industrial revolution centuries before it actually did.

Cartimandua: A Case Study in Collaboration

Throughout history, there have been many facts in which a leader or peoples manage outright occupation by a foreign power. There are few examples as demonstrative in their contrast as that of Queen Boudicca of the Iceni, and Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes. Theirs is a story that bares out many times in recorded history.

Cartimandua herself proves an interesting political case study, as her rule of the Brigantes was outright and total – given that she did not derive power from a king concurrently sitting on the throne with her. Cartimandua inherited the Brigantes throne from her late father, in circa 43AD. The Brigantes realm itself encompassed modern day Yorkshire, but is believed to have extended as far as modern Liverpool and Newcastle.

Cartimandua’s appeasement and collaboration with Roman rule most significantly began in 51AD, when she turned over to Roman authority King Caratacus of the Catuvellauni tribe who had fled into her protection after defeat at the hands of Roman legions.

Cartimandua’s decision created significant animosity in her own people against her rule. Furthermore after leaving her husband Venutius for his armor bearer, Venutius acting upon his person scorn and her collaboration mustered a significant rebellion against Rome – a rebellion only temporarily quelled by Cartimandua due to requesting Roman military assistance.

Venutius managed to survive this defeat, and in 69AD rose up again to successfully depose Cartimandua when Roman assistance was unavailable due to other ongoing conflicts in the empire.

Boudicca: A Case Study in Resistance

Queen Boudicca of the Iceni undertook a very different course of action with the Romans, strongly contrasting that of Cartimandua. The Iceni were a fellow Celtic tribes who’s domain centered in East Anglia. The Iceni under her husband King Prasutagus initially formed a pact with the Romans, making the Iceni a client kingdom.

Prasutagus in his death in 61AD, saw the Romans betray the aforementioned pact – occupying the Iceni realm over Boudicca’s protest. Boudicca and her daughter were forcibly taken into Roman custody, where they were brutally tortured. Upon Boudicca’s release, she raised an army of an estimated 200,000 troops. Before her eventual defeat and suicide, Boudicca razed the Roman provincial capital in modern Colchester, and Londinium (London) itself.


Caligula: Truly a Mad Emperor? & Roman Conquest of Britain | 41AD – 50AD


Historical Jesus: What Do We Know? & Founding the Kushan Empire | 31AD – 40AD


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Boudicca Resists Rome & The Aeolipile: The Unknown FIRST Steam Engine | 51AD – 60AD

Boudicca Resists Rome & The Aeolipile: The Unknown FIRST Steam Engine | 51AD – 60AD

Paul K. DiCostanzo, Patrick Foote