“Historians Constantly Reinterpret The Past”. Discuss This Statement In Relation To The Changing Interpretation Of Boudicca.

1238 words - 5 pages

"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 historians Tacitus and Dio Cassius are that of bias and inaccuracy; neither Tacitus nor Dio Cassius' writings are primary sources since they were both written after Boudicca's revolt, about 50 years and 100 years after respectively. Dio Cassius' writings are also considered to be largely based on Tacitus, which significantly decreases the amount of further knowledge gained from his account; however his opinions of Boudicca are still valid as a personal interpretation of her. Tacitus mostly describes the details of Boudicca's revolt and the individual battles that occurred whereas Dio Cassius comments on the character of Boudicca and provides his own opinion on the revolt also with a historical account of it, essentially a reinterpretation of Tacitus' original historical writings. Both of the sources also present a very biased viewpoint, being Roman, the historians would embrace Roman norms and would express Roman understandings of Celtic people being barbaric and uncivilised.Boudicca was then mostly forgotten until Tacitus' historical account was rediscovered in the 16th century. This sparked...

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