A print, entitled 'Caractacus, King of the Silures, delivered up to Ostorius, the Roman General, by Cartismandua, Queen of the Brigantes'

Mighty Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes Tribe and Friend to Rome

(Read the article on one page)

Standing next to Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament in the heart of London is a giant bronze statue of a woman with her two daughters on a chariot. This was Boudicca, the queen of the Iceni tribe, and arguably one of the most well-known figures from Roman Britain of the 1 st century A.D.

Less well-known, but perhaps more significant was Cartimandua, the queen of the Brigantes tribe. Although both women were powerful figures in their own right, one distinctive feature that separated the two queens was their policy towards the Romans. Whilst Boudicca famously led a rebellion against the Romans, Cartimandua pursued a more pro-Roman policy.

Cartimandua’s tribe, the Brigantes, occupied the region known today as northern England, and was said to be the largest tribe on the British Isles. When the Romans under the emperor Claudius invaded Britain in A.D. 43, Cartimandua may have already been the leader of the Brigantes. It is also possible that Cartimandua was one of the eleven rulers of Britain who surrendered to Rome without a fight, as mentioned on the inscription on the now lost Arch of Claudius. Thus, the Brigantes tribe was a client kingdom of Rome, whose loyalty to the empire ensured its autonomy.

County map of England & Wales, overlaid with Territory of the Romano-British Brigantes Tribe of Northern England.

County map of England & Wales, overlaid with Territory of the Romano-British Brigantes Tribe of Northern England. Wikimedia Commons

Inscription from the Arch of Claudius, Capitoline Museums.

Inscription from the Arch of Claudius, Capitoline Museums. (Wikimedia GFDL )

In A.D. 51, the leader of the Catuvellauni tribe, Caratacus, was finally defeated by the Romans after resisting them for almost decade. He decided to flee to Cartimandua for sanctuary, only to be surrendered by her to the Romans. Although this ensured the favor of the Romans, it made her less popular with her own people. Cartimandua’s loyalty towards Rome, however, would not go unrecognized, and she was rewarded handsomely by the Romans. More importantly was the military support provided by Rome several years later.

MORE

In A.D. 57, a quarrel arose between Cartimandua and her consort, Venutius. This resulted in a civil war when Venutius, angered by the capture of his brothers and relatives by Cartimandua, invaded her territory. The Romans decided to interfere by sending military aid, first auxiliaries, and then a legion, to their client. As a result, Cartimandua was able to secure her throne, and it seemed that the queen and Venutius were reconciled for the time being.

Rome’s support for Cartimandua would be repaid several years later in A.D. 60/61, when Boudicca led a revolt against Rome. Cartimandua did not join the revolt, thus relieving the Romans from the fear of being attacked from the north. Had the anti-Roman Venutius emerged victorious during the Brigantine civil war, the fate of the Roman army in Britain may have been quite different.

In A.D. 69, Cartimandua decided to divorce Venutius, and marry Vellocatus, his armor-bearer. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, this was prompted by the queen’s passions. Although this may be true, the situation may be more complex than just a simple love affair.

A.D. 69 was also the year of the Roman emperor Nero’s death, and the Roman Empire was plunged into chaos. The time was ripe for Venutius to settle old scores, and Cartimandua had to act swiftly. It has been argued that by taking Vellocatus as her consort, Cartimandua effectively deprived Venutius of his most trusted client-chief, and weakened his power. Nevertheless, Venutius had the affection of the Brigantes, and he led a revolt against Cartimandua. Once again, Cartimandua sought the Romans for help. This time, however, the Romans could only afford to send auxiliaries, as the legions were busy fighting in other part of the empire. Although she lost her throne, Cartimandua managed to flee to the Roman fort at Deva (modern day Chester).

Theatrical mask created by the historical Brigantes tribe, found at Catterick.

Theatrical mask created by the historical Brigantes tribe, found at Catterick. Wikimedia, Fair Use

Following the defeat of Cartimandua and her Roman allies, Venutius would lead the Brigantes for a brief period of time. He would eventually be vanquished by the Romans, thus bringing the territory of the Brigantines under direct Roman rule.

As for Cartimandua, the once mighty queen simply vanished from the historical records, her fate unknown, and remains a mystery to future generations.

Featured image: A print, entitled ‘Caractacus, King of the Silures, delivered up to Ostorius, the Roman General, by Cartismandua, Queen of the Brigantes’. Public Domain

Comments

Arjessa's picture

An inspiring article – thank-you; and a mighty queen.  I find facts about Cartimandua even more interesting than that of Boudicca.  It seems she had a knack for survival, so hope she went on after her flight to Deva (Chester).

ACE

Justbod's picture

One of my favourite characters from one of my favourite periods, Cartimandua deserves to be better known, so many thanks for this article. Her story (as much as we know of it) contains all the elements of a good drama! It is a such a shame we don’t know more – I live in hope that one day archaeologists will find some evidence that will add some more information, perhaps as to her ultimate fate.

As you put in the article, her story also has a lot of ‘what ifs’ in it – changes that could have altered the whole course of the British Isles.

Thanks again!

 

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature: www.justbod.co.uk

 

 

 

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Rice goddesses are found across cultures
For centuries, rice has been a staple diet and plays an important role in Asian culture. Although rice farmers have found their lives becoming more difficult due to climate change, Bloomberg states in 2016 that 16 million people still farm rice in Thailand alone. Commemorating the beginning of the rice growing season with an annual Royal Plowing Ceremony

Human Origins

Map of sites and postulated migratory pathways associated with modern humans dispersing across Asia during the Late Pleistocene.
Most people are now familiar with the traditional "Out of Africa" model: modern humans evolved in Africa and then dispersed across Asia and reached Australia in a single wave about 60,000 years ago. However, technological advances in DNA analysis and other fossil identification techniques, as well as an emphasis on multidisciplinary research

Ancient Technology

Detail of a star chart dating to the Middle Kingdom.
The calendar is one of mankind’s most important inventions. Calendars allowed societies to organize time for religious, social, economic, and administrative purposes. The calendar, or rather, two sets of calendars, were invented by the ancient Egyptians. One of these was a lunar calendar, which was used mainly for the organization of religious festivals.

Ancient Places

Smuts house
The farmstead of General Jan Smuts on the outskirts of Pretoria, is reputed to be one of the most haunted private homes in the country, according to Mr Mark Rose-Christie, raconteur and social scientist, who regularly takes brave visitors on a tour of haunted sites on his mystery ghost bus.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article