The Flight of the Sorceress

The Flight of the Sorceress
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Are you blocked at the moment? Can’t think of something worth while to write about? Well, I know, because of your names and photos that unless you are doing a pretty damn good job of hiding it, most of you are women. And a lot of you lament the absence of women as heroines, especially in historical contexts. After all, except for such rare notables as Eve, Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Jean d’Arc, Queen Elizabeth and Abigail Adams, women pretty much got written out of history, didn’t they?

Well, I’ve got a couple of good ones that some of you ought to take a crack at if you’re up for it. Me? If got other things on my plate, but believe me when I say I’m tempted. But, Id sure like to read about them, after some enthusiastic novelist does her research.

First, for those of you into the Celtic thing (and I know you’re out there) how about Queen Boadicia. Her story is briefly told in The Flight of the Sorceress.

                            Queen Boadicia: Photograph 1999 by George P. Landow.
Celts called her Victoria. Her husband was the king of the Iceni tribe. She had two teenaged daughters. Her husband trusted a Roman notary draw up his will bequeathing half his lands to the Emperor Nero while reserving the remainder for his wife and daughters. But under Roman law, unlike the laws of the Iceni, women couldn’t inherit if there was a male heir. So after the king died, the Roman prefect decided that Emperor Nero was the male heir, and therefore all the king’s lands belonged to him. Queen Boadicea and her daughters received nothing. When she protested this injustice, she was beaten in public, and her two daughters were raped. Queen Boadicea raised an army that numbered 200,000 whose ranks included many fierce Celtic women. They marched on the Roman settlements, destroying Camulodunum (modern Cambridge.) Though the Romans sent a powerful legion against her, she defeated it, and then went on to conquer Londinium (London)  and Verulamium (St Albans.) In all, her armies killed more than seventy thousand Romans before she was finally defeated in battle. She took poison to prevent her capture.

And for those with a more classical Roman bent, my other suggested heroine is Princess Placidia. 
                                             Princess Placidia: Museo Civico Cristiano in Brescia 
Placidia plays a small role in The Flight of the Sorceress, but deserves a lead in a story of romance and intrigue all her own. This twenty-tow year old sister of  Emperor Honorius who fled Rome in just ahead of the advancing Visigoths in 401 A.D. was left  in charge of Rome but her terrified brother took the whole army with him leaving her without any organized military to defend the city.  Nevertheless, and without any military experience whatsoever, she successfully held off a vast invading force that had already conquered all of Gaul and northern Italy. The city was only taken by the Visigoths by a ruse, and then after a spate of cannibalism within its walls. Placidia was taken captive by Alaric, the King of the Visigoths, but he died shortly after and his brother, Athaulf, took his place. For inexplicable reasons Athaulf turned his army around and returned to Gaul taking Placidia with him. Did she go as wife or prisoner? Was she somehow responsible for saving southern Italy from a Visigoth invasion?

Athaulf was murdered in 414 A.D. Placidia was then treated like a slave and ransomed back to Emperor Honorius. She was then married to a general who became co-Augustus. Meanwhile she fought with her brother, with whom she may have had an incestuous relationship. In 423, Honorius died and Placidia was made Augusta — empress in the West. She had two children, one of whom later became Emperor Valentinian III. The creative options are endless.

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