Tag Archive | Celtic

Roman British Costuming: General Guidelines for “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts”

roman-woman

A Roman lady wears a tunic (white), stola (blue), and palla (red).

As a historian, history is my passion.  I love few things better than seeing a period-correct drama where the costumes are accurately rendered.  But what do you do if your budget is small or you are playing scenes from “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts” or Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar?” What if you don’t have years of expertise researching Roman and Roman-British clothing?

The following is a general guide for productions of “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts” and for general re-enactment of Roman and Roman-British characters/personae:

 

 

BRITISH CLOTHING

brythonic-brat

The brat is a 2 meter long, 30″ wide heavy wool rectangle that is wrapped or pinned around the body to protect the wearer from the elements. Worn across “Celtic” societies on both the continent and the British islands. The late medieval “kilt” of Scotland evolved from the ancient brat which can be pinned and belted (as above) as desired or simply folded and wrapped around the body in dozens of different ways.

Simple wool tunics.  Men wear shorter tunics with warm, simple-cut trousers. The trousers of upper class warrior men are cropped with hemlines between the knee and an ankle.  Women wear ankle length tunics.  Both sexes wear brats: a heavy and often coarsely woven rectangular shawl folded lengthwise across the body.  The brat may be worn as a shawl, draped and pinned as a cloak, draped and pinned as a surcoat, or simply folded and pinned secure to the upper breast.  Jewellery is abundant and includes decorative broaches.

ROMAN CLOTHING

roman-clothing-1

Men wear knee length tunics called “chitons.”  Over this common men wrap a rectangular cloak similar to a brat that is often pinned securely. High ranking men wear togas over their chitons instead of a cloak.

Women wear a long-sleeved tunic dress covering most of the body.  Over this women wear a stola which is high-waisted and held together at the shoulders by broaches.   The top layer for upper class Roman women is her palla which is wrapped around her in dozens of different ways to cover her head, warm her like a cloak, or even serve as a female version of a toga.

the-roman-palla

The Roman palla and how to wear it.

Roman soldiers wear armour and carry a gladius (a short thrusting sword) at all times.

 

roman-legionaire

Components to a Roman legionnaire’s armour.

Special costuming for “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts”and for general reenactment of Roman British characters/personae

Act I, Scene I: Prasutagus wears the fine linen/wool that marks him as a member of the upper class with decorative trim along the hem edges of his tunic and brat.  Roman bureaucrat wears a toga marking him as a Roman citizen and aide to the Roman governor.  The broach securing Boudicca’s brat features a raven as a mark of her devotion to Cathubodva.

Act I, Scene II:  Boudicca wears a Roman stola over her Celtic tunic dress.  A palla drapes across her body like a shawl.  Her flaming red hair is now elaborately braided and pinned up matronly.

Act I, Scene III:  Boudicca and Prasutagus wear their finest woollen tunics with embroidered trim along sleeve, hem, and neckline edges. Boudicca’s brat is made of a much finer wool than we saw in Scene I which is soft blue or lavender in colour.  King Prasutagus wears a polished circlet or crown.  Boudicca wears a coronet of spring flowers over her braided hair.  Linet wears a tiara or circlet made of oak leaves and a silver necklace.

Act I, Scene IV: Gaius and Roman Bureaucrat wear togas over their tunics.

Act III, Scene I:  Gaius and Roman Bureaucrat both wear togas over their tunics.

Act III, Scene III:  Gaius wears full battle armour instead of his toga.

 

From Act II, Scene V forward Roman soldiers also carry shields.

History Profile: Queen Boudicca

Date of Birth:  circa 30 CE

Place of Birth:  unknown — likely Gaul

Date of death: 60 or 61 CE — suicide

Spouse: King Prasutagus of the Iceni

Issue: none surviving

Queen Boudicca is the national heroine of England for a reason:  she united rival British tribes and won several military victories against the Romans in a time when that was deemed impossible.

Often depicted as a vengeful warrior out for blood on a personal vendetta, the real Queen Boudicca ruled as her husband’s co-sovereign over the small but technologically advanced and religiously devout Iceni nation.  In 60 or 61 CE King Prasutagus died mysteriously.

Though often assumed to be old age by many, the timing of his death relative to the Roman military campaigns on the Welsh island of Ynys Môn coupled with the terms in Prasutagus’ last will and testament suggest otherwise.  Prasutagus was worth more dead than alive to the Romans, especially as the Romans did not recognize Celtic laws and customs which granted women near complete equality to men.  With his family members all female, the Romans were eager to remove Prasutagus and fully conquer the Iceni.  This suggests to me his death was violent and at Roman hands.

When the Romans invaded her lands, Boudicca did what any sovereign or co-sovereign would do:  she mounted a defence.  After losing the first battle with the Romans in her own community at which she and her daughters suffered outrageous torture and injury, Boudicca struck back, determined to prevent the Romans from harming her people again.

It worked better than she could have expected.  Other tribes, especially her southern neighbour the Trinovantes joined with her, forming a rare confederation that eventually spread across several tribes.

Boudicca achieved unity from within the boundaries of her free and very individualistic society, proving that liberty and unity can exist when we put aside what divides us and choose to work together.

 

Read more about Boudicca in “Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni” in your choice of English, Welsh, Welsh-English, Chinese, and Spanish.  Audio edition narrated by Richard Mann.

Character Profile: Queen Boudicca

Today’s historical person is Boudicca:  Queen of the Iceni.

Boudicca:  Britain's Queen of the Iceni

Series Name:  The Legendary Women of World History

Character name: Boudicca

Date of Birth: Circa 30 CE

Place of Birth: Gaul — Aedui Tribe

Reigned: 1st century of the common era

Died: 61 CE

Book appearing in: Boudicca:  Britain’s Queen of the Iceni in kindle and audio edition narrated by Richard Mann

Profile:   Born in slavery among the Aedui in Gaul just decades after Julius Caesar conquered her people, Boudicca escaped to Britannia in pursuit of freedom.  Finding true love in King Prasutagus of the Iceni, she co-ruled the religiously devout Iceni until Roman atrocities across Britannia forced her into one of the most famous confrontations in ancient history.

Ideal actress to play in a film adaptation: Amy Adams would make a powerful Boudicca.

 

Connect with author-historian Laurel A. Rockefeller on twitter.

Excerpt: Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni

Boudicca Chinese coverBoudicca:  Britain's Queen of the IceniBoudicca:  Britian’s Queen of the Iceni is a creative non-fiction biography suitable for young readers exploring the life of one of the ancient world’s greatest heroines.  In 61 CE Boudicca shocked Roman patriarchs by uniting most of the English Celts in what became the last great stand against Roman conquest of the British isles.

Available for kindle in Chinese and English, in paperback (English only), and audio edition narrated by Richard Mann.

In this scene from chapter four, a prayerful Boudicca seeks wisdom from The Morrigan.

———————–

Two years of peace passed.  For the time being, it seemed like the Roman governor was keeping his word.  But with each passing week and month, Alys and Morgan grew more anxious as their dreams became filled with visions of the future.

Boudicca watched them, her heart aching for their pain.  Finally, three days before mid-summer’s day, she and Linet drove her light chariot to a small shrine to the Morrígan in the thick ancient forest to the north of their village.  All day and through most of the night, Boudicca and Linet sat in prayer and vigil, asking the goddess for guidance.

Finally, as dawn broke through the trees and birds woke from their sleep, Linet stood up and put her hand on Boudicca’s shoulder, “Your Highness, we must return.”

“We will not survive what is coming, my friend, though it seem victory will be in our grasp for a time.  War is upon us; the Romans do not see the equality of women as our peoples do.  This governor – Paullinus – does not even consider me queen of the Iceni – only my husband’s personal servant for his bedchamber.  Should anything happen to him, they will come to claim what they feel belongs to them.  The Iceni will become as my people are,” wept Boudicca.

“We do not have to let them take our people; we can fight.  Already we are fighting them in the west.  They would stamp out our faith – but we are not afraid.  We fight them with all we have. The goddess is on our side, Your Highness, as is the morality of our cause:  freedom and equality for all people!  They think that those who lack certain kinds of strength are created and designed to be inferior.  But we know better.  We know we are all one – equals.  Surely our goddesses and gods will fight for us in the great battle.  Camulos, god of war, he shall be our champion!” proclaimed Linet with fire in her eyes.

“Camulos must hate the Romans for taking his city and claiming it as theirs.  He must especially hate this temple to the dead emperor Claudius in his city.  How can he fight for us while the temple still stands, while animals are killed and offered to this Claudius where once our people prayed to him?” asked Boudicca.

“All the more reason for him to support us and help us cleanse his city of Roman stench.  We will re-dedicate it to him – when all of us are free.”

 

Just then a scream echoed in the forest.  Drawing their swords, Linet and Boudicca charged towards the sound.  By the time they reached the source all that could be seen was Prasutagus, his blood spilling into the ground – as if a year-king killed as an offering to the gods for his people.  Prasutagus looked up, his eyes blurring, “Boudicca?”

Boudicca knelt, weeping, the blood from his chest wound soaking her dress, “I am here.”

“A Roman – scout – I – surprised him.” gasped Prasutagus, trying in vain to tell his wife what happened, knowing the moment he died rage would fill her – rage against Rome.

Boudicca kissed him tenderly, “My love, do not leave me!”  Prasutagus kissed her repeatedly, his eyes fixed on hers until they saw no more.  Feeling his spirit leave his body, Boudicca wept, as if her entire life suddenly passed with him – at least for this moment.  Finally, she rose, helping Linet carry him to their chariot.  With a gentle nudge of the reigns the horses turned for home and the sad work ahead.

 

Several days later, war trumpets heralded the arrival of a group of twenty soldiers and five centurions dispatched from the Roman capital of Camulodunum, the once great capital of the Iceni’s southern neighbor, the Trinovantes.  This was a relatively small force for the Romans to send, a sign that the Roman governor expected little trouble enforcing Prasutagus’ will and claiming the Iceni for Rome.  At the head of this group marched Centurion Marcus Vetus, the son of a legionary born among his mother’s Aedui tribe near the Seine River.  As he approached the fortification guarding Boudicca’s village, Boudicca could not help staring at the man who looked far more Aedui than Roman.  Resolutely Boudicca intercepted him, “Who comes to the heart of the Iceni?”

“I, Centurion Marcus Vetus come in the name of Nero and his imperial governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus.  Your king is dead; your kingdom now belongs to us.”

“No, Centurion.  It belongs in equal measure to my daughters and to Nero. Until our people deem them ready to rule, I rule as queen as is my natural right as Prasutagus’ widow and by the customs of all British people.”

“You are a woman; you have no rights under Roman law.”

“But I do under Iceni law,” countered Boudicca.

“There are no Iceni now, only slaves,” proclaimed Marcus, seizing Boudicca before she could draw her sword.  With the help of another centurion, Marcus bound and gagged the struggling Boudicca and her daughters, forcing them to watch as the remaining soldiers spread across the village.  Every Iceni, armed and ready for the attack within hours of Prasutagus’ death, challenged the soldiers resolutely, creating a great noise.  With the Roman attention entirely on the battle, Linet slipped quietly out of the village in order to raise the alarm across Britannia.

Merida’s “Brave” New World

Originally posted June 26th, 2012, I wrote this review of the movie “Brave” after watching it opening weekend.  In the first two weeks of the film’s release, it received an outstanding 5000 hits on Yahoo Voices.

 

Merida’s “Brave” New World

Princess Merida and Queen Elinor have a problem: when they speak to one another, neither is truly listening. To Merida, her mother seems like all rules and discipline. To Elinor, her daughter Merida seems reckless and rebellious. Merida doesn’t seem to process that she is a princess and heiress-apparent who must someday rule with wisdom and grace and would rather ride her horse, explore her beautiful kingdom, and practice her archery.

In other words, Elinor and Merida are just like most young women and their mothers, each feeling she is right and neither wanting to walk in the other’s shoes. Merida is so convinced her mother won’t listen to her that she seeks to change, anyway she can, what she feels is an inevitable imposed life of misery scripted by her mother. Along the way, mistakes are made and mended to the transformation of both.

If none of this sounds to you like your typical Disney princess movie, you are absolutely correct!“Brave” is, indeed, a brave new world for Disney-Pixar. Traditional Disney princesses are pursuing romantic love; finding a husband and having a wedding have been the focus of countless Disney-animated films. But “Brave” is different. In “Brave” our heroine feels she is much too young for marriage and fights to preserve her maidenhood, to stay young and feel for as long as possible, shirking adult responsibilities instead of throwing herself into them headlong. Merida is strong, independent, and a bit unruly; a strong departure from Cinderella, Princess Aurora, and other beloved Disney heroines.

Another feature to “Brave” is its beautiful rendition of medieval Scotland. Here the art is resplendent, full of Celtic knot-work and stone carvings. Celtic stone circles feature prominently in the film. In “Brave” they are holy ground, sanctuary against dark forces with our heroines often retreating to them. Without any particular references to religion in any direction, “Brave” uses the stone circle as a sort of symbol of Celtic culture, powerfully connecting the clans to both past and future. The climactic battle at the end of the film happens inside the great stone circle seen across the film with good prevailing against the apparent odds inside its borders.

In “Brave” Disney-Pixar create a new kind of heroine, strongly Celtic and true to ancient Celtic culture, yet feeling equally modern and timeless. Every girl and woman can relate to Queen Elinor and Princess Merida. Boys and men will love its constant action. It even addresses that age-old question of “what do men wear under their kilts” both tastefully and comically. Humor can also be found in King Fergus and Merida’s triplet brothers, all of whom will have audiences of all ages rolling in the aisles!

I have been a fan of Disney animation for most of my life. Yet I will come out and say that of all the Disney films I’ve seen, THIS ONE is the film I cherish most. Without relying on musical numbers, it speaks to the heart and soul of everyone and reminds us that no matter how difficult communicating with our mothers or daughters may be, in the end, the quest is worth it!