Weak Initial ResponseOne mistake the inhabitants of Colchester made was looking to Catus Decianus for help. The procurator, whose own actions had triggered the revolt, sent only two hundred auxiliary troops to stop the rebel army. It was a weak response to a massive crisis, reflecting the hubris that characterized Decianus’s dealings with the Iceni.
Ninth Legion MassacreOne other attempt was made to save Colchester. Under the command of Quintus Petillius Cerialis, the 9th Legion marched toward the city while it was still under siege.
Though the 9th Legion consisted of 5000 men, many were left holding other positions for which the legion was responsible. Several thousand men marched on Camulodunum, only to be defeated in open battle. Nearly all were killed, leaving the Romans militarily weaker and further damaging the credibility of their hold on Britain.
The Loss of LondonLondinium – modern London – was a new city, founded by Roman settlers and traders on a crossing of the Thames. Already one of the most important settlements in Britain, if not the most important, it was a natural target for the rebels.
Unable to defend the city, Suetonius evacuated its inhabitants and left it to the mercy of the Iceni, who burned it to the ground. Two of the most significant Roman settlements in Britain had been destroyed.
Rebel NumbersSuetonius finally mustered the forces available to him and faced Boudica’s army at an unknown location in the Midlands. He had perhaps four times the number of troops massacred outside Colchester.
Though the exaggeration of ancient sources makes it impossible to accurately state the sizes of the armies, the Romans were clearly massively outnumbered. Boudica’s force may have numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Given different circumstances, or worse leadership than Suetonius provided, the Romans could easily have been destroyed, bringing Britain out of the empire.