If you’ve ever wondered how Ancient Women’s lives went down Here’s what happened after they all wore their crowns
Queen Boudica Hey I’m ok but I’m slightly scared My husband’s been killed by the Roman terror I have been tortured and been flayed for days My daughters weren’t safe You’ve made a mistake! C’mon Andraste! Victory, women did lead, hail the Iceni Freedom from the empire of the “free” But now my troop’s taken the fall There’s really no way out at all Paullinus will pay, he better watch out for us We rebelled, Suetonius foiled that for us Desperado, just let me go, the poison will let me die Goodbye my Iceni
Cleopatra A whore! A whore! A whore, a whore, a whore! The Roman’s gone wild since I married Markie They think I’ve put him under a spell (She’ll burn in hell) But the accusations placed on me Of common sorcery Has Rome declaring war on Egypt now (She is a witch) No we’re overrun by Romans (We’re all crazy ) And they told my Mark a lie one day Now he’s gone like Caesar And now I’ll make my serpent poison me before today
Zenobia After Odaenthus honey was murdered I decided the Romans ain’t the boss of me I took the reigns to bring my son the greatest Palmyrene Empire that will be ever seen I took Egypt, the Levant, then Asian Minor Now I will have put the i in Empire But now Aurelius knows what I’m up to And he’s after my head cause he ain’t cool Have you ever decapitated a Roman guy? Or put a sword right through his head? Can you shoot an arrow in a Roman eyeball? Can you paint with the red colours in these men I tried to escape and to swim But my capture made hope dim Now I can’t paint with the red colours in these men
The struggle was real for women in history, and this stays true for these legendary female historical figures. We often learn about the male conflicts and fights, but less frequently do we learn about the real pains and ambitions women faced that were not always just defined by the males around her. Here we wrote a song about three hugely influential queens in history: Queen Boudica of the Iceni tribe, the last active Pharoah Cleopatra of Ptolemaic Egypt, and Queen Zenobia of Palmyrene Empire.
Queen Boudica was a Celtic queen of the Iceni tribe that stayed in modern-day Britain. Her husband, Prasutagus, died and his land was taken to be divided among the Romans and Roman slaves. In the primary accounts by Roman historians Publius Cornelius Tacitus and Cassius Dio, Queen Boudica protested this, and was captured by the Romans to be flogged and her daughters raped. In 60-61 CE, Queen Boudica started an uprising that left over 80,000 Roman citizens dead. According to Dio, she released a hare from her robes to call upon the blessing of the British Goddess of Victory, Andraste. She was eventually defeated in The Battle of Waterling Street by a Roman governor called Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. Many historians, including Tacitus and Dio, have concluded that Queen Boudica managed to commit suicide by poisoning at least herself (if not her daughters too).
Cleopatra VII was born around 69 BC, and her rule in the Ptolemaic era began the involvement of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra VII is well known as a brilliant and intelligent academic with a strong political mind. When she was overthrown and exiled to Syria by her brother’s advisors in 48 BC, she met with Julius Caesar to discuss a possible political alliance that would help her claim back the throne. She bore a son in the following year who she named Caesarion, but Caesar never officially claimed the son as his own. This has led to doubts over Caesarion’s true parentage.
Following Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, Cleopatra returned to Egypt. She met Mark Antony in 42 BC, who had summoned her to discuss with her where her allegiance laid. Their romantic union seemed to have political and financial benefits for both. This produced three children, and the Roman Senate was outraged at Antony’s extra-marital affair with Cleopatra.
Antony further antagonised his opponents by declaring Caesarion as the true son of Caesar, instead of Octavian, the son whom Caesar had adopted before his death. Following their defeat by Octavian in battle at Actium, Antony soon heard a false rumour that Cleopatra had passed away. In his grief, he stabbed himself. When Cleopatra was made aware of this, she ended her life by having an Egyptian cobra bite her in 30 BC.
Lastly, Queen Zenobia, or born Julia Aurelia Zenobia in 240 CE, ruled the Palmyrene Empire and challenged the Roman’s authority during The Crisis of the Third Century (235-284 CE). Following the assassination of her husband Lucius Septimus Odaenthus and her stepson, Zenobia was left to become regent as her son Vaballathus was still a toddler.
At first, she maintained Roman policies like Odaenthus did, but her policies began to change and she sent her general Zabdas to successfully procure Roman Egypt as part of her Palmyrene Empire. She seemed to had been careful and subtle about her disregard for the Roman Empire. She ordered displays of respect to Aurelius, the Roman emperor at the time, but also called herself Augustus, a title which is reserved for Roman royalty alone.
By 271 CE, Queen Zenobia’s empire stretched from modern-day Iraq to Egypt. However, in 272 CE, Aurelius noticed her rule and made preparations to claim territory back from the Palmyrene empire. She was defeated in a series of battles, and was captured while trying to flee across the Euphrates River. Historians have been unable to conclude what happened to Queen Zenobia after her capture, and her date of death remains unknown.
We hope you have began to understand the great power and influence these women in history had. Unfortunately, they are not as well discussed compared to male achievements in history, but these women have become legends and should be acknowledged for their contributions to history. Happy semester!
This song is rewritten from Jon Cozart's Parody of Disney Princesses (After ever after). Do check out his song if you have not already done so!
Blog post done by Farah, Leen and Syaf.