Women Warriors in the Roman and Celtic World
Women Warriors in Prehistory << . . . . >> Women Warriors in Viking Era

A woman's grave (circa 300BC) containing a chariot suitable for use in warfare was discovered in Yorkshire in March 2001
(source The Wetwang Chariot Burial)

In 21 AD there was some debate as to whether Roman governors' wives should accompany their husbands to the provinces.
Caecina Serverus argued against it on the grounds that women "paraded among the soldiers" and that "a woman [Plancina] had presided at the exercises of the cohorts and the manoevers of the legions"
(source "Women in Roman Britain" - Lindsay Allason-Jones - British Museum Publications - 0-7141-1392-1)

Tacitus in his Annals writes about Roman emperor Nero staging "a number of gladiatorial shows, equal in magnificence to their predecessors, though more women of rank and senators disgraced themselves in the arena". in 63 AD

Petronius' Satyricon mentions a Roman circus which featured a female chariot fighter competing against men.
(source "Women's Life in Greece and Rome" - M.R.Lefkowitz & M.B.Fant) Roman mosaic depicting Amazon
The Roman poet Statius wrote a poem about a gladiatorial contest staged by the Emperor Domitian which included, "Moors, women and pygmies". in 88 AD mosaic of woman armed with spear
According to Suetonius, the Emperor Domitian (reigned AD 81-96) made women gladiators fight by torchlight at night.
(source British Museum Exhibit)

Women were members of the venatores, (gladiators who fought wild animals in the Roman arena), according to the writings of Martial and Cassius Dio.
(source "Women's Life in Greece and Rome" - M.R.Lefkowitz & M.B.Fant)

"the sex untrained in weapons recklessly dares men's fights! You would think a band of Amazons was battling." - Statius AD 92
(source "Women's Life in Greece and Rome" - M.R.Lefkowitz & M.B.Fant)

An excavation by the Museum of London found the remains of a woman who is believed to have been a gladiator in a Roman cemetary South of the Thames.
(see also Female Gladiators)

The British Museum has a second-century relief carving of two women fighting. Each has a short sword and a shield.

There is an inscription at Pompeii which refers to women in the Arena.

Emperor Alexander Severus (or Septimius Severus) issued an edict prohibiting women combatants in the arena in 200 AD
See also The Gladiatrix in History

"At that time a gymnastic contest took place.... Also women competed in this contest" - Dio Cassius, early 3rd Century (source "Women's Life in Greece and Rome" - M.R.Lefkowitz & M.B.Fant)

Among the ancient Celts women rulers and warriors were so common that when a group of Brigantian captives was brought to Rome in the reign of Claudius they automatically assumed his wife, Agrippina the Younger, was the ruler and ignored the Emperor while making their obeisance to her.

Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes was a Client Queen of Rome, that is an ally of the Romans occupying Britain, possibly from 43AD. When her consort Venutius rebelled against her the Romans sent troops to help her keep her throne. Although Roman law was generally very much against the idea of women as rulers the Romans in Britain obviously took a more pragmatic approach and accepted established British Matriarchies.

Bouddicca (or Bodiecia, Bouddica, Voadica, Voada) was the widow of King Prasutagus of the Iceni (a Client King of Rome). She was regent for her two daughters who inherited half of the kingdom, while the other half was given to Rome. The Romans objected to being given only half of the kingdom and provoked a revolt in 61AD. According to Tacitus, Suetonius, the general who finally defeated Bouddicca, told his troops that "in their ranks there are more women than fighting men." Boudicca was eventually defeated and according to the Roman chronicler, Dio Cassius, the Britons gave her "a costly burial".
(see also Description by Tacitus of the Rebellion of Boudicca (AD 60-61))

The mythical Queen Scathach of Skye trained the hero CúChulainn.
Aoife (Aife of Alba or Aifa), the mother of CúChulainn's son was also a warrior
CúChulainn's adversary was Queen Medb (Maeve) of Cruachan. Medb's sisters were also warriors.
(sources: Táin Bó Cualgne, the "Cattle Raid of Cooley", and "Death of Aoife's only son" - information given by Katrin)

Diodorus Siculus wrote "Among the Gauls the women are nearly as tall as the men, whom they rival in courage."

The Roman historian Plutarch described a battle in 102 B.C. between Romans and Celts: "the fight had been no less fierce with the women than with the men themselves... the women charged with swords and axes and fell upon their opponents uttering a hideous outcry."

A Roman author, Ammianus Marcellinus, describes Gaullish wives as being even stronger than their husbands and fighting with their fists and kicks at the same time "like missiles from a catapult".

A Triumph (display of captured enemies and plunder) held by the Emperor Aurelian in the 3rd Century included a group of Gothic women who had been found fighting while dressed in men's clothing,

Queen Septima Zenobia of Palmyra governed Syria from about 250 to 275 AD. She led her armies against the Roman armies of Emperors Claudius and Aurelian.
(info given by Linda falconfyre@earthlink.net)

Mavia, was Queen of the Bedouin Saracens from 370 to 380 AD. She led her troops in defeating a Roman army then made a favorable peace and married her daughter to the Roman commander in chief of the eastern Emperor Valens.
(info given by Linda falconfyre@earthlink.net)

"The daughter of Gregory (the Roman praefect), a maid of incomparable beauty and spirit, is said to have fought by his side: from her earliest youth she was trained to mount on horseback, to draw the bow, and to wield the cimeter; and the richness of her arms and apparel were conspicuous in the foremost ranks of the battle" in Tripoli in 647 A.D
(info given by Moogie moogie@nondescript.net Source "The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire" by Edward Gibbon)

"Women in Roman Britain" - Lindsay Allason-Jones - British Museum Publications - 0-7141-1392-1
"Women's Life in Greece and Rome" - M.R.Lefkowitz & M.B.Fant - Paperduck - 0-7156-1641-2

Women Warriors in Prehistory << . . . . >> Women Warriors in Viking Era



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These pages are provided by Nicky Saunders of Lothene Experimental Archaeology