women in history

Boudica: The Warrior Queen

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Inspiration of the week: Boudica (also spelled Boadicea or Boudicca)

Prasutagus was the head of the Iceni tribe in East England. When he died in 60 CE, he left half his kingdom to the Romans to settle a debt but when the Romans arrived to collect, instead of settling for half the kingdom, they took control of it. To add insult to injury, the Romans beat Prasutagus’ widow, Boudica, publicly and then raped their two daughters. They also took control of most of the wealth of the tribe and sold many of the royal family into slavery.

It was then that Boudica met with the leaders of the Iceni and they began planning their revolt against the Romans. Led by Boudica, about 100,000 British attacked the Roman center and burned it to the ground. They then burned Londinium and massacred the 25,000 inhabitants who had not fled.

Unfortunately, famine soon struck the army, weakening them. Boudicca’s army exhausted and hungry were defeated when the Roman troops of 1,200 defeated their army of 100,000.

What happened to Boudica is uncertain. Boudica is my inspiration because after suffering humiliation at the hands of the Romans, she didn’t cower away. She rose to become a badass leader. She might not have won the war, but her strength was admirable.


Cleopatra: The Lover & Fighter

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Cairo, Egypt --- Ancient Egyptian relief of Cleopatra VII (69-30 B.C.)  Undated photograph, retouched.    BPA 2 #6378 --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

My inspiration of the week: Cleopatra

Cleopatra was born in 69 BC in Alexandria, Egypt. When her father died, he left his kingdom to eighteen year old Cleopatra and her twelve year old brother. Early on, Cleopatra was overthrown in favor of her younger brother by people believing he would be easier to manipulate. Cleopatra fled but soon began building an army from the Arab tribes.

At some point, Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria and took over the palace. He summoned Cleopatra’s brother who was away. Not wanting to be left out, Cleopatra had herself smuggled in through enemy lines rolled in a carpet and delivered to Caesar. Cleopatra and Caesar became lovers. War broke out that led to many deaths including Cleopatra’s brother, who drowned in the Nile while trying to flee, thereby securing her position as Pharaoh.

During the year 46 BC, Caesar returned to Rome and brought Cleopatra with him. In 44 BC, he was assassinated by his senators and fearing for her life and the life of her child with Caesar, Cleopatra fled Rome to return home to Alexandria.

Cleopatra was invited by Mark Antony to Tarsus in 41 BC. In a very calculated move, she made a grand entrance upon her arrival which bewitched Mark Antony instantly. They soon became lovers. This affair would continue for many years. In 32 to 31 BC, Antony finally divorced his wife, Octavia. This forced the Western part of the world to recognize his relationship with Cleopatra.

In 30 BC, as Octavian’s forces entered Alexandria, the distraught Antony committed suicide by falling on his own sword. Cleopatra followed him in death after Octavian’s forces captured Egypt. She committed suicide so as not to suffer humiliation at his hands. Cleopatra died on August 12, 30 BC at the age of 39. She would be the last Egyptian Pharaoh. After her death, Caesarion, her son with Caesar, was strangled and her other children were raised by Antony’s wife, Octavia.

Cleopatra was a born leader whose charisma, intelligence, and ambition pushed her to become a fairly successful monarch. She was able to remain a passionate woman but also a powerhouse leader.

Hatshepsut: The Opportunity Taker

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My Inspiration of the week: Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt and she ruled longer than any other woman in Egyptian history. When her half-brother/husband, Thutmose II, died, Hatshepsut began acting as regent, handling affairs until her stepson, Thutmose III, came of age. However, Hatshepsut seized the throne for herself and did not relinquish it to Thutmose III even after he came of age. She insisted on being referred to as the king, and had her daughter, Neferure, given the title of God’s Wife and portrayed in art as her queen.

Hatshepsut legitimized her reign by adopting a male persona. She was depicted in male dress, having a false beard and wearing the various crowns of Egypt not because she wanted to trick anyone but to assert her authority. Once Hatshepsut became generally accepted as King, she returned to wearing female clothing.

She was known as being a successful ruler and one of the most prolific ancient Egyptian builders. Hatshepsut continued to rule until her death in 1458 BC. After her death, Thutmose III tried to erase her from history by destroying monuments and statues with her name on them. Luckily, not everything was destroyed and some records have been found of her reign.

Reading about Hatshepsut inspires me to be more ambitious. Just because the rule book says you can’t do something, doesn’t mean you have to listen. Some people might view Hatshepsut’s actions as a power hungry move but why can’t a woman want power that men have been working for and expecting since the beginning of time? Maybe as someone who was ruling for years, she knew she would be a better ruler than her stepson who had the right gender but no experience. I say more power to her!

If you know what you want and that you are good at it, you don’t give that thing up because you’re told to do so.