A SCOTTISH archaeologist is re-writing our understanding of the ancient Celtic Queen Boudica's war against the Romans in Britain.

Legend tells us that Boudica rose up against Roman might because soldiers flogged and raped her daughters. That story, though, according to Scottish archaeologist Philip Crummy, is only partly right. The war was also inspired by that age-old causes of conflict: taxes.

When the Roman's invaded Britain, they built a huge arcade and temple in the town of Camulodunum, what is now Colchester - and the site of Boudica's first strike against the Romans. The huge complex of buildings was the biggest in the Latin world outside Rome itself.

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Crummy said: “One of the reasons for the revolt of Boudica was the cost of the building and the upkeep cost, and that was based in Colchester. The arcade was a massive structure, very Roman, there’s nothing quite like it. The monumental scale and the expense of building, it added to the oppression.”

Although, Colchester is of interest to archaeologists, at the moment it is not a place high on anyone’s bucket list. That will all change soon, though, as Colchester is gearing itself up for a tourist invasion next year when the 'swords and sandals' saga Britannia launches on television.

The expensive serial drama on Sky, airing in January, is set in Britain – or Britannia as it was then called – in 43AD when the Imperial Roman Army, under the rule of Emperor Claudius, crushed the native Celtic tribes.

Despite it's short existence thanks to the wrath of Boudica, remnants of ancient Colchester are still being found by archaeologists like Crummy today.

Boudica and her army razed the town, setting fire to it and slaughtering all within. A dig anywhere in Colchester will come across a thick layer of red soot dating back two millennia, called Boudica’s Destruction Horizon.

Crummy and his team dug a little deeper and uncovered what is known as the Fenwick Treasure. They discovered a collection of Roman jewellery – earrings, rings, gold bracelets and a silver armlet – under a shop in Colchester, buried there as horror-stricken Romans frantically hid their possessions as Boudica’s 100,000-strong army descended on the town.

Crummy, originally from Edinburgh, has been working in the Essex town for close to four decades, as director of the Colchester Archaeological Trust. Reflecting on the deeply personal nature of the discovery, he said: “When we dig it’s easy to get carried away by the structures, the walls, the remains and so on - but you forget the human tragedy behind it. You can almost feel the people behind the objects."

After the Roman invasion of Britannia under Claudius, Celtic tribes across the south and southeast of England were placed under close supervision by Claudius’s forces. Curiously, tribe leaders were still allowed to rule their communities, albeit under the iron fist of Roman rule.

“Claudius made a special trip from Rome to join the army and was present [in Britain] when Camulodunum was taken by the Roman army,” Crummy said. “He then took the submission of an unknown number of British kings which in Roman eyes was a great event. He then left and went back to Rome, having spent no less than 16 days in Britain.”

This military conquest established Rome’s first foothold since Julius Caesar’s uncharacteristic botched attempts in 54 and 55BC. But as Roman power tightened, the occupation took another turn for the worse after Claudius was poisoned and Nero took over as emperor. Nero placed his greedy chief revenue officer Catus Decianus in command, who declared Iceni land – Boudica’s tribe – as Roman property following the death of her husband King Prasutagus. When Boudica refused to comply, Decianus ordered her to be flogged and her two daughters raped.

Having been denied their land, the right to bear weapons and suffering from increasing violence and heavy taxes under Roman hegemony, Boudica decided enough was enough.

After forming an alliance with a rival tribe, Boudica and the Iceni descended upon Camulodunum, setting fire to Roman settlements levelling buildings,and slaughtering thousands of people in her uprising against Roman authority.

She went on to wreak chaos across Londinium [London], and what became St Albans, slaughtering around 80,000, yet would fatefully go on face to face with Rome’s crusading legions, ending in bloody failure. Although outnumbering the Romans, the tribes suffered 80,000 fatalities, with the legions sustaining a mere 400. She poisoned herself.