Boudica, queen of the Iceni, led a revolt against the Romans in the first century, shortly after their conquest of Britain. When she was defeated, Rome crushed the Iceni in brutal fashion. Venta Icenorum never reached the size or scale of the other British civitates. In the later centuries of the empire, the Iceni were subjected to some of the worst raiding from the Saxons, so much so that the Romans constructed a series of coastal forts under the command of the Comes litoris Saxonici (Count of the Saxon Shore). The Saxon Shore forts had settled a number of Saxon laeti to help repulse other Saxons who came to the island as raiders.
Beginning at this time and continuing through the wars with the Saxons, many Iceni fled into the Fens to the west. The Romans had drained some parts of the marsh, built sea walls, and constructed a causeway. The Fens offered protection from raiders. The Iceni dwelling there used the causeway to send salt, beef and leather to markets, like that at Venta Icenorum. They raised sheep on the hills and islands.
After the Revolution, the Comes controlled the second largest military force in Britain, after Coelestius in Eboracum to the north. However, where Coelestius had the opportunity to consolidate his power, P. Adeodatus had to deal with constant Saxon raids. The relatively weak civitas of the Iceni turned to Adeodatus for leadership, making him their king. Within a few years, Vortigernos hired his own Frankish foederati led by Hengist. When Hengist revolted, he tried to raise an insurrection among the Saxons in Icenia. The Saxon Shore forts in Ceint joined Hengist, but those in Icenian territory and those along the island’s southern coast maintained their loyalty to Adeodatus.
It was during the reign of P. Adeodatus’s son and heir, L. Adeodatus, that a Saxon warlord name Ælle began to cause significant trouble for the Comes: first establishing a beachhead close to Portus Adurni in 477, then successfully raising an insurrection among some of the Icenian Saxons in 485 and leading them on an attack on the Iceni in the Fens. Ultimately, Ælle’s insurrection ended when the Saxons turned against him, but the event strained the relationship between Britons and Saxons in Icenia, and beyond. When Hengist died, the Saxons still sympathetic to his cause journeyed to the continent to find a new leader. They returned with Icel, one of the lords of the Ingwine. The Icenian Saxons are now divided between two kings: the Count of the Saxon Shore, or the Son of Wotan.
Current Issue: Iceni Identity
The Saxons have lived in Iceni territory for centuries as warriors dedicated to protecting the people of this land. The Romans saw no distinction between them: some might speak a Brythonic language and others a Germanic language, but they all counted as Britons. Now, warlords from across the sea try to convince the Saxons that they are not Britons. They say that their fellow Britons will never accept them as countrymen, so they should give their loyalties to men they share traditions, language, religion and law with. The other British kingdoms ultimately see it the same way, it seems. They regard the Iceni with suspicion, as traitors who have handed them over to the dreaded Saxons, simply because they are able to work and live together. With each insurrection, the tensions between them grow larger, and the other British kingdoms become more convinced that the Iceni are traitors.