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The distinction still remains, in Britain at least. But in the 1960s, the victory sign acquired a new layer of meaning when it began to be used by hippies throughout the English-speaking world to signify ‘peace’. Most likely, this came about because peace – in the sense of a cessation of hostilities – is a natural consequence of victory. But it is nonetheless strange that a gesture steeped in war and vengeance has, to later generations, come to stand for an ideal of pacifism and universal brotherhood.

The Romans behaved in the most brutal way. They sacked Prasutagus’ palace as if he had been an enemy rather than a vassal. According to some accounts Boudicca was flogged, and her daughters raped. The intention had been to cow Boudicca and her people, but the gross maltreatment meted out by the legionaries backfired spectacularly. It sparked a bloody revolt that was led by the furious Boudicca herself. ‘In stature she was very tall,’ wrote the Roman historian Dio Cassius, ‘In appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips…’ Boudicca gathered an army from the ranks of her own people and swept south into core Roman territory, rallying other disaffected tribes as she went.

If every man had his obelisk, even where he lay, then no frontier line need be drawn, for a cordon of British graves would ever show how high the Anglo-Saxon tide had lapped. Arthur Conan Doyle The scum of the earth, the mere scum of the earth. It is wonderful that we should be able to make so much of them afterwards. People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling – all stuff, no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children, some for minor offences, many more for drink.

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