Songs of Ancient Heroes

Songs of Ancient Heroes:
An Introduction to the Anglo-Saxons
The History of England:
A History of Invasions
Prehistoric Britain
► Britain
and Ireland
were first settled in
Mesolithic times
(before 4000 B.C.).
The United Kingdom today
Prehistoric Britain
► Late
Neolithic (2500 B.C.) settlements expanded
along the Thames River
 Settlements centered around large ditched enclosures –
typified by opposing entrances – called henges.
 The most famous
“henge” is Stonehenge
(pre-2000 B.C.)
Celtic Invasion (Brythons)
► Celtic
tribes were from Gaul
► Invasion occurs around 1000 B.C.
► First settlers arrived in the 300s B.C.
► Mythological religion influenced many writers
Roman Occupation
► Led
by J. Caesar, the Romans made preliminary
raids in 54-55 B.C.
► Emperor Claudiua invaded and occupied Britain in
43 A.D.
 Enslaved the Celts
 Built roads and forts
 Organized government (However, they left no central
 Imposed taxes
 Built Hadrian’s Wall
 Introduced Christianity
Roman Occupation
► Hadrian’s
 Built by the Romans in 121
 Intended to prevent invaders from the North
(the Picts and the Scots)
Hadrian’s Wall
More of Hadrian’s Wall
Roman Occupation
► Scotland
and Ireland were never under
Roman domination; only England and Wales
felt the infusion of Roman Culture.
► Evidence of Roman occupation in modernday Britain:
Roman Occupation
Roman Amphitheater
Roman Occupation
Garden at the Palace of Fishbourne
Roman Occupation
Roman Spa at Bath
Roman Occupation
Remains of the Monumental Arch at
Roman Occupation
The Cult Room at Lullingstone Roman Villa
Roman Occupation
Roman walls of London outside the Museum of
Roman Occupation
► The
Romans left abruptly in 410
► Rome was under
attack from barbarian
Barbarian Invaders
Anglo-Saxon Invasion
After the Romans left, the Picts and the Scots began to
attack areas of southern Britain.
► The Celts asked for help from the Angles, Saxons
(Germany), and Jutes (Denmark).
► Saxons were in Britain before the Romans left; they were
hired as mercenaries to defend the outposts of the region.
► Saxons were pirates.
► This set off a series of events known as the Anglo-Saxon
► Invasion was piece-meal, spread out over many years
(cerca 449 C.E.).
► Many scholars believe that the history of Britain
begins with Anglo-Saxon Invasion.
**Did you know?**
King Arthur
► Ambrosius
was a Celtic king who
halted the Anglo-Saxon
invasion in Cornwall.
► Could he have been
the legendary King
Anglo-Saxon Invasion
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Culture: The People
Ruled by a king who is chosen by witan (council of elders)
4 classes: earls, freemen, churls, & thralls
Settled most of Britain, and enslaved the Celts
Those who escaped were pushed into remote areas of
Britain (present day Wales, Scotland, and Ireland).
Tribes fought one another but had a lot in common
Heroism idea
Set of traditional heroes
Admired men of outstanding courage no matter what tribe they
came from
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Culture: The People
► Lived
by strict codes of conduct
 Loyalty to leader and tribe were necessary for
the survival of all
► Persons
of rank were received courteously
no matter what tribe they came from
► Ruler was generous to those who were loyal
(food, gold, drink, weapons)
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Culture: The People
► The
followers, in return for this generosity,
were to remain loyal
► All people were aware of the shortness of
life and the passing away of all things
► Everything was determined by fate
► The only thing that lasted was fame, so all
competed for it
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Culture: The People
► Society
was fairly well developed (family
► Anglo-Saxons appreciated beauty, were
hardy, brave, and loved action
► Adorned themselves with bracelets,
brooches with exquisite design and
► There was a continual threat of invasion
from the Vikings and Danes.
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Culture: Justice
Anglo-Saxons believed that the business of government lay
with the local authority.
Tended to be private rather than public
Emphasis was on revenge
 If someone killed a member of your family, if you could, kill the
slayer, or the next best thing – a member of his family
When a man committed the unpardonable offense of a
crime against an actual kinsman, vengeance could be
averted by payment of wergild (blood money)
Fines were determined according to the extent of injury
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Culture: Government
► Government
centered on
tribes and villages.
 The five main Anglo-Saxon
Kingdoms were:
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Culture: Democratic Tendancy
► Expressed
loyalty to chosen leaders
► Liked to hold meetings where people could
openly express what they thought and felt
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Religion: Paganism
► Sometimes
called Heathenism
► Dark and fatalistic – grim view of life
because of the ever present danger of
death by accident or warfare.
► Concerned with bravery, loyalty, generosity,
► According to ancient beliefs it was
dangerous to meet strangers in a house or
building because it left you vulnerable to the
stranger’s magic.
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Religion: Paganism
► Believed
in wyrd (fate)
► No hope of afterlife, only fame
► Worship of nature: “the powerful,
uncontrollable and life-giving force upon
which existence depends”
► Gods and goddesses were part of and ruled
almost every aspect of life: birth, life, death,
harvest, earth, sky, love, fertility, nature,
weather and much more.
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Religion: The Reintroduction of Christianity
► By
650 C.E., most of England was Christian
► Christianity was reintroduced in the 7th century
with St. Augustine.
 Christianity provided
► common
► common system of morality and right conduct
► written language
 Linked England to Europe.
► The
Anglo-Saxons “invited” Roman monks to
return to England because they were educated
and could teach others to read.
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Religion: The Reintroduction of Christianity
► According
to Bede, the Christian missionaries sent
from Rome were “appalled at the idea of going to
a barbarous, fierce and pagan nation…” (Book
► Christianity was practiced mainly by the royal
house and the well populated areas of the
country; country folk in remote country sides and
isolated communities and farmsteads held their
Pagan beliefs.
► Pagan temples were converted to Christian places
of worship.
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Religion: The Reintroduction of Christianity
► Anglo-Saxon
“Christians” could hardly be
considered Christians by today’s standards, as
they held a mixture of Christian and Heathen
 Boar: sacred to
Ingui/Freyr and
offered protection
during combat
 Cross: symbol of
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Religion: The Reintroduction of Christianity
► Conflict
between Roman and Celtic church:
they did not recognize the same holidays
 Many Celts did not recognize the Pope’s
► When
Christianity failed to meet their
needs, new Christians would revert to the
old religion.
► Under Christianity, heathen ruthlessness
began to disappear
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Religion: The Reintroduction of Christianity
► Influences
of Christianity
 Monasteries were important centers of social,
intellectual, artistic, and literary life
 Monks copied books imported from other
European countries
 Some Monks wrote original works in Latin (ex.
Venerable Bede)
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Famous Anglo-Saxons
► Venerable
 Venerable: reputation for wisdom,
humility, and scholarship
 Monk from Northumbria
 Author and Scholar
 Earliest historian of England
► Known
as “The Father of English
 Earliest important prose writer
 Wrote The Ecclesiastical History of
the English People
► Helped
people take pride in their past
► Provides a fairly accurate picture of
daily life of Bede’s people
► Chronicle of events, legends, lives of
saints, local traditions, and stories
Anglo-Saxon Britain
Famous Anglo-Saxons
► King
Alfred the Great
 Ruled from 871-900 C.E.
 Saved England from the
 Organized military methods and
 Believed that the best defense for an
island was a strong navy
 Modified the Witan concept (“council
of elders”) to trial-by-jury
 Valued learning
 Had all documents written in English
Anglo-Saxon Britain
► Anglo-Saxon
England was born in warfare,
remained a military society, and came to an
end in 1066 because the Normans were
militarily superior.
Other Invasions
► Danes
 700-1000 C.E.
 From Scandinavia
► Norse:
► Danes: Denmark
 Fierce pirates
 Didn’t overthrow all Anglo-Saxons – settled in the east
and north (establishing Dane law) and battled with
Anglo-Saxons until the Norman Invasion
► Norman
From France
Led by William the Conqueror
Ends Anglo-Saxon rule

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