Anglo-Saxon Period 449-1066

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Anglo-Saxon Period
449-1066
English IV- Mrs. Gee
Beginnings:
 Celts: 300s B.C.
 Brythons were a group of Celts (Hence the
name Britain)
 Romans: 55 B.C.
 Caesar crosses the English Channel
 43 A.D. Britain becomes part of the Roman
Empire
 409 A.D. Roman legions withdraw from
Britain leaving it ripe for attack
Beginnings (Cont.):
 Angles, Saxons, Jutes: 449 A.D.
 Germanic tribes from Scandinavia and
Germany
 Celts retreated into Wales (Arthur is a
legendary Celtic chieftain)
 597 A.D. St. Augustine converts King
Ethelbert to Christianity (Thereby converting
all Anglo-Saxons)
Alfred the Great
 Only Anglo-Saxon
king to successfully
defend the island
from invasion
 A great patron of
learning
 Commissioned the
translation of many
Latin works
Anglo-Saxon Lifestyle
 Two Classes in
Anglo-Saxon society
 Earls (eorls)
 Rulers of the tribe.
Related to the tribe’s
founder
 Churls (ceorls,
bondservants)
 Ancestors had been
captured by the tribe
Anglo-Saxon Lifestyle (cont)
 Simple Lifestyle
 Built villages
 Mead halls were the
center of village life
 Communal farmers
 Social organization
was based on strict
societal laws and a
sense of obligation to
others
Anglo-Saxon Lifestyle (cont)
 Militaristic Society
 Comitatus: The relationship
between the chieftain and
his warriors
 Avenge each other’s
deaths/sufferings
 Most important Anglo-Saxon
relationship (Even over
kinship)
 Chieftain was the absolute
ruler, but he would still
consult with the witan (wise
men), an assembly of
respected elders
Anglo-Saxon Lifestyle (cont)
 Sea-Going Society
 Important for trade because of the isolation
of the island
 Family Unit
 Wergild: Obligation of the family to seek
repayment (Money, property, blood) for the
death of a family member
 Literally translated as “man payment”
Anglo-Saxon Religion
 Worshipped many different
dieties including idols, nature,
and animals
 Norse Gods/Goddesses
 Odin (Woden)- God of death,
poetry, and magic
 Thor (Thunor)- God of Thunder
and lightning
Anglo-Saxon Religion (cont.)
 Wyrd: Anglo-Saxon word for “fate”
 They believed that human destiny was controlled
by wyrd
 In Norse mythology three female entities (the
Norns) were responsible for shaping people’s lives
out of the layers of their pasts.
Anglo-Saxon Religion (cont.)
 597 A.D. Anglo-Saxons
converted to Christianity
 Pagan customs gradual
remolded- A blend of
pagan and Christian
customs was the result
(As seen in Beowulf)
 By the end of the 7th
century, Anglo-Saxons
were truly converted
(Beowulf first recorded
around 700 A.D.)
Bards, Scops, and Minstrels
 Sang the songs of the
past and present in the
mead halls
 Sang of their
gods/heroes/adventures
 Considered the equals of
warriors due to their
importance
 Only way to immortality
was through the songs of
the scops
Literary Culture of the AngloSaxons
 English literature began in the mead halls
where the scops would sing their songs
 8th century- Monks began transcribing the
ancient epics
 Only texts which served the ideas of Christianity
were preserved
Old English Poetry
 No rhyme
 Profound use of alliteration
 Repetition of initial consonant sounds
 “Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed”
 Use of kenning
 Metaphorical compound words or phrases that
indicate a person or thing by a characteristic or
quality
 “Ring-giver” = King
 Rapid narrative style leaving out unnecessary
details
 Blatant Foreshadowing
Old English Poetry (cont.)
 Epic Poetry
 Epic = A long
narrative poem that
records the exploits of
a larger-than-life hero
who embodies the
national ideals of
his/her people
 The epic hero is
known for his/her
strength, wisdom, and
courage which assist
him/her with the tasks
at hand
 Four remaining
works of AngloSaxon literature
 Beowulf
 Junius (Contains
poems by the English
scholar/monk Bede
 The Exeter Book
(“The Seafarer”)
 Vercelli

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