Anglo-Saxon Period Notes by changcheng2


									The Anglo-Saxon Period: 3000
BC-1066 AD

3000-1200 BC     Iberians:      hunters, farmers

1200 BC-515 AD   Celtic Tribes warriors, farmers
                         Priest class: Druids - Stonehenge (clock, pagan rituals,

55 BC-407 AD     Romans (Julius Caesar & others) Pagan at first, later Christian
                 Brought Latin of scribes to language

410-515 AD       Saxons (Germany), Angles, Jutes (Denmark) fishermen, farmers
                 Invaded Celts. Intermarried and settled down to farming. By now
                 Britain was a mixture of Christian and Pagan. Invaders tended to
                 embrace Christianity easily.

432              St. Patrick & Christianity reached Ireland.

475-515          Arthur’s Celtic Twilight

520 AD           Historical reference to Hygelac ( a character in Beowulf. Could
                 have started the oral tradition of Beowulf.

597              St. Augustine brings Christianity (Church of Rome) to England,
                 much of which is already Christianized.

                 Celts had been Christianized by Rome. Celtic church survived and
                 flourished under St. Patrick and St. Augustine. By 650, all of
                 England was Christian in name. Softened the Anglo-Saxon warrior.
                 Church brought education and written language. Monks wrote in

675-725 AD       Beowulf written down in Latin, by priests and scribes. Hence the
                 blur of pagan and Christian references.

670 AD           Caedmon (first English poet whose work was written down)

731              The Venerable Bede wrote The Ecclesiastical History of the English
                 People (in Latin) and became the “Father of English Literature” and
                 also the “Father of English History.”

787-878          Viking (Danish) Invasions: took over all England, establishing
                 Danelaw in Northeast. Ended all literary activity. Danes were

           Pagans. They destroyed monasteries along with all their religious
           treasures & the manuscripts which the monks had so laboriously and
           lovingly copied.

878        Alfred the Great (A Saxon king) defeated Danes in battle and won
           Wessex (south) and ruled.

515-787    Anglo-Saxon Britain (period of great growth, cultural activity,
           learning, prosperity. Misnamed the “Dark Ages.” Also a war-
           like society.

878        Alfred the Great (A Saxon king) defeated Danes in battle and won
           Wessex (south) and ruled.

           Alfred the Great
           1. preserved pre-Danish civilization remnants.
           2. instituted public schools for a rebirth of learning and education.
           3. translated the Bede into the vernacular. (Old English)
           4. commissioned the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
           5. began a legal code and diplomacy
           6. “Father of English Prose.”
           7. died in 899.

899-1042   Danelaw (Danish rule of England)
           Danes spoke a Germanic language so they were easily assimilated
           into an Anglo-Saxon nation. After Alfred died: new invasion of
           Danes forced the Saxon witan to select a succession of Danish kings.
           (from: Edward the Elder, Athelstan, Edmund, Eadred, Eadwig,
           Edgar the Peaceable, Edward the Martyr, Ethelred the Unready,
           Edmund Ironside, Canute, Harold Harefoot, Harthacanute.)

1042:      Reestablishment of Anglo Saxon England:
           Edward the Confessor (descendent of Alfred and therefore, an
           Anglo-Saxon king and cousin of William, Duke of Normandy)
           became king. This alliance led directly to invasion in 1066. After
           he died, he was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Harold
           Godwinson of Hastings, who was prompted defeated by William of
           Normandy or William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in
           1066, a major turning point of the English language (from Old
           English to Middle English).

1066                   The Battle of Hastings: end of Anglo Britain/Beginning of Norman
                       The Battle of Hastings gave the victory to William the Conqueror,
                       who was Norman French. From that point on, French became the
                       language of the court, and Old English, or the Anglo-Saxon
                       language gradually merged with Norman French to become Middle

Anglo Saxon Beliefs: (we see these in movies about King Arthur)
         1. Pagan until 650 (and beyond, but by then the AS warrior
         had softened his pagan beliefs.
         2. Believed in fate or Wyrd.
         3. Loyalty of retainer to his lord or gold-giver for life. In recompense, his lord then
gives “heriot horses and weapons) but takes the honor of his follower’s exploits. The lord
also takes all war prizes of his followers, then distributes them among them. The retainer
was bound by honor to take vengeance for his lord’s death in one of four ways:
                  a. blood vengeance (an eye for an eye...)
                  b. wergild (or man price. bounty)
                  c. arrange marriage as a treaty
                  d. lay down his own life.
The lord was responsible for all of his men’s acts, even those they had committed before
they became his retainers. The retainers also had the obligation to provide proper burial
rites for their lord.
         4. Heroic Ideal: Excellence. the hero-king strives to do better than anyone else the
things than an essentially migratory life demanded: sail a ship, swim, tame a horse, choose
a camp site, set defenses, plow a field, and most importantly fight. Skill and courage were
key elements.
         5. Heroic paradox: By dying gloriously, one may achieve immortality. The hero
king was dependent on the poet or bard, scop, gleeman to sing his praises and thus assure
his legend. the primary form for doing this was the epic and the epic was passed down
primarily from listener to hearer in what is called the oral tradition.

Anglo-Saxon Verse characteristics

1. 4 beats to a line
2. lines in two parts, separated by a caesura
3. rhyme achieved through alliteration.
4. use of kennings or compound metaphors such as whale-road, and body-hates, soul-
5. Ironic understatement. Saying less than one means to achieve emphasis.

Anglo-Saxon Verse subject matter

1. Clearly shows relationship between lord and retainer
2. Portrays love of fighting.
3. Shows boasting before a battle as a noble duty.
4. shows the rule of doom or wyrd in battle
5. reflects the desire for glory
6. presents the idea of the generous lord
7. reflects the belief that a warrior must show no sense of his wounds, nor must he leave
the battlefield unless he has avenged his lord.
8. makes reference to birds and beasts of battle: eagle, vulture, wolf, etc
9. shows the ideal of duty to one’s kin.

The Epic Beowulf is the earliest known British epic. We have passed down the
conventions of the epic through from the ancient Greeks.
Epic characteristics:
1. the epic question: statement of the subject in opening lines.
2. an appeal to the muse for inspiration.
3. In medias res beginning the story in the middle of the action, or using a flashback.
4. Catalogue enumeration of the host of warriors or weapons.
5. Long dramatic dialogue
6. Elevated language
7. Elevated tone
8. Extended descriptive passages.
9. Epic simile: elaborate figures of speech.
10.Definition: a long narrative poem which celebrates the exploits or victories of a
religious or folk hero who is in some way responsible for the perpetuation or salvation of
his people.

Anglo Saxon           1.Warlords (gold givers). Chosen by Witan or council of
society class         elders (ruled small amounts of land and fought off other tribes
structure             and foreign invaders.

                      2. Earls: warlord class. Nobility held land.

                      3. Thanes or Freemen (barons) rewarded for military service

                      4. Churls: farmers who were protected by thanes.

                      5. Thralls: slaves.


To top