The Anglo-Saxon period Many of the stories and
(aka Dark Ages) was a poems from this period
time of conflicts, present heroic struggles in
ignorance, violence and which only the strong
Julius Caesar was the first person to ever write
about England in 55 B.C. when he attempted to
conquer the British Isles.
A century later the Roman army returned with force
and Britain became a province of the Roman
Empire. The Romans introduced cities, roads,
written scholarship, and Christianity.
During the 300 hundred year rule the “Romanized”
Britons adapted to urban lifestyle and became
dependant on the Roman military for protection.
Early in the fifth century, the Romans pulled out of
Britain, which left Britain defenseless and a target for
The Angles and Saxons, along with other Germanic
tribes began arriving from northern Europe around
The Britons were eventually driven to the west
(Cornwall and Wales), the north (Scotland), and
across the English Channel .
The main part of Britain was named: Angle-land, or
Anglo-Saxon culture became the basis of English
culture along with the language, now known as Old
The Spread of Christianity
Over the next two centuries,
At first, the Anglo-Saxons were
Christianity continued to spread
seafaring people whose lives were
bleak, violent and short. In 597, a Roman missionary named
Augustine established a monastery at
Canterbury. From there, Christianity
They strongly believed in wyrd, or spread rapidly.
fate, and they admired heroic
Monasteries became centers of
warriors whose fate was to prevail in
intellectual, literary, artistic, and
As time passed they became more
agricultural and peaceful and
opened up to Christianity because it
offered hope in eternal happiness in
In 790 a fierce, seafaring group from Denmark
and Norway invaded England.
The Vikings looted, killed, and burned down
entire villages and monasteries.
They eventually set up camps and gained control
of much of the north and east of the country.
In the south, the Danes finally were defeated by
the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great.
Alfred unified the English, and under his rule,
learning and culture flourished.
In 1042, Edward the When Edward died,
Confessor (a descendant of however, a council of nobles
Alfred) took the throne. and church officials chose
an English earl named
Harold to succeed him.
Edward had no children and
had apparently named his William then led his Norman
French cousin William, duke army to successfully invade
of Normandy, his heir. Britain in the Norman
Harold was killed at the
Battle of Hastings in 1066,
and William the Conqueror
was crowned king of
Literature of the Times
The Epic Tradition
-These epic were an oral art
- Anglo-Saxon literature took form: memorized and
the form of epic poems performed.
praising heroic warriors.
-Later, as Christianity spread
- Kings and nobles would through Britain, literacy did
gather on special occasions too, and poems were more
in mead halls and feast on likely to be recorded by
pies and roasted meats. scribes.
They would listen to scops,
-Beowulf is the most famous
professional poets who surviving epic. It relates the
would bring epic poems to tale of a heroic warrior who
life while strumming on a battles monsters and dragons
harp. to protect the people.
Reflections of Common Life
Scops also sang shorter, lyric poems that reflected
everyday reality: the cold, wet sailor clinging to his
storm-tossed boat; the misery and resentment of his
wife, left alone for months or years, not knowing if her
husband would every return.
Some poems mourn loss and death, while others
express religious faith or offer moral instruction.