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 The arrival of the Anglo Saxons in Britain
  signaled the beginning of the English
  language. The more sophisticated
  conquerors of the Britons were the Romans.
 In 55 B.C., Julius Caesar hastily invaded this
  country. (Claudius was the emperor).
  Caesar wrote a book called Commentaries,
  which mentioned the Celts and Britons.
   The Romans made several contributions to
    the Britains, such as paved roads. The
    Romans also brought with them their skills in
    warfare, yet they failed to teach the Britons
    much about self defense. While the Romans
    were there, nobody invaded them as they
    were the most powerful nation in the world at
    that time. Because Rome was being invaded
    on their homeland, the Roman legions pulled
    out of Britain in 407 AD.
 The next people to invade England were the
  Anglo Saxons. They were ferocious
  seafaring people who came ashore and built
  their camps, eventually taking over the whole
 The first Angles, Saxons, and Jutes
  transferred to England their highly organized
  tribal units. Each tribe was ruled by a king,
  who was selected by the witan, or council of
  elders. Each community had four distinct
 1. Earls—ruling class of warlords who owed
  their position to the king.
 2. Freemen—were allowed to own land and
  engage in commerce. This class included
  thanes, who were the early barons who were
  granted their status as a reward for military
 3. Churls or serfs—bonded servants who
  worked the land for military protection.
 4. Thralls or slaves—lowest class, usually
  military prisoners or people being punished.
 Invading groups set up numerous small
  kingdoms. The Anglo Saxon communities
  traded with one another and the men married
  women from different tribes. The kingdoms
  gradually absorbed one another until seven
  larger tribes remained.
 All of this intermingling produced a new
  language. We call it Anglo-Saxon or Old
  English to distinguish it from our modern
 The Anglo-Saxons brought to England their
  own pagan beliefs. Because of the ever
  present dangers of death, these people took
  a rather dim view of life. They believed that
  every human life was in the hands of fate,
  which they called wyrd.
 The early Anglo-Saxons worshiped ancient
  Germanic gods.
 Tiu—god  of war and the sky
 Woden—chief of the gods
 Fria—Woden’s wife and goddess of the
 These gods were abandoned with the
  coming of Christianity, even so, their
  names survive in our words-Tuesday,
  Wednesday, and Friday.
   During the fourth century, the Romans had
    accepted Christianity and introduced it to the
    Britons. A century later when the Celts fled
    the Anglo Saxons, they took their Christian
    faith with them. This faith lived on in Wales.
    From there it spread to Ireland, assisted by
    the legendary St. Patrick. In 563 a group of
    Irish monks set sail for
    Scotland. Led by a man named Columba,
    they established a Christian monastery on the
    island of Iona.
 From there, Columba and his monks moved
  across northern Britain in hopes of winning
  additional souls for the faith.
 They won acceptance among many Scots,
  then among Angles and Saxons. Their
  conversion led to the establishment of many
  monasteries in the north.
 In 597 the Roman, St. Augustine, quickly
  converted king Ethelbert of Kent to
  Christianity. Augustine set up a missionary at
 To win over a kingdom, St. Augustine and his
  followers needed only to convert the king,
  who would then make Christianity the religion
  of the realm.
 By the year 650, England was mostly
 The new religion had a profound effect on the
  Anglo-Saxon civilization as it softened the
  ferocity of a warring people and improved the
  conduct of the faithful. By providing counsel
  to quarreling rulers, the church promoted
 The church brought to England two elements
  of civilization that had been missing since the
  departure of the Romans.
 Education and written literature
 Christian leaders established schools in
  monasteries. Monks worked as scribes, who
  recorded and duplicated manuscripts, or
  books written by hand. At first, they worked
  only in Latin, the language of the church
 Often these monks labored for years to
  complete a single manuscript. These volumes
  were elaborately painted and illuminated in
  gold and silver.
 From such monastic training emerged a
  monk later considered the “father of English
  history.” Today we know him as the
  Venerable Bede ( 673-735). Bede was a
  master of thorough research, tracking down
  information by studying earlier documents
  and interviewing people who
 Had witnessed or taken part in past events.
 Bede’s most famous volume was The
  Ecclesiastical History of the English
  People, a monumental work that offers the
  clearest account we have of early Anglo-
  Saxon times.
 Although Christianity did temper Anglo-Saxon
  civilization, the Anglo-Saxons remained a
  hard and fearless group. Later they were to
  come face to face with the Vikings.
 Between the 8th and 12th centuries, a growing
  restlessness overtook the region of northern
  Europe known as Scandinavia.
 Because of rising population and limited
  farmland, the people of Norway (the Norse)
  and the people of Denmark (the Danes) took
  to the seas.
 The Norse set their sights on northern
  England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
 The   Danes targeted southern England.
 The Vikings sacked and plundered
  monasteries, destroyed manuscripts, and
  stole sacred objects. They burned entire
  communities and put villagers to the sword.
 Although the English fought back, the Danes
  made broad inroads. By the middle of the 9th
  century, most of northern, eastern, and
  central England had fallen to the invaders.
  They called their territory Danelaw.
   In 871 a king, who had epilepsy, ascended to
    the Wessex throne who would become the
    only ruler in England’s history to be honored
    with the epithet “the Great.” His name was
    Alfred and he earned the title by resisting
    the Danes. Under a truce in 886, England
    was formally divided: The Saxons
    acknowledged Dane rule in the east and
    north, but the Danes agreed to respect Saxon
    rule in the south.
 As a result of Alfred’s doggedness to hold on
  to Wessex and to succeed in doing so, Alfred
  became a national hero.
 Alfred was responsible for encouraging a
  rebirth of learning and education.
 To make literature and other documents more
  readily available, he translated Bede’s
  History of the Ecclesiastical of the English
  People and other works from Latin into
  Anglo-Saxon, the everyday language, which
  is called vernacular.
 The Danes became more peaceful and built
  their Danelaw communities not only as a
  military fortress, but also as trading centers.
  One result was the growth of English
 Like the Anglo-Saxons, the Danes spoke a
  Germanic language so they were able to
  communicate easily with the English. In fact,
  many Norse words slowly crept into the
  English vocabulary. The word law is Danish,
  for example.
   In 1042 the line of succession returned to a
    descendant of Alfred the Great. This king,
    Edward, had gained the title of “the
    confessor” because he was a deeply
    religious Christian. Norman on his mother’s
    side, Edward had developed a close
    relationship with his cousin, William,
    Normandy’s ruler. Once Edward took the
    English throne, his association with the
    Normans further weakened Saxon power.
 Edward’s  death in 1066 led directly to
 a Norman conquest of England and
 brought the end of the Anglo-Saxon
 period of literature. Edward chose
 Harold II as his successor, thus
 angering William and causing the
   Scholars now believe that the literature of the
    British isles began with the Celtic Druids.
    These priests assumed the function of story
    telling, memorizing and reciting long heroic
    poems about Celtic leaders and their deeds.
    In the same way, Anglo-Saxon literature
    began not with books, but with spoken verse
    and incantations. Their purpose was to pass
    along tribal history and values to an audience
    that could not read.
 Some  Anglo-Saxons were familiar with
 the written word. In the 3rd century in
 northern Europe, they had devised an
 alphabet of letters called runes. When
 they came to Britain, they brought this
 alphabet with them and used it until the
 Latin alphabet we have today
 superseded it.
 The reciting of poems often occurred on
  ceremonial occasions such as the celebration
  of a military victory. The performers were
  usually professional minstrels, known as
  scops. Their assistants were called
 Scholars believe that these recitations took
  place to the accompaniment of a harp.
 The  poems followed a set formula of
 composition, which probably made them
 easier to memorize. A rigid pattern of
 word stresses gave off a sing-song
 effect. Another part of the pattern was
 alliteration, the repetition of sounds,
 especially initial consonant sounds.
 Only about 30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon
  verse still exist. Almost all of it is found in four
  works dating from about 975-1050 A.D.
 The early verse falls into two categories:
  Heroic poetry-which recounts the
  achievements of warriors involved in great
  battles and elegiac poetry-sorrowful laments
  that mourn the deaths of loved ones and the
  loss of the past.
 Of the heroic poetry, the most important work
  is Beowulf, the story of a great pagan warrior
  renowned for his courage, strength, and
  dignity. Beowulf is an epic, a long heroic
 Because it is the first such work to be
  composed in the English language, it is
  considered the “national epic of England.”
 Like most Anglo-Saxon poets, the author of
  Beowulf is UNKNOWN. Although versions of
  the poem were recited as early as the 6th
 The  text that we have today was
  composed in the 8th century and not
  written down until the 11th century.
 Historians usually credit Alfred the
  Great with having changed the course
  of British literature.
 The first English poet that we know by
  name is Caedmon.

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