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Songs of Ancient Heroes: An Introduction to the Anglo-Saxons Anglo-Saxons 449-1066
Britain and Ireland were first settled in Mesolithic times (before 4000 B.C.). Prehistoric Britain
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 government) • Imposed taxes • Built Hadrian’s Wall • Introduced Christianity
Roman Occupation • Hadrian’s Wall • Built by the Romans in 121 • Intended to prevent invaders from the North (the Picts and the Scots)
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 modern-day Britain: • Amphitheaters • Gardens • Spas • Construction
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 Richborough
Roman Occupation The Cult Room at Lullingstone Roman Villa
Roman Occupation Roman walls of London outside the Museum of London
Roman Occupation • The Romans left abruptly in 410 • Rome was under attack from 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. • 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.
Ambrosius Aurelianus was a Celtic king who halted the Anglo-Saxon invasion in Cornwall. Could he have been the legendary King Arthur? **Did you know?**King Arthur
Anglo-Saxon BritainCulture: 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 • Language • Heroism idea • Set of traditional heroes • Admired men of outstanding courage no matter what tribe they came from
Anglo-Saxon BritainCulture: 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 BritainCulture: 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 BritainCulture: The People • Society was fairly well developed (family unit-clan-tribe-kingdom) • Anglo-Saxons appreciated beauty, were hardy, brave, and loved action • Adorned themselves with bracelets, brooches with exquisite design and workmanship • There was a continual threat of invasion from the Vikings and Danes.
Anglo-Saxon BritainCulture: 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 BritainCulture: Government • Government centered on tribes and villages. • The five main Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms were: • Northumbria • Mercia • East Anglia • Wessex • Kent
Anglo-Saxon BritainCulture: Democratic Tendancy • Expressed loyalty to chosen leaders • Liked to hold meetings where people could openly express what they thought and felt
Anglo-Saxon BritainReligion: 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, friendship • 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 BritainReligion: 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 BritainReligion: 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 faith • 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 BritainReligion: 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 2,12.) • 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 “Christians” could hardly be considered Christians by today’s standards, as they held a mixture of Christian and Heathen beliefs. Boar: sacred to Ingui/Freyr and offered protection during combat Cross: symbol of Christ Anglo-Saxon BritainReligion: The Reintroduction of Christianity
Anglo-Saxon BritainReligion: 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 authority • When Christianity failed to meet their needs, new Christians would revert to the old religion. • Under Christianity, heathen ruthlessness began to disappear
Anglo-Saxon BritainReligion: 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 BritainFamous Anglo-Saxons • Venerable Bede • Venerable: reputation for wisdom, humility, and scholarship • Monk from Northumbria • Author and Scholar • Earliest historian of England • Known as “The Father of English History” • 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 BritainFamous Anglo-Saxons • King Alfred the Great • Ruled from 871-900 C.E. • Saved England from the Danes/Vikings • Organized military methods and systems • 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 (Vikings) • 700-1000 C.E. • From Scandinavia • Norse: Norway • 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 Conquest • From France • Led by William the Conqueror • 1066 • Ends Anglo-Saxon rule