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The Anglo-Saxons. 449 - 1066. An Invaded Island. Great Britain has been invaded and settled many times, and each invading group has helped shape the nation today: Iberians Celts Romans Angles and Saxons Vikings Normans. The Celtic Legacy.

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an invaded island
An Invaded Island
  • Great Britain has been invaded and settled many times, and each invading group has helped shape the nation today:
    • Iberians
    • Celts
    • Romans
    • Angles and Saxons
    • Vikings
    • Normans
the celtic legacy
The Celtic Legacy
  • Their religion seemed to be a form of animism, which emphasizes a belief in spirits – in rivers, trees, stones, ponds, fire, and thunder.
  • These gods controlled everything and therefore had to be pleased at all times.
  • Celtic stories differ from that of Anglo-Saxon tales – they are more mystical and oftentimes focus on strong women.
    • Stories of fantastic animals, passionate love affairs, and adventures
a roman administration
A Roman Administration
  • The Britons (Celts) were conquered by legions of Rome (starting with Julius Caesar in 55 B.C.)
  • Romans provided armies and organization that prevented further serious invasions of Britain for hundreds of years
  • Built a network of roads and a seventy-three-mile-long protective wall
  • Celtic religion began to vanish in favor of Christianity
life after the romans
Life after the Romans
  • Romans started having troubles back home (around A.D. 409), so they left Britain
    • Left behind the roads, walls, villas, and public baths, but no central government
  • Britain became overran by separate clans rather than a centralized government
  • Left Britain ripe for invasion by non-Christian peoples from Continental Europe
the arrival of the anglo saxons
The Arrival of the Anglo-Saxons
  • Middle of the 5th century – Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invade and drive out the old Britons
  • Language of the Anglo-Saxons became dominant
  • Celts put up a fight before finally retreating to Wales, where traces of their culture can still be found
  • Anglo-Saxon England was divided into several independent principalities, until King Alfred of Wessex (Alfred the Great) united the Anglo-Saxons against the invading Danes
  • Danes (Vikings) eventually took over and settled in parts of England
the warm hall vs the cold world
The Warm Hall vs. the Cold World
  • Warfare was the way of life.
  • Law and order were the responsibility of the leader of any clan
  • Fame and success were gained through loyalty to the leader, especially in times of war
  • Success was measured in gifts from the leader
  • Led to a pattern of loyal dependency
  • Led to community discussion and rule by consensus
gods for warriors
Gods for Warriors
  • One of the most important [Norse] gods was Odin, the god of death, poetry, and magic
    • Anglo-Saxon name for Odin was Woden
    • This god of both poetry and death helped contribute to a people who produced great poetry but also maintained a somber outlook on life
  • Thunor (or Thor) was the god of thunder and lightning
  • The dragon = protector of treasure
  • Religion of Anglo-Saxons was more about ethics (bravery, loyalty, generosity, and friendship) than mysticism
the life of a bard
The Life of a Bard
  • Communal halls offered shelter and a meeting place, but also a space for storytellers
  • Sang of gods and heroes
  • Bards (or scops) were not viewed as inferior to warriors – creating poetry was equal to fighting, hunting, farming, or loving
  • Since Anglo-Saxon religion offered no hope of an afterlife, fame could only be found through the bards’ ability to preserve a collective memory
vikings and normans
Vikings and Normans
  • Scandinavian Vikings started invading and conquering much of England during the 8th and 9th centuries
  • Tide turned in 878 in the Battle of Edington - won by Alfred, the Saxon king of Wessex - led to a century of peace in England
  • Peace persisted until 1066, when King Edward died
    • William, duke of Normandy, claimed the English throne and defeated the Anglo-Saxons in the Battle of Hastings
    • This ended the Anglo-Saxon era
feudal england
Feudal England
  • Anglo-Saxons were now subjects of the Normans
    • William, duke of Normandy, became first Norman king of England
  • Normans introduced social, economic, and political system called feudalism, under which land (wealth) was divided among noble overlords, or barons
  • Lesser lords (knights) served the overlords in exchange for use of the land
  • Serfs (peasants) were at low end of social scale
  • 1215 - Magna Carta dictates that King John could not raise taxes without the consent of the barons - beginnings of constitutional government in England
war and plague
War and Plague
  • Beginning in 1337 - English and French fought for control of lands in France
    • Known as the Hundred Years' War - drained England financially
  • During Hundred Years' War, the Black Death swept through Europe
    • Killed almost a third of England's people
    • Loss of life eroded the feudal system and shifted power to the urban middle class - led to the Renaissance
a warrior society
A Warrior Society
  • Warfare = way of life for early Anglo-Saxons
  • Each family or tribe had a warrior chief, who served a noble or royal warlord
  • Warlord / followers formed a close group (comitatus)
    • Warlords rewarded the bravest followers with treasure
    • Warriors responded with absolute loyalty
  • “…to leave a battle alive after their chief has fallen means life-long infamy and shame.”
oral literature
Oral Literature
  • Anglo-Saxon storytellers created heroic songs about their warriors’ great deeds
    • Celebrated strength, courage, and loyalty
  • Minstrels performed these songs in mead-halls
  • Songs served as literary entertainment
  • Songs provided models for warriors to emulate and a goal to pursue
germanic and christian traditions
Germanic and Christian Traditions
  • Germanic traditions and Christian religion were huge influences on Anglo-Saxon literature
    • Based on dark, heroic tales of Germanic mythology
      • Beliefs held no promise of an afterlife
      • Therefore, warriors’ primary goal was to achieve fame in this life
    • Christianity came with a belief in an omnipotent God and eternal life
      • Germanic and Christian elements coexist (as in Beowulf)
importance of wyrd
Importance of Wyrd
  • Life in early Anglo-Saxon times was brief and full of hardship
  • A belief develops that fate, which they called wyrd, controlled human destiny
    • Everyone’s inescapable fate was to die
  • The hero’s only appropriate response was to face destiny with courage
christianizing england
Christianizing England
  • 596 – Pope Gregory I sent missionaries to convert Anglo-Saxons to Christianity
  • Most of England was Christian in name by 650
  • Celtic monks from Ireland brought Christianity to other parts of England and established England’s first monastery
  • Christianity brought the beginnings of education and culture
  • As Christianity spread, some chose to dedicate their lives to work and prayer
  • Monks and nuns joined religious orders
  • Many demanded poverty, fasting, absolute obedience, and manual labor
  • Monks established libraries and schools, establishing the importance of written word
  • Earliest work of this kind was the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastic History of the English People