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Anglo-Saxon Background


Anglo-Saxon Background 449 - 1485 Known as Dark Ages because of the barbaric nature of the people. Known as a time of bloody conflicts, ignorance, violence, and ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Anglo-Saxon Background

Anglo-Saxon Background
  • 449 - 1485
  • Known as Dark Ages because of the barbaric
    nature of the people. Known as a time of bloody
    conflicts, ignorance, violence, and barbarism.

  • Part of an island that includes Scotland and
    Wales (Ireland is a separate island to the west
    of England)
  • As a whole the countries today are known as the
    United Kingdom of Great Britain (UK)
  • Modern culture primarily the result of a series
    of invasions from many other European
    cultures/countries, Rome, France, the Vikings,
    Germanic tribes,
  • Two of the most important things the US inherited
    from England Language and Law (US Constitution
    based on democratic concept of the Magna Carta)

Modern Great Britain
Timeline of British History
  • 2000 B.C.Stonehenge
  • 1500-1000 B.C.Celts arrive in England
  • 55 b.c-410 A.D. Roman occupation
  • 450Jutes, Angles, Saxon arrive
  • 597St. Augustine brings Christian revival
  • 500-600Historical King Arthur in Celtic Wales
  • 707Beowulf written
  • 790sDanish (Viking) raids
  • 1066The Battle of Hastings (Norman conquest)

Anglo-Saxon Period
  • Anglo-Saxon England was born of warfare,
    remained forever a military society, and came to
    its end in battle. - J.R. Lander
  • In a society dominated by aggression, what would
    you expect to be the Anglo-Saxon attitude toward
    family life, the role of women, art, literature,
    ethics and work?

Characteristics of the Period
  • Life was incredibly difficult
  • Enormous upheaval and change in England
  • Reigns of some of the most famous and infamous
    kings (i.e. Alfred the Great)
  • Time of disastrous wars, both internal and
  • Time of foreign invasion
  • Time of painful reconsolidation and emergence of
    England as a nation

People of England Angles and Saxons
  • invaders from Germany and northern Europe in 449
  • Celts retreated primarily into Wales
  • Anglo-Saxon troops took over area and named it
    Angle-land, or England
  • Most of the men were deep sea fishermen and
  • Greatest Anglo-Saxon king was Alfred the Great
    (died 899 AD)
  • -began unification of Anglo-Saxon England into
    one country (through defense against the Vikings
    and language)
  • - began a running history called the Anglo-Saxon
  • -had Bedes Ecclesiastical History of the
    English People translated into English

Centuries of Invasions
  • The 790s brought the next round of invaders the
    Vikings a fearsome group of seafaring marauders
    from the coasts of Denmark.
  • The Vikings looted, killed, and burned down
    entire villages.
  • In the South, the Danes finally met Alfred the
    Great, who lead the unified England to destroy
    the Vikings, and the under his rule the land
    began to flourish.

Centuries of Invasions (contd)
  • In 1042, a descendant of Alfred the Great took
    the throne, Edward the Confessor. He continued
    Alfreds battle against the Vikings until his
  • The last successful invasion of the island of
    Britain came in 1066 and was known as the Norman
    Conquest where William the Conqueror finally
    drove out the last of the Vikings and was crowned
    the King of England.
  • The Norman Conquest ended Anglo-Saxon dominance
    in England a new class of privileged Normans
    took their place.

Anglo-Saxon Culture - Life
  • dominated by warfare
  • main responsibilities of leader were protection
    and maintaining law and order
  • Most time spent in the Mead Hall (bars)
  • success (material and fame) was achieved through
    loyalty to leader and prowess in battle
  • Literature was a way to escape reality or to give
    a lord/thane immortality
  • Thanes (men who fought for a king or lord)
  • Believed in COMITATUSallegiance between a lord
    and thane code of honor
  • The lord leads his thanes and provides for them
  • Thanes never outshine their lord in battle
  • Thanes never desert their lord during battle

Anglo Saxon Civilization
  • Common language
  • Shared a heroic ideal set of traditional heroes
  • Admired men of outstanding courage
  • Loyalty to leader and tribe
  • Fierce personal valor
  • Rulers generous to those who remained loyal
  • Shortness of life passing of all things in the

Anglo-Saxon Religion
  • Like all cultures, that of the Anglo-Saxons
    changed over time. The early invaders were
    wanderers whose lives were bleak, violent, and
  • Strong Pagan religion was marked by a strong
    belief in wyrd, or fate.
  • Their belief offered little hope so Christianity
    opened up a bright new possibility

  • First Christian missionaries (thought to be
    Roman) arrived in Britain around 300 A.D.
  • Most important missionary was St. Augustine who
    arrived in 597 A.D.
  • Founded cathedral of Canterbury and became the
    first Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Even though Christianity spread rapidly through
    England, people retained many Pagan customs and
    beliefs and remained this way for many years
  • Monasteries became centers of intellectual,
    literary, artistic, and social activity
  • Greatest of the Christian monks was Venerable
    Bede (c. 673-735)

Anglo-Saxon Literature
  • Was originally oral - passed in the form of epics
    which praised the deeds of heroic warriors and
    provided a measure of immortality.
  • Professional storytellers/poets were called
    scops, which held honored positions because they
    preserved fame fame life after death. They
    told history lessons, moral sermons, etc.
  • Monasteries began recording Anglo-Saxon
    literature in Latin and it began to evolve into
    Old English
  • Two important traditions
  • heroic tradition celebrates heroes
  • elegiac tradition passing of earlier, better

The Epic of Beowulf
  • Probably composed between 700 750
  • One of few pieces that survived and most
  • Priests and monks were the only ones who could
    write stories survival depended upon them. Most
    of the epics were told orally which explains the
    superhuman qualities.

The Epic of Beowulf (Cont)
  • In more than 3,000 lines, Beowulf relates the
    tale of a heroic warrior who battles monsters and
    dragons to protect the people.
  • The church was not too eager to preserve
    literature that was Pagan in nature, so
    historians believe they either ignored or changed
    it. This may account for the mixture of
    Christian and Pagan elements in Beowulf

The Epic of Beowulf (Cont)
  • The epic is generally defined A long narrative
    poem on a great and serious subject, related in
    an elevated style, and centered on a heroic or
    quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the
    fate of a tribe, a nation, or the human race.
  • The hero is a figure of great national or even
    cosmic importance, usually the ideal man of his
  • The setting is vast in scope.
  • Based on historical facts.
  • Performing actions that often determine the fate
    of the nation or group of people.

The Epic of Beowulf (Cont)
  • The action consists of deeds of valor or
    superhuman courage (especially in battle).
    Supernatural forces interest themselves in the
    action and intervene at times.
  • The style of writing is elevated, even ceremonial
  • Main characters give extended formal speeches.
  • Use of the epic simile and metaphor.
  • Use of kennings and stock epithets.

The Epic of Beowulf (Cont)
  • Kennings a compound word, figure of speech,
    substituted for the usual name of a person or
    thing. An example the Almightys enemy and
    sin-stained demon are both kennings used to
    describe the monster Grendel.
  • Stock epithets are adjectives used to
    characterize a person, place, or thing. For
    example, in Beowulf God is described as the Lord
    of all Life or the Ruler of glory. They
    provide a brief summary of major characters most
    essential qualities.

Beowulf Documentary
  • History Channels Documentary on the real story
    of Beowulf.
  • http//