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Presentation on theme: "THE ANGLO SAXON PERIOD 449-1066."— Presentation transcript:


2 The Beginning The arrival of the Anglo Saxons in Britain signaled the beginning of the English language. The more sophisticated conquerors of the Britains were the Romans. In 55 B.C., Julius Caesar hastily invaded this country. Caesar wrote a book called Commentaries, which mentioned the Celts and Britons.

3 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.

4 The next people to invade England were the Anglo Saxons
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 island. 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 classes.

5 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 service. 3. Churls or serfs—bonded servants who worked the land for military protection.

6 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.

7 All of this intermingling produced a new language
All of this intermingling produced a new language. We call it Anglo-Saxon or Old English to distinguish it from our modern form. 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.

8 Tu—god of war and the sky
Woden—chief of the gods Fria—Woden’s wife and goddess of the home 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 Columbia, they established a Christian monastery on the island of Iona.

10 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 Canterbury.

11 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 most Christian. 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 peace.

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 scholarship.

13 Often these monks labored for years to complete a single manuscript
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 ( ). Bede was a master of thorough research, tracking down information by studying earlier documents and interviewing people who

14 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.

16 The Danes targeted southern England.

17 THE VIKING RAIDS 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.

18 ALFRED THE GREAT In 871 a king 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.

19 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.

20 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 towns. 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.

The peace and stability that began with Alfred’s reign lasted more than a century. Immigration from Scandinavia dwindled and the descendants of Alfred the Great were able to regain much conquered territory. Towards the close of the 10th century, a new series of onslaughts began as more Danes from Europe attempted to recapture and widen the Danelaw.

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.

23 Edward’s death in 1066 led directly to a Norman conquest of England and brought the end of the Anglo-Saxon period of literature.

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.

25 Some Anglo-Saxons were familiar with the written word
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 gleemen. Scholars believe that these recitations took place to the accompaniment of a harp.

27 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.


29 Only about 30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon verse still exist
Only about 30,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon verse still exist. Almost all of it is found in four works dating from about 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.

30 THE BEOWULF LEGEND 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 poem. 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 century,

31 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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