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Anglo Saxon Overview notes

Anglo-Saxon Period
Overview notes
Inhabitants of Britannia
Celts: 900 BCE
● indiginous people of what we now call England
● Spoke Gaelic (still spoken today)
● Lived in clans
● Led by Druids (priests) preserved myths/legends by telling stories
Adapted to Roman
civilization (55 BCE)
Eventually defeated by
Anglo-Saxons (449)
Moved to the edges of
Britannia (Cornwall,
Wales, Ireland, Scotland)
Moved to modern-day
Romans: 55 BCE- 407CE (ruled nearly 300 years)
● Established roads and city walls
● Brought Christianity; converted Celts, Ireland, Scotland
● Troops called home to defend Italy; left Britannia open to invasion
Anglo-Saxons: 449-1066
● Angles, Saxons, Jutes, (Frisians)
● Immigrated from Scandinavia (modern day Germany)
● Christianity pushed to edges of Britannia
● Pagan religion
● St. Augustine of Canterbury converted King Ethelbert of Kent to Christianity and the religion spread and
began to mix with pagan stories
Danish (Viking) Invasions (9th-12th centuries)
● “Hit-and-run” raids; focused on treasure and looting
● Failed to take over the island completely - stopped by English king Alfred the Great
1066: Norman Conquest
● 1042 - Danes are out of power
● Edward the Confessor (king of Britannia) dies in 1066
● Normandy (France) invades and overpowers the Anglo-Saxons
● End of Anglo-Saxon period
Anglo-Saxon Period
Overview notes
Warrior Society, Community, and Social Structure
Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic warrior society that emphasized bravery, honor, and glory in battle
Patriarchal society based on the concepts of kinship, comitatus, and fraternity
The relationship between an individual and
other members of the tribe;
An individual’s ancestry
Germanic power arrangement in which the
king ruled in consultation with thanes
-Thanes swear fidelity and loyalty to the king.
-King bestows land, money, jewelry, war
gear, privileges, and benefits on the thane
The close social bonds among the men of the
tribe. They fought together and died together
(They were each other’s ride-or-die)
● Violence and Revenge killings:
fraternity demanded the death of a
tribe member be avenged; this led to
mass bloodshed.
○ Wergild: established to cut
down on bloodshed. Money
paid to the family of the victim
of murder by the offender
Warrior motivations:
○ Glory for king
○ Glory for ancestors
○ Glory for tribe
○ Glory for self
Mead Hall - social center of Anglo Saxon culture. A large wooden structure where the king lived and
held court and celebrations
Anglo-Saxons were originally a pagan religion, but largely converted to Christianity.
Anglo-Saxon Period
Overview notes
Pagan Religion
Worshipped many gods
Believed in fate (wyrd)
English language kept some of the words of the pagan
religion (days of the week)
○ Tui - god of sky/war (Tuesday)
○ Woden - chief god (Wednesday)
○ Thor - god of thunder (Thursday)
○ Fria - goddess of the home (Friday)
597 - St. Augustine of Canterbury was sent to Britain to
convert the A.S.
○ Converts King Aethelbert of Kent
○ Christianity spreads
Oral stories begin to take on elements of Christianity.
Many include pagan and Christian elements (Beowulf)
Church brings education and literature
○ Monks were scribes
○ Venerable Bede - Father of English History wrote A History of the English Church and
People (earliest account of A.S. culture 731AD)
● Oral literature until influence of Christian monks introduced books
● Oral stories/poems were told by scops (respected oral poets)
○ Long epic poems: lengthy narrative poem, usually about heroes
● Characteristics of Anglo-Saxon Poetry
○ Caesuras - pause in a line
○ Alliteration - repetition of initial consonant sound
○ Kennings - metaphorical phrases; compound of 2 words to replace 1 word (body=life house,
sea=whale road)
○ Stock epithet - phrase characterizing a person or thing (Michael Jordan: Lord of the dunk)
○ synecdoche/metonymy - a part represents the whole (iron=sword, keel=ship, skirts=women)
Old English Language
● Anglo-Saxon vocabulary named practical things
○ House, loaf, woman, wolf
○ Days of the week came from pagan gods
● Christianity brought Latin
○ Religious vocabulary like bishop
● Vikings
○ War vocabulary
○ Drag, ransack, thrust, die, give, take
● Told in the 8th century / written by 2 monks in the 11th century
● About warrior named Beowulf who fights bravely for glory
○ Anglo-Saxon pagan ancestors
● Text shows juxtaposition between “heroic” and “Christian” - likely a result of shifting religious
conversions of the Anglo-Saxons AND changes through the oral history of the epic poem.
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