• A term used by historians to
designate the Germanic
tribes who invaded the south
and east of Great
Britain beginning in the early
5th century AD.
• The term is also used for the
language now called Old English,
spoken and written by the
Anglo-Saxons and their
descendants in much of what is
now England and some of
south-eastern Scotland between
at least the mid-5th century and
the mid-12th century.
. The Anglo-Saxons
were good warriors,
most of the time they
won the battle they
fight, they controlled
most of England.
Early Anglo-Saxon Life
• The next invaders of Britain were the Anglo-Saxons next to
romans: primarily the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.
• These invaders were all Germanic tribes
Dispersal of the Britons
• After the Romans left, the Britons (who were
here before the Romans and lived under their
rule in relative peace) were unable to protect
themselves against their new invaders.
• To flee the Anglo-Saxons, the Britons fled to
other parts of the island: Cornwall, Wales, and
some went to Ireland.
• To collect stones to build their huts on
• To use the better soil to grow crops
• Lands were often flooded
• The land was warmer
• To have theprecious objects and gold
• The rivers gave easy routes in land
• The Anglo Saxons took control
of most of England although
they never conquered Scotland
, Wales and Cornwall.
• They settled in England in places
near to rivers or the sea, which
could be easily reached by boat.
• Created highly organized tribal units (kingdoms)
• Tribes were ruled by a king chosen by a council of
elders (witan) or a leader elected by physical prowess
• Many Roman buildings did become ruins though,
because no one bothered or knew how to repair
Slaves did have some minimal rights -
including the possibility of earning
money and eventually buying their
How did Anglo-Saxons lived?
• In their own lands, most Anglo-
Saxons were farmers. They lived in
family groups in villages, not cities.
Since they lived close to the sea
and big rivers, many Anglo-Saxons
were sailors too. They built
wooden ships with oars and sails,
for trade and to settle in new
Towns & villages they settled down.
• The first Anglo Saxon villages were often named
after their chieftain (leader of village).
Lived close to their animals (to protect animals and provide warmth)
Lived in single-family homes surrounding a communal
hall and protected by a wooden stockade fence
It took about 18 trees to
provide enough wood to build
a Saxon house.
Characteristics of the Anglo-Saxons
• Fighters and warriors
• Admired physical strength,
bravery, loyalty, fairness, and
• Great love of personal
• Boastful, willing to be cruel
• Enjoyed conflict, swimming
matches, horse races,
banqueting, drinking mead,
singing songs, and
• Also flyting, a conflict of wits
between two warriors where
each praises his own deeds
and belittles the other’s
-Men were usually about 180 cm tall and women were
usually about 168 cm.
-Most Saxon men were big and strong and they were
also very active everyday.
-Saxon’s teeth have lots of plaque on them, so this
usually shows they didn't own toothbrushes. Their teeth
were really known as been very yellow and horrible.
- Conical handles for little brushes have been found in
the graves of Saxon women. These might have been
used for putting on make-up, like eye shadow or blusher.
-Combs made of bone were often found in women's
graves. This shows they kept their hair neat and tidy.
• Some women had metal
clasps at the wrists to fasten
the sleeves of a simple
blouse. Other women had
• They used to wear
brooches at the shoulders
pinned two sides of a
tubular dress together.
• Lots of beads were
often found across the
chest. Strings of beads
were very pretty. They
were usually made of
brightly coloured glass.
Saxon women had other
useful items hanging from a
belt around the waist. The
belts rotted away, but
Role of Women
• The wife of an earl or thane
supervised weaving and dyeing of
clothes, the slaughter of
livestock, the making of bread,
beekeeping, and the brewing of
mead (fermented honey).
• They would work alongside men
in the fields
• Women inherited and held
• Married women retained control
over their property.
- Apart from a skeleton,
there was usually only a
buckle. The belt had
They sometimes find
- Men used to wear tunics.
- Old Saxon bodies
have been dug up in
bogs. Bogs were very
- Saxon’s men used to
wear baggy trousers and
'bandages' wound round
- Saxon men also used to
• The most feared Anglo-Saxon weapon was a battle
axe, but the most precious weapon was a sword. It
took hours of work by a smith to craft a sword. He
softened iron in a red-hot fire, twisted iron rods
together and hammered the sword into shape.
The Warrior Code
• The king had a small bodyguard of
brave warriors who would die to
defend him. The 'warrior-code' of
the Anglo-Saxons taught that a
warrior must fight and die for his
leader, if he had to.
• An Anglo-Saxon poem called The
Battle of Maldon tells the story of a
battle in Essex in 991, between
English and invading Vikings. The
English leader allowed the Vikings
to cross from their camp for a 'fair
fight'. The English lost, but the
poem still praises their heroism.
• In the 7th century AD, a King – it
was surely no less – received a
magnificent burial at Sutton Hoo, in
East Anglia. A ship was hauled up
from the river, a burial chamber was
erected in the middle of it, and a
stupendous collection of
magnificent objects – gold and
silver brooches and dishes, the
sword of state, drinking horns and a
lyre – was set in the burial chamber.
• The helmet has become a
symbol of the Sutton Hoo
burial; yet it survived as a
mass of small pieces, and
was only reconstructed
after years of painstaking
work in the British
• Here we see a photo of the
excavations in 1939, with
the excavators uncovering
the chamber built at the
middle of the ship, and Mrs
Pretty, the landowner and
sponsor of the excavations,
sitting with her friends in
• Immortality only earned through heroic
– The goal was to be remembered after death, in
songs and stories of his great deeds
Early Anglo-Saxons Beliefs
• In Roman Britain, many people
had been Christians. The early
Anglo-Saxons were pagans. Much
like theVikings of Scandinavia,
they believed in many gods. The
king of the Anglo-Saxon gods, for
example, was Woden - a German
version of the Scandinavian god
Odin. From his name comes our
day of the week Wednesday or
'Woden's day'. Other gods were
Thunor, god of thunder; Frige,
goddess of love; and Tiw, god of
• Anglo-Saxons were superstitious.
They believed in lucky charms.
They thought 'magic' rhymes,
potions, stones or jewels would
protect them from evil spirits or
Anglo-Saxon Beliefs (con’t)
• The early Anglo-Saxons
worshipped ancient Germanic
or Norse gods:
• Odin/Woden: chief of the gods,
god of death, poetry, and magic
• Fria: Woden’s wife and goddess
of the home
• Tiu: the god of war and the sky
• Thunor/Thor: god of thunder
• Frijz/Frigga: queen of the
• The names of these gods
survive today in our words
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,
The Scops (pronounced sh(oh)p)
• The communal hall offered
shelter and a place for council
• The communal hall was also a
place for storytellers or bards
(scops) who shared (orally)
the stories of the Anglo-
Saxons and their gods and
• The Anglo-Saxons valued
storytelling as equal to
fighting, hunting, and farming.
Types of Anglo-Saxon Verse
Scops often recited:
• Heroic Poetry:
in great battles
• Elegiac Poetry:
that mourn the
deaths of loved
ones and the loss
of the past
• Items buried with bodies - Archaeologists can learn
a lot from old burial sites.
• When Anglo-Saxons died, their bodies were either
cremated or buried in a grave. Belongings buried
with the dead person, for use in the next life,
provide evidence of the jobs people did.
• Men's graves include knives and spears, which
suggests hunting, fighting and farming.
• Women's graves include tools used for sewing and
weaving - showing that women made cloth and
• The grave of a king, like the ship-burial at Sutton
Hoo, was filled with treasures, weapons and
• One child's grave in Essex had the bones of a dog in
it, perhaps a pet. -BBC
The Coming of Christianity
• In 432, the whole of Celtic Ireland was converted by
Patrick, a Romanized Briton.
• In 563, a group of Irish monks led by a soldier and
abbot named Columba established a monastery on
the island of Iona off the West coast of Scotland.
• Later, the Roman church began to send
missionaries throughout Europe.
• In 597, Saint Augustine converted the King of
England and establish a monastery at Canterbury.
• By 650, most of England was Christian in name, if
not in fact.
Christianity and Literature
• The church brought education and written
literature to England.
• Monks established churches, monasteries, and
• Monks recorded and duplicated illuminated
manuscripts, at first only written in Latin.
• Oral literature was transcribed into written form.
• Monks preserved not only Latin and Greek
classics but also popular literature (Beowulf).
• The children,
the SCHOLA were
taught by monks.
It was the role of
the priest to
educate his flock.
• Students wrote
the days passage
onto a wax tablet
and committed it
• Writing was not
always part of the
religious in content
• In “song schools”
where the basics
Anglo-saxons had two
alphabets the ROMAN
The Danish Invasion
• Due to rising population and limited
farmland, many Scandinavians (the Norse
and the Danes) took to the seas—the
• In 800, Danish raiders attacked Britain.
• The Norse settled in Northumbria, Scotland,
Wales, and Ireland.
• The Danes targeted eastern and southern
Viking Raids: “From the Fury of the Northmen, O
Lord, Deliver Us”
• Sacked and plundered monasteries
• Stole sacred religious objects
• Burned entire communities
• Murdered villagers
• Halted the growth of learning
By the middle of the ninth century, most of
England had fallen. The Vikings called their
Alfred the Great
• Only the Saxon kingdom of Wessex managed to
fight the Danes to a standstill.
• In 871, Alfred ascended to the Wessex throne.
• Alfred resisted further Danish encroachment.
• A 886 truce formally divided England: the Danish
ruled the east and north; the Saxons ruled the
• Alfred translated the Bede’s History and other
works from Latin into English to make them more
accessible, as well as instituted the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle, a history of England from the earliest
days through 1154.
• Built their Danelaw communities as military
fortresses and trading centers
• Generated growth of English towns
• Expanded English vocabulary as Norse words
crept into the language
• For example, law is Danish, and its use reflects
the Danes’ interest in legal procedures.
The Norman Conquest
• Toward the end of the tenth century, the Danes increased
attempts to recapture and widen Danelaw and eventually
forced the witan to select a series of Danish kings.
• In 1042, the throne returned to a descendant of Alfred,
King Edward the Confessor, a Christian.
• Edward’s association with the Normans weakened Saxon
• Upon his death in 1066, Edward was succeeded by Harold.
• William of Normandy challenged Harold’s right to the
throne and defeated Harold in the Battle of Hastings.
• William was crowned King on December 25, 1066.
History of English Literature
• English Literature, literature
produced in England, from
the introduction of Old
English by the Anglo-Saxons
in the 5th century to the
present. The works of those
Irish and Scottish authors
who are closely identified
with English life and letters
are also considered part of
• this period extends from about
450 to 1066, the year of the
Norman-French conquest of
England. The Germanic tribes
from Europe who overran
England in the 5th century, after
the Roman withdrawal, brought
with them the Old English, or
Anglo-Saxon, language, which is
the basis of Modern English. They
brought also a specific poetic
tradition, the formal character of
which remained surprisingly
constant until the termination of
their rule by the Norman-French
invaders six centuries later.
Anglo-Saxon Literary Elements
• Alliteration - the repetition of initial sounds of
• “She sells seashells by the sea shore”
• From Beowulf:
• 839 ferdon folc-togan feorran ond nean
• 839 chieftains came from far and near
• A metaphorical phrase or compound word used
to name a person, place, thing, or event
• A kenning enhances the literal meaning of words.
A kenning gives the listener an idea of how the
words connect to an idea or concept that is richer
and more emotionally complex.
• Typically gives an image
• A metaphorical phrase or compound word
used to name a person, place, thing, or event
• A kenning enhances the literal meaning of
words. A kenning gives the listener an idea of
how the words connect to an idea or concept
that is richer and more emotionally complex.
• Typically gives an image
• Much of Old English poetry was
probably intended to be chanted,
with harp accompaniment, by the
Anglo-Saxon scop, or bard.
• . Almost all this poetry is composed
without rhyme, in a characteristic
line, or verse, of four stressed
syllables alternating with an
indeterminate number of unstressed
• . Another unfamiliar but equally
striking feature in the formal
character of Old English poetry is
structural alliteration, or the use of
syllables beginning with similar
sounds in two or three of the
stresses in each line.
• Prose in Old English is represented by
a large number of religious works.
The imposing scholarship of
monasteries in northern England in
the late 7th century reached its peak
in the Latin work Historia
Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of
the English People, 731) by Bede.
• This was a significant work of largely
Platonic philosophy easily adaptable
to Christian thought, and it has had
great influence on English literature.
A merchant and later a writer who set up
the first printing press in England in 1476. A
few years earlier Caxton had visited
Cologne where he acquired his knowledge
in the technique of printing and returned to
England via Belgium to apply this new art.
He established his base at Westminster and
during his career as publisher produced
more than 90 editions of well-known and
lesser known authors. Among the former
are Chaucer (Canterbury tales), Gower
(Confessio amantis), Malory (Morte
d’Arthur). Caxton himself prepared some
translations of works in Latin and French.
He is also famous for the prefaces which he
wrote to his editions and which are
revealing documents of literary attitudes in
late 15th century England.
(c. 1330-1408) An English poet of
courtly love who is remembered as
the author of the Confessio Amantis,
a collection of exemplary tales (from
both classical and medieval sources)
about courtly and Christian love. To
judge by the language of this work,
Gower was from Kent.
(848–899). Alfred was King of the West Saxons, and conquerer of
the Vikings. He brought scholars and writers to his court in
Winchester, which became the center of a renaissance in English
letters. Alfred is thought to have translated the first fifty Psalms
as well as three prose works (one of which, Boethius' The
Consolation of Philosophy, also contains poems). He or his circle
translated Bede's Historia, including Caedmon's Hymn.
Caedmon was the first poet to
produce vivid Christian verses in
the Anglo-Saxon tongue.
Unfortunately, only a few of his
lines survive. He died around
680. The people of England
remembered him as a saint. His
feast is on this day, February 11.
in the seventh century he was
the author of several Anglo-
Saxon poems based upon biblical
(673–735). Saint Bede was a monk of the twin monasteries of Wearmouth
and Jarrow in north-eastern England. He was famous in his lifetime as one of
the most brilliant writers of Europe. Bede was made a doctor of the Chruch in
the nineteenth century. Bede translated the Bible into English and wrote
poems in Old English. We have a short poem called "Bede's Death Song" and
a longer poem (which may not be by Bede) called "Doomsday."
is the conventional title of
an Old English epic poem
3182alliterative long lines,
set in Scandinavia,
commonly cited as one of
the most important works
of Anglo-Saxon literature to
the fact that it is the oldest
surviving epic poem of Old
English and also the
earliest vernacular English
The full poem
survives in the
as the Nowell
Codex, located in
the British Library.
Written in England,
its composition by
The poem was eventually published in
1815. Thorkelin was also the first scholar
to make a full translation of the poem.