HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
449-1485
The Anglo-Saxon Period
(449-1066)
By providing an overview of the major
historical events of the Anglo-Saxon Period,
the students are permitted to interpret the
possible influences of historical contexts on
literary works.
Western Civilization and Western
Thought

Grew out of three ancient civilizations:
1.
2.
3.
Greeks – individual truth
Romans – the state
Hebrews – God above all
Each culture prevailed at different
times.
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Medieval period = Hebrew concept
(God above all)
Renaissance = Greek concept
(Individual truth)
18th/19th/20th Centuries = Roman concept
(State above all)
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
Stonehenge
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
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Built between 3000
and 1500 BC
Was it a temple?
Celtic speakers
arrived in England in
about 900 BC
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Celts – 900 BC

There were 3 groups
- The first group called
themselves the Britons,
and they inhabited what
is now Britain.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Celts – 900 BC

There were 3 groups
- The first group called
themselves the Britons,
and they inhabited what
is now Britain.
- The second group were
the Picts, and they settled
in present day Scotland.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Celts – 900 BC

There were 3 groups
- The first group called
themselves the Britons, and
they inhabited what is now
Britain.
- The second group were the
Picts, and they settled in
present day Scotland.
- The third group were
the Gaels, and they
settled in present day
Ireland.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Celts – 900 BC

Celtic groups spoke their own languages,
and these languages and cultures live on
in modern times. Celtic languages are still
the official languages of such countries as
Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Brittany.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Celts – 900 BC
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Celtic groups spoke their own languages, and
these languages and cultures live on in modern
times. Celtic languages are still the official
languages of such countries as Wales, Scotland,
Ireland, and Brittany even to this day.
These were thriving cultures by most standards
of the day. They lived in closely tied clans. They
were skilled in agriculture and metalwork and
traded with their neighbors throughout the
British Isles.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Celts – 900 BC

Their leaders were often Druids, who were
priests; however, the druids also served as
judges and counselors.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Celts – 900 BC


Their leaders were often Druids, who were
priests; however, the druids served also as
judges and counselors
The Celtic clans had a long oral tradition of
literature and learning which was preserved by
The Druids. They preserved the people’s myths
and legends by reciting long, heroic poems.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Celts – 900 BC
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
Their leaders were often Druids, who were
priests; however, the druids served also as
judges and counselors
The Celtic clans had a long oral tradition of
literature and learning which was preserved by
The Druids. They preserved the people’s myths
and legends by reciting long, heroic poems.
Celtic tales – Old King Cole and King Lear
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Romans: (55 BC – 407 AD)

The next group to
invade England was
the Romans.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Romans: (55 BC – 407 AD)


The next group to
invade England was
the Romans.
They ruled for some
300 years.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Romans: (55 BC – 407 AD)
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The next group to
invade England was
the Romans.
They ruled for some
300 years.
They established
roads and towns that
served the island for
centuries.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Romans: (55 BC – 407 AD)
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The next group to invade
England was the Romans.
They ruled for some 300
years.
They established roads
and towns that served
the island for centuries.
They brought Christianity
to the British Isles
(England)
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Romans: (55 BC – 407 AD)
 Their
rule ended because Italy
and Rome were under attack
from northern invaders.
Basically, the troops were
called home.
England Before the Anglo-Saxons
The Romans: (55 BC – 407 AD)


Their rule ended because Italy and Rome
was under attack from northern invaders.
Basically, the troops were called home.
The last troops left in 407 AD, and the
stage was set for the Anglos and the
Saxons to invade.
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)

The invasion by the
Anglo-Saxons of
modern day England
began in 449 AD, but
actually takes place
over several decades
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)


The invasion by the
Anglo-Saxons of modern
day England began in 449
AD, but actually takes
place over several
decades
There were three major
groups: the Angles, the
Saxons, and the Jutes.
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)

The Britons- perhaps
led by a commander
named Arthur- fought
a series of legendary
battles in a effort to
stop the invasion.
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)
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The Britons- perhaps led by a
commander named Arthur- fought
a series of legendary battles in a
effort to stop the invasion.
These efforts failed
however and the
Germanic Anglo-Saxon
tribes organized
themselves into a
confederation of seven
kingdoms call the
Heptarchy.
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)

In the early history of
the Heptarchy, the
Angles were
dominate.
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)

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In the early history of the
Heptarchy, the Angles
were dominate.
Their settlement or
kingdom became
known as Angleland or England,
and its people
came to be called
English.
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)
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In the early history of the Heptarchy,
the Angles were dominate.
Their settlement or kingdom became
known as Angle-land or England, and
its people came to be called English.
Because there were
several different groups
that began the invasion
of Briton in 449, modern
scholars employ the term
Anglo-Saxon to refer to
the people and culture of
this period in English
history.
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)

Like all cultures, the
Anglo-Saxons
changed over time
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)
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Like all cultures, the
Anglo-Saxons changed
over time
Early on, they were
seafaring wanderers
whose lives were bleak,
violent, and short
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)

As they settled in their
new land, however, the
Anglo-Saxons became an
agricultural people
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)

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As they settled in their
new land, however, the
Anglo-Saxons became an
agricultural people
Less violent, more
secure, more civilized
The Anglo-Saxons: (449 – 1066)
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As they settled in their new
land, however, the AngloSaxons became an agricultural
people
Less violent, more secure,
more civilized
One of the most important
civilizing forces was the
Christianity they began
accepting late in the sixth
century (500-599 AD)
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066)
The Danish Invasions

In the 790s a new group of invaders - the
Danes, also know as the Vikings, began to
devastate the flourishing culture
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066)
The Danish Invasions


In the 790s a new group of invaders - the
Danes, also know as the Vikings, began to
devastate the flourishing culture
English king Alfred the Great was able to resist
the first invasion. He was a strong proponent of
learning and education. He oversaw the writing
of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which recorded
early English life.
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066)
The Danish Invasions



In the 790s a new group of invaders - the Danes, also
known as the Vikings, began to devastate the flourishing
culture
English king Alfred the Great was able to resist the first
invasion. He was a strong proponent of learning and
education. He oversaw the writing of the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle which recorded early English life.
He could not hold off subsequent invasions, however,
and was forced to agree to a truce
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066)
The Norman Conquest
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Meanwhile, conquering Vikings in France adopted the
Franks' language, religion, laws, customs, political
organization and methods of warfare, to become Franks
in all but name—they were now known as Normans,
men of Normandy.
By 1042, the Danes were out of power in England, and
Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon ruler, was
on the throne.
Edward died in 1066, and that year found the Normans
overpower the Anglo-Saxons. This was their last defeat.
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066):
Hierarchy
1. King = he was expected to be generous
to his loyal subjects
2. Earls/Thanes/Free Warriors = claimed
kinship to founder of tribes. They were
expected to be LOYAL.

The Witan = they were the King’s council –
the King made the final decisions
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066):
Hierarchy
3. Freemen/Genlats = independent
landowners
4. Churls = boundmen who trace ancestry
to former captives of tribe; did the hard
labor; worked for Earls; could move up
to “freemen” with possessions & special
royal favor
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066):
Hierarchy
5. Slaves/Thralls
**Women were a subclass. They were
viewed as only important for domestic
duties.
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066)

What did they eat?
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066)
What did they eat?
 Most Anglo-Saxons were largely
vegetarian. Poor Saxons ate chicken,
bacon, and pork sausages, but red
meat (farmed and hunted) was only
for the rich.
 Pork also seems to have been popular,
as well as beef and mutton.

The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066)
 What
did they eat?
 Along with their meal they
would often have mead. Mead
is a drink made by fermenting
honey.
Anglo-Saxons = What did they
admire in their warriors
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Good sportsmanship
Endurance
Loyalty to king
Athletic prowess
Bravery
Respect for each other
Action and fighting
The Anglo-Saxons = Religion
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They came to Britain with their own pagan
beliefs.
They had a firm belief in fate (wyrd).
They worshiped ancient Germanic gods
like Tui, god of war and the sky; Woden,
chief of the gods; and Fria, Woden’s wife
and goddess of the home.
Sound familiar?
Tiu, Woden, and Fria today
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Tuesday
Wednesday
Friday
Where do we get the
rest of our week’s
names?
Something to consider…

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,
safety and shelter must be firmly
established before more thoughtful ideas
can take root. (A person cannot “skip”
levels.) Therefore, religion was not
important to the Anglo-Saxons until their
primary needs were met.
The Anglo-Saxons = Religion
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Christianity had been introduced by the
Romans, and the Celts were converted.
Irish monks helped establish a strong
Christian hold on the island.
Scots were converted easily, and many
monasteries were built in Scotland.
The Anglo-Saxons = Religion
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Roman cleric Saint
Augustine arrives in
597.
Saint Augustine was
able to convert King
Ethelbert of Kent; this
led to the kingdom
being converted.
The Anglo-Saxons = Religion
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The Church promoted peace, and that
helped unite the English people.
The Church also brought education and a
written literature.
Monks often worked as scribes, recording
and duplicating written work by hand.
The Anglo-Saxons (449-1066)
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Venerable Bede (673735) = “The Father of
English History”
He wrote A History of
the English Church
and People – the
clearest account of
early Anglo-Saxon
times.
It is better never to begin a good
work than, having begun it, to
stop.
Bede, A History of the English
Church and People
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The Angle-Saxon Period 449-1066