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Invasion of Britain of the Germanic
Tribes to The Battle of Hastings
Since the time of the Magna Carta (1215), the
English were creating a political system “by
and for the people”
America would not be what it is today without
the legacy of English common law and its
emphasis on personal rights and freedoms,
English parliamentary government, English
literature and the English language.
Many of our language, literature and law
concepts are in place due to the Anglo-Saxon
period of British history.
England, a small and isolated country, was first
invaded and settled by the Iberians, then the
Celts, the Romans, the Angles, Saxons, and
Jutes, the Vikings and the Normans
The name Britain comes from a group of Celts
called the Brythons
Celtic religion was called Animism (from the latin
word for “spirit”)—Celts saw spirits everywhere
Druids (Celtic priests) were intermediaries
between the gods and people
Gods and spirits must always be kept happy as a
result ritual dances and even human sacrifices
were sometimes practiced
Stonehenge in Salisbury Plain in Whitshire may
have been used by Druids for religious rites
Celtic mythology influenced English and Irish
Malory in the 15th Century gathered Celtic
legends about a warrior named Arthur—Le
Morte d’Arthur
Arthur is the embodiment of English values
In the 20th Century, William Butler Yeats used
Celtic myths in an attempt to make the Irish
aware of their lost heroic past
Celtic myths are full of strong women, unlike
the male dominated Anglo-Saxon literature
Queen Maeve of Connacht: Irish story about a
queen leading her troops into battle over the
ownership of a white bull
Celtic myths take the reader to enchanted lands
where magic and imagination ruled.
55 BC—Julius Caesar led an invasion into
100 years later and invasion organized by
Claudius finally defeated the Britons
The Roman occupation prevented further
invasions for several hundred years
Romans built a network of roads (some still
used today)
Romans built a defensive wall (Hadrian’s wall,
73 miles)
Christianity gradually took hold under the
leadership of European missionaries—old
Celtic religion began to vanish
By 409AD, the Romans returned home to battle
barbarians leaving behind the infrastructure
but no strong central government
Without the Romans, Britain was a country of
separate clans, resulting in weakness and
making it ripe for invasion
In the middle of the 5th Century, Angles and
Saxons came from Germany, and the Jutes
came from Denmark
The Anglo-Saxon language became the
dominant language in the new land-- Engla
land (England)
Celts fought hard before retreating to Wales in
the west—traces of culture remained (”once
and future king” King Arthur)
At first the country was still divided into its
own principalities each with its own king
Under King Alfred the Great , England became
a nation
He unified the clans in order to fight off the
invading Danes (Vikings)
Christianity provided a common faith and
common system of morality and right conduct
Christianity also linked England to the rest of
Christianity spread largely due to Irish and
continental missionaries—most important St.
The Anglo-Saxons continued to fight to protect
their people, their culture and their church
Eventually, both the Anglo-Saxons AND the
Danes were defeated in 1066 by William, Duke
of Normandy (William the Conqueror)
The Battle of Hastings (last battle in the
Norman Conquest)
The Anglo-Saxons were not barbarians but their
lives were not filled with learning, the arts or
luxurious living
WARFARE was the order of the day
Law and order was the responsibility of the leader
or any given group or clan
King was absolute ruler but still consulted with
witan (wise men)
Fame, success, and survival were gained through
loyalty to the leader, especially during war
Success was measured in gifts from the leader
Loyalty grew out of need to protect the group from
terrors in the wilderness
Most Anglo-Saxons lived close to their animals
in single family homesteads
These wooden buildings surrounded a
communal court (mead hall) or a warm, fire-lit
chieftain’s hall
This community arrangement contributed to a
sense of security but also to the close
relationship between leaders and followers
It also encouraged community discussion and
rule by consensus
Women had rights in Anglo-Saxon society that
were curtailed after the Norman Conquest
Women inherited and held property, even after
Men were required to give a women a substantial
gift before marriage: morgengifu or “morning-gift”
Women became powerful abbesses in the religious
Hild, the abbess of Whitby, accumulated an
immense library and turned Whitby into a center
of learning
Despite the influence of Christianity, the old
Anglo-Saxon religion with warrior gods persisted
Dark, fatalistic religion had come with the AngloSaxons from Germany and had much in common
with Norse or Scandinavian mythology
Wyrd was used by the Anglo-Saxons to represent
one’s fate in life
Lof-fame that survives death could be earned
through heroic actions
Anglo-Saxon Earthly Values: Bravery, Loyalty,
Generosity, Friendship
No afterlife
Odin-god of death,
poetry and magic
Thunor (Thor)-god of
thunder and lightning
Woden (Woden’s Day
Thor (Thor’s
The dragon-protector of treasure; seen as
“death devourer” and guardian of the burial
Anglo-Saxon religion seems to have been more
concerned with ethics than with mysticism—
with the earthly virtues of bravery, loyalty,
generosity, and friendship
Communal Hall or Mead Hall provided the
arena for storytellers and audiences
Storytellers were called bards or scops and
sang to the strumming of a harp
To the Anglo-Saxons creating poetry was as
important as fighting, hunting, farming or
Much of the literature was mournful or
elegiac—focus on the fact that life is hard and
ends in death
Because Ireland was isolated and surrounded
by wild seas, it was not overrun by the
Germanic invaders
Celtic Ireland was converted to Christianity in
432 by a Romanized Briton named Patrick
From 432-750, Ireland experienced a Golden
Irish monks founded monasteries that became
sanctuaries of learning and refuge
Bards, poets, scops provided one element of
hope: the possibility that heroic deeds might be
enshrined in society’s memory
Christianity was another element of hope
Monasteries served as centers of learning and
preserved the Latin and Greek classics as well
as great works of popular literature, such as
Scriptorium: writing room where monks
would copy manuscripts by hand
Latin was the language of the church and
educated until King Alfred
Because of King Alfred (Father of English
Prose), English became a respected language
thus bringing recognition to great works of
literature in Old English
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was commissioned
by King Alfred and was a lengthy running
history of the early days of England
1300BC Gilgamesh epic written
55 BC Julius Caesar invades
50Ad Londinium (present day
London) founded by Romans—
regained prominence with
Alfred in 866
499 Angles, Saxons and Jutes
Late 500s Books are printed in
597 St. Augustine(first
Archbishop) converts AngloSaxon King Ethelbert and
establishes monastery at
670 Caedmon, the earliest
English Christian poet
730 The Venerable Bede write
Ecclesiastical History of the
English People know as the father
of English history
760 Monks begin Book of Kells
manuscript of the Latin Gospels
(Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
793 Vikings invade beginning a
century of war
871 Alfred the Great becomes
975 The Exeter Book a collection
of English poetry is first copied
1066 William the Conqueror
defeats the Anglo-Saxons
Map of British Isles: be able
to identify Ireland, Scotland,
Wales, England, France,
London, Thames River
United Kingdom =Scotland,
England, Wales and
Northern Ireland
p.4 Hadrian’s Wall
p. 5 Bayeux Tapestry—
20inches high and 230 feet
long, commissioned by
William the Conqueror to
depict The Battle of Hastings
p. 10 Anglo-Saxon Village
p. 7 Stonehenge Photograph
and description by Julius