The strongest ties in Anglo-Saxon society were to kin and lord. The ties of loyalty were to the person of a lord, not to his station. There was no real concept of patriotism or loyalty to a cause. This explains why dynasties waxed and waned so quickly. A kingdom was only as strong as its war-leader king. There was no underlying administration or bureaucracy to maintain any gains beyond the lifetime of a leader.
The king's powers
Kings could not, except in exceptional circumstances, make new laws. Their role instead was to uphold and clarify previous custom. The first act of a conquering king was often to assure his subjects that he would uphold their ancient privileges, laws, and customs.
King Edgar making an offering
The king and religion
Although the person of the king as a leader could be exalted, the office of kingship was not in any sense as powerful or as invested with authority as it was to become. One of the tools kings used was to tie themselves closely to the new Christian church. The practice of having a church leader anoint and crown the king was part of this move to join God and king in peoples' minds.
The ties of kinship meant that the relatives of a murdered person were obliged to exact vengeance for his or her death. This led to bloody and extensive feuds. As a way out of this deadly and futile custom the system of wergelds was instituted. The wergeld set a monetary value on each person's life according to their wealth and social status. This value could also be used to set the fine payable if a person was injured or offended against. Robbing a thane called for a higher penalty than robbing a ceorl. On the other hand, a thane who thieved could pay a higher fine than a ceorl who did likewise.
This emphasis on social standing led to an interesting court system. The courts did not attempt to discover the facts in a case; instead, in any dispute it was up to each party to get as many people as possible to swear to the rightness of their case. The word of a thane counted for that of six ceorls. It was assumed that any person of good character would be able to find enough people to swear to his innocence that his case would prosper.
The role of women
Anglo-Saxon society was decidedly patriarchal, but women were in some ways better off than they would be in later times. A woman could own property in her own right. She could and did rule a kingdom if her husband died. She could not be married without her consent and any personal goods, including lands, that she brought into a marriage remained her own property. If she were injured or abused in her marriage her relatives were expected to look after her interests.
Cultural aspects of Anglo-Saxon Community
Anglo-Saxon Culture: Perhaps one of the most important aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture is their architecture. The Anglo-Saxons played an important role in the architecture of the country from the 5th century until the conquest of the Normans in 1066. The first structures to be built by the Anglo-Saxons were fairly simple. They used materials such as timber and thatch. One thing that is certain about the Anglo-Saxons is that they did not like living in the older Roman towns. They had a preference for designing buildings which would cater to their own style. They would typically build a village that was near an important centre for agriculture. Each city would have what was called the main hall. The main hall was surrounded by the homes of the farmers. It is very likely that this term was extended into places like the United States, where even small cities will have a downtown area with a "city hall." Very little has remained of the structures that were built by the Anglo-Saxons. There are a few churches today which still survive, but many of them have been altered over the years. Many have said that the Anglo-Saxon style borrowed influences from the Coptic style of architecture. In the late period, structures that were built by the Anglo Saxons would use things such as headed openings and baluster shafts. However, the contributions made by Anglo-Saxon culture are not merely limited to architecture. They also made a number of contributions in the field of art. The artistic aspects of Anglo Saxon culture became especially pronounced during the reign of King Alfred. Once the frequent Viking raids ended, Romanesque art became very popular. Before the rise of King Alfred, the art had primarily been a combination of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic influences. Much of the art that was produced during this time is known today via manuscripts. A number of manuscripts speak of Hiberno-Saxon art, as well as Byzantine and Carolingian art. Another style that emerged during this time is the Winchester style. It used artistic influences from the northern region of the country and combined them with the ornamental style that had been borrowed from many Mediterranean countries. This artistic style is evidence that the Anglo-Saxons were influenced by a number of different cultures throughout Europe. The most impressive piece of surviving Anglo-Saxon art is called the Bayeux Tapestry. Another important aspect of Anglo-Saxon culture is their language. The language spoken by these people is commonly called Old English. The Anglo-Saxon community in England was basically a rural one, where primarily all classes of society lived on the land. Anglo American is an individualist culture. Groups composed of the collectivist individuals ac ted co-operatively more often than did the groups composed solely of individualists ; under task conditions when cooperative behaviour was expected from others, the collectivists tended to increase their level of cooperative behavior but the individualists did not. Here, the manager of individualist culture lacks emotional attachment to the company & his/her involvement is essentially calculative. He/she aims for variety rather than conformity in work. The Namaste of Asian countries like India and Wai of Thailand is not appropriate for a manager coming to an Anglo country. These gestures are not used by Westerners in their cultures. All managerial roles are centrally concerned with creating & interpreting powerful symbols. Managers influence other people by using symbols that have meaning to these persons & that motivate them towards desired ends. An example of such a symbol is a memorandum written by the manager to announce a change in procedure. An Anglo manager selects the memo as the most efficient way of communicating a message & therefore its use seems obviously rational and hence may not be aware of it as a Symbol. Symbols rooted in some other culture appear exotic.
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ANGLOSAXON CHRISTIAN POETRY In the old English period, religious poetry seems to a flourished in northern England throughout the 8th century. Though, most of it has survived only in West-Saxon transcription of the 10 century. Old epic models no longer sweated the changed spirit of the age, new models were sought after. In the Christian poetry, we have variety of subjective note, as in “THE DREAM OF THE RUDE”. Prayer and praise of the lord, as we find in Caedmon, and the love for quite beauty and pleasant natural scenery, as in the “PHONIX”, are some unique features of those poems. Another curious feature is the advert of female heroines in the new poems like, “JULIANA” and “JUDITH”. Unfortunately, though we could have expected the names of the poets to be religiously preserved, in such cases, only 2 names have come down to us- Caedmon and Cynewulf. Caedmon is taken as the first Christian English poet, the pioneer of Christian poetry in English. Very little is definitely known about his life and activities. It is supposed that he was a worker in a monastery of Whidbey; he was a simple, unlettered man, whose main function was to look after the property of a monastery. The Anglo -Saxon Christian poetry does not break away completely from the earlier tradition. Style is adopted to the Christian themes. The junius manuscript contents 4 Caedmonian poems of which, the 1st 3 are based on, “THE OLD.
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Entertainment today is very different from back in the day. Media today gives the impression that this violence is normal. This message, which all these forms of entertainment are sending out, is what is causing the real violence in society. Anglo -Saxons valued strength because those who were strong could protect the tribe, and by valuing strength they encouraged to mean to keep getting stronger, building up their protection. During the Anglo -Saxon period, pride was worth its weight in gold, figuratively and literally. BBC News states, “The angles, Saxons . and the jutes had taken over most of the area east of a line from the number to the Isle of Wight” (BBC News.) Men who were prideful were the men who dominated in battle. Victory in battle meant respect from one’s tribe; it also meant the spoils of war, often gold. Even in today’s society pride is still considered a good emotion. Although, modern society does hold the belief that there should be a limit to one’s pride, contrary to Anglo -Saxon beliefs. The Anglo -Saxons believed that pride was a measure of one’s success in life. In Anglo -Saxon society, pride was a major factor behind the actions of men. Warriors who were victorious in battle were prideful due to their achievements. This Anglo -Saxon passion for pride is seen throughout.
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Assessing the status of women during the Anglo -Saxon period is difficult. First, it is necessary to clarify which women are we talking about. Narrative sources such as Anglo -Saxon Chronicle present the idealized women who actively participated in political and religious affairs, and some literary sources like Beowulf and wife’s lamentation show the limitation of noble women’s role as “peace-weaver” for political purposes. The role of secular noble women varies from individual cases and it was hard to generalize their status in Anglo -Saxon society. Religious sources tell that religious women gained a favored position in church hierarchy and was regarded relatively equal with men in the early period, but their influence declined. Law codes offer a relatively complete picture of the status of women, and they indicate a gradual rise of women’s legal status throughout Anglo -Saxon period. Therefore, while it is hard to say that the Anglo -Saxon period of English history was a golden age for women in the Middle Ages, it is safe to say that the status of secular woman reaches a high point at the end of this period. Narrative sources are valuable since it One important sources that reveals the role of women is narrative sources. Most of these texts emphases on “great women” who had some impacts on Anglo -Saxon .
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The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic barbarians who invaded Britain and took over large parts of the island in the centuries following the withdrawal of the Roman Empire. They were initially less gentrified than other post-Roman barbarian groups such as the Franks or Ostrogoths because they had less contact with Mediterranean civilization.
The Anglo-Saxons were originally pagan in religion. The main group, from northwestern Germany and Denmark, was divided into Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. German tribal affiliations were loose and the original invaders included people from other Germanic groups as well.
Although some of the early Anglo-Saxon invaders had Celtic-influenced names, such as Cedric, the founder of the house of Wessex, the Anglo-Saxons had a pronounced awareness of them-selves as different from the peoples already inhabiting Britain. Their takeover led to the integration of Britain into a Germanic world. Unlike other groups such as the Franks they did not adopt the language of the conquered Celtic and Roman peoples, but continued speaking a Germanic dialect.
The early Anglo-Saxons highly valued courage and skill in battle, as reflected in the most significant surviving Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf. Their pagan religion was marked by a strong sense of fatalism and doom, but also by belief in the power of humans to manipulate super-natural forces through spells and charms. They shared a pantheon with other Germanic peoples, and many Anglo-Saxon royal houses boasted descent from Woden, chief of the Gods. Their religion was not oriented to an afterlife, although they may have believed in one.
The Anglo-Saxons strongly valued familial ties—the kinless man was an object of pity. If an Anglo-Saxon was killed, it was the duty of his or her family to attain vengeance or a monetary payment, weregild, from the killer. Anglo-Saxon kinship practices differed from those of the Christian British, adding to the difficulty of the assimilation of the two groups. For example, British Christians were horrified by the fact that the Anglo-Saxons allowed a man to marry his stepmother on his father’s death. Anglo-Saxons also had relatively easy divorce customs.
The cultural differences between the Britons and the Anglo-Saxons were particularly strong in the field of religion, as British Christians despised Anglo-Saxon paganism. The Anglo-Saxons reciprocated this dislike and did not assimilate as did continental Germanic groups. The extent to which the Anglo-Saxons simply displaced the British as opposed to the British assimilating to AngloSaxon culture remains a topic of debate among historians and archeologists of post-Roman Britain.
The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity owed more to missionary efforts from Ireland and Rome than it did to the indigenous British Church. Paganism held out longest among the common people and in the extreme south, in Sussex and the Isle of Wight.
Some Anglo-Saxons were not converted until the middle of the eighth century. Some peculiar relics of paganism held out for centuries. For example Christian Anglo-Saxon kings continue to trace their descent from Woden long after conversion. The church waged a constant struggle against such surviving pagan Anglo-Saxon customs as men marrying their widowed stepmothers.
Reconciling Irish and Roman influences was also a challenge, fought out largely on the question of the different Irish and Roman methods of calculating the date of Easter. Not until the Synod of Whitby in 664 did the Anglo-Saxon church firmly commit to the Roman obedience.
Conversion led to the opening of Anglo-Saxon England, until then a rather isolated culture, to a variety of foreign influences, particularly emanating from France and the Mediterranean. The leader of the missionary effort sent by Rome to Kent to begin the conversion, Augustine, was an Italian, and the most important archbishop of Canterbury in the following decades, Theodore, was a Greek from Cilicia in Asia Minor. Pilgrimages were also important in exposing Anglo-Saxons to more developed cultures.
The first recorded visit of an Anglo-Saxon to Rome occurred in 653 and was followed by thousands of others over the centuries. Since pilgrims needed to travel through France to get to Italy and other Mediterranean pilgrimage sites, pilgrimage also strengthened ties between Gaul and Britain.
Anglo-Saxon churchmen found out about innovations or practices in other places, such as glass windows in churches, and came back to England eager to try them out. Despite these influences, Anglo-Saxon Christianity also drew from Germanic culture.
Like other Germanic peoples the Anglo-Saxons tended to view the Bible and the life of Christ through the lens of the heroic epic. Christ was portrayed as an epic hero, as in one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon religious poems, The Dream of the Rood. The Dream of the Rood recounts the Crucifixion from the seldom-used point of view of the cross itself, and represents Christ as a young hero and the leader of a group of followers resembling a Germanic war band.
Another remarkable example of the blending of Germanic and Christian traditions is the longest surviving Anglo-Saxon poem, the epic Beowulf. Telling of a pagan hero in a pagan society, the epic is written from an explicitly Christian point of view and incorporates influences from the ancient Roman epic, Virgil’s Aeneid .
As the Anglo-Saxon Church moved away from dependence on outside forces, Irish or Roman, in the seventh and eighth centuries, the Christian Anglo-Saxon kingdoms produced their own saints, mostly from the upper classes. Anglo-Saxon saints such as Cuthbert (d. 687), a monk and hermit particularly popular in the north of England, attracted growing cults.
The highest point of Anglo-Saxon Christian culture was the Northumbrian Renaissance, an astonishing flowering of culture and thought in a poor borderland society. Northumbria was a kingdom in the north of the area of Anglo-Saxon settlement, an economically backward and primitive society even compared to the rest of early medieval Europe. It was also a place where Continental and Irish learning met.
The Northumbrian Renaissance was based in monasteries, and its most important representative was the monk Bede, a historian, chronographer, and hagiographer. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People is the most important source for early Anglo-Saxon history. Another Northumbrian was Caedmon, the first Anglo-Saxon Christian religious poet whose works survive.
Northumbria also displayed a rich body of Christian art, incorporating Anglo-Saxon and Celtic artistic influences, and some from foreign countries as far away as the Byzantine empire. An enormous amount of monastic labor went into the production of manuscripts.
Despite the importance of Northumbrian Renaissance, Northumbria was not the only place where Christian culture reached a high point. Another area was the West Country, where the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex encroached on the British territories of Devon and Cornwall. Curiously, Kent, still headquarters of the archbishop of Canterbury who claimed primacy over all the “English,” became a cultural backwater after the death of Archbishop Theodore in 690.
The influence of Anglo-Saxon Christianity and the Northumbrian Renaissance spread to continental Europe. Anglo-Saxons, in alliance with the papacy, were concerned to spread the Christian method to culturally related peoples in Germany.
The principal embodiment of this effort was the missionary Wynfrith, also known as St. Boniface (680–754), who was born in Wessex. His religious efforts began with assisting a Northumbrian missionary in an unsuccessful mission to the Frisians. He then went to Rome to receive authority from the pope.
Boniface made many missionary journeys into Germany, where he became known for converting large numbers of Germans, and for a physical, confrontational missionary style that included chopping down the sacred trees that were a feature of Germanic paganism. Many English people followed Boniface to Germany, where they exerted a strong influence on the development of German Christianity.
Boniface was also responsible for a reorganization of the Frankish Church to bring it more firmly under papal control. On another journey to Frisia angry pagans killed him. Anglo-Saxons, along with other people from the British Isles, were also prominent in the circle of learned men at the court of Charlemagne. The leading scholar at Charlemagne’s court, Alcuin of York, was a Northumbrian.
This high point of Anglo-Saxon Christian culture was terminated by the series of Viking raids and invasions beginning in the late eighth century. Unlike Christian Anglo-Saxon warriors, who usually respected monasteries, the pagan Vikings saw them as rich repositories of treasure, and monastic life virtually disappeared from the areas under Scandinavian control.
By the ninth century the leader of the English resurgence, King Alfred the Great of Wessex, lamented the passing of the golden age of English Christianity, claiming that there was hardly any one in England who could understand the Latin of the mass book. Alfred, an unusually learned king who had visited the European continent, made various attempts to restore English monasticism and learned culture.
He gathered in his court scholars from throughout the British Isles and the continent, as well as writing his own translations, such as that of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy. Alfred also sponsored the translation of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History and other works from Latin into Anglo-Saxon. The period also saw the beginnings of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a record of current events kept in Anglo-Saxon, eventually at monasteries.
Like the political unification of England by Alfred’s descendants, the creation of this body of Anglo-Saxon literature contributed to the creation of a common Anglo-Saxon or English identity. There was very little parallel for this elsewhere in Christian Europe at the time, when learned writing was almost entirely restricted to Latin. Alfred’s patronage of men of letters was also important for the creation of his personal legend.
The unification of England did not end the Scandinavian impact on English culture, which revived with the conquest of England by the Danish king Canute in the 11th century. Canute, a Christian, respected the church and English institutions, and his reign was not destructive as the early Viking conquests had been. Scandinavian influence was particularly marked on the English language.
Since it was already similar to the Scandinavian tongues, Anglo-Saxon or Old English adopted loanwords much more easily than did Celtic languages such as Irish. Since it was necessary to use English as a means of communication between people speaking different Germanic tongues, many complex features of the language were lost or simplified. English would make less use of gender and case endings than other Germanic or European languages.
Although Alfred had hoped to revive English monasticism, the true recreation of monastic communities would only occur in the 940s, with royal patronage and under the leadership of Dunstan, a man of royal descent who became archbishop of Canterbury and a saint.
The English monastic revival was associated with the revival of Benedictine monasticism on the Continent, and the new monasteries followed the Rule of St. Benedict. Monasteries dominated the church in the united Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. with most bishops coming from monastic backgrounds and often serving as royal advisors.
The church generally prospered under the Eglish kings—large cathedrals were built or rebuilt after the damage of the Scandinavian invasions. The copying and illumination of manuscripts was also revived, and reached a high degree of artistic excellence in Winchester. Continental influences preceded the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The penultimate Anglo-Saxon king, Edward the Confessor, who had spent many years in France, built Westminster Abbey in a Norman Romanesque style.
Although Anglo-Saxon culture was displaced from its position of supremacy after the Norman Conquest of 1066, it did not disappear. At least one version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle continued to be compiled for nearly a century, and Anglo-Saxon poetry continued to be composed.