The Anglo-Saxon Period Essay

This essay has a total of 1825 words and 8 pages.

The Anglo-Saxon Period

The Anglo Saxon period is the oldest known period of time that had a complex culture with
stable government, art, and a fairly large amount of literature. Many people believe that
the culture then was extremely unsophisticated, but it was actually extremely advanced for
the time. Despite the many advancements, the period was almost always in a state of war.
Despite this fact, the Anglo-Saxon period is a time filled with great advancements and
discoveries in culture, society, government, religion, literature, and art.

The Angles were a Germanic tribe that occupied the region which is now Scleswig-Holstein,
Germany. With their fellow ethnic groups, they formed the people who came to be known as
the English. The Saxons were a Germanic people who first appeared in the beginning of the
Christian era. The Saxons were said to have lived in the south Jutland Peninsula in the
north of what is now Germany, but the fact has not been proven. They attacked and raided
areas in the North Sea throughout the third and fourth centuries. By the end of the sixth
century, the Saxons had taken all of the Roman territory within north-west Germany, as far
as the Elbe River. The Angles joined the Saxons in the invasion of Britain in the fifth
and sixth centuries. British resistance to the 'Anglo Saxon' invaders in the second half
of the fifth century ended with the Anglo Saxon's victory at the battle of Mount Badon.
After the British were defeated, though, the Angles and the Saxons continued to fight over
their religion for many years (Irvin, Vacca, Probst, Beers, p.46).

Before the year 596, almost everybody had strong pagan beliefs. In 596 missionaries had
begun to attempt to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. By the year 650, almost all
of England had converted to Christianity- at least in name. Although almost everyone
claimed to be strong believers in Christ and the church, most still held on to their pagan
beliefs and traditions. No matter what they believed, everyone applied their religious
beliefs to their everyday life. (Chin et al. Glencoe Literature, p.35).

Everyone in the age would always wear extremely modest clothing. The common garment for a
man was the robe gathered at the waist, completed by hose and soft sandals. The same was
for the woman, except their dress extended to the feet. The most common materials used to
make clothing were linen and woolens, though the more expensive outfits were marked by
colorful dyes and exotic borders. Usually then men would hide short spears under their
clothing for added protection. (Ross, David, http://www.britainexpress.com/)

The common weapon in war was the spear. Conventional spears were seven feet long with a
iron head and was used to be thrown and also to jab. Shields were plain and round, made of
wood with an iron center. Only the rich and noble used swords, which were made of iron
with steel edges. The Vikings were more heavily armed than the Anglo-Saxons, and they
relied on chain mail and helmets as protection, and most people used a short stabbing
swords as protection, although some used either a lance or a double-edged sword. (Ross,
http://www.britainexpress.com).

When the men weren't fighting, the favorite pastimes of the Anglo-Saxon period were dice
and board game such as chess. Complex riddles were very popular, as well as hunting. At
gatherings, the most common entertainment was the harp, as well as juggling balls and
knives. (Ross, http://www.britainexpress.com).

Little writing remains to be studied because England was still developing their written
language during many of these years, and storytelling was generally in the oral tradition.
The two types of poetry that was written during the time period was heroic poetry and
Christian poetry. Only about 30,000 lines of poetry from the age have survived to this
time, and the epic poem "Beowulf" makes up a large portion of that (Irvin, Vacca, Probst,
Beers, p.47). It originated as a pagan saga transmitted orally from one generation to the
next, and court poets known as ‘scops' were the bearers of tribal history and tradition.
(Hutchinson Book of the Arts, www.sirs.com) The newer version of Beowulf was composed by a
Christian poet, sometime early in the 8th century (Hutchinson Book of the Arts,
www.sirs.com). The Christian themes found in the epic, however, however are not integrated
into the main part of the essentially pagan tale (Hutchinson Book of the Arts,
www.sirs.com).

Works such as Deor, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, and other poems follows the same basic
theme as Beowulf. In these works, a happy past is contrasted with a precarious and
desolate present. This type of heroic poetry celebrates great heroism even in the face of
great danger and overwhelming odds (Hutchinson Book of the Arts, www.sirs.com).

Most of the Christian poetry is marked by the belief of a simple, relatively
unsophisticated Christianity. The names of only two authors are known. Caedmon, whose
story is told by the Venerable Bede, is the earliest known English poet. Not much is known
about him, and almost all of his work has been lost. The other known poet is named
Cynewulf. The only thing known about him is that he signed the poems Juliana, and The
Fates of the Apostles (The Columbia Encyclopedia).

Poetry in the Anglo-Saxon period is very different from modern poetry. The verse form for
old English poetry is a line of four stressed syllables and an unfixed number of
unstressed syllables that are broken by a caesura. The lines are usually end-stopped and
unrhymed. Although writing poetry was very popular in the age, people used more modern art
to either make a living or as a hobby (The Columbia Encyclopedia).

Art in the Anglo-Saxon period was influenced from many places. The three greatest
influences were the Celtic arts of the Britons, the Christian church in Rome, and the
Norse arts following the Viking invasions. Their manuscript painting, sculpted crosses and
ivories, and enamel designs demonstrate a liking for intricate and interwoven designs. In
the manuscripts of southern England, one can see how the way of writing changed. Before
the 9th century, the writing was fairly plain. A somewhat different style emerged mid-9th
century, with delicate, lively pen-and-ink figures and heavily decorative foliage borders.
Much of the metalwork from the age has also survived over the years. It consisted of
bronze brooches of simple design, and circular silver brooches decorated with gold and
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