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Anglo-Saxon Essay

The Anglo-Saxon period began in 449 and lasted for over 600 years. Born of warfare, Anglo-Saxon England remained forever a military society. Though like most great societies it met its end in battle. However the Anglo-Saxons help to lay a great foundation for English history.

In order for a society to exist and prosper, there must be those that create it, which include the Celts and the Romans, the early settlers of the Britain. Britain was inhabited by many Celtic tribes that were lead by kings. Within each tribe the society was stratified into classes, much like the castes system; the Druids or priests, considered the educated class, the Nobility or ruling families of the tribes, the Warriors, Artisans, manual workers, and slaves. Since there was not much unity between the tribes, politically, the Celtic society was very vulnerable to attacks.

Around mid first century AD, the Romans invaded Britain subjugating the Celtic society. Under Roman rule the Celts were assimilated into their society, losing their individual culture. The conquest brought about a great change in the daily life of Britain; culturally, economically, and militarily. However, the main concern of the Roman society was to strengthen the power of the political order so as to help spread the Roman civilization. As for other areas like religion, Celtic deities were merged with their Roman counterparts. The Roman Empire ran strong for roughly 300 years, but by the 5th century the Empire began to collapse setting the stage for a new group to enter.

The Anglo-Saxons, who occupied Britain after the Roman Empire fell, made great contributions to society in education and literature with their poetry and prose writings; one of the great contributors was Alfred the Great. Alfred, born in southern England, became king of Wessex, the West Saxons, after the death of his brother Athelred in 871 AD. During this period of time Danish forces (Vikings) invaded Wessex. Although Alfred did not defeat the Danes at this point in time, in 878 AD the West Saxons defeated the Danes in the Battle of Edington. By 886 Alfred had united the English kingdoms and became King of England. Though he was a great military leader, Alfred was an avid benefactor of learning. He encouraged his followers to learn to read; he even learned Latin himself, translating works like Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, Roman statesman and philosopher, and Pastoral Care by Pope Gregory I into English. Alfred is the only English king to be deemed "The Great."

The Anglo-Saxons brought with them a very unique poetic tradition that when accompanied by Anglo-Saxon language, or Old English, make up the basis for Modern English. Often daring and strong, but also mournful and elegiac in spirit, their poetry emphasizes the sorrow and ultimate futility of life and the helplessness of humans before the power of fate. They also seem to characterize the heroism of warriors as found in epic or heroic poetry. Similarly, Christian themes can be found in some epic poems along with Germanic myths, history, and customs. These characteristics can be found in the poems Beowulf, more of the heroic/epic type, and Deor, The Wanderer, and The Seafarer, focusing more on the elegiac theme.

On the other side of the coin there is the pose writing found in Anglo-Saxon literature. Before the reign of Alfred, important prose documents were written in Latin as the monks who recorded the documents saw the language of the



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