The Anglo-Saxons invasion

In 410 AD barbarian raiders from northern Germany invaded Britain. They were the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. However the Celtic population tried to resist to this invasion. By the end of the 6th century the Anglo-Saxons establish in Britain seven kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, Essex, Sussex, Kent and East Anglia. Wessex was the most important. Sussex, Essex and East Anglia retained their name in for the modern counties. In the 5th century born the legend of King Arthur. Perhaps he was a great military leader, maybe he was only a fantastic legend.

The Anglo-Saxon culture

In a first time the Anglo-Saxons were a pagan culture. For re-establish Christian religion, pope Gregory I sent in 597 AD a monk called Augustine in Britain. No more later he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. In the 6th and in the 7th century were built a lot of monasteries in Britain. The monasteries were considered centres of learning because ,in this place, the scholar monks copied out books by hand. The most important monk of this period was Venerable Bede. He was called “the father of the English history” because he wrote the first book about the English history in the Latin language.

Old English

The language spoken in this period is now called Old English. Old English was a mixture of the languages spoken by the three Germanic tribes, that in the 6th century invaded Britain(the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes). Old English is different from modern English for spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. The literature of old English was first communicated orally. The poem or tale changed a lot before put down in written form by the scholar monks. The poet, or scop, were vary important because they know all the stories and the legend about their clan. The scop can be compared to the modern day rapper, because both composed rimes spontaneously. The kennings were used a lot in this period. A kenning is a sort of riddle which often occurs in compound words. For example the sea was the wale-road and human body was the bone-house.

Poems

Much of the oral literature has been lost, either because it was never written down, or because manuscripts have not survived to this day. The poems were religious or pagan. For the pagan poetry we can distinguished the elegy and the poem. For the poem we have the example of “Beowulf”, written in the 6th century. For the elegy we have the example of “The Exeter Book”, written in the 10th century. As to religious poems we know two author: Caedmon and Cynewulf. The first write book about the biblical scriptures; the second one write book about saints and apostles.

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