-The Origins of English literature-
• The Iberians: they were the first inhabitants of Britain; they came from Spain and they were tall with black air. We have some archaeological remains of their buildings and the most important and bigger of these remains is Stonehenge, a circle of bluish stones, that now are grey. Stonehenge is located in the South-West of Wales and in the past it had many possible functions: religious and ritual, observatory (Iberians were sky worshipper), law-giving and judging, truce-ground for intertribal disputes, market place or maybe it had been built only in order to catch the attention of eyes above.
• The Celts (700B.C.): they were from North-West Germany and they were tall, with fair skin and blue eyes; they arrived in Britain in 700 B.C.
We know their language, because it’s used nowadays in Wales (where it’s known as “Welsh”) and in Scotland (“Gaelic”).
Their Religion was called “Druidism” and their priests were the “Druids”, which were not only important in religion, but also in justice, education and medicine.
They also believed in immortality and in the transmigration of the soul from one person to another and they thought that the life after death was still spent on the Earth in caves, hills or lakes.
They communicated with the spiritual world trough sacrifices, in fact Celts used to offer precious objects or animals to their gods.
Celts were even located in France and they were called “Gaul Celts”.
• The Romans: Romans with Julius Caesar tried to invade Britain in 55 B.C., but they failed, but between 43 and 47 B.C. with Emperor Claudius they succeed and they invaded the South part of England, because it was a productive place.
Romans also tried to conquer Caledonia, located in the North, but they didn’t succeed, so Emperor Hadrian built a wall between their conquered territories and the other lands.
They built towns as well, that were used as army camps, called in Latin “castra”; for that the names of modern cities end in “-cester”, like Manchester or Lancaster.
Romans even founded the City of London, called originally Londinium.
Their control of those British territories ended when Rome had been attacked by Barbarian Raiders.
• The Anglo-Saxons: in the 449 A.D. three Germanic Tribes tried to invade Britain; they were the Jutes (form Denmark), the Anglo and the Saxons (from Northern Germany). These three tribes had a common language, called “Anglo-Saxon”.
Their society was well organised, there were family units, clans and tribes.
The King was at the top of the society, followed by the “eorls”, that were aristocrats, the “thegns”, that were the warriors, the “churls”, that were the peasants, and at the bottom of the society there were the slaves.
In their society there were some laws, called “Dooms”, which were the codification of existing customs; these laws were redacted by the King and the Witan, that is a council formed by noblemen and churchmen.
They ruined Roman towns and they built some buildings made of wood.
-The Conversion to Christianity-
In the 6th century Christianity began to spread in Britain, in fact Pope Gregory I sent St. Augustine in Britain for convert the population.
Augustine landed in the South, where he converted the Royal Family and in Canterbury he established a monastery. St. Augustine also became the highest ecclesiastical authority in England, as he became an Archbishop.
However it was the Celtic Church with monks that brought Christianity to the common people.
So the Roman Church had an important role in England since the religion in British territories was Christianity, in fact contributed to the power of Kings.
The Vikings were Scandinavian invaders, which came from Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
They were fierce and pagan warriors, very brutal and violent.
In 866 a large Viking Army began the conquest and settlement of Britain.
Most of Viking places were in the North and in the North East.
Vikings also ended the Anglo-Saxon control in England, in fact they defeated the last Anglo-Saxon King, Harold, in 1066 in the Battle of Hastings; King Harold was defeated by the Duke of Normandy, William “the Conqueror”, and after this battle ha has been crowned by the Pope as King of England.
-Poems and Chronicles-
Anglo-Saxon literature (or Old English Literature) was written in Anglo-Saxon (Old English) from the second half of the 5th century to the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It includes genres such as Epic Poetry, Chronicles, Riddles, translations of the
Bible from Latin, stories about the lives of saints and sermons.
The most important works from this period are the epic poem Beowulf.
Old English poetry was anonymous and oral. The poet, called “scop”, entertained the noblemen in the halls of kings often accompanied by a harp; the scop’s social function was extremely important, since it provided a common cultural identity.
The Poets used to sing their writings, in fact they sang chronicles, histories, myths and legends.
The most important formal aspects of Anglo-Saxon poetry were stress and alliteration and typical of literature was the Riddle, a linguistic guessing game, whose intention is to mystify or mislead.