All about Anglo Saxons

Below is a detailed article about Anglo Saxon people with respect to their society, life, culture, beliefs, mythology, law architecture and much more. Let us study all these details.

Anglo Saxon Society

The Anglo Saxon groups migrated to Britain around 400 BC and were a powerful society in terms of growth and development of the English people. It did not take them long to settle in. They lived in well-made houses and were governed by an Anglo Saxon King. They also had a smooth running government system about which we will read along.

The Anglo Saxons lived in groups within their territories. Most of them were warriors and soldiers that supported the Kings in the battlefront. There were also groups of artisans and craftsmen. Most importantly, there were peasants and these belonged to the working class. There were also women that sewed clothes and weaved sweaters. People also served as slaves in the Anglo Saxon Society for the uppermost class.

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An illustration of life in Anglo Saxon era

There were feasts celebrated in the Anglo Saxon Society where many were called to a joyous dinner full of delicious meals and entertainment. These were hosted usually at the court of the Kings where people feasted and had a good time. For their pleasure, the men even went hunting and celebrated over meat and beer. The doctrines of the Anglo Saxon society included loyalty, friendship, and bravery.

This is derived from the various literature and excavated material by archaeologists and scientists.

Anglo Saxon Jewelry

Out of all the Medieval European eras, the Anglo Saxon era seems to have more inclination toward art and design. This is derived from the various excavated material and other matter by the archaeologists. Jewelry was worn by both men and women in the Anglo Saxon era be it necklaces, bracelets, rings, and other jewelry.

Gold was a precious metal even then and most of the jewelry was made with gold, especially the jewelry of the upper class, that is, the kings and the nobles.

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Excavated and reconstructed Royal Rings from the Anglo Saxon Era

Goldsmiths held a high status in the society, and it seems they also had the liberty to move around freely in the Anglo Saxon countries. Most of the metal work was appreciated by the neighboring countries. Hence, there was a trade of ornaments too. Italians imported this metal jewelry from the Anglo Saxons.

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Anglo Saxon Brooch

The men wore decorative belt buckles on their soldier uniforms. The color and the type of metal used represented the tribe they belonged to and the position they held. Many of these items that also included earrings, pendants, rings, and necklaces are all preserved and are on display at the British Museum.

Anglo Saxon Christianity

Christianity came to widespread in the 5th and 6th century AD. The spread of Christianity influenced many cultures, traditions, and cults that existed in the era. The Roman influence in Britain gave rise to the spread of Christianity. In the fourth century, Christianity was even made the official religion of the Romans by the Emperor Theodosius “the Great” who was the ruler after Constantine.

The influence of St Patrick in Ireland helped spread Christianity in the Irish villages and townships. Pope Gregory the I, noticed this influence of Christianity among the people and sent the Benedictine monk – Augustine of Canterbury to the Anglo Saxons to spread Christianity for political reasons.

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A painting of Pope Gregory I

Augustine was given a church by the Saxons and that’s how the Saxons resorted to priestly learning and civilization in the Anglo Saxon Period.

Anglo Saxon beliefs

It is been derived from many kinds of literature found in the Anglo Saxon period that the Anglo Saxons had strong beliefs in religion and were involved in spirituality too. Anglo Saxon Paganism was also a matter of great controversy. Many excavations suggest the worship of pagan gods and the beliefs and rituals carried out.

Christianity was introduced in the latter phase of the Anglo Saxon era and then became an adopted culture in the Anglo Saxon Society.

Christianity came to widespread in the 5th and 6th century AD. The spread of Christianity influenced many cultures, traditions, and cults that existed in the era. The Roman influence in Britain gave rise to the spread of Christianity. In the fourth century, Christianity was even made the official religion of the Romans by the Emperor Theodosius “the Great” who was the ruler after Constantine.

emperor-thesodius
A sculpture of Emperor Theodosius of the Roman Empire
The influence of St Patrick in Ireland helped spread Christianity in the Irish villages and townships. Pope Gregory the I, noticed this influence of Christianity among the people and sent the Benedictine monk – Augustine of Canterbury to the Anglo Saxons to spread Christianity for political reasons.

Augustine was given a church by the Saxons and that’s how the Saxons resorted to priestly learning and civilization in the Anglo Saxon Period.

Anglo Saxon Values and Anglo Saxon Characteristics

From the many pieces of literature found in the Anglo Saxon era, it can be derived that the Anglo Saxons were generous and courteous. They were loyal to the law and to the community. They had unity amongst one another and also were welcoming within the tribes.

They were also very courageous and brave. They fought for the people and were happy to serve. They were also hardworking and kept away from theft and lies. Most of this is based on the famous poem from Anglo Saxon literature – Beowulf.

Anglo Saxon Law

The Anglo Saxon law was practiced in the Anglo Saxon era. The Anglo Saxon law was derived from the ancient Germanic laws and thoughts. They were much in sync with the Scandinavian law and Barbarian law. The Anglo Saxon law was made from three contents – laws given by the king, customs and practices from the Domesday Book and privately made legal rules.

Before the 10th century, there was the act of penalizing a criminal for an act but as time passed, confiscation and capital punishment also became part of the culture. Laws were equal for men and women in terms of property rights, ownership, and inheritance.

The laws revolved highly around the preservation of peace. Peace was a separate rule and was not to be compromised with or violated in any case within the tribes of the Anglo Saxons.

Anglo Saxon Architecture

Anglo Saxons constructed many secular as well as ecclesiastical buildings. The ecclesiastical buildings were rather huge and the secular ones were smaller compared to them and they had a simple architecture. Some of them can be seen even today. The secular structures consisted of the town hall and were the fundamental meeting point of the society. They were made of timber walls.

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Bradford on Avon, Anglo Saxon Church in England

The ecclesiastical buildings were large and were mainly influenced by the Roman and Celtic populations. There were towers on every church building that stood as the feature of the Anglo Saxon architecture. Today, many of these architectures are found in Oxford, West Sussex, Oxfordshire. St Peter on the wall is one the most influential Anglo Saxon building that stands today. Its existence dates back to the year 654 AD.

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Church of Galilee, Chapel Durham, Cathedral in UK
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Escomb Saxon Church
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St Nicholas, West Essex

St Michael, North Gate, Oxford is also a fine example of Anglo Saxon Architecture. St Nicholas Church, West Essex is another Anglo Saxon architectural marvel that holds today.

Anglo Saxon Houses

From the excavations found in the East of England and the discovery of the town of West Stow, the houses of the Anglo Saxons is known to have been built with wood. Reconstructions by archaeologists have suggested the houses to have hay on top and wood standing from all sides.

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A reconstructed Anglo Saxon House

Most of the country was covered in forests and therefore, the availability of wood was in plenty which could be used for various purposes. They lived in these houses, cooked, and relaxed. The houses faced the sun as much as possible so as to get as much light and heat. The homes were also close to the river so the water intake was high.

They grew as many plants and vegetables they could, around the place for ease in receiving food. They also cooked inside these homes.

Anglo Saxon Flag

There were four major regions that were inhabited by the Anglo Saxons, namely the Kingdom of East Anglia, Kingdom of Mercia, Kingdom of Northumbria, and the Kingdom of West Saxon. Each had their own flag. The Saxons in England were last of the Anglo Saxons before the Norman invasion. The flag of the Kingdom of West Saxon was red in color with a yellow seadragon in the center.

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Illustration of an Anglo Saxon Flag

This may have been influenced by Roman art from the Roman era in England. This flag has been mentioned in the Battle of Burford in 752 AD and in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD.

Anglo Saxon Music

Music was a fundamental part of social life in Anglo Saxon Europe. Music influence began when the flow of Christianity began. It then became a matter of religious importance. Hymns and worship music was developed and sung in churches as a part of the holy service.

There was Carol dancing in churchyards toward the end of the year. The feasts of the rich Anglo Saxons were accompanied by music and dancing. There was a wide range of musical instruments used in the Anglo Saxon society and manually played by the people.

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Anglo Saxon Lyre – Musical Instrument

They played drums, flute, panpipes, and bells. Soft music was also played through the harp at the houses of the upper class during the feasts they held.

Anglo Saxon Life

Life was hard in the Anglo Saxon era but was simple. The society was divided into three classes – the upper class, the middle class, and the lower class. The upper class enjoyed their life hunting and hosting events. There were music and cheer. Life was hard for the lower class, they were known as ‘thralls’. They did hard labor but they were free. They were peasants and many of them borrowed land from the ‘thanes’ or the people from the upper class.

England was covered with forests and there was always the danger of a wolf attack. Domestic animals were kept in safe sheds due to this fear. Villages were self-sufficient as people grew their needs from nature. They even sewed their own clothes. However, salt and iodine were exported from other places. As time passed by, learning was encouraged and literature was promoted. Christianity began to spread and people began to gain a perspective.

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