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anglo saxon

The Anglo Saxon period commonly referred to as "The Dark Ages" fell between the departure of the Roman Army from Britain in AD 411 at the request of Constantine the third, the call taken up to defend the empire at home by Emperor Honorius, to the Viking invasions of the 9th century AD.


Britain was left alone to defend itself, and in the 5th century reverted back to its pre-Roman Celtic warrior society, and at this time the Welsh language was more widely spoken than Latin. During the 5th century stone Roman towns were dismantled and replaced with wooden buildings by tyrants such as Vortigern. The Celts continued to control the west and also the highlands. However by the mid 5th century Britain was occupied by the Germanic tribes of the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes having themselves being driven out of mainland Europe by the war like Huns. The legend of King Arthur centres around the time. Indeed, it is now thought that the name Arthur could have been derived from the Roman name Arturious, and that Arthur could have been a Roman descendant who led the Britons to success using Roman methods and tactics against the Anglo-Saxons in the battle of Mons Budonicus in 500 AD.


During the mid 5th to 6th century, paganism replaced Christianity and at this time people were buried with jewellery and weapons for use in the afterlife. The main writings of the 5th century were by St. Patrick in Ireland, which at this time was still strongly Celtic. During the 6th century the writings were by the Welsh monk Gildas, and we understand that during this time Britain was run by Kings or war lords with separate kingdoms, of which there were approximately twelve. The Jutes occupied Kent and the Isle of Wight, the Saxons occupied Wessex Sussex and Essex, the Angles occupied East Anglia, the Hwicce occupied Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, and the Deira and Bernicar occupied the North East.


The 7th century saw the reintroduction of Christianity by St. Augustine and the Benedictine monks who had arrived in Kent from mainland Europe in AD 597. In AD 600 St. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, and in AD 634 Oswald became King of Northumbria which paved the way for the whole kingdom to be converted back to Christianity by the end of the 7th century which was accepted by all the Kings.


The 8th century saw the power and wealth of the church grow with churches and monasteries being constructed throughout the country. People that supported the Christian religion made donations of money and land to the monasteries and churches which saw their wealth grow even more substantially. Monasteries, especially in Northumbria, became centres of learning, teaching Latin in schools and producing beautiful illuminated manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels which were written around AD 698.


The famous Ecclesiastical History of the English people was written by the monk Bede, in Northumbria during the year AD 731. Unfortunately many manuscripts were destroyed by the Viking raids which started at the Island monastery of Lindisfarne in AD 793. This resulted in further raids, and eventually the occupation of the Vikings in the 9th century bringing to an end the four centuries of Anglo Saxon rule. For the next two centuries war was waged against the Vikings.

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