THE OLD ENGLISH
A CELTIC people had been in Britain for many centuries before Julius Caesar’s invasion of that island in 55 B.C. The subsequent
occupation, not really begun in earnest until the time of the Emperor Claudius almost century later, was to make Britain, that is
Britannia, a part of the Roman Empire for a period somewhat longer that that interveningbetween the first permanent English
settlement in America and our own day. It I not therefore surprising that there are so many Roman remains in modern England,
some of them discovered quite recently in the very heart of London in the course of clearing away the rubble of World War II
THE COMING OF THE ENGLISH
According to the Venerable Bede’s account in his EcclesiasticalHistory of the English Nation, written in Latin and compled around
730, almost three centuries after the event, the Britons appealed to Rome for help. What relief they got, a single legion, was only
temporarily effectual. When Rome could or would help no more, the wretched Britons-still according to Bede-ironically enough
called the “Saxons” to their aid ”from the parts beyond the sea.” As aresult of this appeal, shiploads of Germanic warrior-
adventurers began to arrive. The date which Bede gives for the first landing-449-cannot be far out of the way, if at all. With it the Old
English period begins. With it, too,, we may in a sense begin thinking of Britain as England-the land of the Angles-for, even though
the long ships carried Jutes, Saxons, Frisians, and, doubtless,members of other tribes as well, their descendants a century and a
half later were already beginning to think of themselves a Englishmen and of their speech as English. (They naturally had no suspicion that it was “Old” English.) The name of a single tribe was thus to be adopted as a national name (prehistoric Old English Angli, becoming Engle), for what specific reasons we have no way of knowing.The Germanic tribesmen who came first-Bede’s lutae, luti, or “Jutes”, led by the synonymously named brothers Hengest and Horsa of the island, still called by is Celtic name of Kent. The Germanic settlement comprised seven kingdoms, the Anglo Saxons Heptarch: Kent, Essex, Sussex, Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria-the last, the land north of the Hummer, begin and amalgamation of twoearlier kingdoms, Bernicia and Deira.
The most important event in the history of Anglo-Saxon culture (which in its broadest sense includes American) occurred in 597, when Gregory I dispatched a band of missionaries to the Angles (Angli, as he called them, thereby departing from the usual Continental designation of them as Saxons), in accordance with a resolve he had made some years before.THE VIKING CONQUEST
The Christian descendants of Germanic raiders who had looted, pillaged, and finally taken the land of Britain by force of arms were themselves to undergo harassment from other Germanic invaders, beginning in the latter years of the eighth century, in the course of which pagan Viking raiders sacked various churches and monasteries, including Lindisfarne and Bede’s own belovedJarrow.
In 870 began the attack upon Wessex, ruled by Ethelred with the able assistance of his brother Alfred, who was to succeed him in the year following. After years of discouragement, very few victory at Edington over Guthrum, the Danish king of East Anglia, who promised not only to depart from Wessex but also to be baptized Alfred was godfather for him when the sacrament was lateradministered. The line of Alfred was not to be restored until 1042, with the accession of Edward the Confessor.
THE SCANDINAVIANS ANS BECOME ENGLISH
Whereas the earlier raids had been dictated largely by the desire to pillage and to loot -even though a good deal of Scandinavian settlement resulted-the teath-century and early eleventh-century invaders from the North seem to have been much more...
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