Old English Period – The Anglo-Saxon Era

Old English Period - The Anglo-Saxon Era

Before the death of Christ, there were no national boundaries.

Groups/tribes of people, warriors used to occupy various territories on the basis of strength. There was no permanence in these states and series of attacks continued for occupation of land and resources. Whoever won, ruled.

Tribes governed over today’s England. Earliest tribes known before the death of Christ were Celts and Gaels. They spoke Celtic and Gaelic respectively. Their language didn’t have a written form.

Tribes come and go but every language leaves behind its impact on the people. Every dominant culture leaves behind something of their language and something of their culture.

Close to the end of Ancient period (1 CE), England was attacked by the Romans. England became a part of the Roman Empire. This rule continued till 450 CE. They spoke Latin which was imposed over the Gaelic and Celtic languages of the region.

The Christian religion was born in Italy and Latin was the language of those people. It was the standard medium of all the religious books. Europe quickly became Christian and Latin was therefore very popular in that region. The alphabets even used today came from Latin basically, which is why they’re called “Roman Alphabets”.

Germanic tribes – Angles, Saxons, and Jutes – attacked England from their homeland in Scandinavia. Unlike the Romans who came as conquerors, these tribes settled in this region and made it their permanent home. They brought their own languages which were actually various dialects of the German language. Britannia became to be known as “Angle-land” or England (Land of the Angles).

The Oral Tradition in literature was prevalent back in those times. The population consisted of fighters with opposing traits of character – savagery and sentiment, rough living and deep feeling, splendid courage and deep melancholy resulting from thinking about the unanswered question of death.

Old English Period ends in 1066 as a result of the Norman Conquest.

Important Poets of Old English Period:

  1. Caedmon
  2. Cynewulf

(Both took up religious themes as the subject matter of their poetry after the Anglo-Saxons embraced Christianity.)

Important Works of Old English Period:

Beowulf (Epic Poem)


41 CE – Roman Invasion of the British Isles (Latin Influence)

450 CE – Departure of Romans and Arrival of Anglo Saxons (Migration of Germanic Tribes and beginning of Old English)

6th Century – Christianity arrives in England

8th  11th Centuries – Viking Invasions

1066 CE – Norman Invasion (French, Latin Influence)

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