Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 February 2013
Anglo-Saxons were tied to the continent in many ways. Above all, Germania was their cradle: Bede tells a detailed story about their Germanic roots; to Boniface, these roots were an incentive for his missionary zeal; for the narrator of the voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan, a fact to be mentioned with awe. Artefacts betray the Germanic origin of the settlers who arrived in Britain from 400 onwards. By 600, the culture of the ruling elite shows a much wider horizon: the gifts that accompanied the ship burial at Sutton Hoo hail from as distant places as Byzantium and Egypt. The conversion drew the Anglo-Saxons into a cultural world in which the Mediterranean and Judaeo-Christian element was dominant but which afforded a legitimate place for the Germanic world from which the Anglo-Saxons originated and to which they remained tied not only linguistically. The seventh-century Franks Casket emits this identity in both image and word (see Chapter 3 above): visually, Weland the Smith flanks the adoration of the Magi, and Old English text in runic characters accompanies Latin text in roman script. The Anglo-Saxons so much belonged to the ‘old world’ that Beowulf, though written in England and in English, is set completely in the (north) Germanic world. This chapter, then, charts relations between continental Germanic cultures in and beyond the British Isles from Tacitus and Bede to such poems as Waldere, Widsith, Finnsburh, the Leiden Riddle, the Hildebrandslied, Heliand and Genesis, and examines the cultural and aesthetic work of texts such as these. The chapter also invites a meditation on the powerful cultural traffic between the Germanic world (Francia, Frisia, Saxony) and the English.
Borders and identities
Borders presuppose the presence of spaces, territories and domains which have elements in common that differ from what lies outside. Such spaces can be physical and virtual. Hadrian’s Wall, for example, was erected to demarcate visibly, solidly and menacingly the northern limit of the Romans’ sway over Britain from around 125. However, in Anglo-Saxon England this monument of Roman imperialism had lost its original delimiting (and controlling) function – borders are clearly by no means permanently fixed but prove to be prone to change over time.
To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.