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Aug 10 19 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
The Way of the Warrior in Anglo-Saxon England involved far more than merely being trained in the use of weapons as I put it simply in my thread of yesterday. Of equal, or greater, importance was learning both the rituals associated with warfare and the right form of battle.
1/19 Image
The war-band, most commonly called the 'werod', consisted of two parts. The first, the 'duguð' (ME: douth), were the fully initiated members of the band while the 'geogoð' (ME: youth) were those still learning the art of war who would become duguð if they survived their training. Image
The transition from geogoð to duguð, initiation into the war-band, occurred during a solemn and paternal ceremony. Before his lord who was seated with an unsheathed sword laying on his knees a youth would kneel, place his hand on the hilt of the sword and kiss his lord's hand. Image
He would then rise and take an oath of undying loyalty before kneeling again, placing his hands between those of his lord and resting his head on his lord's knee. The youth would then stand again, kiss his lord and be given by him a symbol of his new status, most often a weapon.
We'll here forego, as it is beyond our limited scope, mentioning all the many rituals associated with those activities the new duguð would occupy himself with like feasting, hunting, game-playing, binge-drinking, etc. and instead focus on the warrior's raison d'être: battle.
Neither Anglo-Saxon nor Scandinavian armies simply line up across from each other and charged, there was much more to a battle than that. It first had to be decided that battle was to be given at all and a commander might choose to retreat so as to find more favourable ground.
When battle was to be commenced the first act saw the man with the strongest throwing arm on either side hurl a javelin or light spear over the enemy's lines. In pre-Conversion societies this was a religious act for it was seen as dedicating the hosts to Woden the god of battles.
The 'casting of the javelins' also served to mark the boundaries of the battlefield. That area which laid between the two javelins was ritually removed from the bounds of common law and instead became an isolated pocket where temporarily no law but that of strength prevailed. Image
The next phase of battle was called the 'beaduscūr' or the battle-shower. Each side would throw at the other a hail of missile weapons until they ran out. The kit of armies varied over time though noblemen generally went into battle with two javelins and a light throwing spear. Not the best picture to illustrate this point but we're working with what we've got.
'Beadurǣs', or a charge, came next with this often being done in a V-shaped formation. The bravest man in the army 'orde stōd', or 'stood at the point', and would earn himself nicknames such as "the flower/point of [his people]" while those around him were called the 'best men'. Image
We are told that the order to attack was always accompanied by a great shout by the commander, then by his men before another shout was let out by the defenders in answer though how exactly these sounded, whether they came in words or primitive noises, we sadly do not know. Image
Scandinavians had a similar attack formation that they called 'svinfylking' which, though outside of our scope here, those interested can read more on by following the link below:…
The defending army would remain in a straight line and form what has been called many different things from 'bordweall' to 'scyldburh' and 'wīhaga', all roughly carrying the same meaning as our word shieldwall. Holding their spears before them they would as one brace for impact.
Together with the damage wrought by the battle-shower a charge might succeed in sweeping away the enemy formation or it might punch holes in places while being stopped at others. It could of course be stopped entirely which would give the defenders a chance to counter-attack. Image
From the initial charge the battle would progress. In places where both formations held fighting would be a group effort while at points where holes had been punched each man more or less had to look after himself until either the lines were reformed or one side was there routed. Image
If neither side was quick to fold then the fighting would go on until both were exhausted. By mutual agreement each side would retreat a short distance where they would catch their breath, replace damaged equipment and give speeches of the kind we read in 'The Battle of Maldon'.
After the short break fighting would recommence as it at first had with the battle-shower followed by a charge. If one side was not routed before both became exhausted they would once again separate, rest and then recommence, these cycles occurring until there was a clear winner.
Victory was defined as 'wælstowe geweald habban', or having control of the place of slaughter. This was the part of the battlefield in which the fighting took place, distinct from where the armies retreated to rest. Image
Only after one side had been made completely unable to contest ownership of the place of slaughter, either by being wiped out or routed, could victory be declared. The javelins marking the battlefield were then retrieved, symbolizing the re-subjecting of this area to common law.

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More from @rfhirst

Aug 10
Ulfcytel of East Anglia was a hero who shone forth during the turbulent dawn of the 11th century. Although far less known of than others his life is yet worth studying for the lessons to be learned from this man who walked in virtue amidst the smouldering ruins of his world.
1/41 The Anglo-Saxon thegn in the foreground was digitally painted by JF Oliveras (@JoanFrancescOl1)
Ulfcytel was born into dangerous times and would never see happier ones, being destined to fall in battle at the last hour of this age's upheavals. In the year AD 980, when he was born, after a long respite the Danes finally returned to England and so began the Second Viking Age. Image
Given his name some believe Ulfcytel was a descendant of those Danes who settled in England during the First Viking Age some 100 years prior, though to put a complex (+ misunderstood) topic simply he would have seen himself as (and truly have been) English, not in any way Danish. Image
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Jul 25
One of the most fascinating, yet difficult, aspects of Anglo-Saxon history to study is the hundreds of petty tribes and people groups who together made up the great kingdoms everyone knows; Wessex, Mercia, et al. As an example we might call on the tribe of the Hyrstingas.
(1/7) This map is from Cyril Hart's 1971 paper on the Tribal Hidage. Newer maps have since been made with more accurate placements however none are as detailed as this and so we post this map, though outdated, for it better aids the point here being made.
The Hyrstingas were but one of the 18 tribes who together made up the 'kingdom' of the Middle Angles. The Tribal Hidage assessed them at 1,200 hides which strongly suggests that by the time the survey was conducted a certain amount of consolidation had already here taken place. Image
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Read 7 tweets
Jul 20
Old English had two words for "army", those being "fyrd" and "here". After the military reforms of King Alfred the Great they began being used less strictly, sometimes interchangeably, yet still firmly enough to provide us with valuable insight into Anglo-Saxon logistics.
(1/8) Image
"Fyrd", the first word used for "army", is etymologically associated with the verb "fēran" which means "to set out/to go". This word was applied to armies who were on the defensive in whatever given conflict they were involved and, most often, fighting within their own territory.
"Here", the second word used for "army", is etymologically associated with the verb "hergian" which means "to pillage/to plunder". This word was applied to armies which were on the offensive in their given conflict and oft were fighting in a foreign land which was not their own.
Read 15 tweets
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The main departure from orthodoxy in John Haywood's 'Dark Age Naval Power' is his argument that those in the clinker tradition - the Saxons, Frisians, Angles, etc. - utilized sails from an early date, interpreting archaeological evidence through the lens of written sources. (1/8)

Haywood's main argument which draws on written sources, linguistics, ethnographic comparison, archaeology and a good deal of fair reasoning.

Later in the book while focusing on 'Anglo-Saxon' seafaring Haywood makes more pointed arguments. Here he challenges scholarly consensus on the Nydam ship and argues not only that this vessel was structurally capable of supporting a mast and sail but that in all actuality it did.

Read 8 tweets
Jun 19
Thread of excerpts from 'The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England 1066-1901: Remembering, Forgetting, Deciphering, and Renewing the Past' by John D. Niles. Image
Anglo-Saxon Studies formally began as a result of the Reformation and the Dissolution which followed it during which Old English manuscripts that had been stored in monastic houses were confiscated and became accessible to a broader base by private purchase or royal collection. ImageImage
Remembrance of the Anglo-Saxon past during the preceding 400 years tended towards superficiality and anachronism. Rather than on fact the past was conceived of as being an ideal world by Middle English standards onto which names, removed from their historic context, were imposed. ImageImageImage
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For 20 long years during King Edward's reign England suffered provocation after provocation from Wales. Every step was taken, every effort exhausted to avoid bloodshed but the Welsh would not stop. So it was then decided that Wales must be destroyed.
In 1039 Gruffydd ap Llywelyn rose to the kingship of northern Wales, his subsequent conquests would see for the first time in history the whole of Wales united under a Welsh king. However, the same traits in Gruffydd which enabled him to bring this about would cause his downfall. Image
Namely, opportunism. When it suited him Gruffydd allied himself with English lords against his countrymen. Indeed, it was alliances like these that built his kingdom as when in 1046 he invaded Deheubarth with Earl Sweyn and aided by Ælfgar he conquered the rest of southern Wales.
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