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Timeline of Prehistoric, Celtic, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon England

  • Paleolithic & Mesolithic periods from 500,000 years ago to around 5,000 BC

      • Boxgrove Man, oldest human in Britain, a specimen of Homo heidelbergensis, very tall (over 6 feet), practiced cannibalism

  • Neolithic period, c. 5000-2000 BC, agriculture, mound tombs

      • Non-Indo-European people

      • Knap of Howar, Orkney Islands, the oldest standing building in northern Europe (3500 BC to 3100 BC)

      • New Grange, Ireland, 3200 B.C., passage grave.

      • Neolitithic village at Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands, Scotland (c. 3100 BC)

      • Stonehenge I & II (2800-2000 B.C.)

  • Bronze Age, 2000-500 B.C.

      • Indo-European language, burial with drinking vessels, flint, metal

      • Stonehenge III & IV (2000 B.C. -1100 B.C.)

      • Farms, circular huts, oblong fields 1200 B.C.

      • Celtic inhabitants arrived around 750 B.C., hill forts

  • Iron Age, begins in Europe around 8th century B.C, in England around 500 or 600 B.C.

      • Population growth

      • Celtic people in England: Britons (hence Britannia) (some Celtic tribes: Atrebates, Belgae, Brigantes, Catuvellauni, Dumnonii, Ordovices, Silures)

      • Celtic languages: Gaelic, Brythonic (Britannic)

      • Further Celtic (Belgian Gaul) migrations, coins, potter's wheel, practice of cremation c. 100 B.C.

  • Roman Britain

      • Julius Caesar invades Britain, 55/54 BC

      • 43/50 A.D., Roman Emperor Claudius, Roman conquest; Romanization/Christianization, Latin

      • conquest of southern and midland peoples completed, 78-85 A.D., Roman Governor Agricola

      • Roman historian Tacitus, author of Germania (98 A.D.), description of life of Germanic tribes, concept of comitatus

      • Hadrian's Wall (73 miles long), 121-127 A.D. Fortification against Picts and Scots

      • Beginning around 375 the Huns from Central Asia attacked the Germanic tribes settled in eastern Europe and drove them to invade the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was destabilized by attacks from the Huns and Germanic tribes such as the Goths, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians, Vandals, Lombards, etc. Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 AD. The Western Roman Empire finally fell to the Germanic invaders in 476 AD.

      • Roman departure from Britain 410 AD

  • Anglo-Saxon Invasions

      • After the departure of the Romans in 410 AD Britain is besieged by Picts, Scots, and Saxons

      • British leader Vortigern invites Saxons (Angles, Saxons, Jutes) into alliance against Picts and Scots; Jute leaders Hengest and Horsa. Jute settlements in Thanet, Kent, and Isle of Wight

      • Saxons rebel against Britons 442

      • Large-scale Germanic invasions (Angles, Saxons, Jutes), 449

      • Saxon settlements in Sussex and Wessex, 477- 495

      • British Celts driven into Wales, Cornwall, Ireland, and Brittany (on northwest coast of France)

      • British resistance, King Arthur, British victory at Mt. Badon, A.D. 500

      • Gildas, De Excidio Britanniae (The Fall of Britain) (c. A.D. 540) , a Latin work describing and lamenting the fall of Britain to the Anglo-Saxons.

      • Anglo-Saxons in control by sixth century

    • Anglo-Saxon England

      • Angles' settlements in East Anglia, the Midlands, and Northumbria; term "Anglo-Saxons": originally Saxons in England (as opposed to continental Saxons); Angles > English, Angle-lond > Engla-lond > England ("land of the Angles")

      • Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy: Northumberland, East Anglia, Mercia (Angles), Kent (Jutes), Essex, Sussex, Wessex (Saxons); seventh century Northumbrian dominance, eighth century Mercian dominance, ninth/tenth century West Saxon dominance

      • Pope Gregory sends St. Augustine (the "Apostle of the English," a Roman Benedictine monk, NOT the more famous St. Augustine who lived 354-430 A.D.) to Kent A.D. 597

      • Aethelbert I of Kent (Jutes), converted to Christianity by Augustine, first Christian king of Anglo-Saxon England (Rex Anglorum), also compiled law code (c. 600) (definitions and rules of kinship, wergild, slaves and freemen/ceorl, nobles)

      • Gradual Christianization of Anglo-Saxons by Roman and Irish missionaries (St. Aidan and others, 635-655); coexistence of Christian and pagan beliefs, Wyrd and Providence

      • Persistence of pagan customs, ship burial of East-Anglian Raedwald at Sutton Hoo, 625 A.D.

      • Caedmon, oldest poetic vernacular work ("Hymn of Creation", c. 670), monastery at Whitby; also one of the earliest works, Widsith (c. 650-700), a poem in which a poet named Widsith recounts his own experiences as a wandering minstrel

      • Lindisfarne Gospels, 698, Latin Vulgate text with interlined Old English paraphrase

      • Venerable Bede (673-735), Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) (731), Latin work; Ruthwell Cross (early 8th c); origins of Beowulf?

      • Offa, king of Mercia (r. 757-796); Alcuin of York (732-804), high level of scholarship

      • first Viking attacks 787, sack of Lindisfarne Priory 793; Book of Kells: Irish illuminated manuscript of four gospels (8th c.)

      • West Saxon King Egbert (r. 802-839), defeats Mercian king Beornwulf at Battle of Ellendune (825); conquered Mercia (829); lost Mercia to Wiglaf (830-831)

      • Cynewulf (c. first half of 9th c.), author of Juliana, Elene, Fates of the Apostles, Christ

      • King Alfred (849-899), king of Wessex (r. 871-899), victories over Vikings at Ashdown 871, Edington 878, Treaty of Wedmore 878, Danish king Guthrum forced to accept Christianity and retreat to Danelaw; 886 Alfred captures London and is recognized as king of all England (except for Danish parts)

      • King Alfred's employment of Mercian scholars (Plegmund, Waerferth, Aethelstan, and Werwulf) in educational and literary endeavors (885), revival of learning, beginnings of Anglo Saxon Chronicle

      • West Saxon dialect became literary standard of Old English literature; oral tradition

      • second half of tenth century: Dunstan, Ethelwold, Oswald, monastic reform, copying of manuscripts

      • Battle of Brunanburh 937, English army under Aethelstan defeated army of Northmen, Scots, and Welsh allies; poem Battle of Brunanburh recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

      • late 10th and early 11th century, renewed Scandinavian invasions, led by Norwegian Olaf Tryggvason and Danish king Svein

      • Aethelred II Unraed (r. 978-1016); married to Emma (daughter of Richard II, duke of Normandy); peak of monastic and literary revival: Aelfric (955-1020), Catholic Homilies, Lives of the Saints; Wulfstan d. 1023, Sermo Lupi ad Anglos (1014, "Sermon of the Wolf to the English People") (in Old English with Latin introductory words).

      • Exeter Book (c. 1000) manuscript containing the Wanderer and the Seafarer, Widsith, The Wife's Lament, Guthlac, Juliana, Christ, The Ruin.

      • Junius Manuscript (c. 1000), containing the Old English Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, and Christ and Satan

      • Vercelli Book (c. 1000), manuscript containing Dream of the Rood, Andreas, Elene, Fates of the Apostles.

      • Battle of Maldon (991); poem Battle of Maldon recorded in manuscript Cotton Otho (destroyed by fire in 1731), currently known version comes from transcript made in 1724 by John Elphinstone

      • Cotton Vitellius (c. 1000), manuscript containing Beowulf, Judith, partially destroyed by fire in 1731

      • Danish Canute (Cnut), king of England (r. 1016-1035), married Aethelred's widow Emma and fathered Hardecanute, king of England (1040-1042)

      • Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-1066), son of Aethelred II Unraed and Emma; lived in exile in Normandy, during Danish rule of England, until 1041; conflicts and power sharing with Godwin, earl of Wessex, and his son Harold Godwinson (last Anglo-Saxon king, died in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings)

      • Norman invasion;William the Conqueror, Battle of Hastings 1066, end of Anglo-Saxon Period

Last updated: 01/07/2010

 
     

 

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