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Girl Pictures. Vintage Photographs. Vintage Photos. The culture of the Anglo-Saxons is much in evidence in Old English literature, especially in the concept of the Germanic heroic ideal. The primary attribute of the heroic ideal was excellence—excellence in all that was important to the tribe: hunting, sea-faring, fighting. The leader of each tribal unit, often family units especially in earlier years, gained his position because of his physical strength and capabilities in the activities necessary for survival. Each man of the tribe, called a thane an Anglo-Saxon warrior loyal to a specific leader or retainer, an Anglo-Saxon warrior loyal to a specific leader, swore his allegiance, and in return his leader rewarded him with the spoils of their battles and raids.

A group of Anglo-Saxon warriors bound by the reciprocal king-retainer relationship was known as a comitatus a group of Anglo-Saxon warriors bound by the reciprocal king-retainer relationship. An example is the group of Geats led by Beowulf. By the year , various tribes settled in different parts of Britain, each with its own dialect. See Map 6.


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The language generally known as Old English came primarily from the dialect of the West Saxons, located in an area known as Wessex. Although mostly illiterate, the Anglo-Saxons had a rich tradition of oral literature. Gathered in the mead hall with its long tables around a central hearth, the Anglo-Saxons listened to tales of battle glory sung or chanted to the strums of a harp.

Although many scholars have varying ideas about how these performances might have sounded, little is known of secular music during this time period, and there is of course no evidence to suggest whether the songs were more like chants with strums of the harp perhaps in the caesura or whether they were lively, rambunctious, melodic performances. The Anglo-Saxon invasion established the English language and the earliest English literature. The next important step, the recording of that literature, came with the return of Christianity to Britain.