Men in Anglo-Saxon societyToday men and women have reached a point where they are seen as equal more so than years ago.
Based on different articles and works we can see that social status among people very different than now. Men were seen as essential in this time period. During the Anglo-Saxon period, men and women had diverse roles, life was more difficult, and your worth was depended on your social status.
Throughout this time period, women were treated differently than men. During this time women took on certain roles in their society, one of these roles was that of a peace-weaver. A peace weaver was the act of marrying women off to different tribes to make peace. This act is displayed in the Old English poem, Beowulf.
Princess Hildeburh gets married to Finn, a king to end a rivalry between the two kingdoms. During this period some women also took the role of the cupbearer. A woman who gave out cups full of mead or in other words beer was often known as the cupbearer in this time period. An example of a cupbearer would be in Beowulf when Wealhtheow enters the mead hall for the first time and passes around the cup full of mead to the men. Another role women during this time often took on was being motivators for the men.
Some women would try to encourage the men that would go to the mead hall. An example of this is in Beowulf where Wealhtheow congratulates Beowulf for killing Grendel and shows his gratitude for bringing peace to the kingdom. ¨Beowulf, You have made it so that men will praise you far and near, forever and ever, as wide as the seas, home of the winds, surround the shores of earth. Be while you live blessed, o nobleman!¨(Beowulf 72). The last role some Anglo-Saxon women took on was called memory keepers. They are known as memory keepers because the women did not fight in battle so they were left behind with the people who lost their lives and they had to bury and take on their memories. An example of this is displayed in Beowulf, where a woman sings a song as Beowulf’s body is taken over by the flames. ¨They mourned their despair; the death of their lord and a sorrowful song sang the Geatish woman, with a hair bound up, for Beowulf the king, with sad cares, earnestly said that she dreaded the hard days ahead, the times of slaughter, the host’s terror, harm and captivity¨ (Beowulf 149).
In this time period, life was more difficult than the world today. During the Anglo-Saxon Period, the men in society were shown to be warriors. They counted on their leaders to be powerful, assured, and loyal. According to OldEnglishTeaching.arts,¨Life was more dangerous in Anglo-Saxon England than in modern times; and in addition to the hazards of war, feud, and capital punishment, Anglo-Saxons could be at risk from famine and epidemics, as well as from a range of endemic diseases including degenerative arthritis, leprosy, and tuberculosis.¨ During this time the Anglo-Saxons had to go through the troubles of war and attacks, ¨From the late eighth century onwards, the Anglo-Saxons suffered repeated attacks by Danish invaders from the continent, sometimes referred to as Vikings.
¨ At this time in the society, you were either slave or free due to being captured during the war. OldEnglishTeaching.arts says, ¨Some slaves may have been members of the native British population conquered by the Anglo-Saxons when they arrived from the continent; others may have been captured in wars between the early kingdoms, or have sold themselves for food in times of famine.¨During this time your worth was highly depended on your social status in this society. If you were part of the royal house than you had more privileges and had a higher status than other people in this society. According to Ben Levick, ¨At the top of the social system was the royal house. This consisted of the king and princes (æðelings), who claimed a common ancestry with the king; they had special privileges and responsibilities which included military service and command in the field.
¨ Status mattered in different situations. You could pay a price for looking stealing or family rivalries and your status was a factor in determining the price you could pay. According to OldEnglishTeaching.arts, ¨The Anglo-Saxon settlers had brought with them the Germanic system of blood-feud, whereby the relatives of a murder victim were expected to avenge him, and one of the aims of the early laws was to reduce the number of revenge killings by substituting a scale of financial compensation.¨ OldEnglishTeaching.arts explains that ¨Slaves had no wergild, as offenses against them were taken to be offenses against their owners, but the earliest laws set out a detailed scale of penalties depending both on the type of slave and the rank of an owner.¨ When there were problems between a slave and their owner the rank of the owner mattered and the punishment that a slave would receive was based on this.
In conclusion, the Anglo-Saxon period was a time where men played a big and more powerful role than women. They through their bravery at the time were able to defend and protect their kingdoms and land. In this time men were seen as leaders, heads of households, and were the epitome of wisdom and strength in their society.