117o: The Anglo-Saxons: Out with the Old Religion and In with the New

117o: The Anglo-Saxons: Out with the Old Religion and In with the New

Description: Today I am joined by Professor James Early to discuss how Christianity was reintroduced to the British Isles or to be precise, how it was introduced to the Anglo Saxons or maybe how it was spread among another Germanic aristocracy. If you listen to Beyond the Big Screen you will know Professor Early. He is a fascinating guy with wide historical interests and knowledge.

4/22/22

About Today’s Guest:

James Early host of Key Battles of American History Podcast
Keybattlesofamericanhistory.com

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Begin Transcript:

[00:00:00] we're going to talk about the complicated cultural, political, and religious situation of the British Isles. Four and five hundreds, a D this episode will fit into the larger story of how different people's also known as barbarians entered the Roman empire mixed with the existing populations. We talked about the vandals a while back.
We also talked about the Franks. Today, we will talk about the Anglo-Saxons and we will definitely get into the Visigoths and Spain and an upcoming episode. Today, we are joined by a special guest to help navigate us through this complicated time. If you listen to my other podcast beyond the big screen or Scott ranks history unplugged podcast, then you will be familiar with professor James early.
James is an adjunct [00:01:00] professor of history at San Jacinto college in Pasadena, Texas, just near Houston. He has published one book and two scholarly articles. He also runs a blog and Facebook group called both called American history fanatics. His main areas of research and interest include Eastern European history, the American civil war, and the cold war.
Thank you so much for coming on today, Jane. It's great to be here, Steve. Um, I'm honored and excited to be on this podcast for the first time a longtime listener. First time guest. Now a lot of people do know you as an American history guy. Why are we talking to you today about Anglo-Saxon church history?
That's a very good question. That's fair. I know. Well, my reputation, I guess, as an American history person is relatively recent because when I was doing my masters and even before my master's, I was really into European history. And I don't know for whatever reason, I just got interested in the [00:02:00] Anglo-Saxons they're largely forgotten today.
And people just don't know that much about them. And they have this fascinating language. They spoke old English, which. Has some similarities to what we speak today, but in many ways it's very, very different. So I just started reading about the Anglo-Saxons. I even got some information on the language and some courses on tape and what are CD?
I said, tape, I'm dating myself there anyway. Uh, I learned a Lola language and readily. Of their writing and the original language. Not too much, it's fairly challenging, but I just read one book and I thought it was really great. So I read another book and another book and another book and for long. Built up some knowledge about the political history of the Anglo-Saxons, but also their church history.
Cause church history has always been a hobby of mine. I've read quite a bit on church history in general. And so that's how I got into that. My specialty in my master's program, as I mentioned, was European history. And I focused [00:03:00] mainly on Southeastern Europe, especially the Balkan, Serbia, Bulgaria, and the other countries in that area.
But I did take a whole course on the Anglo-Saxons, which actually designed myself. I approached this one professor who's specialized in Western Europe. And I said, um, how about teaching a course on the Anglo-Saxons? And he says, I don't really know that much about them, but if you want to design a course.
Supervise it. So I picked out the readings and assigned myself a bunch of papers and we did it. So there it is. It's been a while since I've done a lot of study in the Anglo-Saxons, but hopefully we'll be okay today. Let's dive right in here. Tell us. What was the religious and cultural political situation in England at the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions?
We're talking like early four hundreds. What was going on there? Well, if you don't mind, I'd like to back up even a little bit further just to go kind of from the very beginning, the original habitants, the [00:04:00] inhabitants of. The British Isles, if you will, at the time of the Roman invasion were Celtic peoples and they weren't even originally from Britain.
They believed that long ago, many, I don't know, a couple, two, 3000 years ago, they migrated into the British Isles from the continent. But by the time the Romans showed up, they had been there for quite some time. And so the people spoke a Celtic language or a series of Celtic languages. I'm sure they had at least different dialects if not different languages or they, um, That would have been similar to the modern Irish language or the Scottish Gaelic language or Welsh, but of course, much, much earlier forms of those and probably not intelligible by the, uh, by modern speakers of Celtic languages.
So the Romans decided to go over. There are all buddy Julius Caesar who loved to travel around and conquer things, never met a country. He didn't want to conquer. But Caesar shows up in 55 [00:05:00] BC. And, but he didn't establish permanent control of Britain. It was almost just like a excursion. If you will forces, he went over there and busted some heads and then went back home and we know what happened to him.
But the Romans later went back about a hundred years later, 43 D under the emperor Claudius and then they set up permanent controller or at least long-term control. The British Isles. And what happened was you had a blended culture, the Romans set up what they always did everywhere. They went, they set up cities, they set up camps, they set up baths.
They all the trappings of Roman society were introduced into Britain. And the, the inhabitants there, a lot of them really liked it. Some of them didn't and rebelled from time to time and the Romans would brutally put it down as they do. But for the most part, you developed a blended culture, which is usually called Romano British.
Or I may just eventually just call it British, but with some elements of Roman culture and some elements of British culture, [00:06:00] I need to talk about Christianity too. Christianity of course comes along with the Romans. We don't know when the first Christians or the first conversions occurred in. And the British Isles you had, there's a legend of Joseph.
going to Britain and introducing Christianity and taking the cup of Christ and all that. But that's probably just a legend. There's no way to prove it or disprove it, but we know that there were definitely. There, there was a definitely a Christian presence no later than the third century. It may have even come earlier than that.
We just don't know. There's no solid archeological evidence that clearly tells us any dates. And there's no, not much written evidence. We know about St. Alban, the first martyr who died in Britain in the mid third century. But, but so Christianity was there pretty early on. Third century, maybe even second century, but that doesn't mean that the pagan practices that the Celtic people had practiced, you know, they were pagans just like all, almost all European [00:07:00] inhabitants.
They had several gods. We don't know too much about their deities, but what developed after the Romans came the Romans before they brought Christianity, of course, they brought their Pantheon and their. Uh, I guess you would call it a polytheism they brought their, their gods. And what would happen as, as often happened in a polytheistic system is you develop this hybrid where the Romans.
Say, well, who are your gods? And they would say, well, this is our God of the sky. This is our God of the water. And they would just introduce them into the Roman Pantheon. So you got to blend it, or they would even combine gods, which is not uncommon. And polytheistic systems has already mentioned. So there was quite a bit of pagan practice and it was still present by the time the Anglo-Saxons appeared.