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Beginnings 起源(3100 B.C.——1000 A.D.) http://player.youku.com/player.php/sid/XNDkxNjgzMjQ0/v.swf 古代英国是一个兴旺的地区,罗马人称它是一个声望和财富聚集的地方....

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BBC英国史英语视频第01章:Beginnings起源(英式英语) kira86 于2012-10-25发布 l 已有人浏览 《BBC英国史BBC A History of Britain》对于一个不了解英国历史的人来说,本片是很好的教材。对于不想了解英

《BBC英国史BBC A History of Britain》对于一个不了解英国历史的人来说,本片是很好的教材。对于不想了解英国历史,但是想学英式英语发音的,这是一套绝佳的视频资料,还带有作家不可编撰的故事情节。从令人毛骨悚然的黑死病在短时间内使英国一半的人丧生。Henry II, Anne Boleyn和Thomas Wolsey的政治操控致使英国与罗马天主教决裂……下面是BBC英国史第01章 Beginnings 起源(3100 B.C.——1000 A.D.),(本片在时间上横越了4000年从铁器时代直至今日。)古代英国是一个兴旺的地区,罗马人称它是一个声望和财富聚集的地方。当时很多英国酋长已经并接受了罗马式的规则并采取了罗马人的生活方式。Hadrian墙的建成标志着省在英国的出现。在罗马帝国灭亡400之后,它的统一的梦想却流传了下来。Alfred公然向伪王国挑战,并且把海盗从王国的土地上赶走,最终一个王国被诺曼人征服了。

BBC英国史第01章:Beginnings 起源 英语字幕文本:

From its earliest days, Britain was an object of desire.

Tacitus declared it "pretium victoriae" - worth the conquest, the best compliment that could occur to a Roman.

He had never visited these shores but was nonetheless convinced that Britannia was rich in gold.

Silver was abundant too.

Apparently so were pearls, though Tacitus had heard they were grey, like the overcast, rain-heavy skies, and the natives only collected them when cast up on the shore.

As far as the Roman historians were concerned, Britannia may be off at the edge of the world, but it was off the edge of their world, not in a barbarian wilderness.

If those writers had been able to travel in time as well as space to the northernmost of our islands, the Orcades - our modern Orkney - they would have seen something much more astonishing than pearls: Signs of a civilisation thousands of years older than Rome.

There are remains of Stone Age life all over Britain and Ireland.

But nowhere as abundantly as Orkney, with its mounds, graves and its great circles of standing stones like here at Brodgar.

Vast, imposing and utterly unknowable.

Orkney has another Neolithic site, even more impressive than Brodgar, the last thing you would expect from the Stone Age, a shockingly familiar glimpse of ancient domestic life.

Perched on the western coast of Orkney's main island, a village called Skara Brae.

Beneath an area no bigger than the 18th green of a golf course lies Europe's most complete Neolithic community, preserved for 5,000 years under a blanket of sand and grass until uncovered in 1850 by a ferocious sea storm.

This is a recognisable village.

Neatly fitted into its landscape between pasture and sea, intimate, domestic and self-sufficient.

Technically still the Stone Age and Neolithic period, these are not huts, they're true houses, built from sandstone slabs that lie all around the island and gave stout protection to villagers at Skara Brae, from their biting Orcadian winds.

They were real neighbours, living cheek by jowl, their houses connected by walled, sometimes decorated alleyways.

It is easy to imagine gossip travelling down those alleys after a hearty seafood supper.

We have everything you could want from a village except a church and a pub.

In 3,000 BC, the sea and air were warmer than they are now.

Once they'd settled in their sandstone houses, they could harvest red bream and mussels and oysters that were abundant in the shallows.

Cattle gave meat and milk and dogs were kept for hunting and for company.

In Neolithic times there would have been a dozen houses, half-dug into the ground for comfort and safety.

A thriving, bustling little community of 50 or 60.

The real miracle of Skara Brae is that these houses were not mere shelters.

They were built by people who had culture, who had style.

Here's where they showed off that style.

A fully equipped, all-purpose Neolithic living room, complete with luxuries and necessities.

Necessities?

Well, at the centre, a hearth, around which they warmed themselves and cooked.

A stone tank in which to keep live fish bait.

Some houses had drains underneath them, so they must have had, believe it or not, indoor toilets.

Luxuries?

The orthopaedically correct stone bed may not seem particularly luxurious, but the addition of heather and straw would have softened the sleeping surface and would have made this bed seem rather snug.

At the centre of it all was this spectacular dresser on which our house-proud villagers would set out all their most precious stuff.

Fine bone and ivory necklaces, beautifully carved stone objects, everything designed to make a grand interior statement.

Given the rudimentary nature of their tools, it would have taken countless man hours to build not only these dwellings but the great circles of stone where they would have gathered to worship.

Skara Brae wasn't just an isolated settlement of fishers and farmers.

Its people must have belonged to some larger society, one sophisticated enough to mobilise the army of toilers and craftsmen needed, not just to make these monuments, but to stand them on end.

They were just as concerned about housing the dead as the living.

The mausoleum at Maes Howe, a couple of miles from Skara Brae, seems no more than a swelling on the grassy landscape.

This is, as it were, a British pyramid and in keeping with our taste for understatement, it reserves all its impact for the interior.

Imagine them open once more.

A detail from a village given the job of pulling back the stone seals, lugging the body through the low opening in the earth.

Up 36 feet of narrow, tight-fitting passageway, lit only once a year by the rays of the winter solstice.

A death canal, constriction, smelling of the underworld.

Finally the passageway opens up to this stupendous, high-vaulted masonry chamber.

Some tombs would have been elaborately decorated with carvings in the form of circles or spirals, like waves or the breeze-pushed clouds.

Others would have had neat stone stores or cubicles where the bodies would be laid out on shelves.

The grandest tombs had openings cut in the wall, to create side chambers where the most important bodies could be laid out in aristocratic spaciousness like family vaults in a country church.

Unlike medieval knights, these grandees were buried with eagles and dogs, or even treasure.

The kind of thing the Vikings who broke into these tombs thousands of years later were quick to filch.

In return, these early tomb raiders left their own legacy.

These wonderful graffiti.

These runes were carved by the most skilled rune carver in the western ocean.

I bedded Thorny here.

Ingegirth is one horny bitch. As for the Orcadian hoi polloi, they ranked space in a common chamber, on a floor carpeted with the bones of hundreds of their predecessors.

A crowded waiting room to their afterworld.

For centuries, life at Skara Brae must have continued in much the same way.

Around 2,500 BC, the climate seems to have got colder and wetter.

The red bream and stable environment the Orcadians had enjoyed for countless generations disappeared.

Fields were abandoned, the farmers and fishers migrated, leaving their stone buildings and tombs to be covered by layers of peat, drifting sand and finally grass.

The mainland too, of course, had its burial chambers, like the long barrow at West Kennet.

There were also the great stone circles, the largest at Avebury.

But the most spectacular of all at Stonehenge.

By 1,000 BC, things were changing fast.

All over the British landscape, a protracted struggle for good land was taking place.

Forests were cleared so that Iron Age Britain was not, as was romantically imagined, an unbroken forest kingdom stretching from Cornwall to Inverness.

It was rather a patchwork of open fields, dotted here and there with copses giving cover for game, especially wild pigs.

And it was a crowded island.

We now think that as many people lived on this land as during the reign of Elizabeth 1, 2,500 years later.

Some archaeologists believe that almost as much land was being farmed in the Iron Age as in 1914.

So it's no surprise to see one spectacular difference from the little world of Skara Brae.

Great windowless towers.

They were built in the centuries before the Roman invasions, when population pressure was most intense and farmers had growing need of protection, first from the elements, but later from each other.

Many of those towers still survive but none are as daunting as the great stockade on Arran, off Ireland's west coast.

They didn't just spring up around the edges of the British islands.

All over the mainland too, the great hill forts of the Iron Age remain visible in terraced contours such as at Danebury and Maiden Castle.

Lofty seats of power for the tribal chiefs, they were defended by rings of earthworks, timber palisades and ramparts.

Behind those daunting walls was not a world in panicky retreat.

The Iron Age Britain into which the Romans eventually crashed with such alarming force was a dynamic, expanding society.

From their workshops came the spectacular metalwork with which the elite decorated their bodies.

Armlets, pins, brooches and ornamental shields like this, the so-called Battersea Shield.

Or the astonishing stylised bronze horses, endearingly melancholy in expression, like so many Eeyores resigned to a bad day in battle.

With tribal manufacture came trade.

The warriors, druid priests and artists of Iron Age Britain shipped their wares all over Europe, trading with the expanding Roman Empire.

In return, with no home-grown grapes or olives, Mediterranean wine and oil arrived in large earthenware jars.

Iron Age Britain was not the back of beyond.

Its tribes may have led lives separated from each other by custom and language, and they may have had no great capital city but together they added up to something in the world, the bustling of countless productive, energetic beehives.

What the bees made was not honey, but gold.

The Romans would have known about this strange but alluring world of fat cattle and busy forges.

Evidence of its refinement would have found its way to Rome.

Along with the glittering metal ware came stories of alarming cults, which may have prompted the usual Roman dinner time discussions.

"All very interesting, I daresay, "but would we really want to call them a civilisation?"

Supposing they would have seen an ancient sculpture, like this haunting stone face with its archaic secretive smile, the eyes closed as if in a mysterious devotional trance.

The nose flattened, the cheeks broad, the whole thing so spellbindingly reminiscent of things the Romans must have seen in Etruria or the Greek islands.

Would they then have said, "Yes, this is a work of art"? Probably not.

Sooner or later they would have noticed that the top of the head is sliced off, scooped out, like a boiled egg, to hold sacrificial offerings.

Then they would have remembered stories that Rome told about the grisly brutality of the druids.

Perhaps they would have even taken note of the stories told by the northern savages themselves, of decapitated heads who were said to speak mournfully to those who had parted them from the rest of their body, warning of vengeance to come.

Then they would have thought, "Perhaps not.

"Perhaps we don't want to have much to do with an island of talking heads."

So why did the Romans come here, to the edge of the world, and run the gauntlet of all these ominous totems?

There was the lure of treasure, of course, all the pearls that Tacitus believed lay around Britain in heaps.

Even more seductive was what Roman generals craved the most, the prestige given to those who pacified the barbarian frontier.

And so, in the written annals of Western history, the islands now had not only a name, Britannia, but a date.

In 55 BC Julius Caesar launched his galleys across the Channel.

Julius Caesar must have supposed that all he had to do was land his legions in force and the Britons, cowed by the spectacle of the glittering helmets and eagle standards, would simply queue up to surrender.

They'd understand that history always fought on the side of Rome.

The trouble was, geography didn't.

Not once but twice, Julius Caesar's plans were sabotaged by that perennial secret weapon of the British, the weather.

On the first go round in 55 BC, a cavalry transport that had already missed the high tide and got itself four days late, finally got going only to run directly into a storm and be blown right back to Gaul.

A century later, Claudius, the club-foot stammerer, on the face of it, the most unlikely conqueror of all, was determined to get it right.

If it was going to be done at all, Claudius reckoned, it had to be done in such massive force that there was no chance of repeating the embarrassments of Julius.

Claudius's invasion force was immense, some 40,000 troops.

The kind of army that could barely be conceived of, much less encountered in Iron Age Britain.

Claudius did succeed where Julius Caesar had failed, through a brilliant strategy of carrot and stick.

He would seize the largely undefended oppida or towns and strike at the heart of British aristocracy, its places of status, prestige and worship.

For the chieftains sensible enough to reach for the olive branch rather than the battle javelin, Claudius had another plan.

Give them, or rather their sons, a trip to Rome, a taste of the dolce vita, and watch their resistance melt.

While in Rome, many must have begun to notice that life for your average patrician was exceptionally sweet.

Before long they began to hunger for a taste of it themselves.

If there were sumptuous country villas amidst the olive groves of the Roman countryside, why could there not be equally sumptuous country villas amidst the pear orchards of the South Downs?

Just fall in line, be a little reasonable, some judicious supports here and there and see what results - the spectacular palace at Fishbourne.

The man who built it was Togidubnus, king of the Regnenses in what would be Sussex, and one of the quickest to sign up as Rome's local ally.

He was rewarded with enough wealth to build himself something fit for a Roman.

Only the extraordinary mosaic floors survive but it was as big as four football pitches, grand enough for someone who now gloried in the name of Tiberius Claudius Cogidumnus.

He couldn't have been the only British chief to realise on which side his bread was buttered.

All over Britain were rulers who thought a Roman connection would do more good than harm in their pursuit of power and status.

The person we usually think of as embodying British national resistance to Rome, Queen Boudicca of the East Anglian tribe of the Iceni, actually came from a family of happy, even eager collaborators.

It only took a policy of incredible stupidity, arrogance and brutality on the part of the local Roman governor to turn her from a warm supporter of Rome to its most dangerous enemy.

In a show of brutal arrogance, the local governor had East Anglia declared a slave province.

To make the point about who exactly owned whom, Boudicca was treated to a public flogging while her two daughters were raped in front of her.

In 60 AD, Boudicca rose up in furious revolt, quickly gathering an army bent on vengeance.

With the cream of the Roman troops tied down suppressing an insurgency in north Wales, Boudicca's army marched towards the place which symbolised the now-hated Roman colonisation of Britain, Colchester.

It helped that it was lightly garrisoned.

After a firestorm march through eastern England, burning Roman settlements one by one, it was the city's turn.

The frightened Roman colonists had to fall back to the one place they were sure they were going to be protected by their emperor and their gods - the great temple of Claudius.

If the terrified Romans thought they were going to escape the implacable anger of Boudicca, they were seriously out of luck.

With thousands of them huddled terrified in the temple above these foundations, she began to set light to it.

They must have been able to smell the scorch and smoke and fire coming towards them, as their new imperial city burned with themselves and everything else buried in smoke and ash.

Thousands died in this place.

Boudicca had her revenge.

But her triumph couldn't last.

The lightly-defended civilians of Colchester were one thing but now she would have to face a disciplined Roman army, fully prepared for all she could throw at them.

Sure enough, when the two forces met, her swollen and unwieldy army was no match for the legions.

Her great insurrection ended in a gory chaotic slaughter.

(SHOUTS AND CRIES) Boudicca took her own life rather than fall into the hands of the Romans.

Lessons had been learned the hard way, at least for some.

When barbarians started attacking Roman forts in the north, the Romans knew exactly what to do.

On 79 AD, an enormous pitched battle took place on the slopes of an unidentified Highland mountain, which Tacitus calls Mons Graupius.

The result was another slaughter, but not before the Caledonian general, Calgacus, delivered the first great anti-imperialist speech on Scotland's soil.

Here at the world's end, on its last inch of liberty, we have lived unmolested to this day defended by our remoteness and obscurity. But there are no other tribes to come, nothing but sea and cliffs and these more deadly Romans whose arrogance you cannot escape by obedience and self-restraint, to plunder, butcher, steal.

These things they misname empire, they make a desolation and they call it peace.

Of course, Calgacus never said any such thing.

This was a speech written long after the event by Tacitus and it's entirely Roman, not Scottish.

Yet this burning sentiment would echo down the generations.

Like Britannia itself, the idea of free Caledonia was from the first, a Roman invention.

There was one emperor, Spanish by birth, who understood that even the world's biggest empire needed to know its limits.

He of course was destined, in Britain at any rate, to be remembered by a wall.

When we think of Hadrian's Wall, we think of the Romans rather like US cavalrymen deep in Indian country, defending the flag, peering through the cracks and waiting nervously for war drums and smoke signals.

A place where paranoia sweated from every stone.

It wasn't really like that at all.

As ambitious as this was, stretching 73 miles from coast to coast from the Solway to the Tyne, and though he probably conceived it in response to a rebellion on the part of the people the Romans loftily referred to as Brittunculi - wretched little Brits - almost certainly, he didn't mean it as an impermeable barrier against barbarian onslaught from the north.

The wall was studded with milecastles and turrets and forts like this one at Housesteads.

But as Britain settled down in the second century AD, these places became up-country hill stations more like social centres and business centres than really grim, heavily-manned barracks.

These forts were not to prevent people going to and fro so much as to control and observe them.

The forts in particular, became a place where a kind of customs scam was imposed on those trying to do business on one side or the other.

It 's better to think of the wall not so much as a fence but rather a spine around which control of northern Britain toughened, hardened and prospered.

If we can imagine Hadrian's Wall as not such a bad posting, it's because our sense of what life was like at the time has been transformed by one of the most astonishing finds of recent archaeology - the so-called Vindolanda Tablets.

They're scraps of Roman correspondence, jottings, scribblings and drafts of letters thrown away as rubbish by their authors almost 2,000 years ago.

For 25 years, archaeologists have been digging up these letters, 1,300 of them, from seven metres below the ground.

Up they've come, lovingly separated from dirt, debris and each other and painstakingly deciphered.

At once poignantly fragile and miraculously enduring, the voices of the Roman frontier in the windy North Country, loud, clear and strong.

From Masculus to Tribune Serianus. Greeting. Please instruct as to what you want us to do tomorrow. Are we all to return with the standard or only half of us?

My troops have no beer. Please order some to be sent. I sent you two pairs of socks and sandals, and two pairs of underpants. Greet Elpus Tetricus and your messmates, with whom I pray you get on. He beat me and threatened to pour my goods down the drain.

I implore your mercifulness not to allow me, an innocent from overseas, to be beaten by rods as if a criminal.

I warmly invite you to my birthday party on the third day before the Ides of September.

Please come, as it will be so much more enjoyable if you were here.

A world of garrisons and barracks had now become a society in its own right.

From the middle of the second century, it makes sense to talk about a Romano-British culture, and not just as a colonial veneer imposed on the resentful natives, but as a genuine fusion.

Nowhere was this clearer than here in Bath.

Bath was the quintessential Romano-British place.

At once mod con and mysterious cult, therapy and luxury, a marvel of hydraulic engineering and a showy theatre of the waters of healing.

The spa was an extravaganza of buildings constructed over a spring that gushed a third of a million gallons of hot water into the baths every day.

When you soaked in a bath, you washed your body and your soul, ablution and devotion at the same time.

Much of the bathing, the flirting, the gossip and the deal making went on in this austerely grandiose Great Bath.

The spiritual heart of the place was the sacred spring - a ferny grotto where water collected and where the devotees of the presiding goddess, Sulis Minerva, could look through a window at the altar erected in her honour and occasionally could throw gift offerings in her way.

Bath was not the only place where Romano-Britons could wallow in the well-being of the province.

In Dover, the Romans built this 96-bedroom hotel, now 20 feet below street level but the last word in luxury for any VIP disembarking from Gaul.

By the fourth century, however, Rome was in deep trouble, attacked by barbarians and undermined by political turmoil.

Britannia couldn't remain detached from the fate of the rest of the empire forever.

At some point, Dover's significance for Britannia changed from a port of entry to a defensive stronghold.

The "Welcome" mat gave way to the "Keep Out" sign, in the shape of massive walls, built through the Grand Hotel's lobby.

This is the sort of wall the Romans built at Dover.

This is Portchester, a Roman shore fort, a truly colossal structure that makes all too clear the scale of threat the Romans felt the barbarians posed.

Inside it lies a Norman castle, built 1,000 years later and now completely dwarfed by it.

It was one of several forts strung out along the south and east coasts.

Not even fortifications like those of Portchester or Hadrian's Wall in the north, could work without adequate troops.

As more and more legionaries were sucked back to fight on the continent, and as Picts and Saxons, spotting weakness, started their own raids from the north and east, Britannia couldn't help but feel the chill of vulnerability.

When, in the year 410, Alaric the Goth sacked Rome and the last two legions departed to prop up the tottering empire, that chill developed into an acute anxiety attack.

This was one of the genuinely fateful moments in British history, the legions departing.

It wasn't like Hong Kong in 1997, no flags flying or pipers piping.

The Governor wasn't driving around his courtyard seven times pledging to return.

Doubtless, many of the Romano-British did hope and expect to see the eagles back.

The tax collectors, magistrates, town councillors, poets, potters, musicians and the newly-Christian priests all said to themselves, "Well, this couldn't go on forever.

"We couldn't always look to Mother Rome, and she is half-infested with barbarians.

"We can handle this.

"We've got the Saxon shore forts.

"We can hire barbarians to deal with the other barbarians.

We can handle this.

"We CAN handle this." For the less confident, there was only one thing to do: Bury their treasure and head for the hills...

planning, as refugees always do, to return when the worst was over and dig it all up again.

In the case of this particular hoard of 15,000 coins, gems, medals, and this exquisite silver tigress, they never did.

It was instead discovered in 1992 at Hoxne in Suffolk and is now kept in the British Museum.

Some sort of force was badly needed to stop the barbarians in the north and west from exploiting the vacuum of power left by the exit of the legions.

At first, the warriors from north Germany and Denmark, sailing up-river in their wave horses, seemed a boon, not a curse.

When one local despot, Vortigern, naively imagined he could use the imported barbarians as his own military muscle but neglected to pay them as per the contract, he made one of the more spectacular blunders in British history.

Furious at being stiffed, the Saxons turned on the local population they'd been hired to defend.

After burning and pillaging, they took land in lieu of pay, settling down amidst the understandably dismayed native population.

Dismayed, but not, I think, terrified.

Though the earliest chroniclers of the coming of the Saxons thought of Vortigern's faux pas as heralding a sort of final apocalypse, no one had turned the lights out on Roman Britannia and declared the Dark Ages to have begun.

The long process by which Roman Britannia morphed into the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms was gradual not sudden, an adaptation, not an annihilation.

For a long time the Saxons were a tiny minority, numbered in hundreds rather than thousands, and lived in an overwhelmingly Romano-British population.

As different as these cultures were, they were still neighbours.

The vast majority tried and succeeded to live a sort of Roman life.

Here at Wroxeter, Shropshire, the Roman Veraconium, there's wonderful evidence of this make-do, hybrid, improvised world poised between Roman ruins and Anglo-Saxon beginnings.

When the bath house stopped functioning, the citizens took the tiles and used them for paving.

When the roof of the great basilica threatened to fall in, the citizens went and demolished the building themselves.

Inside the shell they put up a new timber structure spacious and elegant enough to give them the sense they were still living some sort of Roman lifestyle, although in an increasingly phantom Britannia.

Eventually the adaptations became ever more makeshift, the fabric of Roman life increasingly threadbare, until it did indeed fall apart altogether.

The island was now divided into three utterly different realms.

The remains of Britannia hung on in the west.

North of the abandoned walls and forts the Scottish tribes for the most part, stayed pagan.

England, the realm of the Anglo-Saxons and Jutes, was planted in the east, all the way from Kent to the kingdom of Bernicia in Northumbria.

The Saxon chiefs often built their settlements on the ruined remains of old Roman British towns, not least of course London.

Like many invaders, they hankered after what they had destroyed.

The showier pieces of their armour often bear startling resemblances to Roman armour and their leaders aspired to be something more than war chiefs.

They wanted to be known as "dux", a Roman duke.

In one crucial respect, the Germanic tribal societies were utterly different from the Romans.

Theirs was a culture based on the blood feud and punishment by ordeal.

An entire social system, its plunder was the glue of loyalty.

The Saxons were no more immune to change than the Romans before them.

To look at the relics recovered from Sutton Hoo burial site is to be teased by a powerful question: Did the Saxon lord buried here find his resting place in a pagan Valhalla or in a Christian Paradise?

The history of the conversions between the sixth and eighth centuries is another crucial turning point in the history of the British Isles.

But while the legions had long gone, the shadow of Rome fell once again on these islands.

This time though, it was an invasion of the soul and the warriors were carrying Christian gospels rather than swords.

The process began in a country that had never been touched by Roman rule in the first place - the land the Romans called Hibernia - Ireland.

We have to remember that the most famous of the early missionaries to Ireland, St Patrick, was a Romano-British aristocrat, the patrician - or Patricius - as he called himself.

So there was nothing remotely Irish about the teenager who was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Irish raiders, in the early fifth century.

It was only after he escaped, probably to Brittany, and ordained, then visited by prophetic dreams, that he returned to Ireland as a messenger of the gospel.

Patrick understood that the monastic ideal of retreat was perfectly matched with the needs of local royal clans.

So monasteries like Arran, off the gull-swept Irish coast, with their beehive cells and encircling stone walls, looked like a stronghold, an encampment for God.

What about the dragon slayers on the mainland? Who converted them?

One man gives us the answer.

To all schoolchildren of my generation, growing up in the 1950s, he will always be the Venerable Bede.

Bede was not just the founding father of English history.

Arguably, he was the first consummate storyteller in all of English literature.

He was not exactly well travelled.

He spent virtually his entire life here in Jarrow.

But in a few luminous lines he could conjure up not just the world of holy men and hermits but the world of the great timbered halls of Saxon kings, with their firelight and roasting meat, or the death throes of a great war-horse.

It was this masterful grip on narrative that made Bede not just an authentic historian but also a brilliant propagandist for the early church.

Bede sees without any starry-eyed sentimentality what could overcome the deep mistrust of the pagan kings when asked to abandon their traditional gods.

According to the most touching speech in Bede's entire history, the clinching moment of persuasion for one noble was nothing more than a gambler's bet.

It seems to me, my Lord, that the present life of men on earth is as though a sparrow in winter should come to a house and swiftly fly through it, entering at one window and then passing out through another, while you sit at dinner with your captains in a hall made warm with a great fire, while outside are the raging tempests of winter rain and snow. For that short time it be within the house, the bird feels no smart of the winter storm, but soon passes again from winter back to winter and escapes your sight. So the life of man here appears for a little season, but what follows or has gone before, that surely we do not know. If this new learning has brought us any certainty, methinks it is worthy to be followed. Typically, Bede put these words in the mouth of a nobleman.

The church in Anglo-Saxon England was just really a branch of the aristocracy.

St Wilfred, the aristocratic Bishop of York, deliberately used part of Hadrian's Wall to build at Hexham a basilica worthy of Roman authority.

For Bede and St Wilfred, it was crucial that the Roman, not the Irish Celtic church, won over Britain.

What they passionately desired was the reconnection of a converted country with its Roman mother.

A true homecoming.

The authority of the Roman Saxon church didn't guarantee protection.

Bede had had forebodings before he died in 735.

Sure enough, half a century later, in 793, the Anglo-Saxon chronicle reports...

Dire portents appeared over Northumbria. Immense whirlwinds and flashes of lightning and fiery dragons were seen flying through the air.

A great famine followed. A little after, on the 8th June, the ravages of heathen men miserably destroyed God's church at Lindisfarne.

The heathen men were of course, the Vikings.

If you look long and hard enough at any culture you'll find something good about it.

Historians of the Vikings, understandably distressed at the rape and pillage stereotype, have asked us lately to think of things other than sail, land, burn and plunder to say about the Vikings.

They've said, "Look at their metalwork, their ships, the great poetic sagas."

Now we know the Vikings did come bearing something other than a nasty attitude.

They came carrying amber, fur and walrus ivory.

Somehow, though, this vision of the Vikings as rapid-transit, long-distance commercial travellers, singing their sagas as they sail to a new market opening, wouldn't have cut much ice with the priests here at the cathedral of Bradwell-on-Sea, just a crab scuttle away from the area where I grew up, on the Essex shore.

There'd been a church at Bradwell-on-Sea for over 200 years.

It was originally built on the remains of an old Roman fort.

The priests would have found those stone defences reassuring as they waited nervously for the Viking raids that they knew could strike hard and fierce at any moment.

In addition to land, Vikings were keen on another kind of merchandise...

people - whom they sold as slaves.

A thousand slaves were taken from Armagh in one raid alone.

A burial dated 879 contained a Viking warrior with his sword, two ritually murdered slave girls and the bones of hundreds of men, women and children, his very own body count, to take with him to Valhalla.

On the positive side, there was one thing that the Vikings did manage to do, however inadvertently.

They created England.

By smashing the power of most of the Saxon kingdoms, the Vikings accomplished what, left to themselves, the warring tribes could never have managed - some semblance of alliance against a common foe.

To push back the Viking onslaught, to repair some of the terrible damage they'd done, would need more than just a competent tribal warrior chief.

It would need someone with a vision, not just of victory, but of government; someone who could harness Anglo-Saxon energy and determination to Roman military discipline.

It was going to need, in fact, a local Charlemagne, with the intelligence and imagination of a truly Roman ruler.

He, of course, was Alfred.

Our cherished image of Alfred is of the hero on the run, up against steep odds, muddling through, taking it on the chin when scolded for burning the cakes.

But the story which really tells you all you need to know about Alfred isn't set in the swamps of Somerset but on the Palatine Hill of Rome and is more startling and illuminating - and it happens to be true.

As a small boy, Alfred's father, King Aethelwulf, sent him on a special mission to Rome to see Pope Leo IV, probably to ask the Pope's help in the struggle against the Vikings.

In a ceremony, the Pope dressed the little fellow in the imperial purple of a Roman consul and wound a sword belt around his waist, turning little Alfred into a true Roman Christian warrior.

On a second trip, Alfred spent a whole year in the Eternal City, along with his father, walking the ruins of the empire and the sacred sites.

It was surely this experience which made him what he was - a philosopher prince, who, in more than a literal sense, translated the works of Roman wisdom for Anglo-Saxon consumption.

Through Alfred, England got something it hadn't had since the legions departed: An authentic vision of a realm governed by law and education, a realm which, since Alfred commissioned a translation of Bede into Anglo-Saxon, understood its past and its special destiny as the western bastion of a Christian Roman world.

First, he had to win those battles.

He took the throne of Wessex at a time when, despite a recent victory, the collapse of his kingdom seemed imminent, and with it the entirety of Anglo-Saxon England.

It was here amidst the reeds of Athelney Island that the heroic legend of Alfred, the fugitive on the run, finally turning the tide against his enemies, was born.

By the spring of 878, Alfred had managed to piece together an improvised alliance of resistance.

At King Egbert's stone on the borders of Wiltshire and Somerset, near the site of this 19th-century folly celebrating it, he took command of an army which two days later, fought and defeated Guthrum's Vikings.

Alfred's victory was a holding operation, forcing the Vikings to settle for less than half the country.

But when in 886 Alfred entered London, rebuilt over the old Roman site, something of a deep significance did happen.

He was acclaimed as the sovereign lord of all the English people not under subjection to the Danes.

So it appears that during Alfred's lifetime the idea of a united English kingdom had become conceivable and even desirable.

The exquisite Alfred Jewel found not far from Athelney has inscribed on its edge: "Aelfred mec heht gewyrcan" - "Alfred caused me to be made." And the same might well be said of his reinvention of the English monarchy.

The enormous haunting eyes which dominate the figure are said to be symbols of wisdom or sight, apt qualities for a ruler whose ambitions were so lofty.

Alfred's special gift was to be able to see clearly England's place in the scheme of things, the debt of his realm to antiquity his bequest to posterity.

With his realm transformed, Alfred made possible a true Anglo-Saxon renaissance in the 10th century, creating stunning works of Christian art and architecture.

But the long shadow of Rome still fell over all this brilliance.

Alfred's grandson would be crowned the first King of England in a great Roman-style coronation.

Where did this momentous event happen? Where else but Bath?

We shouldn't get ahead of ourselves.

England has been conceived, not yet born.

To the north, Pictland has even further to go before it's recognisably a kingdom of Scotland.

For a generation or two it did look as though the grafting of Anglo-Saxon culture onto the enduring legacy of Roman Britain had produced an extraordinary flowering.

The shoots were still green, the buds were tender and vulnerable, and before this new kingdom had a chance to mature, it would be cut down by the devastating blow of an invader's axe.

 

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