Anglo-Saxons & Scots – 3d Anglo-Saxon Culture
How did the Anglo Saxons Live?
The king was at the top of society and everyone had to obey his orders.Each group of Anglo-Saxon settlers had a leader, or a war-chief. A strong leader became a cyning, the Anglo-Saxon word for king. Kings wore expensive clothes and a crown. In Anglo-Saxon times there was not just one king – there were many kings. They often quarrelled and fell out with each other.
After kings, the most powerful Anglo-Saxons were the thanes. Thanes lived in large halls and helped the king rule the land. A thane was in charge of a village. Everyone in the village had to do what he said. If he didn’t like someone he could force them to leave his village.
Most Anglo-Saxons were ceorls. These were the common people or peasants. Ceorls were usually poor and lived in small huts. They worked on the land or had a trade, like weaving, metalworking or carpentry. Ceorls had to fight for their thane. In return, the thanes gave them protection from invaders.
Slaves were at the very bottom of Anglo-Saxon society. Many slaves were badly treated and forced to work for a thane their whole life. Slaves would wear cheap, dull clothes made from wool. At the end of their working day, a slave would sleep in the cowshed or barn.
Women were treated very differently from men. Women were not allowed to eat in the great hall during a feast. A rich man’s wife might serve food and drink to the guests, but would eat elsewhere. Anglo-Saxon women stayed at home, cooking, making clothes and looking after the children. Women usually didn’t marry men of a higher class than themselves. A slave woman usually married a slave husband.
Justice and Housing
The Anglo-Saxons didn’t have prisons. People found guilty of crimes were either executed or punished with fines. If they ran away, they became ‘outlaws’ (outside the law), and anyone could hunt them down – unless they hid in a church. The fine for breaking into someone’s home was five shillings (25p), paid to the home-owner. For minor crimes like stealing, a nose or a hand might be cut off.
Anglo-Saxons lived in small villages near rivers, forests and other important resources that gave them everything they needed to care for farm animals, grow crops and make things to sell. Anglo-Saxons mostly lived in one-room houses made from wood, with thatched roofs. Important people in the village would live in a larger building with their advisors and soldiers – this was called the hall.
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