A new book tells the story of the Battle of Maldon AD 991and explores the famous poem, which framed the devastating event as a heroic and epic tale.
In August AD 991, a decisive battle took place near Maldon beside the River Blackwater in Essex, Englan, when Earl Byrhtnoth and his thegns led the English against a Viking invasion. The battle ended in a spectacular Anglo-Saxon defeat pavin the wayfor the invasions after the year 1000. After the battle, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the aldermen advised King Æthelred the Unready to buy off the Vikings rather than continue the armed struggle. The result was a payment of 10,000 Roman pounds (3,300 kg) of silver, the first example of Danegeld in England. The payment furnished the money for the funding of the Viking Armies which gradually conquered Britain in the next decades.
The Battle of Maldon. War and Peace in Tenth-Century England
By Mark Atherton
Depicting one of the defining conflicts of tenth-century England, The Battle of Maldon immortalises the bloody fight that took place along the banks of the tidal river Blackwater in 991, poignantly expressing the lore and language of a determined nation faced with the advance of a ruthless and relentless enemy. But, as Mark Atherton reveals, The Battle of Maldon is more than a heroic tale designed to inspire courage and unity in a time of crisis: rather, it celebrates ideals of loyalty and friendship and commemorates an event which changed the face of English culture. Using Atherton’s own vivid and illuminating translations from Old English, The Battle of Maldon: War and Peace in Tenth-Century England evokes the chaotic ebb and flow of the battle while also placing ‘Maldon’ in the context of its age. Seeking to reconstruct the way of life, the spirituality and the worldview of the original audience, Atherton examines how and why the poem encouraged its readers to relive the visceral experience of battle for themselves.With this exciting study, Atherton provides an authoritative treatment of this iconic text, its history and its legacy. As such, this important book will be a vital resource for all readers of Old English literature and early medieval history.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Illustrations
List of Maps
Part I. Approaches to The Battle of Maldon
1. The Grounds of Maldon
2. Horse and Hawk
3. Hearth and Home
4. ‘Here stands an earl’
5. ‘Blessed is the man’: Byrhtnoth’s Prayer
6. ‘From a great kindred in Mercia’
7. Feud and Friendship
8. The Battle of the Holme
9. Beowulf and Maldon
Part II. After the Battle
10. ‘And so to Maldon’: The Account of the Battle in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
11. Byrhtferth of Ramsey’s Life of St Oswald
12. Memories of a Golden Age: ‘Maldon’ in The Book of Ely
Appendix 1. The Battle of Maldon: Text and Translation
Appendix 2. ‘The Battle of the Holme’: Text and Translation
Appendix 3. The Case of Æthelric of Bocking: Text and Translation
Appendix 4. The Will of Leofwine: Text and Translation
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Atherton is Senior Lecturer in English Language and Literature at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford, UK. He is the author of The Making of England (2017) and Complete Old English (2019).