Friday, September 25, 2009

Anglo-Saxon Hoard Found in Former Kingdom of Mercia

Anglo-Saxon Treasure
(Image from

Exciting news this morning awaited those of us interested in such Anglo-Saxon literature as Beowulf, for we read of an archaeological find with enormous implications for Anglo-Saxon studies. I read of it in Yahoo's article by Raphael G. Satter: "Largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure found in UK."

Roger Bland, the expert who directed the hoard's excavation, calls it a "fantastic find." The treasure was unearthed in the former Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and is dated to 675-725 AD, which puts it close in time to the composition of that epic poem Beowulf.

Relevant to this literary 'connection' would be the small strip of gold shown above, for it is inscribed with a martial quotation from a Latin version of the Old Testament:
"Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face."
Satter doesn't identify the precise source, nor does he provide the Latin, so I shall. It's Numbers 10:35 and says in Latin:
"surge Domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua"
If you compare this verse to the image, you will be able to make out some of the Latin words, albeit differing slightly in spelling, e.g., "dissipentur" is given as "disepentu(r)" and "fugiant" as "fugent."

That will give linguists something to puzzle over, but I'm more interested in possible implications of this warlike verse choice for my theory that in the poem Beowulf, the character "Beowulf is being presented as a pagan antetype of Christ in an epic Anglo-Saxon praeparatio evangelium" that models pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon culture as being under the old covenant described in the Old Testament.

I argue this latter point at length in my article "Praeparatio Evangelium: Beowulf as Antetype of Christ," published back in 2004 by The Medieval and Early Modern English Studies Association of Korea (Volume 12, Issue 2).

The literature scholar Brother Anthony has kindly placed my article online for those intrepid enough to venture in such realms.

UPDATE: Current Archaeology 236 (cf. Wikipedia) provides the entire Latin inscription, "surge d[omi]ne [et] disepentur inimici tui et fugent qui oderunt te a facie tua," and references both Numbers 10:35 (i.e., "surge Domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua") and Psalm 67:2 (i.e., "Exsurgat Deus et dissipentur inimici eius et fugiant qui oderunt eum a facie eius"), but the inscription is obviously much closer to the Numbers citation.

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At 9:03 AM, Blogger John B said...

The NY Times is running the story.

Interestingly, the crosses and religious stuff seems to have been taken for its value as precious metal -- the crosses were folded up. The plunderers may have been less devout than the plundered.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, that's possible. On the other hand, the burial itself might have damaged the objects.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:46 PM, Blogger John B said...

Or they could have been planning to melt the crosses down and fashion them into larger crosses -- its difficult to impute motive. I vaguely recall reading of cases where the products of raids were tithed to the church. At any rate, I thought it was a curious detail.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Perhaps the half-Christianized tribes looted Peter to pay Paul.

Jeffery Hodges

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