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«1 Super alta perennis Studien zur Wirkung der Klassischen Antike 7 Band 18 12 Herausgegeben von Uwe Baumann, Marc Laureys und Winfried Schmitz Stefan ...»

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Super alta perennis

Studien zur Wirkung der Klassischen Antike

7 Band 18

12 Herausgegeben von

Uwe Baumann, Marc Laureys und Winfried Schmitz

Stefan J. Schustereder

Strategies of Identity Construction

The Writings of Gildas, Aneirin and Bede

V& R unipress

Bonn University Press

17 ®


18 Papier aus verantwortungsvollen Quellen

19 FSC® C083411


21 Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über 24 http://dnb.d-nb.de abrufbar.

ISSN 2198-6134 ISBN 978-3-8471-0431-5 27 ISBN 978-3-8470-0431-8 (E-Book) 28 ISBN 978-3-7370-0431-2 (V& R eLibrary) Weitere Ausgaben und Online-Angebote sind erhältlich unter: www.v-r.de 31 Veröffentlichungen der Bonn University Press erscheinen im Verlag V& R unipress GmbH.

 2015, V& R unipress GmbH, Robert-Bosch-Breite 6, 37079 Göttingen / www.v-r.de 34 Alle Rechte vorbehalten. Das Werk und seine Teile sind urheberrechtlich geschützt.

Jede Verwertung in anderen als den gesetzlich zugelassenen Fällen bedarf der vorherigen schriftlichen Einwilligung des Verlages.

Printed in Germany.

37 Titelbild: Cardiff Manuscript 2.81 – Llyfr Aneirin (‘The Book of Aneirin’), p. 23, supplied by Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / National Library of Wales by permission of Cardiff Council Library Service.

Druck und Bindung: CPI buchbuecher.de GmbH, Zum Alten Berg 24, 96158 Birkach 41 Gedruckt auf alterungsbeständigem Papier.


1 Acknowledgements............................. 9

2 Introduction................................ 13

3 eoretical considerations......................... 17

3.1 Imagined Communities - the construction of identity....... 21

3.2 Medieval Ethnic communities and Writing............. 25

3.3 Markers of ethnic identity...................... 28 3.3.1 Names............................. 29 3.3.2 e Founding Myth...................... 31 3.3.3 History............................ 32

–  –  –

I would like to express my gratitude to all my teachers, colleagues and friends who supported and helped me to finish this project. I am particularly indebted to my supervisors Professor Dr. Dr.hc. Hildegard L.C. Tristram (University of Freiburg) for her genuine and patient supervision of my dissertation since its very beginning, to Professor Dr. Felix Heinzer (University of Freiburg) for his support, his helpful comments and our interesting discussions and to Professor Dr. omas Charles-Edwards (Jesus College, University of Oxford) for his guidance and for sharing his fascination for early medieval writings with me. My sincere thanks to Professor Fiona Tolhurst (Florida Gulf Coast University) for her patient support and for all the advice and help she provided and to Dr. Susan Reynolds (London) for our discussions, her helpful comments, her patience and endless motivation.

I would also like to thank Professor Andrew J. Johnston (Freie Universität, Berlin) for his support and encouragement, Professor Stefan Zimmer (University of Bonn) for his help with the Welsh texts, Dr. Irene Balles (University of Bonn) for her support in finding etymologies for Late British words, Professor John Hutchinson (London School of Economics) for his advice on identity construction and nationalism, Professor Winfried Rudolf (University of Göttingen) for his helpful remarks, Dr. Bianca Kossmann (University of Freiburg) for her patient advice and her helpful comments on my dras, Dr. Luciana Meinking Guimarães (University of Freiburg) for her guidance, her advice and her example and Dr. Rüdiger Lorenz (University of Freiburg) for sharing his expertise on the wonders of the Latin language with me. I would also like to express my sincere thanks to all my teachers, whose training and advice have led me to approach this dissertation, most of all Professor Wolfgang Hochbruck (University of Freiburg), Professor Jon Adams (University of Freiburg), Professor omas Zotz (University of Freiburg), Professor Andreas Bihrer (University of Kiel), Professor Rüdiger Müller (University of Guelph, Ontario), Professor Stephen Henighan (University of Guelph, Ontario) and Professor Hartwig Mayer (University of Toronto).

Moreover, I would like to thank Professor Tristram, Professor Tolhurst, Dr.

Reynolds, Dr. Kossmann, Dr. Meinking Guimarães, Dr. Rüdiger Lorenz, Dr. Ninja Schulz, Kathrin Behrendt and Agnes Laba for their support and for days and

10 Acknowledgements

weeks of proof-reading, commenting and correcting. Without the support of all these great people I would not have been able to approach this project, let alone finish it. e responsibility for all the views expressed here and for all the errors in this work is, of course, my own.

is island at present, following the number of the books in which the Divine law was written, contains five nations, the English, Britons, Scots, Picts, and Latins, each in its own peculiar dialect cultivating the sublime study of Divine truth.

The Venerable Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, Book I, Chapter I.

Lastly, it is inhabited of five peoples, Romans, to wit, Britons, Saxons, Picts and Scots.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae, Chapter II.

2 Introduction roughout history, people have believed to live in a world of distinct groups, differing in culture, ethnicity or origin. is belief is based on features of identity which are applied to formulate the differences between individuals or between different peoples. ese features, or the terms referring to them, have always functioned as symbols of identification for individuals and communities either in the way of self-identification or to contrast others from oneself (Le Page 1985: 208).

With their symbolism, these terms allowed communities to formulate a unity of individuals agreeing to the categories of a group and also to mediate the difference to other communities, maybe even sometimes emphasizing barriers.

Both, Bede, who wrote his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum around AD 732, and Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote his Historia Regum Britanniae around AD 1137, name five particular peoples living in Britain. ese quotes are only two examples found in writings from earlier as well as later authors who mention these peoples to live on the island. Bede and Geoffrey use the names of these peoples to distinguish them from each other. e same peoples appear in Gildas’ De Excidio Britanniae, dated to the mid-6th century, and most of them can be found in the late British vernacular poem Y Gododdyn, presumably dated only a few decades later. ese quotes demonstrate an early awareness of the different collective groups inhabiting Britain and were obviously used to differentiate between them.

Comparing the quotations from the early eighth-century historian Bede and the

twelh-century historian Geoffrey, the reader recognizes a peculiar difference: Bede’s Angles were replaced by Geoffrey’s Saxons. is then leads to two questions:

where there no Saxons in Britain when Bede wrote his text? And had the Angles le the island when Geoffrey wrote his history?

Of course, both assumptions are wrong. Saxons and Angles had lived in Britain for centuries before either of the two authors began to write. Reading these two passages in contrast to each other shows that both authors named different groups: the names of the peoples of Britain, as well as their origins, histories and traditions, were treated very consciously in the writings of medieval Britain. Information was added and le out on purpose in order to give history a different meaning. Authors worked consciously with the features that construct collective

14 Introduction

identities and were, in spite of the differences in the passages shown before, very much aware of the peoples that inhabited Britain. It is the aim of this study to show how this awareness was constructed in early medieval writings in Britain and how this construction of collective identities relates to the contemporary political and social developments.

is study will approach three exemplary writings from the period between AD 550 to AD 732 in order to show how the respective features of identity construction were and still are presented. e three sources chosen for this study represent different perspectives on peoples in Britain during this time. Two of them come from British authors, Gildas and Aneirin, who wrote about their own people as well as about the peoples who began invading the island shortly aer the fall of the Roman Empire in the mid-fih century. e third author, the Venerable Bede, writes from the perspective of these invading peoples and speaks of his view of the invasion and about the peoples who lived in Britain. e authors also differ in regard to their social background. While two of them, Gildas and Bede, were ecclesiastics, the third author, Aneirin, wrote his poem from a secular perspective. Another difference between the sources which will be used in this study is their textual genre. Earlier studies, like the research of the concept of origo gentis limited their focus to writings of the genre of historiae (Plassmann 2006: 31–32).

I will show that the construction of identities is not limited to this specific genre but can be found in all the writings dealt with in my thesis, which belong to the textual genres of letters, poems, histories and chronicles.

e central research questions of my thesis can thus be formulated as follows:

what are the features that can be considered to have been instrumental in the construction of the identity of a gens? How is the use of these features influenced by the historical and social context of the writings and their authors? Where are the similarities in the use of these features in the texts, where are their differences?

How can these similarities and differences be explained? Following these questions, my study will show that features of identity construction can be found in writings from different genres and from different social and ethnic backgrounds.

In spite of these differences, features of identity construction are also inherited from earlier writings and put into a new context in order to fit the purpose of a new writing. e construction of identities in texts will therefore be demonstrated to have been a dynamic process embedded in the strategies of authors who were writing for a specific purpose. In other words, the respective identities are not freshly constructed for each writing but rather copied from earlier writings and recontextualized in the new texts depending on the perspective and purpose of the author.

Before entering the discussion of collective identity it is necessary to outline the geographical area this paper is referring to, namely Britain. Even common geographical and cultural terms tend to be used incorrectly, even among schoIntroduction lars, especially scholars with a non-British research background. e term English refers to the landmass or the people in the south-west of Britain. erefore, arguing against common critical statements, England is not the name of the entire island but forms a part of the island of Britain sharing its landmass with Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.¹ is study uses the geographic term Britain or Island of Britain when referring to the island that includes the areas of England, Scotland and Wales.² At this point it needs to be emphasized that this geographical definition must not be confused with a political definition of the term Britain; in the Middle Ages, this term referred to the area under Roman administration between AD 46 and until about

410. Furthermore, the term British refers to the inhabitants of this province and was used to distinguish them from the other gentes on the island such as the Picts, the Scots, i.e. the Irish in the north of Britain, and the Saxons or Anglo-Saxons.

e Britons later changed their name into Cymraeg referring to the gens living in Strathclyde-Cumbria and in the area we know today as Wales, a term which originated from the Anglo-Saxon word wealas, meaning foreigner or slave. However, this differentiation only took place aer the seventh century (Davies 1995: 8). In earlier sources, as will be shown, the term British was applied to distinguish the inhabitants of the Roman province from the Picts in the north and the Saxon invaders.

Concerning the terminology used in this thesis, the term gens is used when referring to the Britons, the Saxons or Anglo-Saxons or other collective or ethnic groups. ere are two reasons for this approach: first, translations of contemporary Latin terms like the English words tribe and people or the German terms Volk or Rasse carry negative connotations depriciating these groups and thus falsify the

at least more neutral and descriptive meaning of the Latin term gens (Jarnut 1985:

83). Secondly, other contemporary terms such as populus or natio can generally be seen as synonyms of gens which is why this term is used exclusively to avoid confusion.³ e term gens is therefore used to ensure a uniform terminology although it does not allow a clear differentiation from other Latin or Greek terms that are used in the primary sources (Pohl 1994: 13). e fact that a depreciative

connotation of this term as well has been brought into the discussion (Pohl 1985:

93) needs to be mentioned, in this thesis it is used for all collective groups that are distinguished by ethnic origin. At this point, however, it is crucial to outline the difference between the research focus of this thesis and research on nationalism;

–  –  –

while nationalism has been argued to be a modern phenomenon not evidenced earlier than the French Revolution, this thesis focuses on a sense of nation in the early Middle Ages.⁴ It is clear that before 1800 no nation could be created by design, that means that no gens would have been able to claim a nation for themselves

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