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Anglo-Saxon England, ca. 6th to 8th century CE. An exceedingly fine iron helmet comprised of two wide iron bands attached with rivets supporting an iron "crown." Anglo Saxons helmets, as well as Danish and Viking ones, had a conical shape in order to protect the wearer's head by deflecting direct blows. The most expensive ones, used by kings and nobles, were entirely made of steel and iron while less expensive ones had an iron 'skeleton' to which panels of animal horn, hard leather or even wood were fixed. The face, cheeks and the neck of the wearer were protected by additional elements made of iron plate or other materials. Size: 8" L x 7.6" W x 6" H (20.3 cm x 19.3 cm x 15.2 cm)
The Saxons were fierce bearded warriors who fought with a ruthless, surprise attack style that intimidated many, even the Romans. Anglo-Saxon society revolved around warfare. Freemen were automatically warriors and were expected to fight from early adolescence. Teenage boys were often taken into a chieftain's household to be trained as warriors. Anglo-Saxon warriors were equipped with javelins and throwing axes as well as swords and shields. In particular a "scramasax" - a single-bladed dagger - was used for close-quarter fighting. Gesiths (serving-men and companions to the king) fought for their hlaford (lord/ breadgiver). Freemen were rewarded for their military service with (at first generally temporary) grants of land. The need to obtain more land for distribution encouraged policies of conquest, and the kings of Wessex were particularly successful because they were able to expand into Cornish territory. One of the most legendary was Alfred the Great, the King of Wessex from 871 to 899, who defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest and by the time of his demise had become the dominant ruler of England. For these reasons, he was the only English monarch accorded the epithet "the Great". The epithet was retained by succeeding generations of Parliamentarians and empire-builders who saw Alfred's patriotism, success against barbarism, promotion of education and establishment of the rule of law as supporting their own ideals.
Provenance: Ex-private United Kingdom collection, acquired in the early 1980's.
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