Barbarian II: The Saxons

I just watched the Military History Channel’s The Barbarians II: The Saxons. What a mixed bag that overall leaves me outraged. First let me say that they got good experts: Chris Snyder, Richard Abels,  Michael Jones, and one other whose name I didn’t catch. They all gave good quotes; no one was taken out of context. But then in the recreations were just plain wrong.

Didn’t they bother to read Bede at all? Æthelfrith is portrayed as a barbarian fiend vs. very civilized looking Deirans. Æthelfrith supposedly kills Edwin’s father (very contradictory to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle who has him dies years earlier and another king Æthelric in Deira in 604), captures Edwin’s sister but Edwin escapes though he is in the room when Acha is captured by Ætethelfrith personally. Raedwald apparently had intentions to make his son king of Northumbria but gives it to Edwin when his “only” son is killed. Well Raedwald had at least one more son, probably two (Eorpwald and Sigebert).  [I don’t believe that Sigebert was a step-son because he would have no right to East Anglia after Eorpwald. I suspect that Raedwald cast him out perhaps with his mother for political reasons.] So Edwin rules for a while, converts, and then is killed by pagans!!!! No mention that Edwin is killed by a Briton, Cadwallon, who Bede specifically says was Christian. Then it jumps to the Vikings! Nothing on Oswald the first English saint, or the golden age of Northumbria, no mention of Bede.

The real history is a good story.  I don’t understand why they have to warp it so badly.

Here are some clips from The Saxons segment.

http://www.history.com/videos/dark-ages-barbarians-ii-the-saxons—aethelfrith-vs-edwin#dark-ages-barbarians-ii-the-saxons—aethelfrith-vs-edwin

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7 thoughts on “Barbarian II: The Saxons

  1. At the moment when Gordon Brown’s campaign gaffe (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/apr/28/gordon-brown-penitent-bigot-gaffe-campaign) highlights the whole dilemma of the the annexation of particular fields of experience and knowledge by particular elites (scrutiny of this incident will reveal that underlying it most crucially are issues of the fruits of education and our responsibility to acquire as well as to share them) the essential point of the above, which is that our history is misrepresented by those insufficiently acquainted with it, revealingly underscores a similar dichotomy. It leads us to ponder on the uses of history and our duty of fidelity to our predecessors. But perhaps, just as arranging a Bach fugue for saxophone trio can do no more than cause temporary inconvenience, Michelle doth protest too much: the problem for me was that Bede’s Latin was none too easy to decode; and that the school system’s Latin was quite a different kettle of fish. Poor excuse, I know. But reading up Danegeld on Wikipedia the other day, I found a couple of suitable passages where I could re-engage with the medieval Latin language: the context, in this case, already being usefully indicative of what the words would mean. Tributes, silver, amounts, and so on. In conclusion, the essentials of the two disciplines (1) decoding Bede’s England (2) making meticulous ‘historical-reconstruction’ drama films, are just an impossible number of intellectual light years distant the one from the other. Even Merchant/ Ivory have their critics! And that’s only your great-great-grandmother’s world! So sorry, that’s why: sadly, it was never going to happen in the first place… Martin

  2. Try going to google earth to find it. It is listed in there. Or at least the traditional site of Heavenfield where the current church is listed.

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