The Medieval and Early Modern Centre at the University of Sydney, will host a lunchtime lecture by Professor Daniel Anlezark entitled:
Alfred the Great and Asia
Asia was central to the spiritual geography of all Anglo-Saxon Christians. Anglo-Saxon maps placed Jerusalem (at the western extremity of Asia) at the centre of the world, and despite the difficulty of the journey, pilgrims from England and other western Europeans made their way there to visit the sites of Christ’s passion and resurrection. Asia was also important to the Anglo-Saxon social elite in more mundane ways as a source of luxury goods. A group of Old English texts dating from the late ninth and early tenth centuries offer us insights into some ways in which people living in England across these decades conceptualized the far-away continent of Asia.
In this context and against this background, we find two references to King Alfred the Great’s interest in Asia. There is clear evidence that Alfred corresponded with Elias, the patriarch of Jerusalem (c. 879-907), while an entry in most versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 883 indicates that he sent envoys with almost ‘to St Thomas in India and to St Bartholomew’. This talk will examine the evidence for Alfred’s Asian diplomacy and interrogate the range of contexts within which it took place. This will involve a clarification of the nature and scope of the journey of the two Anglo-Saxon travellers, Sigehelm and Athelstan, who set out for ‘India’, and the connection between this embassy and the retaking of London from the Vikings which occasioned it.
Online, 2 September 2021, 12 00 – 1330 AEST.
To join online, please use this zoom link.