Filled with drama and action, here is the story of the ninth-century life and times of Alfred—warrior, conqueror, lawmaker, scholar, and the only king whom England has ever called "The Great." Based on up-to-date information on ninth-century history, geography, philosophy, literature, and social life, it vividly presents exciting views of Alfred in every stage of his long career and leaves the reader with a sharply-etched picture of the world of the Middle Ages.
Why is Alfred "the Great?" A simple answer is that he has been seen as a man who saved England, invented English identity and pioneered English as a written language. He is the first Englishman for whom a biography survives, so we know more about Alfred and his ideals than we do for most people who lived over 1,000 years ago. A slightly longer answer would say that things are a bit more complicated, and that one reason Alfred seems to be so "great" was that he made sure we were told that he was. To get the measure of Alfred we need to look at what he actually managed to achieve. Can we resurrect the "real" King Alfred? Even if we have to part company with some of the Victorian adulation, we are still left with a pretty impressive and surprising person.
"I desire in the following pages to present to English readers ... the early authorities for the life of King Alfred of England ... In each case i have made a new translation from the original ... The Introductory Sketch will ... show how the information derived from these varous sources combines into an authentic picture of our hero-King." -- p. [v]-vi.
King Alfred. Everybody knows that he is called “the Great,” but few remember why. Forgetfulness is strange, for few men have led lives so full of physical, mental, and spiritual adventure, or influenced in so many ways the lives of people in every part of the globe. The Golden Dragon is his fascinating and moving story, told afresh with the aid of recent archaeological evidence and research in four languages.
Alfred’s achievements have melted cynicism. Gibbon called him “the greatest of English kings”; Hume, “the greatest man in history.” Voltaire declared, “I know not whether there has ever been a man on earth worthier of posterity’s respect.” When his kingdom was reduced to thirty acres, he fought back with such courage and genius that he expelled the Viking invaders and made possible the saving of Western civilization. His list of accomplishments is amazing: transcendent diplomat, Europe’s greatest naval designer, notable architect, law giver, founder of the oldest literary tradition in the Occident, originator of a system of public education, and producer of translations that have endured a thousand years.
The author’s research led him to the conclusion that the ninth-century English kin was the superior of Charlemagne in almost every respect, and indeed was one of the greatest geniuses Western civilization has ever produced. Alfred’s courage, faith, and temperance are enduring examples for modern men.
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