Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Lives of Two Offas: Vitae Offarum Duorum

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Lives of Two Offas: Vitae Offarum Duorum

Article excerpt

The Lives of Two Ojfas: Vitae Ojfarum duorum, ed. Michael Swanton (Crediton: Medieval Press, 2011). ci + 210 pp. ISBN 978-9566119-1-8 (p/b). £22.99. Michael Swanton's edition of the anonymous twelfth-century Vitae Ojfarum duorum presents a work once attributed to Matthew Paris, though, as the editor shows in his introduction, Matthew had nothing to do with the authoring of this eclectic historical romance. Swanton asserts a St Albans provenance, however, dating the text to the twelfth century. The two Offas of the title are the fourth- or fifth-century Offa of Angeln (whose history is told obliquely in Beowulf) and the eighth-century Mercian king Offa (at whose court Beowulf might have been composed). The author of this fanciful history recasts the earlier continental Germanic Offa as a conqueror of Britain and king of Mercia, surely a deliberate invention by an author familiar with a range of early medieval historical sources. The text is no independent witness to historical events, but nevertheless offers an insight into the treatment of the Anglo-Saxon past a century after the conquest, especially as the Vitae seem to have been the product of a monastic centre so closely associated with Norman power. …

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