Saturday, September 8, 2012

Aelfred's Military Work

Ælfred would hardly have been able to do so much unless his own character had been singularly attractive. Other men have been greater warriors or legislators or scholars than Ælfred was, but no man has ever combined in his own person so much excellence in war, in legislation, and in scholarship.

As to war, he was not only a daring and resolute commander, but he was an organiser of the military forces of his people. One chief cause of the defeats of the English had been the difficulty of bringing together in a short time the 'fyrd,' or general levy of the male population, or of keeping it long together when men were needed at home to till the fields. Ælfred did his best to overcome this difficulty by ordering that half the men of each shire should be always ready to fight, whilst half remained at home. This new half-army, like his new half-kingdom, was stronger than the whole one had been before.

To an improved army Ælfred added a navy, and he was the first English king who defeated the Danes at sea.

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