Pope Gregory and Anglii Children

Figure 1.--Bede the Venerable in his 'Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum' (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) starts with a now-famous anecdote. The young Gregory (future pope Gregory the Great) sees some English boys for sale in a slave market of Rome. Actually England did not yet exist. The boys were reportedly from Deira, a northern Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Gregory exclaimed: "Angeli, non Angli" (they are Angels not English). The Angli at the time were in the process of conquering Romano-Celtic Britain. Thus it is not clear why the boys in the ancedote were being sold as slaves. The Anglo-Saxon conquest was a lengthy sea-saw battle and the Romano-Celts, although the Legions had long departed, would have had trade contacts with Rome. Thus some Anglii could have been captured. And there were also wars between the new Anglo-Saxon kingsoms. A reader suggests local tribes falling out or selling on debt. Later Gregory was very engaged to bring the Gospel to England. This anecdote remind us that in 6th century slavery was still common in Rome and that the North Europe was a source of slaves. Here we have a modern image of the anecdote. We are not sure who the artist was.

There is a tale told about Pope Gregory I (540–604) concerning the Anglii. Gregory is also known as Gregory the Great among tghe most important of all popes. He rignedt the juncture between the fall of Tome nd the rise of medieval Europe. The Church was gradually reducing the slave trade alsp promoted by the developing feudal system, but it still existed in the former Roman Empire. Gregory apparently saw a group of Anglii children from Deira. Deira was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in northern England (6th century AD). The Germanic tribes had overun the Roman Empire, but that apparently did nit mean that Germanic children could not be sold as slaves. Deira's territory extended from the Humber to the Tees Rivers and from the sea to the western edge of the Vale of York. The boy were being sold as slaves in a Roman market. Gregory was reportedly struck by their fair complexions and piercing blue eyes and asked about them. When he learned that they wer Anglii he punned “Non Angli, sed angeli” , meaning "Not Angles, but angels"). Impressed by their beauty he is said to have resolved to convert their people to Christianity.


Bede the Venerable. Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People)


Navigate the Children in History Websitr:
[Return to the Main Anglii tribe page]
[Return to the Main individual German tribe page]
[Return to the Main Anglo-Saxon Britain page]
[Return to the Main Ancient Germanic Tribes page]
[Return to the Main German chronology page]
[Introduction] [Animals] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Ethnicity] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]

Created: 7:06 AM 6/14/2007
Last updated: 11:28 PM 8/24/2011