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The Lives of Two Offas: Vitae Offarum Duorum
Introduced, Translated and Edited by Michael Swanton

The forgotten life of the king who built Offa’s Dyke, invented English currency, overcame disability, saved his kingdom, faced down an Emperor and became the first king of England – an England centred on the Midlands.

Prof. Michael Swanton (the translator of Anglo-Saxon classics: Beowulf, Hereward the Wake and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) here introduces and translates the early medieval account of two unjustly forgotten Dark Age English kings. The most important of these is Offa of Mercia, who as well as establishing the border of Wales by building Offa’s Dyke, invented the penny and became the first king of England.

The historical backdrop to the burial of the Staffordshire Hoard.

Complete with some of the original illustrations (including those by Matthew Paris) this parallel translation also tells of the difficult marriages, beset with political intrigue and murder, of both Offa and his ancestor. Marital problems that culminate with the death of an unwanted son-in-law, smothered in the bedroom toilet!

This medieval biography also provides unusual records and insights into English memories of their past. It shows how both Offas were dumb throughout their childhood, the hostility between Angle and Saxon and the tale of England being founded by an Arab. It also includes the politically charged letters between Offa and Emperor Charlemagne where Offa rejects European domination and shows when England was first founded, it was based not in London but in the Midlands.


This work not only provides, for the first time, a parallel translation from the Latin manuscript, but a in-depth introduction to both the text and the background to its setting, as well as appendices of parallel translations of relevant early medieval texts. These include The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Laȝamon’s Brut, and Beowulf. Amongst the illustrations are several reproductions of the original manuscript illuminations including some by the celebrated Mathew Paris. There is also an extensive index and bibliography.

Specification: 313 pp., 15 x 23 cm, 31 black and white illustrations.

ISBN: 978-0-9566119-0-1
£65.00 inc. UK p&p.

Temporarily out of stock in hardback

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ISBN: 978-0-9566119-1-8
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