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Monday, 19 June 2017

Alfred the Great (LII): Personality Type Analysis

Alfred the Great was the 27th King of Wessex from 871 to 899, the very first English monarch to have ever been given the epithet "the Great" and most well-known for commanding the successful defense of Wessex during Viking conquest, which eventually lead him to become the dominant monarch of England towards the end of his life. The history of his life and reign as monarch of Wessex is explained in detail through the written accounts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, historical documentation of what his reign was like, those who personally knew him and the biography The Life of King Alfred, written by the Welsh monk Asser.

The details of his early childhood are elaborated on in Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in which young Alfred (suspected to be around age four) travelled with his family to Rome in 853, to be made "consul" by Pope Leo IV. This was early preparation for his eventual succession as King of Wessex, though the possibility of Alfred becoming the next in line was slim. This was because he had three elder brothers (from eldest to youngest); Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred, who had greater chances of future coronation as monarch of Wessex. (The first brother, Æthelstan died in 852, shortly after fending off a Viking fleet in Kent and had very little impact on the life of Alfred as a child.) After spending time in Rome for a few years, Alfred's father Æthelwulf visited Carolingian King Charles the Bald in 856 and married his fourteen year-old daughter Judith to signify the diplomatic alliance between the two kingdoms. Æthelbald heard of this news, enraged at now having an underage stepmother and casting aside his own mother, a kindhearted, devoutly religious woman who cared about the education of her children. In reaction to this, Æthelbald led a revolt in an attempt to depose his father of the throne on his return to Wessex. In the instance of civil war breaking out, Æthelwulf negotiated with Æthelbald to let him rule western province of his kingdom and for himself to rule over the eastern province.


After Æthelwulf's death in 858, Æthelbald's reign from 858 to 860 was relatively short and seen by Asser as unstable and lawless (Though further details of his reign is limited). Next in line was Æthelberht, his reign from 860 to 865 was internally peaceful and harmonious, though he died shortly before the invasion of the Great Heathen Army in 865. The reign of Æthelred was the most war intensive out of the three elder brothers, with some successful military victories early on. However, after the Saxon defeat of the Battle of Merton, Æthelred died a month after and left Alfred to deal with a kingdom on the verge of collapse, all on his own. 


During all of this political unrest, Alfred was known by his mother Osburh, to be fascinated with reading, poetry and education at a very young age. To encourage her son's interest in education, she offered a challenge to her four children that the first person to memorize a book of Saxon poems would be the new owner of that book. Even just recently learning how to read at age twelve (which was the result of the lack of tutors and scholars in the West Saxon Kingdom), Alfred had surpassed his brothers in intellectual strength by memorizing the entire book, thus winning the book of Saxon poems. Since then, Alfred was known to carry around books with him wherever he went and frequently sought quiet refuge to read alone. This specifically is from Asser's account, "[...] he collected in a single book, as I have seen for myself; amid all the affairs of the present life he took it around with him everywhere for the sake of prayer, and was inseparable from it".


Notably, in contrast to his brother Æthelred who based his military organization purely off of tactics and strong defense, Alfred naively came to the conclusion that peace could be negotiated between the new leader of the Danes, Guthrum. After exchanging oaths and swearing loyalty to a "holy" ring (thought to be associated with Thor), the Danes immediately broke their promise and decided to kill the hostages they captured anyway. By taking advantage of his weakness in F, the Danes thought that they had gotten a step ahead of the Saxons, though unknowingly to the Danes, Alfred had already blockaded their ships in Devon ahead of time in the case if they didn't keep their word. His preference of long-term military strategy over tactics served him well in the Battle of Edington and in his plan to storm the Dane's stronghold in Chippenham by cutting off their food supply and starving them until surrender. Guthrum and his men had no other choice but to come to a complete surrender, and instead of killing the men or arresting them for their actions, Alfred came to the conclusion that they should be converted to Christianity through baptism at his court (even accepting Guthrum as his adoptive son). With what has been written above, provides the most evidence for a type with F4 and strong T.


After the war, Alfred became a respected military strategist, though his innate talents were in law-making and governance. He was a wise administrator who proceeded carefully in diplomatic matters, reorganizing his finances and politely distanced himself from his thanes (nobles). Once he realized the current state of corruption in the state's legal system, he scrutinized the administration of justice and ensured to protect of the weak from oppression by ignorant or corrupt judges. In this way, Alfred decided it would be best to administer an important code of laws, after studying the principles of law-giving in the Book of Exodus, again with special attention to the protection of the poor. While avoiding unnecessary changes in custom, he limited the practice of the blood feud and imposed heavy penalties for the breach of an oath or pledge. His own attitudes are reflective of weak R3, his own efforts to distance himself from the members of his court could have been seen as impersonal and standoffish by some (though he did send frequent embassies to Rome conveying the translated alms to the Pope). He would much rather see them more as "co-workers" since he believed that unnecessarily making friends and enemies would make more unjust activities like bribes to be more accepted.


Alfred attitude toward learning is quite evident, due to his belief that the Viking raids were a divine punishment for the people's sins and he attributed these to a lack of education in general. He argued that through learning, men could acquire wisdom and live in accordance with God's will. In 878 CE, he invited scholars from across the European continent to his court, taught himself Latin and began to translate Latin books into English in 887. Baffled by how indolent and ignorant the common man was in comparison to these scholars, he directed that all young men must learn to read English. By his own translations, he released to the public English versions of books that were necessary people to know; The Ecclesiastical History of the English People and the Seven Books of Histories Against the Pagans. Alfred's translation of the Pastoral Care of St. Gregory I, the great 6th-century pope, provided a manual for priests in the instruction of their flocks, and a translation by Bishop Werferth of Gregory's Dialogues supplied edifying reading on holy men. To summarize, Asser's notes on Alfred characterize him as a scholarly man who had an unwavering interest in L pursuits, his own confidence and talents in these subjects indicating strong and valued L1.


Alfred's religious beliefs were inspired by the philosopher St. Augustine of Hippo, to which he credited him by adding very broad material that addressed problems concerning faith, reason and the nature of eternal life. His translations were from a wide variety of sources, one of which was Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. Some of these psalms may have their origins in the intellectual interests awakened by the revival of learning under him. His reign also saw activity in reconstructed temples as centers of education, art, and foreign craftsmen were attracted to his court. The eclectic amount of interests and search for new ideas to accommodate both his religious and philosophical beliefs suggest Alfred had I2, or at the very least, a type with strong I.


More to the point, Alfred is a scholar by inclination, who became a war leader not because of glory, wealth or fame, it merely was because he had to. Though it is interesting that with such a beloved king, E is almost non-existent with Alfred. As stated before, he was a man who was beloved by his family and locals in Wessex, Alfred himself did not turn a blind eye to this popularity, though he felt this was only because the Anglo-Saxons only recognized him as king and not as a person. What's even more revealing is Alfred's emotional attitudes written in one of Alfred's last works, "Blooms" or Anthology. The first half is based mainly on the Soliloquies of St Augustine of Hippo, the remainder is drawn from various sources, and contains much of what is Alfred's passions are. The last words are quoted, "Therefore he seems to me a very foolish man, and truly wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear."  In general, a solitary and solemn man who avoided E matters, preferring to address the matters through writing because dealing with these problems socially brought him great discomfort, still fitting E5 nonetheless.


Concluding this analysis, there is a small anecdote that would be essential in putting together a clearer image of what Alfred type is. It's interesting that a scholarly man like Alfred, whose natural inclination to studying might've suggested that he had a sedentary lifestyle, but this was quite the opposite. Alfred was an avid huntsman who was often quite physically active, yet he saw his ability in hunting as more of a hobby than a more competitive activity. With this interest in a sport only for being physically active and healthy, would make S6 more likely for Alfred.


I would say that all of the evidence all points to LII Alpha values with visible L1, I2, R3, F4, E5, S6 and T8.


To learn more about LII click here

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here

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