I’m having a little trouble sorting out some word choices. Specifically, I need to decide whether a certain character would be a gesith, a thegn, or something else (ealdorman?). A gesith, as I understand it, is a warrior companion, a member of the warband. It’s a term used in very early A-S times, i.e. the fifth and sixth centuries. To me it has hints of a young, wild, warrior culture: boasts and mead and arm rings. Thegn means roughly the same thing, but was used in the eighth and later centuries. To me it connotes a bit more gravitas, in terms of both the man and the culture: older, weightier, with more responsibility and perhaps a household of his own but, still, a member of the warband, still a big fan of armrings (and sword rings) and oaths and boasts and drinking games. So which would one use for a seventh century warband warrior?
Ealdorman is an even later political construct, I believe, more of a local magnate with specific responsibilities to the king, a kind of baron. But where and when do all these roles cross and/or coalesce? Would a warband thegn have a household of his own, a holding to run, with warriors sworn directly to his service? Or was he a young unmarried fighter hoping to get a lifetime gift of land from the king for distinguishing himself in a fight?
The character I want to talk about is an older (i.e. forty) retired warrior living in a hall/settlement near the sea, who exchanged his oath of direct fighting service for one of overseeing some local coastal trade. It’s around 623. Edwin is not yet an overking, but definitely has those ambitions. So what do I call this out-to-pasture country lord?
This is driving me crazy, so if anyone has any thoughts, please (please!) share them.