A more disciplined military force was provided by subjecting all owners of five hides of land to "thane-service," a step which recognized the change that had now substituted the thegn for the eorl and in which we see the beginning of a feudal system.
There are two statutes among the Saxon laws which seem calculated to confound those different ranks of men; that of Athelstan, by which a merchant, who had made three long sea voyages on his own account, was entitled to the quality of thane p; and that of the same prince, by which a ceorle or husbandman, who had been able to purchase five hides of land, and had a chapel, a kitchen, a hall, and a bell, was raised to the same distinction q. But the opportunities were so few, by which a merchant or ceorle could thus exalt himself above his rank, that the law could never overcome the reigning prejudices; the distinction between noble and base blood would still be indelible; and the well-born thanes would entertain the highest contempt for those legal and factitious ones.
Taking treasure, and weapons and horses, and feasting in a hall with the king" is synonymous with thane-hood or gesith-ship in "Beowulf's Lay").
i. 132, same as brandly?--"And thane thay com tille wonder heghe mountaynes, and it semed as the toppes had towched the firmament; and thir mountaynes were als brant uprighte as thay had bene walles, so that ther was na clymbyng upon thame," Life of Alexander, MS.