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Thread: The Anglo-Saxon Invasions

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    Lightbulb The Anglo-Saxon Invasions

    The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic people who inhabited Britain from the mid-5th century AD. Anglo-Saxon occupation of Britain is traditionally considered the origin of the modern English nation.

    The Anglo-Saxon Invasions


    The Roman legions had abandoned Britain by 410 AD. The Anglo-Saxons came to settle in the island, primarily on the east and south coasts. Their migration was part of the widespread movement of Germanic and other peoples on the mainland of Europe at this time (see Migrations Period).

    The first Anglo-Saxons in Britain were foederati, mercenaries hired by the Romans during the 4th Century to defend the Province against Germanic and Celtic raiders from beyond its borders. In 447, after a Council of war, Vortigern, leader of the by then effectively self-governing Britons, granted Thanet in Kent to the Anglo-Saxon warrior leader Hengist as a permanent kingdom, in return for mercenary services. By the 470s, following various revolts, wars, and new agreements, Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were established in Kent, Sussex, Middlesex, and Essex. It is not certain how, but by a similar date Anglo-Saxons were also settled in East Anglia, Lindsey (now Lincolnshire), in lands along the south bank of the River Trent they called Mercia ("the frontier land"), Deira (now East Yorkshire), along the Warwickshire Avon, and at Abingdon. Jutes controlled the Isle of Wight and the Meon Valley (now in Hampshire).

    The last recorded (and deepest-penetrating) Anglo-Saxon raid was in c.473. Organised British resistance,led from 479 by Ambrosius Aurelianus and then by King Arthur culminated in 491 in the Battle of Mons Badonicus. This succeeded in halting the invasion. The leaders who fought with Arthur at this and other battles may have given rise to his fabled "Knights of the Round Table."

    When the Anglo-Saxon advance resumed, it took the typically mediaeval form of wars causing the expansion of existing kingdoms at the expense of their neighbours. The fate of Britain was still in the balance as late as 590, with King Urien of Rheged besieging Lindisfarne which was all that was left of Bernicia, and other Celts recently victorious at the Battle of Fethanleag (Stoke Lyne, 5km N of Banbury in Oxfordshire). In the previous 120 years, the Anglo-Saxons had added only Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire to the area under their firm control. But Urien was murdered by a rival among his compatriots, and Anglo-Saxon control of most of what is now England was cemented over the next 70 years. Perhaps in memory of this eventual defeat by the Anglo-Saxons, the modern Welsh word for England, "Lloegyr", means "the lost lands".

    The process by which they came to occupy this island is sometimes known as the Saxon conquest, although this is perhaps a misnomer: other tribes, such as the Frisians and perhaps the Franks, are known to have taken part, but the details of their role in the process are unknown. The various tribes established a large number of kingdoms in what today is known as England, which were popularly described to have later consolidated into seven states traditionally known as the Heptarchy (but see that article for modern reservations about the term).

    According to tradition, Kent was established first by a group known as the Jutes, led by a King Hengest. Another Jute king, Horsa, may have taken part; the name may refer to Hengest's brother.

    East Anglia's beginnings are unknown and very little record survives of its foundation or of the fate of the native Britons, the once mighty Iceni tribe, who had dwelt there before. The name Mercia may mean "marches": a frontier area facing the Celtic Romano-British or Welsh. Deira and Bernicia appear to be Anglian corruptions of older British geographical names and the two states merged to form the kingdom of Northumbria.

    The fate of the Romano-British population is a matter of conjecture. At one point, historians believed the account of Gildas uncritically, and thought that the invaders slaughtered all whom they encountered in an act of genocide. More recent historians, such as H.P.R. Finberg, have argued that they largely survived, and lived under the Anglo-Saxon invaders as slaves or serfs. By the time reliable historical records begin once again, it is clear that the territory of the native inhabitants had been reduced to just Cornwall and Wales in the west of the island and Strathclyde and kingdoms further north in Scotland. Recent genetic testing of the inhabitants of England, Wales and the Low Countries does seem to show, according to some specialists, a large scale displacement of the earlier British populations out of England at some point in time in favor of people who are very closely related to the people inhabiting modern Friesland.

    Anglo-Saxon Religion

    Four of the Anglo-Saxon gods have given the English language names for days of the week:


    • Tiw, the Anglo-Saxon form of Tyr, the god of war: Tuesday
    • Woden, the Anglo-Saxon form of Odin, the clever one-eyed leader of the gods: Wednesday
    • Thunor, the Anglo-Saxon form of Thorburn, the thunder god: Thursday
    • Frige, the love-goddess: Friday
    .

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    English came with the Saxon Shore for sure, the nucleus of settlement, but really, filled out the land in an arc South of the Humber and East of the Solent, all of which had been governed separately from the Belgic tribal estates of the North and West since the Diocletian Reforms of the 3rd century. The Caledonians were the pre-Belgic tribes without any recognizable society save that like the Irish, from whom the Scots sprang and therein lies the confusion, making it seem like the Picts were mysterious and had blended in with the tribes from Ulster, when they were just caught between the Irish and Belgic tribes. The Belgic tribes took their name Pict and it became Brit, whereas the Scots changed their remnant land in Fortriu beyond the Walls to be a Gaelic colony. The natives of Alba/Albion had nowhere to go and their island was completely overrun by folks from elsewhere. It's ironic that modern Irish complain about the Six Counties, but they drew first blood and just had to make Patrick their slave booty.

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