Who Were the Anglo-Saxons?
The Anglo-Saxons were invaders, particularly of Germanic origins, that began to take over and control England beginning in 449 A.D. and ending during the Norman Conquest in 1066 A.D. The Anglo-Saxons primarily consisted of the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, and Franks.
In the early 5th century, the Roman Empire was falling so troops were withdrawn from the British Isles. The Romans left Britain with roads, buildings, some forms of Christianity, and political disarray. Native tribes lacked unity and were weak to attacks by other tribes or outsiders.
When Roman left Britain, northern inhabitants (Picts and Scots) of the isle began attacking those in the south. At the same time, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes began invading British towns. Unable to defeat the northern Picts and Scots, some southern towns reached out to the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes for assistance.
The Germanic invaders did push back the Picts and Scots, but the Anglo-Saxons began to fight for land to establish their own kingdoms.
Where Did They Come From?
The Anglo-Saxons are primarily considered Germanic, and came from the areas of continental Europe, such as modern Germany and Denmark.
The Angles came from Denmark. They came from Angulus, a district in Schlewswig. They primarily settled in Mercia, Northumbria, and Anglia during Germanic invasions of England.
The Saxons migrated to Britain from Northern Germany. Today, the area would be considered near the North Sea coast spanning the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.
Historians are unsure as to the origin of the Jutes, because there is really no record of the Jutes in continental Europe. Their language suggests that they came from the Jutland peninsula. However, archeologists believe they originated near the Rhine river in northern Frankish areas. The Jutes settled in Kent, the Isle of Wight, and some of Hampshire when they migrated to England.
The Frisians came from regions near the Rhine at Katwijk. Primarily, they were from coastal regions of the Netherlands.
When Did the Anglo-Saxons Exist?
The Anglo-Saxons primarily existed between 410 A.D. and 1066 A.D.
What is the Difference Between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings?
There are several differences between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings, and the two groups of people adamantly fought each other for the control of Britain.
While the Anglo-Saxon’s homeland was primarily situated in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and Germany, The Vikings came from Scandinavia. This means the Vikings had their homelands in Norway, Sweden, and some parts of Denmark.
Britons during this period referred to the Vikings as the “Northmen” because they primarily came from northern homelands.
The Vikings were also considered pagans, while the Anglo-Saxons had further developed a form of Christianity. Vikings raided monasteries and attacked towns.
What is the Difference Between Saxons and the Normans?
While the Normans came from Northern France, specifically Normandy, to overthrow the Anglo-Saxons and any Viking rule, the Normans were originally Vikings from areas of Scandinavia.
The French king at the time, Charles II, gave land to a Viking chief (named Rollo) as a sign of peace between the French and the Vikings. The Vikings in Normandy lost their Viking customs, farmed the land in Normandy, became Christian, and assimilated into French society. Later, in 1066, the Norman-French army began the Norman Conquest, defeating the Anglo-Saxon army in Britain.
The Normans were Vikings that adopted French culture and then assisted with the Norman Conquest.
Read more about the Norman Conquest
Interesting Facts About Anglo-Saxons
- They differentiated between two people with the same name by adding either the place the person came from of the job the person did: therefore, Baker, Fisher, and Weaver are all originate from Anglo-Saxon naming systems.
- Anglo-Saxons believed in fighting to avenge deaths and to end feuds
- The only way to end a feud without fighting was to either pay money or arrange a marriage.
- Kings are known as “ring-givers,” which means the king gives out spoils of war to his warriors.
- The worst fate for an Anglo-Saxon warror was to be exiled, outlive his warrior friends, or live longer than the king.
- Anglo-Saxons primarily had an oral culture
- Anglo-Saxons used “kennings” which are phrases consisting of compound metaphors. For instance, “whale-road” refers to the sea.
- East Anglian kings were called Wuffings
- Delahoyde, Michael. “Anglo-Saxon Culture.” Washington State University. https://www.uta.edu/english/tim/courses/4301f98/oct12.html
- Morris, Tim. “Anglo-Saxon England.” University of Texas at Arlington. https://www.uta.edu/english/tim/courses/4301f98/oct12.html