The Anglo-Saxons refers collectively to the groups of Germanic tribes who achieved dominance in southern Britain from the mid-5th century forming the basis for the modern English nation.
The term "Anglo-Saxon" goes back to the time of King Alfred, who seems to have frequently used the title rex Anglorum Saxonum or rex Angul-Saxonum. The origin of this title is not quite clear. It is generally believed to have arisen from the final union of the various kingdoms under Alfred in 886. Bede (Hist. Eccl. i. 15) states that the people of the more northern kingdoms (East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria, &c.) belonged to the Angli, while those of Essex, Sussex and Wessex were sprung from the Saxons, and those of Kent and southern Hampshire from the Jutes. Other early writers, however, do not observe these distinctions, and neither in language nor in custom do we find evidence of any appreciable differences between the two former groups, though in custom Kent presents most remarkable contrasts with the other kingdoms. Still more curious is the fact that West Saxon writers regularly speak of their own nation as a part of the Angelcyn and of their language as Englisc, while the West Saxon royal family claimed to be of the same stock as that of Bernicia. On the other hand, it is by no means impossible that the distinction drawn by Bede was based solely on the names Essex (East Seaxan), East Anglia, &c. We need not doubt that the Angli and the Saxons were different nations originally; but from the evidence at our disposal it seems likely that they had practically coalesced in very early times, perhaps even before the invasion. At all events the term Angli Saxones seems to have first come into use on the continent, where we find it, nearly a century before Alfred's time, in the writings of Paulus Diaconus (Paul the Deacon). There can be little doubt, however, that there it was used to distinguish the Teutonic inhabitants of Britain from the Old Saxons of the continent.
The Anglo-Saxon Invasions
In 410, the Roman emperor Honorius had replied to a petition for help from the inhabitants of Britain that they should "look to their own affairs"; from this brief mention, historians have assumed that Roman rule in Britain ended, although some experts claim to have found some signs that the Roman authorities briefly returned to the island in the following years. Into this vacuum, the Anglo-Saxons came and settled in the island, primarily on the east and south coasts. The exact details of their arrival are unclear, although their migration was part of the widespread movement of Germanic tribes on the mainland of Europe at this time (see Migrations Period).
Where reliable history fails us, legend offers us a narrative, and many have argued that there is some kernel of truth in the legend. At least as early as Bede, the tradition relates how at 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 possession, in return for his followers' help to defend the province against Germanic and Celtic raiders from beyond its borders. Archeological explorations have indicated that Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were established in Kent, Sussex, Middlesex, and Essex in the later part of the 5th century, as well as East Anglia, Lindsey (now Lincolnshire), Deira (now East Yorkshire) and the Isle of Wight.
Organised British resistance, first led by Ambrosius Aurelianus (according to Gildas), and then by King Arthur culminated 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."
The fate of Britain was still in the balance as late as 590, with King Urien of Rheged besieging Lindisfarne, the stronghold of Bernicia, and other Celts victorious in 584 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 known as the Saxon conquest, although this is perhaps a misnomer: other tribes, such as the Angles, Jutes, Frisians and perhaps the Franks, are known to have taken part. 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 known as the Heptarchy.
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, which itself, like most of Scotland, was experiencing similar migration and displacement at the hands of the Scots from Ireland. 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.
Controversies regarding the nature of the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons
In recent times, controversy has arisen among some historians. Some claim that there is a marked lack of archaeological evidence for a major invasion and make the interpretation that there was a gradual change favour of the Anglo-Saxons as being an outcome of mainly benign migration and mixing with an existing population who absorbed the cultural and linguistic influences of the migrants.
One of their theories is that most sources of the origin of the Anglo Saxons were from historians partisan in presenting an English identity http://www.postroman.info/saxon1.html.
Studies to show ethnic origins of the people have varied in their conclusions and there is some lingustic patterns in the development of Old English that compromise with Celtic tradtions in a way that suggests gradual adoption.
The Anglo-Saxon mythos was a Germanic mythology and closely related to Norse mythology.
Four of the Anglo-Saxon gods have given the English language names for days of the week:
Main article: Old English language
Anglo-Saxon, also called Old English, was the language spoken under Alfred the Great and continued to be the common language of England until after the Norman Conquest of 1066 when, under the influence of the Anglo-Norman language spoken by the Norman ruling class, it changed into Middle English. Anglo-Saxon is far closer to early Germanic than Middle English, i. e. it is less latinized, and retains many morphological features (nominal and verbal inflection) that were lost during the 12th to 14th centuries.
The letters regularly used in printed and edited texts of OE are the following:
- a æ b c d ð e f g h i l m n o p r s t þ u w x y with only rare occurrences of k, z.
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