Anglo Saxon people originally belonged to the Germanic tribes Angles and Saxons. They settled in British Isles beginning in the 5th century and gradually evolved a shared culture which came to be termed Anglo Saxon culture.
Anglo-Saxons founded England and the term “England” as well as “English” were derived from “Anglo Saxon”. Anglo Saxons evolved the Old English language which contains a large body of literature from the earliest days of England.
Although they were eventually replaced in English after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, the culture of the Anglo Saxons, including their language, evolved over time and continues to exist to this day.
Anglo Saxon Religion
Anglo Saxons originally believed in the pagan Germanic beliefs. However, Christianity had begun to exert a definite influence on Anglo Saxon kingdoms by the 6th century.
The earliest of the Anglo Saxon kingdoms to see widespread acceptance of Christianity was the Kingdom of Kent. This was following by the Christianising of other kingdoms.
Christianity exerted a very considerable influence in ultimately forging a shared Anglo-Saxon identity. However, despite a majority of the population converting to Christianity, pagan beliefs, superstitions and cultural elements survived and began a part of the Christianised Anglo-Saxon society.
Anglo Saxon Society
The men in Anglo Saxon society were broadly categorised into three groups. One group was that of religious personnel associated with Churches and monasteries; the second group was that of warriors who directly aided the king in warfare and raiding; the third group was that of working men who performed the more menial tasks of the society.
The Anglo Saxon society was also divided between slaves and freedmen, with slaves enjoying little rights. The women in the society enjoyed significant rights and privileges, serving as heads of monasteries, able to make legal transactions on their own and guarded against violence of any kind through various laws.
Anglo Saxon Laws
From the earliest days of smaller Anglo Saxon kingdoms beginning in the 6th century, they began creating law codes and pieces of legislation. These laws typically instructed the general social conduct rather than provide specific directions for ruling in individual cases.
Shire courts established in different parts of the Anglo-Saxon territories were primary units to dispense justice over a larger territory. Hundred Courts were courts on an even smaller scale, usually specific to groups of hundred families.
Anglo Saxon Art
Anglo Saxons evolved their own language, borrowing from their Germanic origins and from other influences. The language, called Old English, came to encompass a vast body of literature over time. These included many codices of poetry, translations of Bible, sermons and other pieces of writing.
A vast part of this literature is extant and is mostly religious in nature. Anglo Saxon poetry is introspective while the style of the poems is based on alliteration rather than rhyme.
The Anglo Saxon architecture was also mostly visible only in religious buildings such as churches and monasteries. In such buildings, Anglo Saxon workers used distinct features such as pilaster-strips, blank arcades, mostly a stone construction as well as features borrowed from the Celtic culture.