Anglo Saxons Invasion of England – Who were the Saxons?

Introduction to the Anglo Saxons

Anglo-Saxons arrived in the British Isles around the 5th century. Before this, they mainly inhabited the north-eastern sections of Western Europe. Before the Anglo Saxons’ arrival in Britain, the Celtic tribes known as Britons inhabited Britain.

Breton Warrior

Breton Warrior

These tribes had been living in the British Isles since the Iron Age and were subsequently displaced by the Anglo Saxons beginning in the 5th century.


Roman Province of Britannia

Julius Caesar famously invaded Britain in 54 B.C. From then onward, further expeditions by the Romans expanded the Roman sphere of governance and power in Britain.

In 43 A.D., the Roman Empire firmly extended its rule to Britain, then known as Britannia among the Romans. It would remain under Roman rule for many centuries.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

The Romans named the region Britannia primarily because it was occupied by the Celtic tribe of Bretons. Bretons were the main Celtic tribe in the area although Britain was also inhabited by many other Celtic tribes at the time.

Celtic Cross

Historians believe that Bretons and these Celtic tribes were the original British people.

The Britons

The Britons refer to a number of Celtic tribes who are regarded as the original inhabitants of Britain.

These tribes migrated to the British Isles in the Iron Age. By the early medieval ages, the original Celtic Britons had fragmented into a number of regional groups including the Welsh and the Bretons.

Hadrians Wall

Hadrians Wall

At the time of the Roman invasion of Britannia, a part of these tribes came under direct Roman rule. Others who were located north of the famous Hadrian’s Wall mostly retained their independence and lands.


Towards the 5th century, Roman control over Britannia began to dwindle. At the same time, the onslaught of Anglo Saxons from continental Europe posed a new risk for the Britons.

Arrival of Anglo-Saxons

Beginning in the 5th century, Germanic tribes of Angles and Saxons began to arrive in the British Isles in multiple waves.

Initially, the Britons were able to decisively defeat these new invaders and retain their lands. But with time, Roman rule over Britannia ended and Anglo Saxons began to arrive in larger numbers.

The Anglo Saxon People

The Anglo Saxons were successful in defeating the local Britons, and establish settlements that grew into kingdoms over time.

By the High Middle Ages, Anglo Saxons inhabited a large portion of the British Isles and had seven kingdoms in England.


Anglo Saxon settlements in England in the early period of 400-500

Anglo Saxons *Normans & Viking Invasions

The Anglo Saxons continued to inhabit most of the British Isles for several centuries. Then from the 8th century onward, they had to face the threat of Viking invasions.

At one point, it seemed imminent that the Vikings would altogether replace the Anglo-Saxons. However, the threat was averted and Anglo-Saxons were able to retain their rule.

Viking Longboats viking raids with sail

Then in 1066, a Norman army under William the Conqueror landed in England. Normans defeated the Anglo Saxons and effectively displaced them as the rulers of England.

Norman Knights

The image shows the weaponry, shields, and horses used by medieval Norman knights

Many notable Anglo-Saxon families were forced to flee Britain although the rank-and-file of the Anglo-Saxon society became a part of the new order under the Normans.

Normans in Normandy Flag of Normandy

Norman Flag

Anglo Saxon Fast Facts

  • Celtic tribes known as the Britons inhabited England before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in the fifth century.
  • The Anglo-Saxons began to displace the Celtic tribes of England around the fifth century.
  • The original Celtic Britons split into a number of groups which included the Bretons and Welsh.

Normans Sheilds Bayeux Tapestry

  • The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic tribes of Angles and Saxons who migrated to Britain.
  • The Anglo-Saxons had many kingdoms in England such as Mercia and Wessex.
  • The Normans would eventually replace the Anglo-Saxons during the 11th century.