Who were the Anglo Saxons?

Who were the Anglo Saxons *Where did they come from?

Anglo Saxons were Germanic tribes that came from northern Europe to the British Isles during the 5th and 6th centuries.

At the time, Britain was inhabited by a local population of the Romano-Bretons. Saxons arrived first and established their kingdoms, subduing the Breton populace.

They were followed by Angles who came to the British Isles and established their own kingdoms.


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

In time, these two tribes interacted and intermingled, leading to the emergence of a common Anglo-Saxon identity and culture. This led to the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kings of England in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Anglo Saxon People

The Anglo Saxons Arrival in the British Isles

The Anglo Saxons arrived in the British Isles in multiple waves, beginning as early as the 5th century.

Saxons first raided the British shores but were held back by Roman fortifications. During the first quarter of the century, Roman forces were beginning to leave Britain for good.

Fall of Rome 410 Siege of Rome

The Breton rulers left in their wake later invited the Saxon populations to settle in southern Britain in return for their defense of Bretons against raiding Picts and Scotis. The Saxons agreed and established their earliest settlements in southern Britain.

Bretons Celtic People

What were Anglo Saxon Kingdoms?

Later in the 5th century, the Saxons revolted against the Breton rulers. In Kent, they were successful in seizing control and establishing a kingdom of their own.

In time, more waves of Saxons arrived on the Isles and by the 6th century, Saxons had established four kingdoms in south and west Britain.

  1. Essex
  2. Wessex
  3. Sussex
  4. Middlesex

This was followed by the arrival of the Angles in multiple waves who, in turn, established their own kingdoms in the north and east of Britain.

Three Angle kingdoms were established. From the 7th century onwards, these kingdoms began vying for greater control in Britain. This led to frequent wars and the hegemony of one kingdom at the expense of others.

Anglo Saxon Kingdoms Map

Religion of the Anglo Saxons

The Anglo Saxons were originally Germanic tribes who held pagan religious beliefs. After their settlements in England and a change in lifestyle, they were acquainted with Christianity during the 6th century.

The earliest Anglo-Saxons in Britain to convert to Christianity were those in the Kingdom of Kent.

candles ga10b7c20e 640

This was followed by the Kingdom of Northumbria and other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Britain. By the 9th century, a vast majority of the Anglo-Saxon population in Britain had converted.

jesus christ gfcfe27034 640

This was a key factor in helping forge a unified Anglo-Saxon identity, despite the difference between Angles and Saxons.

Establishment of a Unified England

By the 9th century, one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms would frequently emerge powerful enough to project its power all over England. In the 10th century, the Wessex kings were powerful enough to forge all Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into a single unit.

Anglo Saxon Warrior Wearing Anglo Saxon Armour

This led to the establishment of a shared Anglo-Saxon identity in the face of a Viking threat.

However, soon after a genuine unification of England under Anglo Saxons kings, the Norman Conquest came about in 1066 and the Anglo Saxons were permanently replaced as the rulers of England.

Normans Sheilds Bayeux Tapestry