The Germanic invasion
In the 410 Honorious said goodbye to he Celts: The Empire had problems. Around 449 AD the Germanic invasion started, and it lasted more than 100 years. Most of them were Dane settlers who migrated from their continental homes. They came from the region of Denmark and the Low Countries, and tried to establish in the south. They gradually extended this area, until they occupied all island, except the Highlands and the West, where the Celts resisted (=there were more density of Celts).
We know all this information about the settlement because of two sources:
- The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It is the most ancient historical writing written in any Germanic language. Important edition is Garmonsway. There is the narration of the most important events affecting Britain.
- Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (771). This was translated later to Old English. Alfred the Great helped to translate it.
According to AS Chronicle, the Angles (Denmark, and occupied what it is today Schlewig), Saxons (South Denmark, today Germany, Elbe-Ems) and Jutes, in Kent. Frisians occupied the island of the coast, the river Wesser-Rhine, but we don’t know if they took part in the conquer: nothing is said in the Chronicles.
From about 4th, Britannia was under the control of the Romans, and had been exposed to attacks by the Saxons; so it wasn’t the first time. As a result, the Romans had appointed and officer who should watch the SE coast. While the Romans were there, they fighted against the Saxons
Britania also suffered frequent attacks from the North. The Picts and the Scots had to be stopped. The Romans had to defend themselves form them, but, when they left the island, the Celts had to do without the Romans. Then, the Celts (Vortigern) asked for help to the Jutes, offering in exchange the isle of Thanet. The problem was solved, but the Jutes tried to conquest the rest of England. That soil was much more fertile, so they decided to stay, although they had to do it by force. The Celts were gradually put to the West and the North. The other continental tribes acted in a similar way. According to the AS Chronicle the Saxons arrived in 477 in the SE coast. They established in an area called Sussex (Saxons of the South). Later, in 495, other bands of Saxons established themselves more to the West, in Wessex (Saxons of the West). In the 6th c other Saxons established in the east coast, in Essex (Saxons of the East).
In 547 the Angles established in the North, establishing the
, north of the Anglian Kingdom Humber river.
The process of pushing the Celts to the “Celtic Fringe” wasn’t easy. It lasted 100 years approximately. A Celtic leader, Artorius, resisted and set a peaceful period that lasted one generation.
The Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy
In the course of 150 years, the English settled 7 kingdoms in what is today England. For the Celts, all invaders were called Saxons, and the term wealas (welsh)= foreigner remained in the language. After they called Anglii, and after
In 601 the king of Kent, Ǽthelbert was named by the Pope, Rex Anglorum. It is important because appears this word in an official event. A century later the people, in the vernacular language the tribes were known as Anglecynn (angle-kin) and their language was called Englisc. In the beginning of the 11th century, that land was called Englaland in the Chronicles.
In some areas, specially where the invaders were few, the inhabitants lived peacefully. Roman towns were destroyed, because town life was not attractive to them, and their occupations were based on agriculture.
The first type of vocabulary reflects the kind of life, their activities. Words such as work, ox, sheep ,shepherd, field, dog plough belong to this field, and other referring to the celebration and parties (merry, laughter), although some of these words have changed their meaning today
The Anglo-Saxon society was organised in clans. There were two levels in society eorls (aristocrats) and ceorls (free men). Different tribes allied between them to obtain more power. Those groups were not stable, but some of them were the most important. There were 7 kingdoms:
, Northumbria , Eastanglia, Mercia , Essex, Kent , Sussex . But there soout out with social and political importance.The kingdom of Northumbria had the supremacy in the 7th c, culturally and politically. This importance passed through kingdoms: Mercia (8thc) and Wessex (9th), under the leadership of Egbert. In 830 he was acknowledged as King for England and Wales. Since Elbert the West Saxon Kings were able to claim the same title. In that century lived one of the most important kings of England, Alfred the Great (871-899). He gave the splendour of culture and his tomb is in Winchester (capital of Wessex). Wessex