Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain, Essay Example

Published: 2022-11-09
Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain, Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  History
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1440 words
12 min read

Britain was settled and conquered by many different people before the Anglo-Saxons. However, the accounts of the settlement and conquest by other groups are little details unlike the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons (Higham 155). Other groups that invaded Britain include the Iberians who came from Portugal and Spain, the Celts who came from southern Europe and who later migrated west and the Romans. The Celts invaded Britain between 800 and 600 B.C. They came in two groups. The largest group of Celts that settled on the largest Island of Britain was the Brythons. The Gael Celts settled on the second-largest island i.e. Ireland. Roman conquest of Britain occurred in the 43 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Claudius (Hammersen 122). However,, the Roman power I Britain ended around the year 410 A.D. The Anglo-Saxon Conquest Angels from Germany and Saxons and Jutes from Denmark later sailed the North Sea to raid the eastern coast of Britain in the 449 A.D. This essay will discuss the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain in detail as well as provide a detailed account of the conquest. The Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain has a significant impact on the history of Britain.

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The term Anglo-Saxon is used to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Britain beginning in the early the century. The Anglo-Saxon period occurred between 410 and 1066 A.D (Brooks 21). Britain experienced significant political, economic and cultural changes in the fifth and sixth centuries. After the withdrawal of the Romans legions from Britain, the structure of the Roman state rapidly disintegrated resulting in a collapse of the economy and abandonment of the Latin language. These were referred to the dark ages (Brooks 21). Britain as a territory became vulnerable due to the collapse in political, economic and social structures. This provided an opportunity for those territories that were established to invade Britain. Britain was split between the invading German tribes which settled in the east and south and the Celts who settled in the west and the highland areas (Haigh 22). These groups brought their languages and the pagan culture forming smaller kingdoms which often attacked each other to expand their territorial control. By the eleventh century, the German tribe's members who were commonly referred to as Anglo-Saxons managed to separate the English Kingdoms (Rodrick 17).

Roman Britain in its four centuries of existence faced assaults from all directions. The territory was assaulted by the Celts on the north and west who settled in England, Wales and Ireland. The Germans also attacked Roman Britain from the south and the east. Romans responded by building fortifications along the southern and eastern shores. These fortifications were aimed at preventing the growing piracy in the Keynes and the Narrow Seas. The fortifications on these shores brought a temporal stop to the invasions and Britain once more enjoyed a revival in the first half of the fourth century. However, from about 340 A.D. the prosperity of Britain declined as a result of the increased pressure on the territory both from the seaward and the northern frontier. This resulted in the discussed political, economic and social woes.

The Roman General Flavius Stilicho in 398-399 repulsed the invasions of the Saxons, the Picts and the Irish into Britain. However, the pressure was too overwhelming and in 402 the general withdrew his forces and instead concentrated on defending Italy which was also under invasion by the Goths led by Alaric (Haigh 23). The Roman Britain administration then used the central resources to pay the remaining troops protecting the territory as well as city officials. This, in turn, resulted in extreme discontent which later led to economic woes. In an attempt to reinstate political stability the army in Britain elevated three emperors. However, of the three emperors, only Constantine III survived due to constant battles with the invaders. At the end of 406, the political and economic situation of Britain worsened as a result of the attack of the barbarians on Gaul as well as the subsequent relocation of the center of the western government (Blair and Keynes 3). The center was moved to Arles from Trier. The attack on barbarians on Gaul resulted in Constantine III leaving Britain for Gaul with more troops in an aim to protect Gaul and prove his loyalty to the emperor. However, this move left the Britain territory even more prone and vulnerable to invasions.

The Roman Britain Empire was attacked by Barbarians in 409 (Matthews 146). The disillusioned Roman-Britons expelled both the invaders and Constantine's administration in an aim to restore political stability. In the absence of Roman rule and lack of political stability in Britain from the 430s resulted in the invasion of more Germanic settlers i.e. Anglo-Saxons in large numbers. The invasions of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain were not as organized affair as was the case of the Romans or Normans in A.D. 1066 previously. On the contrast, the Anglo-Saxons came in small groups. The Anglo-Saxons were ancient Germans tribes from what is now known as north-west Germany and Southern Denmark. The groups crossed 130 miles of open seas using long narrow boats (McCaughrean and Brassey 244). The boast according to archeological discoveries had 14 oars on either side. The waves of the open seas usually soaked the passengers but the Anglo-Saxons were tough and cruel people and were willing to risk everything to reach Britain.

Anglo-Saxons initially assisted the Britons to rebel the Picts who were attacking the British territory with the promise of land. However, the Anglo-Saxons aimed at occupying the Britain territory after repelling the warlike Picts (Matthews 152). After successfully fighting the Picts, the Britons and the Anglo-Saxons were involved in a bloody struggle over the control of the territory. During these periods, Arthur a Briton emerged and guided his troops to invade the territory. Arthur was a trained as a Roman soldier. Though Arthur led the Britons to more than 12 victories over the Anglo-Saxons and managed to keep them at bay for fifty years, the Anglo-Saxons were too strong and overpowered the resistance. They settled on the banks of slow-running rivers in the British territory. The Anglo-Saxons controlled most of the territory by the end of the sixth century founding the great Kingdoms of Wessex, North Umbria, and Mercia. The original inhabitants of the territory i.e. the Britons were relocated further west to Cornwall and Devon (Saul 5). They were also pushed to Wales and Strathclyde. Those who remained were converted to slaves by the Anglo-Saxons to work on their farms.

The Anglo-Saxons were illiterate and could not read and write. This explains why there is little information is available on their Anglo-Saxon Period. They were pagans and thus during their period of rule over Britain Christianity almost disappeared. The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons into Christianity began in 597 when Augustine come to the territory with monks on a mission from Pope Gregory the Great (McCaughrean and Brassey 249). The Anglo-Saxons worshipped gods of nature and held springs, rocks, and trees in reverence. They did not view religion as a source of spiritual revelation but instead as a means of ensuring success in material things.

Unlike the Britons who built their villages on hilltops, Anglo-Saxons preferred to live in valleys. They built their house using daub and wattle and in other instances straw and mud. They had large settlements which had a central hall where they feasted. They also hang logs in the hearth and the walls. Evidence from archeological discoveries also suggests that Anglo-Saxon men mostly spent their days hunting and fishing. They also were responsible for plowing their farms. Women, on the other hand, stayed at home and spun and wove.

In conclusion, despite the fact that the Anglo-Saxons were illiterate, the account of their invasion of Britain can be gotten from different works recorded by different scholars. Additional information can also be accessed from archeological discoveries. The main events of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain occurred in the period between 410 and 1066 A.D.

Works Cited

Blair, Peter Hunter. An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Brooks, Nicholas. Anglo-Saxon myths: state and church, 400-1066. A&C Black, 1998.

Haigh, Christopher, ed. The Cambridge Historical Encyclopedia of Great Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Hammersen, Lauren Alexandra Michelle. Indigenous Women in Gaul, Britannia, Germania and Celtic Hispania, 400BC-AD235. Diss. Bangor University (History), 2017.

Higham, Nicholas J. Rome, Britain, and the Anglo-Saxons. Trafalgar Square, 1992.

Matthews, Stephen. The road to Rome: travel and travelers between England and Italy in the Anglo-Saxon centuries. British Archaeological Reports Ltd, 2007.

McCaughrean, Geraldine, and Richard Brassey. Britannia: 100 Great Stories from British History. Orion Children's, 1999.

Rodrick, Anne B. The History of Great Britain. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.

Saul, Nigel. "Medieval England: Identity, Politics, and Society." A122 (1997): 1-24.

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