Anglo-Saxon people

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Anglo-Saxon is a generalised term for the Germanic peoples who invaded the southern parts of Britain in the fifth century and established their own culture there.

The traditional view, based largely on Bede, is that the Celtic tribes of Britain hired continental Germanic warriors to fight as mercenaries against the crumbling remnants of Roman power on the island, and that they arrived in AD 449 under the leadership of the chieftains Hengest and Horsa. Modern archeological, historical, and linguistic research rejects this view as too strongly influenced by revisionist tendencies in the writings of eighth-century Anglo-Saxon historians. Although the general features of the traditional account remain accepted, including the supposition that the majority of the invaders were Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from the northwestern coast of Continental Europe, the dating and manner of the invaders' arrival as well as the role of the Frisians remain vague. Both linguistic and genetic research into the relationship between modern English and Frisian people, and their respective languages, suggest a far greater importance for the Frisians in the establishment of an English culture in Britain.

The Anglo-Saxon era is normally considered to have ended with the Norman Conquest, after which the upper classes of society were dominated by the Norman-French invaders. The two elements of society were gradually fused.


Prose was not the normal literary form of expression for the Anglo-Saxons. King Ælfred, in addition to confronting the Danish threat to his kingdom of Wessex, was determined to improve literacy among his people. He undertook some translations of then-popular classics himself, and commissioned others, for instance the Consolations of Boethius. Although his success was considerable, the surviving prose consists mainly of such translations, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, homilies, and texts of a practical or functional nature.

Poetry, on the other hand, was probably natural to the Anglo-Saxons, though writing it down may not have been. What survives in writing ranges from the epic Beowulf to trivial riddles and charms. There were many Christian devotional and instructive poems. Poetry was alliterative, adhering to strict rules.


Christian missionaries, and the church they established, were highly successful in removing or disguising the original religion of the Anglo-Saxons. This was not difficult as the old religion was fatalistic and pessimistic, while Christianity offered hope. Hence there are few stories and not much information about the deities. As far as can be gathered the main gods were Woden, Thunor, Tiw, Frey and the goddess Frig. When the Germanic peoples accepted Roman names for the months of the year, they did not do the same for the days of the week, but substituted their own gods for the Roman ones. So it is thought that Tiw (Tuesday) corresponded in some way to Mars, Woden (Wednesday) to Mercury, Thunor (Thursday) to Jupiter/Jove, and Frig (Friday) to Venus.

The form of cultic worship is conjectural.