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Anglo Saxons, who were the Anglo Saxons?

In the fifth century A.D., Britain was attacked by fierce warriors from southern Denmark and northern Germany. They were called Angles and Saxons (after the Saex, or short sword, with which they fought). Britain was no longer defended by Roman soldiers and the Saxons found plenty of plunder. They conquered most of Britain except for the North and the West. The land they settled in came to be called England (Angleland).

Who were the Anglo Saxons - Cross

Anglo Saxons, who were the Anglo Saxons

This Anglo Saxon cross still stands at Eyam, in Derbyshire, England

The Anglo Saxons lived in tribes, each with its chief and warriors (thegns). Their laws were primitive, and each family avenged any wrong done to one of its members. They worshiped pagan gods such as Thor, the God of Thunder. The Saxons were skilled metalworkers, and beautiful examples of their craft were found at Sutton Hoo (Suffolk) in 1939. They lived in wooden buildings in small villages and avoided the stone villas and towns left by the Romans. The main building in each village was the chief's hall, which was often used for great feasts.

Who were the Anglo Saxons - purse-lid

Anglo Saxons, who were the Anglo Saxons

A purse-lid, made of enameled gold and set with garnets, was part of a Saxon treasure-hoard found at Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk, England, in 1939. The treasure was buried, together with a Saxon king, in a burial ship in the A.D. 600's

At first England was divided into Seven Kingdoms (the Heptarchy), but during the ninth century invasions (see Vikings) King Alfred united the Saxons. After this, the Kings of Wessex ruled over all England. In the seventh century, the Saxons had become Christians. Monasteries and churches were built. Saxon monks became skilled in the art of illuminating books. Learning spread, so that laws were written down. So were ancient poems, such as Beowulf, which had previously been sung by minstrels.

After 1066, England was not ruled by Anglo Saxon kings, but the language and customs of the Saxons continued to live on to shape the English way of life.

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