Great Britain and the invasion of the Germanic Tribes


The immigration and invasion of the Germanic tribes into Britain changed the entire social, racial and political make up of the British Isles. Germanic tribes such as the Angles, Jute's, Saxons and Frisians all took advantage of the Roman Empires withdrawal of their legion's, to claim vast tracks of fertile land or to raid the defenceless riches of Romano-Britain.

The first Saxons to visit the British Isles were paid mercenaries who were invited by the Roman elites to help protect the border's from the indigenous population of Britain. The true Britain's had been forced into the West or far North of the Isles. Now the Pict's, Scoti and other Celtic tribes wanted back their land back and to liberate Roman Gold and Silver.



A Roman soldier
A Roman soldier

Origins of the Germanic invasion.

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A markerDenmark -
Denmark
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The Jute's originated from this area, and settled in the modern English county of Kent.

B markerGroningen -
Groningen, The Netherlands
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The Fresian people set off from this area in modern Holland and settled the middle and northern parts of the British mainland.

C markerSaxony -
Saxony, Germany
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This area is where some Saxon tribes settled, they inhabited a much larger area which included coastal ports in modern day Poland.


The earliest German settlers actually came here because of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had a policy of recruiting soldiers from the lands they had conquered and occupied. This provided the Roman legions with trained auxiliaries and kept the newly conquered lands from rebelling as their fighting men would be in another part of the Empire engaged in warfare. By 367 AD the Saxon's had deserted the Roman cause and allied themselves with the Pict's of Scotland they launched an invasion of Northern Britain.

Before then a few Saxon mercenaries had launched pirate raids much like the Vikings would employ a couple of centuries later on Britain. IN 428 AD the High King of Southern England Vortigern invited Horsa and Hengist to fight on his side against other foreign invaders. When King Vortigern asked his allies to leave the Saxons refused and war soon broke out.


By the end of the 6th century AD the native Britain's had been pushed back into Wales and Cornwall, and several Anglo-Saxon kingdoms had been created. The main Three kingdoms to emerge where Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. The Anglo-Saxons had effectively carved up the unprotected lands of the British in less than 100 years. In this time a lot of the Romano-British settlements were allowed to go to ruin and the Germanic tribes influence began to spread into every part of British life. The biggest change to effect Britain was that most of the Pagan Germanic kings converted to Christianity. Although it could be argued that this was done to consolidate their own rule like Constantine had done with the Roman Empire some 300 years previous.

The Germanic domination over most of the British Isles was to remain in force until the Norman conquest of 1066. The Viking raids and settlement changed very little in the customs of the British people as the Germanic culture and Viking norse culture were very similar. The Danelaw saw the area's which the Angles and Saxons colonize give way to Viking settlements like Ipswich, Norwich, Grimsby and the Viking colonization of Jorvik ( York ) in the North of England. The Vikings and the Germanic tribes were of common ancestry and customs, it was only a question of who held the power and the influence until 1066

Germanic British Kingdoms

  1. Northumbria ( North of river Humber to Scots border (Angles&Saxon).
  2. Mercia ( South of Humber to river Thames ( mixed tribes )
  3. Wessex ( West of river Thames to West Country ( Saxons )
  4. Essex ( East Saxons )
  5. Kent ( Jutes )
  6. East Anglia ( Angles )
  7. Sussex ( South Saxons )

Your Opinion

Which tribal group changed Britain the most?

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Comments 8 comments

alancaster149 5 years ago

That should read: Anglo-Danish heritage. True there was a short time when the notorious Norweyan Eirik 'Blood-Axe' Haraldsson ruled 948 and 952-4 from Jorvik, but his reign was interrupted and finished in AD954 with his death in an ambusg on Stainmore Common. By and large the influx in the southern half of Northumbria between the Tees and the Humber was Danish, witness the great number of settlement names ending in -thorpe, -by, -holm and -toft (in my area you have a string of small towns: Ormesby, Normanby, (Eston), Lackenby, Lazenby and Yearby towards the coast at Skinningrove = shining grove.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 5 years ago from London

There is a strong new theory that the actual genetic base did not change hugely as a result of Saxon invasion.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

Another few pointers, firstly the Saxons who came here were from the area we know as Lower Saxony and Frisia, around the mouths of the Elbe and the Rhine, just to the south of the Aengle at the base of the Jutland peninsula (modern day Schleswig Holstein). There were enclaves within Mercia and Northumbria occupied by Britons, the Elmet area of South Yorkshire being a case in point. After the Conquest, in 1069 many Mercians and Northumbrians fled west and north over the frontiers and settled in the Borders region of Southern Scotland and southern Wales to escape a vengeful William I, who had destroyed much of the land and crops after the abortive rebellions in Mercia and Northumbria. Eastern Scotland as far as Edinburgh had already been conquered since the 7th Century by the Northumbrians under King Oswy. Only the Strathclyde Britons and the Gaels in Alba remained Celtic.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

On the whole informed and informative. In general it reads well - got to sort out the grammar, though, sorry - but a little gripe: Northumbria was not a Saxon enclave but an Anglian one, as was Mercia. The Saxons' name for the Britons was Wealsc (Welsh) meaning 'foreigners' - who's kidding who? The kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots, Strathclyde and Alba only came about in the 6th-7th centuries, with the first Scots' king Kenneth MacAlpin taking the south-west of what we call Scotland from across the sea... but that's another story. There was an 'overlay' from the end of the 8th Century to the 11th Century: of Danes in East Anglia under Guthrum in Aelfred's time, the Danelaw (eastern Mercia) and Deira (southern Northumbria), which became the Kingdom of Jorvik, (Anglian Eoferwic or modern York) until the time of Aethelstan, the last independent king being Eirik Haraldsson, 'Blood-Axe' of Norway. Try the Northworld Saga Site through my Hub page? Still, I like your style. Keep it up!


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

Thanks for the clarification. What you say makes a lot of sense.


Asp52 profile image

Asp52 6 years ago from England Author

Hi Chris, yes the Germanic invasion centred on modern day England. But there was change in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. This was due to the displaced Romano-Britains been forced into the area's were the traditional British tribes got pushed into. A lot of the Romano-Britians would have mixed with the peoples of tribes who were once Rome's enemies.

Hi Larry, Yes all the Celts are usually grouped to together when they were as varied and different as say the Germanic tribes. Its amazing to see how much they influenced European History and the British Isles. The Romans and their policies meant Britain was open to other races from the Roman Empire. If i remember correctly there is evidence of Syrian-Romans living in The area that is modern day Cornwall.

Thank you both for your comments, it is good to share opinions, facts and knowledge with like minded people. Got to love Hubpages


maven101 profile image

maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

Thank you for this concise, informative, and interesting Hub on ancient Britain...Many, if not most, Roman soldiers stationed in Britain intermarried, integrated, and retired there after their service for Rome ended...Their influence on culture, law, and language, particularly, continues to this day...On the other side of Hadrian's Wall the Celts were just as influential.

The Celts were not, as is commonly supposed, one race, but rather a collection of independent tribes. The first settlements of Britain by Celtic Hallstatt and La Tene peoples took place in the first millennium B.C., followed by the invasion of the Belgae. They brought with them metalworking skills as well as other assets such as coins and chariots.

The gene pool of Britain is an interesting one, and to single out any one race as most dominant would miss the lesson of human diversity and the contributions of each to form present day British peoples...

Thank you again for sharing your intelligent and thought-provoking look at British history...Larry


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

Thank you for a very interesting hub. But didn't the germanic invasion only really affect England? Scotland, Wales, and Ireland remained Celtic, and indeed still are so.

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