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The Anglo-Saxon invasion of the British Isles

Updated on February 14, 2013

With the Roman's iron grip on the British Isles loosening, the rich target of Roman Britannia was open to invading tribes. The Roman's were aware of the threat that the German tribes presented, and a large area of the Eastern coast was fortified to stop pirate raids by the Saxons of Germania. By the year 400 AD the Saxon's had allied themselves with the Scottish tribes north of Hadrian's wall. The Saxon's saw the British Isles as ripe for colonization and with the attention of Rome occupied elsewhere the land of the Romano-Britain's were just what the Saxon's wanted. Britain was highly desirable as it had good supplies of nature resources and had very good soil for farming and keeping cattle.

The Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain meant that the landscape of the Island was to change again, where the Romans had built infrastructure and a network of trading settlements the Anglo-Saxons sought a more simple way of living. As early as the second century A.D the Roman rulers decided the country should be divided into two administrative districts Britannia Inferior and Britannia Superior. The arrival of the Anglo-Saxons meant that England would go back to been individual Kingdoms much like they were before the Roman occupation.

Where the Romans preferred the security of their garrisoned towns, the Angles and the Saxons came from a culture that lived in harmony with the land. The Romans in all their occupied territories built through the hills, and over the ravines. With the Roman withdrawal the Germanic invaders let many of the strategically important towns return back to nature or become obsolete.

A Saxon warrior
A Saxon warrior

Many of the Roman trading centre's were no longer needed and their building materials were either recycled or the settlement was left to rot. In the hub I wrote on the Water Newton treasure find I mention how Durobrivae,shrank in size after the garrison town became part of the Anglo-Saxon territories. Many of the Roman trading posts on the Welsh border disappeared as the indigenous population tried to reclaim their birthrights. The Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic tribes did not have a smooth relationship with the Britons. Although there was intermarriage and alliances, there was plenty of opportunity for betrayal and king-making. The time we call the Dark Ages was a time of political and great social upheaval.

The Anglo-Saxon's did create their own kingdoms and a lot of original British kingdoms reemerged after nearly four centuries of Roman occupation. The Kingdom of Emlmet was one Kingdom that asserted its regional identity. It was situated in the area which is now the West riding of Yorkshire. Other important Germanic led Kingdoms were Mercia, Craven, Deria and Bernicia. The last two kingdoms merged to form the Kingdom of Northumbria, and this Kingdom would see a lot of immigration from Europe and invasion from Scandinavia with the Danelaw. The Invasion of the Vikings gave the Anglo-Saxons and the native Britain's a common enemy.

The Saxon Kingdoms lost a lot of their power and prestige when the Danelaw came into being due to the expansion and raids of the Vikings in he 9th century AD. The Viking warriors, having sought treasure and glory in nearby Britain and the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms were a nice prize. The Danish Vikings saw the potential of the land to support themselves. The Danelaw is mainly used to describe the legal terms stemming from in the treaties between the English King, Alfred the Great, and the Danish warlord, Guthrum the Old, written following Guthrum's defeat at the Battle of Ethandun in 878.

This defined the boundaries of their respective Kingdoms, with a view for peaceful relations between the English and the Vikings. The Danish laws held sway in the Kingdom of Northumbria , the Kingdom of East Anglia, and the lands of the Five Boroughs of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford and Lincoln. The area called the Danelaw was effectively a Danish colony, this continued until Edward the Elder created his Kingdom of England.


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