Anglo-Saxon England

Anglo-Saxon England was very different from Roman Britannia.

The Germanic settlers were village people; they had a superstitious dread of the Roman cities and left them to fall into ruin. They described them as eald enta geweorc, "the ancient work of giants." The possible exception is London, but it would be centuries before it resumed its role as a trading city.

Romano-British, mostly Celts, fled to Brittany and west into Cornwall and Wales. A few hung on until the first half of the seventh century in Elmet, a tiny kingdom around Leeds. The Anglo-Saxons also did not like the high ridges and moorland; it is possible that some of their dread of these places and of the cities came from fear of shadowy Celtic raiders. There is little evidence of peaceful contact between Celts and Anglo-Saxons: there are hardly any Celtic words recorded in Anglo-Saxon, and they are mostly placenames. As someone said, "What's that river called? Now get out or I'll kill you."

However, for the rest, they busied themselves with farming, and in order to do so, set about clearing the great native forest, which they called the weald.

When the dust started to settle, England was divided into a number of petty kingdoms: Kent, the South, East, and Middle Saxons, East Anglia, Bernicia and Deira, which coalesced into Northumbria, Mercia, which for a while took advantage of the infighting in Northumbria and took over much of modern England, and the kingdom of the West Saxons or Wessex, under which England was finally united by Alfred.


© 2008 Völuspá.org | © 2008 Articles, Analysis and Artwork to their respective creators
Eddas, Sagas and Folklore Public Domain