Vikings Wiki
Advertisement

Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group and the dominate people living in England from the mid-5th century AD until 1066 AD. They are the descendants of three powerful Germanic tribes, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. The Anglo-Saxons established the concept and the kingdom of England.

History[]

During the Roman Empire, the Saxons were fierce pagan sea-raiders, raiding the coast of the province of Britannia and Gaul for centuries. Their raids were so fierce that a string of fortification were built along the British channel to stem their attacks, which were named the Saxon Shore, making them in many ways the first proto-Vikings. Also much like the later Vikings, when the Roman armies were call back to defend the Roman heartlands during the Migration Era, a British Warlord named Vortigern invited a small band of Saxons, Angles and Jutes mercenaries lead by Hengist and Horsa to help him battle the Picts of modern-day Scotland.

Vortigern would later marry the sister of the two Warlords, which angered the Romano-British nobility, as she was a pagan. Eventually, the Saxons rebelled against the Romano-British and waves of immigrants from Denmark settled within the newly conquered lands. During the struggle, many stories and legend emerged of the Roman-British struggles against these new invaders, which gave rise to important historical figures such as Ambrosius Aurelianus and the legend of King Arthur.

In time, the lands of modern-day England were lost to these invaders and the kingdoms of Mercia, Sussex, Wessex, Kent and Northumbria were founded. In time, these invaders were Christianized and by the time of the raid in Lindisfarne, the vast majority of the Anglo-Saxons became Christian. Much like the Romano-British, the Anglo-Saxons were soon to face their own struggles against their Danish pagan cousins during the Viking Age.

Appearance[]

Anglo-Saxons often had pale skin and straight to curly hair that could be blond, red, or brown. They often had light or medium-colored eyes. The average Anglo-Saxon male was around 5'8" and the average Anglo-Saxon female was around 5'3." However, lifestyle and diet and other factors could great affect the height and body type of the Anglo-Saxons.

Language[]

The Anglo-Saxons spoke Old English, which is the earliest recorded form of the English language. It was spoken until about 1066 AD. It developed from a set of dialects originally spoken by the Germanic tribes known as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. It has four main dialects, which are associated with specific Anglo-Saxon kingdoms: Mercian, Northumbrian, Kentish, and West Saxon. West Saxon formed the basis for the literary standard, while Middle and Modern English would develop mainly from the Mercian dialect. While around 85% of Old English words are no longer in use, those that survived are the basic elements of Modern English vocabulary.

Social Structure[]

Anglo-Saxon social structure was strictly class based, and it was almost impossible to change one's class.

Positions and Roles:[]

Cyning[]

The sovereign, or king, who was the head of the royal house and ruled over a kingdom.

Ætheling[]

The prince or nobleman who claimed a common ancestry with the king. This title was especially used for the heir apparent or a prince of the royal family.

Ealdorman[]

Below the king were the earls, the ruling nobility. An earl was the king's "right-hand man" in a shire. The position was not originally hereditary, but it became usual in the 10th century to choose earls from a few outstanding families. Ealdormen would lead in battle, preside over courts, and levy taxation. They were commonly addressed as “Lord.”

Thegn[]

Below an earl was a thegn (Old English: þegn). Thegns were retainers, and the equivalent to a Norse housecarl. They formed the backbone of the Anglo-Saxon army. With good service they received lands from the king and could rise to become earls.

Churl[]

The upper group of commoners who held land freely and did not pay rent to a lord. Churls are the equivalent of a Norse karl. Some freemen were expected to attend local courts to solve disputes. The lower group worked on land held by a lord and made their money by selling or exchanging crops or by pursuing a craft such as blacksmithing.

Villein[]

The serfs, and most of the people. They held no land and worked for others in exchange for food and shelter.

Slaves[]

Slaves (Old English: Þēow) were legally recognized as enslaved and had no civil rights although they could work on their own behalf and earn enough to buy their own freedom.

Gallery[]

Advertisement