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The Anglo-Saxons Invade England



When the Romans conquered the known world, they also ruled a territory where present day Britain is found. Their rule officially began in AD 43 and ended in 410. Some historians have estimated the population of Britain at this time to have been between one million and one hundred thousand; although others have challenged these numbers and raise the estimates to be three to four million. This area was apparently advantageous to the Romans, for about one hundred walled palaces have been found in the area. In fact, it has been said of Britain:  "It was highly valued, badly threatened, and strongly defended." (Campbell p.98). Roman forces in the area of Britain were numbered at fifty thousand during the fourth century. Later medieval kings in England could only maintain an army of one tenth the size of the Roman Army. Unfortunately, in the end, Rome was in no shape to keep defending this portion of the empire.

Back to "Germanic Migrations" Chronology

During the third and fourth centuries, Germanic tribes, pushed westward by the Huns in the east, began settling on the boundaries of the Roman empire. Due to the fact that the tribes were led by superior warrior kings, and the fact that the Roman Army was too busy to ward off these trespassers, the tribes managed to permeate the borders. This infringement on the land of the Roman Empire brought about an even bigger problem. Saxons began attacking the coast off of Sussex, under the leasership of Aella. According to Sidonius Apollinaris, the fifth century landowner, poet and bishop, the raids on the coast of Aquitoine were particularly brutal. The Saxons were at home on the sea and led unexpected attacks.

The Saxons were not without problems, however, for the Caledonians began to attack them. Britons requested that the roman government provide military aid, but it never arrived. Faced with no other options, the Britons turned to the Anglos and Saxons of Germany and the Jutes of Denmark for assistance. After the defeat of the Caledonians, the Jutes were given the Isle of Thanet. Jutes began spreading into Kent, and as a result, were defeated by the Britons who lost Kent once again to the Jutes around AD 488.

The Germanic peoples of the fifth century were very destructive and barbaric in nature. They preferred to kill their enemies although they did keep some as slaves. Land was cut into farms of fifty to two hundred acres, and peasants had no master or landlord. Class structure did not exist in these societies. The king was put into power and held that power by the family right. All peoples were expected to pay taxes to the king, and support the maintenance of his court and land holdings. These societies avoided civil war and anarchy by encouraging all to participate in open forum discussions of problems facing the society.


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