Anglo Saxon

Anglo Saxons: The Early Identity of England

Do you know who were the Anglo Saxons and what was happened in this historical period of English literature? This is a particular name of two tribes; Angles and Saxons. This era saw the migration of Germanic tribes, including the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, to island of Britain after the fall of last Western Roman Emperor; the Romulus Augustulus, who was deposed by the Germanic Chieftain Odoacer.

These tribes established their different states or kingdoms and brought up their culture and language. They hold on the Britain from 5th Century to 11th century. This era referred to be Old English Period or Early Medieval Age. These groups of people spoke the native language with a distinct dialect. Because the English Language was their mother tongue, so they used English in their daily affairs.

Arrival and settlement

In 476 A D when the last Roman Emperor whose name was Romulus Augustulus defeated by the Germanic Chieftain Odoacer. This incident marked the traditional end of the Western Roman Empire. After that various Germanic tribes including the Angles, Saxon and Jutes, migrated towards the island of Britain and established their presence.  

These tribes were divided into seven kingdoms, Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent Sussex, and Wessex. Every kingdom has their own king who ruled over them but king of Wessex the Alfred the great sought to dominate exert control over multiple kingdoms.


The Anglo-Saxon period spans roughly from the 5th century to the Norman Conquest in 1066. It characterized by the arrival of Germanic tribes to island of Britain, and forming their various kingdoms or states with distinct culture and language. They were brave, fearless and adventurous and also known about farming. The society was warrior based, with strong oral traditions and religious beliefs. They initially followed pagan beliefs but when preaching of Christianity came into their society, they converted themselves to Christian beliefs. This period demonstrated the development of old English, the creation of remarkable literary works like “Beowulf” and also their religious works like Caedmon “hymn”.

Characteristics of Anglo Saxon

When people move or migrate from one place to another, they often bring their cultural practices, traditions, languages, beliefs, art, and literature, with them. Here we are going to discuss the characteristics of these tribes in detail.

Social Structure and Daily Life

Tribes based System

These tribes and kingdom led by a king who held power over their territory. Below the king were nobles and warriors who supported the ruler and helped govern land. Society was Structured hierarchically with a warrior aristocracy, freemen and farmer, craftsmen and slaves or serfs who worked the land.

Roles of Men and Women

Men were predominantly warriors, farmer and craftsmen. While women managed households and spun cloth.

Farming and Economy

Agriculture was the main occupation, they cultivated wheat, barley, oats and raise cattle, pigs and sheep. They trade was occurred through bartering.

Religion and Pagan Beliefs 

Before the Anglo Saxon converted to Christianity they followed a polytheistic belief system, worshiping various Gods and Goddesses. They have different god and goddess for their different needs, such as war, thunder, justice, and fertility. They beliefs these goods i.e., Woden (Odin), Thunor, (Thor) Tiw (Tyre) and Frige (Frigg) were full filled their needs.

Transition to Christianity

Firstly, Anglo Saxon believed on paganism when the St. Augustine of Canterbury, who sent by Pop Gregory for the preaching of Christin religion and built many churches in these areas where these tribes lived. They successfully converted and accepted the Christianity.

Art, Literature and Language

Dark age literature is marked by its use of alliteration, kennings and epic poetry it often focuses on heroic deeds, battles, and the concept of fate reflecting the society’s value like loyalty, courage and honor, also in this period we saw the religious poetry such as Caedmon’s hymn.

The Epic Poem “Beowulf”

It was an epic poem entitled on their protagonist. Beowulf stands a significant literary work of this era, depicting heroism and deals with good and evil, and values of the time.


In this period poetry was disliked by people at some extent but prose continuously liked by people because it was in simple language and also exist in religious lessons. And also, the king Alfred began the chronicles in which described event of history and save their history through these chronicles.


These tribes are the ancestors of the English language. The roots of the modern English influenced by their native language. The language of these tribes marked a significant impact on modern English. Many words and expressions from Old English the language of the Anglo Saxon have persisted and evolved into modern English.


These tribes were mainly skilled like craftsmen in jewelry making, metal work, and manuscripts illumination, showcasing intricate designs and patterns.

Invasion of Vikings and King Alfred the Great

When the Vikings invasion on these tribes which led to instability, destruction and changes in the political landscape of Anglo Saxon. King Alfred the Great was one of the most notable kings who persisted against Vikings and before these tribes were separated, at this crucial time only King Alfred leads them all.


Despite the Norman conquest, many aspects of Anglo Saxons culture, language and societal structure persisted and merged with Norman influences, shaping England future.

Key Aspects of this Era

Following were the main aspects of this period which are as under.

  • First one was love for personal freedom.
  • Second one was responsiveness to nature.
  • Third one was religion.
  • Fourth one was struggle for glory.


To sum up the whole discussion with the deposed of last Anglo Saxons king named Harold who defeated by William the conqueror of Normandy France in Battle of Hastings. This era roughly stands 670AD to 1066AD. We can say that these tribes were the ancestors of the English.

And their literature has their own worth and impact on modern English, in which it showed the bravery, fearlessness, and adventurous nature of theses tribes. This era was full of ripeness of everything.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

These tribes came from Western Roman Empire and settled at the island of Britain.

Alfred the Great was a king of Anglo Saxon who played role in prose wrote chronicles and persisted against the Vikings invasion. Alfred the Great was prominent king.

Most of their literature were anonymous and some of the important works in which “Beowulf” is the prominent work of this period. And they had also religious work like Caedmon “hymn”.

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