The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic people who inhabited Britain from the mid-5th century AD. Anglo-Saxon occupation of Britain is traditionally considered the origin of the modern English nation.
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2 Anglo-Saxon Religion
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The Anglo-Saxon Invasions
The Romanss had largely abandoned Britain by 410 AD. Either because of Romano-British need to replace this significant military power, or because of Anglo-Saxon exploitation of its absence, the Anglo-Saxons came to settle on the east coast of the island. Although it is unclear how these people came to control Britain, it is known that their migration was part of the widespread movement of peoples on the mainland of Europe at this time.
During the 6th century, organised British resistance to the invaders succeeded in slowing the invasion, though not halting it. This resistance culminated in the Battle of Mons Badonicus. A semi-legendary figure known today as "King Arthur" may have been the leader, and his fabled "Knights of the Round Table" the leaders who fought with him at this and other battles. The institution of High King of Britain was abolished following the death of Cadwallon the Great in the 8th century. Perhaps in memory of this eventual defeat by the Anglo-Saxons, the modern Welsh word for England, "Lloegyr", means "the lost lands".
By the beginning of the 7th century AD, most of the island of Britain was under the control of a number of Germanic tribes; the best known of these to modern historians are the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. The process by which they came to occupy this island is sometimes known as the Saxon conquest, although this is perhaps a misnomer: other tribes, such as the Frisians, are known to have taken part, but the details of their role in the process are unknown. The various tribes established a large number of kingdoms in what today is known as England, which were later consolidated into seven states collectively known as the Heptarchy.
According to tradition, Kent was established first by a group known as the Jutes, led by a King Hengest. Another Jute king, Horsa, may have taken part, but his identity is unknown: the name may refer to Hengest's brother, or it may simply be another name for Hengest. Tradition holds that the Saxons advanced inland and Sussex was established next, swiftly followed by Essex. Middlesex and Surrey may have had a short-lived independent existence but were absorbed into Essex.
The Angles established four kingdoms in the north, east and centre of Britain: East Anglia, Mercia, Deira and Bernicia. East Anglia's beginnings are unknown and very little record survives of its foundation or of the fate of the native Britons, the once mighty Iceni tribe, who had dwelt there before. The name Mercia may mean "marches": a frontier area facing the Celtic Romano-British or Welsh. Deira and Bernicia appear to be Anglian corruptions of older British geographical names and the two states merged to form the kingdom of Northumbria.
The fate of the Romano-British is a matter of conjecture. At one point, historians believed the account of Gildas uncritically, and thought that the invaders slaughtered all whom they encountered in an act of genocide. More recent historians, such as H.P.R. Finberg, have argued that they largely survived, and lived under the Anglo-Saxon invaders as slaves or serfs. By the time reliable historical records begin once again, it is clear that the territory of the native inhabitants had been reduced to just Cornwall and Wales in the west of the island.
Four of the Anglo-Saxon gods have given the English language names for days of the week:
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