Anglos and Saxons Before England
A reader wonders about the terms Anglos and Saxons:
I have often heard the term Anglo-Saxon, but never just Anglos or Saxons. However, I learned that these are two separate people groups from different areas (of what I guess is Northern Europe). If what I learned is accurate, from what countries are the Anglos, and from what countries are the Saxons? I appreciate any help. I’ve been trying to confirm this information since I was in college.
In the fifth century, when the Teutonic invasions of Britain began, the map of Europe did not conform to the way the countries are arranged there today.
Picture northern Europe, starting at Denmark on the Jutland Peninsula and descending along the coast opposite England, down to Belgium. In the fifth century, these lands were inhabited by tribes known as Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Frisians, and Franks. All were Germanic in ethnicity and language. A mix of these tribes migrated to England in the fifth and sixth centuries C.E.
The earliest historical reference to these invasions occurs in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731 C.E.) of the Venerable Bede. He refers only to the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes by name.
The Celtic people who already lived in Britain called all the Germanic invaders “Saxons.” Latin writers came to refer to all the invaders as Angli and the country as Anglia. The Latin title of Bede’s history is Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum.
When the time came for the invaders to write in the vernacular, they all called the language they spoke Englisc (English). The name derives from the name for the Angles (Engle) but was used for all the dialects the invaders spoke.
If you want to associate modern terms with these peoples, the Saxons, Franks, and Frisians were “German-Dutch.” The Angles were “southern Danish,” and the Jutes were “northern Danish.”
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