Anglo-Saxons, name given to the Germanic-speaking peoples who settled in England after the decline of Roman rule there. They were first invited by the Celtic King Vortigern, who needed help fighting the Picts and Scots. The Angles (Lat. Angli ), who are mentioned in Tacitus' Germania, seem to have come from what is now Schleswig in the later decades of the 5th cent. Their settlements in the eastern, central, and northern portions of the country were the foundations for the later kingdoms known as East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria. The Saxons, a Germanic tribe who had been continental neighbors of the Angles, also settled in England in the late 5th cent. after earlier marauding forays there. The later kingdoms of Sussex, Wessex, and Essex were the outgrowths of their settlements. The Jutes, a tribe about whom very little is known except that they probably came from the area around the mouths of the Rhine, settled in Kent (see Kent, kingdom of) and the Isle of Wight. The Anglo-Saxons eventually formed seven separate kingdoms known as the heptarchy. The term "Anglo-Saxons" was first used in Continental Latin sources to distinguish the Saxons in England from those on the Continent, but it soon came to mean simply the "English." The more specific use of the term to denote the non-Celtic settlers of England prior to the Norman Conquest dates from the 16th cent. In more modern times it has also been used to denote any of the people (or their descendants) of the British Isles.

See P. H. Blair, An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England (1954, repr. 1962); F. M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (3d ed. 1971); D. M. Wilson, The Anglo-Saxons (rev. ed. 1971); D. J. V. Fisher, The Anglo-Saxon Age, 400–1042 (1973); G. R. Owen, Rites and Religions of the Anglo-Saxons (1985); M. J. Whittock, The Origins of England, 410–600 (1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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