The Saxons

The Saxon impact on Britain

Britain, being sited on the outside edge of the Empire, was the least Romanised province and the legions had left before the Angles and Saxons arrived in large numbers. However, some Saxon farmers had already settled in Britain during the time of the Empire. Saxon raiders had been harrassing the Romans in Britain for many years, attacking the south and east coasts of England. The Romans had responded by building a string of Saxon shore forts, remains of which can be visited to the present day. The Romans hired two mercenary warriors from Jutland, Hengist and Horsa to fight the Picts. After succeeding at this mission, Hengist and Horsa were unable to extract more rewards from the Romans and stirred up anti-Roman rebellion among the settled Saxons.

The Saxons tended to live in the countryside, avoiding Roman cities for a couple of centuries. The typical Saxon village contained a wooden chief's hut, surrounded by a wooden and mud huts. Saxon fortifications were earthworks topped by wooden structures.

The three Saxon kingdoms are identified by the places names Essex, Sussex and Wessex, i.e. East, South and West Saxon lands. Wessex came to dominate during the period up to King Alfred's time, with the Wessex Saxon kings being seen as "Bretwalda" - kings of Britain - according to Bede's Chronicle.

In the absence of the Romans, the Saxons were fighting Romano-British peoples - the British Celts - for four hundred years. The remaining Celtic peoples were pushed further into their heartlands on the less hospitable fringes of Britain - Northern and Northwest England, Wales, Scotland.