Neighbours of the Angles, the Saxons’ own land, Old Saxony, was in north-east Germany. Their settlement of England in the mid-5th century, known as Adventus Saxonum, possibly occurred for a combination of reasons:-
- major flooding events swept away many of their waterside villages;
- mass migration from the east was putting pressure on their resources; and
- a beleaguered British warlord called Vortigern foolishly asked for their armed assistance against the Scots and the Picts, and rewarded them with land in Kent, thereby sparking their ideas of widespread invasion.
Saxon pirates had begun making raids on the inviting flatlands of eastern England in the 3rd and 4th centuries. This led to the building of fortifications (or, in fact, trading posts) along that stretch of coastline, nicknamed ‘Saxon Shore’. Evidence is scant but some say that Saxon immigration, from 449 onwards, was a vicious, tyrannical, barbaric occupation, while others portray a more peaceful infiltration.
Nevertheless, many Britons moved west to Wales and Cornwall to avoid the new folk with their Germanic paganism, class structure and brutal punishments. In spite of this, the Sutton Hoo artefacts encourage us to believe that those early medieval additions to the British ancestral family were not entirely brutish.
(Image: Adrian Cable at geograph.org.uk / CC BY-SA 2.0)