Mysterious people who built the Stonehenge settled in the island of Britain around 2500 BC. They were soon followed by the Celtic people from continental Europe later called the Britons. These groups of people spread throughout the island. They jostled with the Picts and Caledones who lived in what is now present-day Scotland for territory. The Romans followed and invaded around 43 AD, settled around the island, and continued the wars against the northern barbarians starting in 55 AD. This later led to the founding of England which is recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History during 827 AD.
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By the middle of the fifth century, the northern tribes continued the raids south into the lands of the Britons. The helpless Roman rulers of the island were also isolated and cut off from any Roman support from the continent. The leaders of the Britons met and appointed a chieftain named Vortigern as their leader to fend off the attacks of the Picts. Vortigern sent the Magister Militum of the Roman army Aetius a letter asking for his assistance against the northern tribes. The Romans were unable to send soldiers abroad when barbarians, such as the Goths and Vandals, threatened Italy itself. When Vortigern realized that help would not arrive, he came up with a plan to invite their Saxon allies into Britain and help them drive off the northern tribes. He appealed to the Saxons who lived in Germany for help and they accepted his invitation. They sailed to Britain with their closest allies, the Angles and the Jutes, to join the battle against the northern tribes.
The combined Briton, Roman, Saxon, and Angle armies defeated the Picts, so Vortigern allowed the Saxons to settle in Kent in return for their help. The Saxons saw that the island was ideal for farming, so they sent messages to their kinsmen in mainland Europe to sail over to Britain and settle there. They slowly invaded the southern and southwestern portions of Britain, while the Angles migrated to the southeastern coast and stayed there permanently. The steady Anglo-Saxon settlement on the island took the Britons by surprise. War soon flared up between the former allies; it was not until 455 AD when Vortigern and his troops defeated the Saxons after years of destructive wars in their territories.
The new settlers continued the war for domination of the island. Ambrosius Aurelianus, one of the last Roman noblemen in the island, also continued the struggle against the Anglo-Saxon invaders after Vortigern’s death. Ambrosius Aurelianus and his allies were initially unsuccessful, but they won in the Battle of Mount Badon in 485 AD and drove off the defeated Anglo-Saxons away to the shores of their homeland in Europe. But this temporary defeat did not deter the Anglo-Saxons from coming back to Britain which they finally did in 491 AD. They started a renewed invasion in the same year and kicked it off with a massacre of the inhabitants of the British fortress of Anderida.
The Saxons, as well as the Angles, eventually overpowered the Britons. By the 6th century, they had conquered the whole eastern and southern coast of Britain. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms split apart and evolved into a Heptarchy (seven domains with seven different rulers) over the years which included:
- East Anglia
The Saxons had dug deep roots in their new country and dominated the island with their culture, but they still practiced paganism at this point. Pope Gregory I decided to bring the island back into the fold of Christianity, so he sent some monks on an evangelical mission to the pagan Saxons and Angles.The monks landed in Kent which was ruled at that time by the pagan Saxon king Ethelbert. He was later baptized by the monks’ leader Augustine. Many Saxons converted to Christianity in the late 6th century, and England became a Christian nation in 664 AD.
The Saxons were known as mighty warriors, but nothing could have prepared them for the arrival of the ferocious Viking pirates who had sailed from their homeland in Scandinavia. They first terrorized the Frankish Empire, Russia, and even raided in some cities along the Mediterranean Sea. They eventually found themselves in Britain after the Franks built bridges on the banks of the River Seine to prevent them from sailing inland. They first sacked the monastery of Lindisfarne in 793 AD and continued the raids into the British mainland starting in 800 AD.
The Vikings also reached Ireland in 795 AD. They started to settle on some parcels of lands in both islands around 830 to 840 AD. Over the years, the Vikings had removed the king of East Anglia from his throne, ruled his territory, and fought against Ethelred, king of Wessex. The king was supported by Alfred, his younger brother, who took up the struggle against the Vikings and won in 878 AD in the battle at Edington. The Vikings were forced to sign a peace treaty (Treaty of Wedmore) and convert to Christianity after their defeat. Alfred also divided England between Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings who governed their people with their own laws and customs called Danelaw.
A United England
England, during Alfred’s reign, was far from united with the Vikings entrenched deeply on the east and the Anglo-Saxon territories on the southwest (not to mention the Welsh on the western edge of the island). Alfred’s son Edward the Elder managed to unite the peoples of the island (Welsh, Scoti, Danes, and English) under his rule after a series of conquest that he completed in 924 AD. His son, Athelstan, succeeded him as Anglo-Saxon king. He arranged a marriage between the Viking ruler Sihtric of Northumbria and his sister to cement an alliance. When Sihtric died, Athelstan invaded Northumbria and claimed it as part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom through his sister.
The Vikings did not take this very well, so they sent an offer of alliance to the Scots and some renegade Anglo-Saxon noblemen—which they accepted—and met Athelstan in battle in 936 AD. He defeated this Viking-Anglo-Saxon-Scots alliance, and for the first time, an Anglo-Saxon king could finally claim that he had united the different kingdoms that made up England.
Picture By Blank_map_of_Europe.svg: maix¿?derivative work: Alphathon /’æɫfə.θɒn/ (talk) – This file was derived from Blank map of Europe.svg: , CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18497754
Bury, J.B, and Henry Melvill Gwatkin, eds. The Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. II. Cambridge: University Press, 1913.
Edward Hasted. “General history: Britons and Saxons,” in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1, (Canterbury: W Bristow, 1797), 44-62. British History Online, accessed August 29, 2016, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol1/pp44-62.
Geoffrey of Monmouth. History of the Kings of Britain. Translated by Aaron Thompson. Edited by J.A. Giles. Medieval Latin Series. Cambridge, Ontario: In Parentheses Publications, 1999. Accessed August 31, 2016. http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/geoffrey_thompson.pdf.
Gwatkin, Henry Melvill., J.B. Bury, J.P. Whitney, and J.R. Tanner, eds. The Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. I. Cambridge, Eng.: Macmillan; The University Press, 1911.
“Inventory of Roman London: The defences, introduction,” in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 3, Roman London, (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1928), 69-82. British History Online, accessed August 16, 2016, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/london/vol3/pp69-82.
Nennius. “Historia Brittonum, 8th Century.” Internet History Sourcebooks Project. Accessed August 31, 2016. http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/nennius-full.asp.
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