Member of a Germanic tribe once inhabiting the Danish peninsula and northern Germany. The Saxons migrated from their homelands in the early Middle Ages, under pressure from the Franks, and spread into various parts of Europe, including Britain (see Anglo-Saxon). They also undertook piracy in the North Sea and the English Channel.
According to the English historian Bede, the Saxons arrived in Britain in 449, and the archaeological evidence and sparse literary sources suggest the years around 450 as marking the end of their piratical raids, and the establishment of their first settlements in southern England.
Bede states that the tribes who came to Britain at the invitation of the British chieftain Vortigern, to help defend his country against Pictish and Irish invaders, were from three powerful Germanic peoples, the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes.
Saxon cemeteries that have been located show a wide settlement in eastern England, stretching roughly from the Tees to the Thames, penetrating deeply into the Midlands and the upper Thames, and in the south from Kent to north Hampshire and east Wiltshire. Settlers heading inland from the coast sailed up the rivers Thames, Trent, and Ouse; they also travelled along some Roman roads, particularly in Leicestershire, Warwickshire, and Yorkshire. By the end of the 6th century much of England was in Anglo-Saxon hands. Kent, East Anglia, Wessex, Bernicia, Deira, and finally Mercia had all developed into separate kingdoms.
The name Saxon is said to be derived from their national weapon, the seax, a short thrusting sword, in the same way that the Franks, the spearmen, took their name from the Old English franca, a javelin.
The Saxon Shore
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