Who were the Anglo-Saxons?

The Anglo-Saxons were a group of Germanic tribes who gradually invaded England starting in the 5th century in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Originally, they came from what is now the coastal region of northwest Germany.

Their artisans made striking objects out of gold and enamel and they also created poetry that still amazes people today. Their best-known literary work is "Beowulf," an anonymous epic poem about a warrior who does battle with monsters and a dragon.

Their language, Old English, is a precursor of modern English. It supplies many of the structurally important words such as pronouns and prepositions as well as words for everyday concepts.

Unfortunately, much of their literature and artwork have been lost through warfare, looting, upheavals and the passage of time. Scholars must deduce what their culture was like using often scanty evidence.

Famous Anglo-Saxons include King Alfred the Great, the only English king so called. He turned back a Danish invasion in the 9th Century, was a patron of English learning, and laid claim to rule England as one unified kingdom. Another is the Venerable Bede, a great scholar whose history remains the primary source for the beginnings of the English people and the coming of Christianity. Bede's history was the first to use the AD Anno Domini, or Year of the Lord dating system.

Anglo-Saxon rule ended with the invasion of French-speaking Normans under William the Conqueror in 1066.