The word "Anglo-Saxon" pertains to a culture that arose during a period whose beginning was marked by the Anglo-Saxon tribal invasions of what is today known as the United Kingdom. Although the Anglo-Saxon dominance began in the middle fifth century and lasted until the Anglo-Saxon defeat in the middle of the eleventh century, their language, Old English, survived and developed into Middle English, both predecessors of modern English.
The Anglo-Saxon period began in the middle fifth century with the "migration" of three Germanic tribes from northern Germany to the island of Britain. The term "Anglo-Saxon" refers to the three tribes called the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. The Angles came from Southern Jutland, or what is now Lower Hanover. The Saxons dominated West Germany before their move to the British Isles, while the Jutes were one of the Low German tribes to join their neighbors in the migration to Britain. The three tribes migrated under the pretense of helping the island of Britain defend itself against the Roman Empire, while their true intentions were to conquer it for themselves.
With them the Anglo-Saxons brought a new language that is now referred to as Old English (sometimes referred to as Late West Saxon). This new language resembled a mix of modern English and modern German. A few manuscripts survive from the Anglo-Saxon period. Works such as "The Wanderer" and "The Dream of the Rood," as well as the epic poem Beowulf, were written in Old English. An excerpt from Beowulf, believed to have been written around tenth century A.D., illustrates the dominance of this language during the Anglo-Saxon period:
HwŠt! We GarDena in geardagum,
■eodcyninga, ■rym gefrunon,
hu a Š■elingas ellen fremedon. (Beowulf, I. 1-3.)
So. The Spear Danes in the days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns. (Translation by S. Heaney)
Anglo-Saxon rule did not last
forever for they suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of William the Conqueror
in the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066. Anglo-Saxon resistance was
futile in the post-Hastings aftermath, and while they no longer remained a
nation, their language became their legacy and lived on.