Essex is a county situated to the northeast of London and is part of the East of England region.
Essex | 400-600 AD
The history of Essex between 400 and 600 AD, also known as the Early Medieval period, is characterized by a complex mixture of Roman legacy, Anglo-Saxon migrations, and the establishment of new political and social structures.
At the beginning of this period, Roman Britain was facing external pressures from various Germanic tribes, such as the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. The Roman Empire was experiencing internal strife, and in 410 AD, the Roman legions were withdrawn from Britain by the Emperor Honorius, leaving the province to fend for itself.
With the departer of Roman authority, various Germanic tribes began migrating to Britain, including the area that would become Essex. The Angles, in particular, are believed to have settled in the eastern parts of England, including Essex.
The early Anglo-Saxon period in Essex was marked by a mixture of tribal groups establishing small settlements and kingdoms. These groups often clashed with each other and with the remaining Romano-British population. The kingdom of East Saxons, centered around the modern county of Essex, began to emerge. Its rulers held authority over parts of Essex and London.
One of the significant events during this period was the spread of Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons. Saint Augustine arrived in Kent in 597 AD as a missionary sent by Pope Gregory the Great. The influcence of Christianity gradually extended to other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, including Essex. King Sæberht of Essex is believed to have been influenced by Æthelberht of Kent’s conversion to Christianity and allowed for Christian missionaries to work in his kingdom. Mellitus, a Roman abbot, was sent to Essex and established the first Anglo-Saxon cathedral at London.
The early Anglo-Saxon period in Essex was characterized by a decentralized political structure, with small tribal groups and chieftains exerting local control. Over time, some of these chieftains began to consolidate their power and establish more organized kingdoms. The establishment of the East Saxon kingdom was part of this trend.
In old English, the kingdom of Essex was referred to as East Seaxe or Ēast Seaxna Rīce. This name reflects the Anglo-Saxon origins of the region and its status as the kingdom of the East Saxons. The Latinized form of the name Essex, Essexa, if often used in historical records and documents. Another Old English variation of the name, reflecting the kingdom’s Anglo-Saxon identity is Estseaxna.
During the Viking Age, the Norse name for York, Eoferwic, was used by Scandinavian settlers in the area. While not a name for Essex directly, it’s an example of how place names could change due to external influences. In some historical sources, the Roman town of Colchester in Essex was referred to as Caer Colun or similar variations. This reflects the Latin and Celtic influence on place names during Roman and post-Roman periods.
Historia Brittonum | Probably Nennius, early 9th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470