What is "SÆXIA"?
The word "SÆXIA" essentially means the combined historical Anglo-Saxon territories that were ruled by the Saxons, as opposed to the Angles, Frisians, or Jutes. The present day regions of Wessex, Sussex, Middlesex, and Essex all began as the relevant Saxon territories: the lands of the West Saxons, the "Mid" region of Saxon dominance, the Southerly Saxon lands, and the realm of the East Saxons.
During the times of the development of the first "English" language, and into more modern times too, names and terminology often borrow from old Latin.
It is from the Latin linguistic influence that we have the modern word "area", which when applied geographically means an expanse or designated space, such as a "live firing area" on an army range, a "wooded area" on a map, or a telephone "area code" for a designated residential/commercial "area".
This is used today in the names of some of the worlds nations albeit with the slight variation of using "ia" instead of "ea": examples are "Bulgaria", the historic homelands of the Bulgar people, and so being the "area of the Bulgars = Bulgar - ia". Romania is the traditional home of the Romany people, although some scholars claim this name goes right back to it actually being a Roman province settled by colonists and veterans of the old Roman Empire. Russia is reputed to be so named for the Rus, norse traders from present day Sweden who settled in that region and formed a nation. And also in history well known nations were referred to by slightly different names more dependent on the Latin language for meaning: France was referred to historically in the early medieval era as "Frankia", the "area belonging to the Franks", a Germanic people who took over the former Roman territorial province of Gaul.
But how does this apply to the Saxons?
The Saxon people have their origins in the region still called Saxony in north Germany today. Although there is no unanimous agreement amongst scholars, a plausible reason for their name was that they carried and used the very distinctive "Seax" or "Long knife", which could be a tool or weapon as there were many different shapes and sizes developed.
To understand the Saxons, a big part of any study cannot avoid exploring the Seax, and it's totally unique place in early medieval history.
The image below shows a number of Seax's, ranging from a small utility Seax, to two "Had-Seax" sized long knives, and the last is a "Langseax", essentially a single bladed sword or cleaver for warfare. The handles of these are modern in fashion, however the blades length and styles are based on archeological finds, with the Langseax, for example, being based on the Mortlake Langseax.
The image below shows a utility Seax based on the dimensions of the Sittingbourne Seax (albeit without the decorative inlay work on the blade of the original) being used in Experimental Archeology to prepare a meal of ingredients that would have been around in the Saxon period.
Below: closer up view of the above replica Sittingbourne Seax
So, again, the plausible argument for how the Saxon people got their name is that they were nicknamed after the unique and distinctive "Seax", and that they could equally be known as "Seax-an". Seax as a word has its origins in Proto Germanic, from which most of the Northern European languages have their basis. "Seax" essentially means "cleave/chop".
The Saxons served as Foederati in the late Roman Imperial Army. As these were not strictly included in the Legions or auxiliary forces, these Germanic warriors were able to retain much more of their unique characteristics, including their (unusual to Roman eyes) Long Knives/Seaxes. The Saxons themselves likely referred to themselves, in their own language, by their own name, as many indigenous peoples do to this day. For example the Anglo Saxon Chronicle contains a lineage that goes back generations to an ancestor simply named "Geat", a name which features in the epic Anglo Saxon saga of Beowulf. The name Woden also appears in this lineage, albeit a few generations on from Geat, and there is new research which indicates Woden may well have been a tribal chieftain from the Black Sea region during the early 1st century. As the early Saxons were known to worship Woden, it may have been that, amongst themselves, the Saxons thought of themselves as "people of Woden", and that it was their Legionary comrades who came up with the nickname "Seax-an"/Saxon.
In the 5th century Britain ceased to be a part of the Western Roman Empire. The Legions were recalled to mainland Europe to guard against the threat of Germanic invaders from across the Rhine frontier.
Love or hate them, the Romans had provided a form of national stability for some four centuries in Britain, despite that "Pax Romana" being forced upon most of the populace, but that's another story...
With the Legions gone, Britain was now up for grabs. As a former Roman colony it was full of rich and cultivated farmlands, feats of architectural wonder like the Viaducts, Aquaducts, bridges and causeways. And of the course those who remained living in the land, the Romano-British, were a form of "riches" themselves: it is well known that at this time the Irish raided into Britain and took hundreds if not thousands into slavery back in Ireland.
(Early Saxon warrior in a deserted Roman ruin)
On the south and east coasts of Britain the inner turmoils and the promise of new lands and riches drew the attention of the tribes living along the northern coasts and peninsulas of Europe. As the threat of Imperial retribution waned, longships were rowed (and some arguably sailed) across the channel, and these Germanic speaking newcomers began to settle.
A few distinct peoples were amongst these new incomers: the Angles, by all accounts the most numerous, who settled huge areas of eastern and central Britain. The Frisians, the Jutes, and the Saxons.
Due to their previous service in the Roman Army, the Saxons may well have already been granted lands to settle in Britain. It was a long practised tradition that soldiers would serve their time in the Legions, and then be granted lands when retiring to set up new colonies. It is thought that Kent is the oldest Anglo-Saxon territory in Britain, and was began in just this way: with Foederati veterans being granted lands in exchange for helping guard the coastal ports from other Germanic pirate raids.
In any case, once the Germanic peoples began to arrive in Britain, they evidently like what they found, and sent word back home to send more men, and their families. The Anglo Saxons were here to stay!