Animation showing the ancestors’ provenance of the people inhabiting Britain in the 8th century CE according to Bede’s “Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum” (I,1).
Image elaborated from Google Earth.

The first distinction that Bede traces between the inhabitants of Britain is a linguistic one. He writes that five languages are spoken on the island in his time: Anglorum, Brettonum, Scottorum, Pictorum, and Latinorum. Then, Bede implicitly connects each language to specific groups of people, usually designated with the Latin term gentes.

He explains that the Brittones came from Armorica and were the first inhabitants of Britain. At some point, the Picti from Schythia would have settled in the northern part of the island, followed by the Scottorum from Hibernia. Bede states that Latin, i.e. the language of the Romans who, according to him, ruled over the island from Julius Caesar until the Goths sacked Rome (early 5th century CE), had become the common language between all the inhabitants of Britain thanks to the study of the scriptures.

Bede writes that, while Marcianus and Valentinianus were co-emperors (mid-5th century CE), the king of the Brittones Vortigern asked the Angli or Saxones to settle in Britain and help fighting their enemies, i.e. the Picti and the Scottorum. Afterwards, Bede specifies that the newcomers were from three Germaniae populis: the Saxones, the Angli, and the Iuti. The Saxones, Bede continues, used to live in the antiquorum Saxonum regione, the Iuti in the provincia occidentalum Saxonum, and the Angli in a land in-between called Angulus.