heptarchy

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heptarchy

(hĕp`tärkē) [Gr.,=seven-kingdom], name traditionally applied to the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England in the period prior to the Danish conquests of the 9th cent. The term was probably first used by 16th-century writers who believed that in those early years England was divided into seven kingdoms—NorthumbriaNorthumbria, kingdom of
, one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England. It was originally composed of two independent kingdoms divided by the Tees River, Bernicia (including modern E Scotland, Berwick, Roxburgh, E Northumberland, and Durham) and Deira (including the North and East
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, East AngliaEast Anglia
, kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England, comprising the modern counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. It was settled in the late 5th cent. by so-called Angles from northern Germany and Scandinavia.
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, MerciaMercia
, one of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, consisting generally of the region of the Midlands. It was settled by Angles c.500, probably first along the Trent valley.
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, EssexEssex,
one of the early kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England. It was settled probably in the early 6th cent. by Saxons who traced their royal line back to a continental Saxon god instead of to Woden, as did the rulers of other early kingdoms.
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, SussexSussex, kingdom of,
one of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy (seven kingdoms) in England, located S of the Weald. It was settled in the late 5th cent. (according to tradition in 477) by Saxons under Ælle, who defeated the Celts in several battles and established a brief military
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, WessexWessex
, one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England. It may have been settled as early as 495 by Saxons under Cerdic, who is reputed to have landed in Hampshire. Cerdic's grandson, Ceawlin (560–93), annexed scattered Saxon settlements in the Chiltern Hills and drove the
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, and KentKent, kingdom of,
one of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England. It was settled in the mid-5th cent. by aggressive bands of people called Jutes (see Anglo-Saxons). Historians are in dispute over the authenticity of the traditional belief that Hengist and Horsa landed in 449 to
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. Actually the political and geographical divisions were neither so orderly nor permanent. At one time (c.600) there appear to have been as many as 12 independent states, but the number of kingdoms, their boundaries, and their political status shifted constantly throughout this period.