Rheged

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Rheged (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈr̥ɛɡɛd]) is described in poetic sources as one of the kingdoms of the Hen Ogledd ("Old North"), the Brythonic-speaking region of what is now northern England and southern Scotland, during the Early Middle Ages. Its borders are not described in the poems, but some modern scholars have suggested that it included what is now Cumbria in North West England and possibly extended into Lancashire and Scotland.[1] In the historical sources Rheged is intimately associated with the king Urien Rheged and his family.[2] Its inhabitants spoke Cumbric, a Brythonic dialect closely related to Old Welsh.[3]

Contents

Location

The name Rheged appears regularly as an epithet of a certain Urien in a number of early Welsh poems and royal genealogies. His victories over the Anglian chieftains of Bernicia in the second half of the sixth century are recorded by Nennius and celebrated by the bard Taliesin, who calls him "Ruler of Rheged". He is thus placed squarely in the North of Britain and more specifically in Westmorland when referred to as "Ruler of Llwyfenydd" (the Lyvennet Valley).[4] Later legend associates Urien with the city of Carlisle, only twenty-five miles away; Higham suggests that Rheged was "broadly conterminous with the earlier Civitas Carvetiorum", the Roman administrative unit based on Carlisle. Although it is possible that Rheged was merely a stronghold, it was not uncommon for sub-Roman monarchs to use their kingdom's name as an epithet. It is generally accepted, therefore, that Rheged was a kingdom covering a large part of modern Cumbria.

Place-name evidence from Dunragit (possibly "Fort of Rheged") suggests that, at least during one period of its history, Rheged extended into Dumfries and Galloway. More problematic interpretations suggest that it could also have reached as far south as Rochdale in Greater Manchester, recorded in the Domesday Book as Recedham. These place-names may (apparently) incorporate the element 'Rheged' precisely because they lay on or near its borders. Certainly Urien's kingdom stretched eastward at one time, as he was also "Ruler of Catraeth" (Catterick in North Yorkshire).

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