Imperial Circle

During the Early Modern period the Holy Roman Empire was divided into Imperial Circles (Latin: Circuli imperii, German: Reichskreise; singular Circulus imperii, Reichskreis), administrative groupings whose primary purposes were the organization of common defensive structure and the collection of imperial taxes. They were also used as a means of organization within the Imperial Diet and the Imperial Chamber Court. Each circle had a Circle Diet, although not every member of the Circle Diet would hold membership of the Imperial Diet as well.

Six Imperial Circles were introduced at the Diet of Augsburg in 1500. In 1512, three more circles were added, and the large Saxon Circle was split into two, so that from 1512 until the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in the Napoleonic era, there were ten Imperial Circles. The Crown of Bohemia, the Swiss Confederacy and Italy remained unencircled, as did various minor territories which held imperial immediacy.


Initially the 1500 Diet of Augsburg set up six Imperial Circles as part of the Imperial Reform:

Originally, the territories held by the Habsburg dynasty and the Electors remained unencircled. In 1512 the Diet at Trier and Cologne organized these lands into three more circles:

Also, the Saxon circle got divided into:

Though the Empire lost several western territories after the secession of the Seven United Netherlands in 1581 and during the French annexations of the 1679 Peace of Nijmegen, the ten circles remained largely unchanged until the early 1790s, when the French Revolutionary Wars brought about significant changes to the political map of Europe.

Unencircled territories

A number of imperial territories remained unencircled, notably the lands of the Bohemian crown, the Old Swiss Confederacy and the Italian territories. Besides these, there were also a considerable number of minor territories which retained imperial immediacy, such as individual Imperial Villages, and the lands held by individual Imperial Knights.


  • Winfried Dotzauer: Die deutschen Reichskreise in der Verfassung des alten Reiches und ihr Eigenleben. 1500–1806. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1989, ISBN 3-534-04139-9 [1]
  • Peter Claus Hartmann (ed.): Regionen in der frühen Neuzeit. Reichskreise im deutschen Raum, Provinzen in Frankreich, Regionen unter polnischer Oberhoheit. Ein Vergleich ihrer Strukturen, Funktionen und ihrer Bedeutung. (= Zeitschrift für historische Forschung; Beiheft 17). Duncker und Humblot, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-428-08078-5.


Contemporary (1500–1806) literature and source material:

  • Wolfgang Wüst (ed.): Die "gute" Policey im Reichskreis. Zur frühmodernen Normensetzung in den Kernregionen des Alten Reiches, edition of primary sources in four volumes, vol. 1: Der Schwäbische Reichskreis, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung Bayerisch-Schwabens, Berlin 2001; vol. 2: Der Fränkische Reichskreis, Berlin 2003; vol. 3: Der Bayerische Reichskreis und die Oberpfalz, Berlin 2004; vol.: Die lokale Policey: Normensetzung und Ordnungspolitik auf dem Lande. Ein Quellenwerk, Berlin 2008.
  • Hernach volgend die Zehen Krayß, 1532.
  • Johannes Alhusius: Politica methodice digesta. 3.Aufl., Herborn 1614.
  • Martin Zeiller: Von den zehn Kreisen. 1660, 1694.
  • Johann Samuel Tromsdorff: Accurate neue und alte Geographie von ganz Teutschland. Frankfurt 1711 (pp. 128ff).
  • "Creiß" in: Zedler, Grosses vollständiges Universallexikon aller Wissenschaften und Künste, vol. 6 (Ci – Cz), 1733.

External links

Army of the Holy Roman Empire

The Army of the Holy Roman Empire (German Reichsarmee, Reichsheer or Reichsarmatur; Latin exercitus imperii) was created in 1422 and came to an end when the Holy Roman Empire dissolved in 1806 as the result of the Napoleonic Wars. It must not be confused with the Imperial Army (Kaiserliche Armee) of the Emperor.

The Army of the Empire did not constitute a permanent standing army which was always at the ready to fight for the Empire. When there was danger, an Army of the Empire was mustered from among the elements constituting it, in order to conduct an imperial military campaign or Reichsheerfahrt during an Imperial War (Reichskrieg) or an Imperial Execution (Reichsexekution). In practice, the imperial troops often had stronger local allegiances than their loyalty to the Emperor.

Austrian Circle

The Austrian Circle (German: Österreichischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. It was one of the four Imperial Circles created by decree after the 1512 Diet at Cologne, twelve years after the original six Circles were established in the course of the Imperial Reform. It roughly corresponds to present-day Austria (except for Salzburg and Burgenland), Slovenia and the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region of Northern Italy, but also comprised the Further Austrian territories in the former Swabian stem duchy.

Battle of Lutter

The Battle of Lutter (Lutter am Barenberge) took place during the Thirty Years' War, on 27 August 1626 (17 August 1626 in the old Julian calendar), between the forces of the Lower Saxon Circle, combining mostly Protestant states, and led by its Circle Colonel Christian IV of Denmark, and the forces of the Catholic League. Lutter am Barenberge lies to the south of the modern town of Salzgitter, then within the Imperial Circle of Lower Saxony, and now in northwest Germany.

The battle resulted in a heavy defeat of Christian IV's troops by those of Emperor Ferdinand II, led by the Catholic League general Johan Tzerclaes, Count of Tilly.

Bavarian Circle

The Bavarian Circle (German: Bayerischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire.

The most significant state by far in the circle was the Duchy of Bavaria (raised to an Electorate by Emperor Ferdinand II in 1623) with the Upper Palatinate territories. Other Imperial Estates like the Prince-Archbishopric of Salzburg, the Prince-Bishoprics of Freising, Passau and Regensburg as well as the Imperial city of Regensburg, seat of the Imperial Diet from 1663, had a secondary importance.

Burgundian Circle

The Burgundian Circle (German: Burgundischer Kreis, Dutch: Bourgondische Kreits, French: Cercle de Bourgogne) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire created in 1512 and significantly enlarged in 1548. In addition to the Free County of Burgundy (present-day administrative region of Franche-Comté), the Burgundian Circle roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e., the areas now known as the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg and adjacent parts in the French administrative region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

The circle's territorial scope was reduced considerably in the 17th century with the secession of the Seven United Provinces in 1581 (recognized 1648) and the annexation of the Free County of Burgundy by France in 1678. The occupation and subsequent annexation of Imperial territory to the west of the Rhine river by Revolutionary France in the 1790s effectively brought an end to the circle's existence.

County of Ravensberg

The County of Ravensberg (German: Grafschaft Ravensberg) was a historical county of the Holy Roman Empire. Its territory was in present-day eastern Westphalia, Germany at the foot of the Osning or Teutoburg Forest.

Districts of Germany

In most German states, the primary administrative subdivision is the Landkreis ("rural district"); the exceptions are the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, which use the term Kreis. Most major cities in Germany are not part of any Kreis, but instead themselves perform functions like those of the Kreise; such a city is referred to as a Kreisfreie Stadt (literally "district-free city") or Stadtkreis ("urban district").

Kreise stand at an intermediate level of administration between each German state (Land, plural Länder) and the municipal governments (Gemeinde, plural Gemeinden) within it. These correspond to level-3 administrative units in the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS 3), and are roughly equivalent to counties in the United States.

Previously, the similar title Reichskreis (Imperial Circle) referred to groups of states in the Holy Roman Empire. The related term Landeskommissariat was used for similar administrative divisions in some German territories until the 19th century.

Electoral Rhenish Circle

The Electoral Rhenish Circle (German: Kurrheinischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire, created in 1512.

The circle derived its name from four of the seven prince-electors whose lands along the Middle Rhine comprised the vast majority of its territory.

Franconian Circle

The Franconian Circle (German: Fränkischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle established in 1500 in the centre of the Holy Roman Empire. It comprised the eastern part of the former Franconian stem duchy — roughly corresponding with the present-day Bavarian Regierungsbezirke of Upper, Middle and Lower Franconia — while western Rhenish Franconia belonged to the Upper Rhenish Circle. The title of a "Duke of Franconia" was claimed by the Würzburg bishops.

Khwaja Ahsanullah

Nawab Khwaja Ahsanullah (1846–1901), Khan Bahadur KCIE, was the Nawab of Dhaka. He was a renowned Urdu litterateur.

List of states in the Holy Roman Empire

This list of states which were part of the Holy Roman Empire includes any territory ruled by an authority that had been granted imperial immediacy, as well as many other feudal entities such as lordship, sous-fiefs and allodial fiefs.

The Holy Roman Empire was a complex political entity that existed in central Europe for most of the medieval and early modern periods and was generally ruled by a German-speaking Emperor. It should be mentioned that the states that composed the Empire, while enjoying a unique form of territorial authority (called Landeshoheit) that granted them many attributes of sovereignty, were never fully sovereign states as the term is understood today. In the 18th century, the Holy Roman Empire consisted of approximately 1,800 such territories, the majority being tiny estates owned by the families of Imperial Knights. This page does not directly contain the list, but it discusses the format of the various lists, and offers some background to understand the complex organisation of the Holy Roman Empire. The lists themselves can be accessed via the alphabetical navigation box at the top of this page; each letter will lead the reader to a page where states of the Empire which began with that letter are listed. For a more complete history of the empire, see Holy Roman Empire.

Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle

The Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle (German: Niederrheinisch-Westfälischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. It comprised territories of the former Duchy of Lower Lorraine, Frisia and the Westphalian part of the former Duchy of Saxony.

The circle was made up of numerous small states, however the Counts De la Marck were able to collect a significant amount of territories, the United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg from 1521 on. The Empire's largest ecclesiastical territory was held by the Prince-Bishops of Münster.

Lower Saxon Circle

The Lower Saxon Circle (German: Niedersächsischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. It covered much of the territory of the medieval Duchy of Saxony (except for Westphalia), and was originally called the Saxon Circle (German: Sächsischer Kreis) before later being better differentiated from the Upper Saxon Circle by the more specific name.

An unusual aspect of this circle was that, at various times, the kings of Denmark (in Holstein), Great Britain (in Hanover) and Sweden (in Bremen) were all Princes of a number of Imperial States.

Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus (consul 34 BC)

Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus also known as Paullus Aemilius Lepidus (c. 77 BC–after 11 BC) was a Roman Senator.

Paullus was a member of the gens Aemilia. He was a grandson of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Appuleia through their son Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus from his unnamed wife. His paternal uncle Marcus Aemilius Lepidus served as a member of the Second Triumvirate. He served as Consul in 34 BC and Censor in 22.Paullus first married Cornelia (c. 54 BC-16 BC). With Cornelia, Paullus had two sons: Lucius Aemilius Paullus (c. 37 BC-14 AD) the husband of Julia the Younger who served as a consul in 1 AD; Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (c. 30 BC-33 AD), who served as a consul in 6 AD and a daughter, called Aemilia Paulla (c. 22 BC). Aemilia was the wife of Lucius Munatius Plancus (c. 45 BC-after 14 AD) who served as a consul in 13 AD and legate in 14 AD (who was the son of the identically-named Lucius Munatius Plancus), before she later married Publius Memmius Regulus. Paullus was widowed in 16 BC.

In 12 BC Paullus married Claudia Marcella Minor, one of the daughters of consul Gaius Claudius Marcellus Minor and Octavia the Younger, as her maternal uncle was the Roman emperor Augustus. The marriage of Marcella and Paullus linked two honored republican houses and tied them closely to the imperial circle. Before the death of Paullus and no later than 11 BC, Marcella bore him a son called Paullus Aemilius Regulus. Regulus served as a quaestor during the rule of the Roman emperor Tiberius who reigned from 14 AD until 37 AD.


A Reichskrieg ("Imperial War", pl. Reichskriege) was a war fought by the Holy Roman Empire as a whole against an opponent. After the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, a Reichskrieg was a formal state of war that could only be declared by the Imperial Diet.There were two kinds of Reichskrieg with two different legal bases. The first was a Reichsexekutionskrieg, a military action of the empire against one of its own Imperial Estates (Reichstände). This could only be done after one of the empire's two supreme courts, the Imperial Chamber Court or the Imperial Aulic Council, had found the offending estate to be in breach of the peace, and the estate was too powerful to be subdued by the Imperial Circle to which it belonged. The second kind of Reichskrieg was that against another sovereign state that had violated the empire's rights or frontiers. After 1519, the emperors were bound to get the support of the Imperial Electors prior to declaring war on another state. From 1648, they required the approval of the diet for both kinds of war.The only state against which a formal Reichskrieg was ever declared was France. The diet declared war on France in 1689, 1702, 1734, 1793 and 1799. The declaration created a state of war, but it was still necessary for the emperor by a series of orders to begin the decentralised process of forming the Reichsarmee (Imperial Army) out of the Imperial Circles' troops. What each estate owed in both money and men was determined by the Imperial Military Constitution.


Rhen can refer to:

Rhens, a municipality in the district Mayen-Koblenz in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Rhens (Verbandsgemeinde), a collective municipality within Rhens

Upper Rhenish Circle, an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire

Upper Rhenish Master, an artist active ca. 1410-20, possibly in Strasbourg

Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle, an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire

Lower Rhenish Music Festival, annual classical music festival at Pentecost between 1818 and 1958

Rhen Var, a planet in the Star Wars Universe

Battle of Rhen Var, a battle in the Clone Wars (Star Wars)

Rhen's Quest, the first in the commercial Aveyond series of games

Crimson Rhen, the main protagonist of the Shadowbinders comic book series

Swabian Circle

The Circle of Swabia or Swabian Circle (German: Schwäbischer Reichskreis or Schwäbischer Kreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire established in 1500 on the territory of the former German stem-duchy of Swabia. However, it did not include the Habsburg home territories of Swabian Austria, the member states of the Swiss Confederacy nor the lands of the Alsace region west of the Rhine, which belonged to the Upper Rhenish Circle. The Swabian League of 1488, a predecessor organization, disbanded in the course of the Protestant Reformation later in the 16th century.

Upper Rhenish Circle

The Upper Rhenish Circle (German: Oberrheinischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire established in 1500 on the territory of the former Duchy of Upper Lorraine and large parts of Rhenish Franconia including the Swabian Alsace region and the Burgundian duchy of Savoy.

Many of the circle's states west of the Rhine river were annexed by France under King Louis XIV during the 17th century, sealed by the 1678/79 Treaties of Nijmegen.

Upper Saxon Circle

The Upper Saxon Circle (German: Obersächsischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire, created in 1512.

The circle was dominated by the electorate of Saxony (the circle's director) and the electorate of Brandenburg. It further comprised the Saxon Ernestine duchies and Pomerania. The Lusatias that fell to Saxony by the 1635 Peace of Prague were never encircled.

Circles of the Holy Roman Empire after the Imperial Reform
Created in 1500
Created in 1512
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities

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