Part of the Ireland Project
Ireland has historically been divided into four provinces: Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster. The Irish word for this territorial division, cúige, literally meaning "fifth part", indicates that there were once five; the fifth province, Meath, was incorporated into Leinster, with parts going to Ulster. The provinces of Ireland serve no administrative or political purposes, but function as historical and cultural entities.
The early Irish literature includes the group of writings called dinnseanchas, the poems of space or landscape. Describing the spiritual and historical significance, as well as the physical geography of the place, collectively the dinnseanchas known as Ard Ruide (Ruide Headland) describe the five fifths or provincial kingdoms of Ireland, which are also closely associated with the literary mythological cycles of Irish heroes and demi-gods.
Connacht in the west is the kingdom of learning, the seat of the greatest and wisest druids and magicians; the men of Connacht are famed for their eloquence, their handsomeness and their ability to pronounce true judgement.
Ulster in the north is the seat of battle valour, of haughtiness, strife, boasting; the men of Ulster are the fiercest warriors of all Ireland, and the queens and goddesses of Ulster are associated with battle and death.
Leinster, the eastern kingdom, is the seat of prosperity, hospitality, the importing of rich foreign wares like silk or wine; the men of Leinster are noble in speech and their women are exceptionally beautiful.
Munster in the south is the kingdom of music and the arts, of harpers, of skilled ficheall players and of skilled horsemen. The fairs of Munster were the greatest in all Ireland.
The last kingdom, Meath, is the kingdom of Kingship, of stewardship, of bounty in government; in Meath lies the Hill of Tara, the traditional seat of the High King of Ireland. The ancient earthwork of Tara is called Rath na Ríthe ('Ringfort of the Kings'). - Ard Ruide (Ruide Headland), Translated from Old Irish, translator unknown. - Celts A History and Guide
Provinces of Ireland [Cúigí na hÉireann]
Total Area - 84,421 km²
Total Population (2011) - 6,241,700