Mieszko I

Summary

Mieszko I (b. 922-945, d. May 25, 992) – ruler of Poland from the Piast dynasty in power since about 960. Father of Boleslaw I the Brave, Svyatoslav-Sigrida, Mieszko, Lambert and Svyatopolk. Brother of Czcibor. On the nook, grandfather of Canute the Great.

Mieszko I is the historical first ruler of the Polans, who is also considered the actual founder of Polish statehood. He continued the policies of his father and grandfather, who, as rulers of a pagan principality located in what is now Greater Poland, subjugated Kujawy and probably East Pomerania and Mazovia through alliances or military force. For most of his reign, he fought battles for Western Pomerania, occupying it up to the Oder River. In the last years of his life, he also entered the war with Bohemia, capturing Silesia and probably Lesser Poland.

Through his marriage in 965 to Dobrawa the Přemyslid and his baptism in 966, Mieszko integrated his state into the Western circle of Christian culture. In addition to his conquests, his internal reforms to expand and improve the state were also of great importance for the future of the Polanian principality.

The surviving sources allow us to claim that Mieszko I was a skilled politician, a talented leader and a charismatic ruler. He conducted skillful diplomatic activities, concluding an alliance first with Bohemia and then with Sweden and the Empire. In foreign policy, he was guided primarily by raison d’etat, making deals even with his earlier enemies. To his sons he left a state with a much higher position in Europe and at least a doubled territory.

In the past, the ruler was also described using the erroneously reconstructed name “Mieczyslaw,” and the etymology of the name “Mieszko” is still not clearly explained.

There is a lack of any reliable source information on Mieszko I from the period before he assumed power. Only the so-called Lesser Poland Yearbook gives the date of his birth as 920 or 931 (depending on the manuscript version), but researchers do not consider it a reliable source. Various medievalists, on the basis of their own inquiries, have set the date of the prince’s birth at between 922 and 945, with the prince’s activity in the final years of his life would dictate that his birth be placed closer to the latter date.

The earliest historical record of Mieszko’s name and domain dates back to 965 and 966. Its author was a Jewish traveler from Tortosa, Spain, Ibrahim ibn Jacob, participating in the Caliph of Cordoba’s envoy to Otto the Great. The Jewish diplomat, who visited Prague, ruled at the time by King Farag, ruler of Bohemia and Cracow, calls Mieszko (Msk) the king of the north. Mieszko’s name was mentioned in the 10th century in five independent sources (Widukind, the Lives of St. Udalric of Augsburg, two obituary notes and Dagome iudex), and the early 11th century also in Thietmar, Bruno of Querfurt and the Passion of St. Adalbert. The aforementioned Dagome iudex document is the basis for the name discussion. The Christian name of the ruler given at the baptism is not known, nor is the place where the baptism was to take place (Lednica, Prague or Regensburg). There is a hypothesis according to which Mieszko was to have called himself the Christian Dagobert, which name was either distorted in Dagome iudex when copied or combined with Mieszko’s name (Dagome = Dagobert+Mesco), as two-part names were not uncommon at the time.

There are also doubts related to the name “Mieszko”. In sources it was recorded in various forms, e.g. Mieszk, Mieszka, Misika, Mieszek, Mysko. Until modern times, the form Mieszko survived, similar to the Latinized form Mesco used by Gall Anonim and authors of the oldest Polish annuals.

Gerhard of Augsburg, in his hagiography Vita sancti Uodalrici (“Life of St. Udalric”), c. 983-993, writes of Mieszko as dux Wandalorum, Misico nomine (“prince of the Vandals, named Mieszko”).

The name of Mieszko has been attempted to be interpreted through so-called folk etymology since the Middle Ages. According to Wincenty Kadlubek

The author of the later Chronicle of Greater Poland proposed a similar translation:

This theme was further developed by John Dlugosz, writing about the young prince’s shoeing:

Mieszko’s name was also attempted to be interpreted in other ways, searching for the meaning behind it. It is possible that it meant bear (the Old French verb “mżeć” meant “to have eyes closed”).

The name of the prince is sometimes considered a diminutive, since many rulers of Poland bore two-part names (e.g. Siemowit, Siemomysl, Kazimierz). Already Jan Długosz introduced the form “Mieczysław” derived from the sword. Later theories take into account such names as Mścisław, Miesław or Miecisław.

Between the two world wars, German historiography raised the hypothesis that Mieszko bore the name Dagone, derived from the Scandinavian Dagr. Thus, he was supposed to be a Viking who took over the authority in the Polanian state. This hypothesis refers to the fact of the creation of several states in early medieval Europe, including Kievan Rus, by the Normans (Varangians), as well as the Norman theory of Karol Szajnocha in 1858. However, it did not have sufficient basis and soon fell by natural death along with the system that bred it. Archaeologist Zdzislaw Skrok has returned to this thesis. The Scandinavian name of the prince would also have been Björn, as would the deslaved version Mieszko meaning bear.

Some Polish historians also now claim that Mieszko I was a Wareg, and that the Polish state was established as a result of the Norman invasion from the north. According to some authors, there is no doubt that the Normans of Denmark, Sweden and Russia, contributed significantly to the creation of the state of Siemomysl, Mieszko and Boleslaw Chrobry, regardless of the origin of the Piasts, and this is to be evidenced both by historical records and archaeological discoveries in Poland in the 20th century.

There are also theories that Mieszko I was a Varangian and

In his chronicle, Gall Anonim states that Mieszko was blind until the age of seven. The chronicler himself explained the event as follows:

The translation was a clear reference to the prince’s baptism:

The event described is a typical medieval allegory and has no value as a historical source. Instead, the description was used and expanded upon by most later Polish chroniclers.

Mieszko took the ducal throne after his father’s death in 950-960, probably closer to the end date. Due to the lack of sources, it is impossible to determine exactly what lands he inherited from his father. Certainly, they included the territories inhabited by the Polans and Goplans, as well as the Sieradz-Lleczyn land. It is possible that the lands of the Mazovians also belonged to the state. The new ruler faced the task of integrating a rather vast, ethnically and culturally heterogeneous territory. Although the inhabitants of the territories controlled by Mieszko mostly spoke the same language, had similar beliefs and achieved a similar degree of economic and civilizational development, the basic form of social ties linking them was tribal structures. It can be thought that the mighty who cooperated with the prince were the first to feel supra-tribal unity. They cared about unifying the country because of the possibility of expanding their influence.

The Jewish traveler Ibrahim ibn Jacob was the first to mention the Polanian prince. He probably obtained information about him in 966, when he was at the court of Emperor Otto I. He portrayed Mieszko as a prince ruling over a vast area, with a well-organized team. More precise are the records of Mieszko’s contemporary Widukind of Korbea and Thietmar, the bishop of Merseburg who formed half a century later.

The beginning of the reign

As Mieszko took power, the pagan Polanian state began to expand in new directions. Perhaps in the first years of his reign, if not already accomplished by his father or grandfather, Mieszko conquered Mazovia. The capture of East and Central Pomerania probably also fell in the early 60s. The prince’s interest then focused primarily on the areas along the Oder River, where he soon subjugated some of the Swabian tribes. As Widukind of Korbei wrote, Mieszko had under his rule a tribe called the Licicaviki, who are commonly identified as the Swabian Lubushans. After conquering them, the Polanian prince entered the German sphere of influence.

At the time, the German margraves pursued an expansive policy into areas inhabited by the Swabian Slavs, whom they forcibly Christianized. In 963, Margrave Gero conquered the territories occupied by the Lusatian and Slupian tribes, in effect coming into direct contact with the Polanian state. At the same time (around 960) Mieszko I’s expansion into the territories of the Wolinians and the Vlachs began. The state of war with them was attested by Ibrahim ibn Jacob. According to him, Mieszko was at war with the Weltaba tribe, commonly identified with the Vielets. The self-proclaimed leader of the Wielets, Wichman, defeated the Polans twice, and also killed Mieszko’s brother, unknown by name, around 963. The Oder estuary was also of interest to the German margraves. A threat to the young Polanian state was additionally posed by the Bohemians, who were allied with the Wielets and owned Silesia and Malopolska at the time.

Geron battles and tribute

Problems of interpretation arise from a passage in Thietmar’s chronicle in which the latter reports on Margrave Geron’s attack on the Slavic lands, as a result of which he subjected Lusatia and Selpuli (the country of the Slavs) to the Emperor’s authority, as well as Mieszko and his subjects. According to most historians today, Thietmar made a mistake in summarizing Vidukind’s chronicle and placed Geron’s invasion in the place of the battles between the Polanian prince and Wichman. This is indicated by other sources, as well as the absence of any mention of the conquest of the Polanian state and its equalization with the position of the Swabian peoples. Defenders of the opposite theory assume that Geron actually carried out a successful invasion, as a result of which Mieszko was forced to pay tribute and accept baptism through the German Church. This theory presents the introduction of Christianity as a result of the war, but such a thesis is again not supported by German sources.

The tribute is a separate issue, since Mieszko, according to a later passage in Thietmar’s chronicle, actually paid it from lands as far as the Warta River. It is fairly widely assumed that Mieszko himself decided to pay the tribute to avoid an invasion similar to that of the Lusatian lands. This was thought to have happened in 965 or, at the latest, in 966. It is likely that the tribute applied only to the Lubushan lands, which were in the German sphere of influence. This understanding of the tribute issue explains why, as early as 967, Mieszko is referred to in Saxon sources as an ally of the emperor (Latin: amicus imperatoris).

Baptism of Poland

It is likely that in 964 Mieszko began negotiations with Boleslav I the Hostile, the ruler of Bohemia. As a result, in 965 Mieszko concluded a marriage with Boleslav’s daughter Dobrawa Przemyślidka, also known as Dabrowka. The initiative for the alliance probably came from the Polanian prince. It is estimated that the official marriage took place in February 965.

The next step for the Polanian ruler was to be baptized. There are various hypotheses about this event. It is most often assumed that it was a political decision, intended to bring Mieszko closer to the Bohemians and facilitate activities in the Polabian region. At the same time, baptism postponed the possibility of a future attack by the German margraves and forced Christianization. An additional reason may also have been the Polanian prince’s desire to remove the “old” priestly layer blocking his centralization from participating in ruling the state.

A different hypothesis is related to the aforementioned assumption of the veracity of Geron’s invasion of Poland. According to it, it was the margrave’s attack that forced Christianization, which was to be an act of subjugation to the emperor, carried out without the mediation of the Pope.

Still other motives are given by the chronicle of Gallus Anonymus, whose author exposes the role of Dobrawa in convincing Mieszko to change his religion:

Similarly, the act of baptism is presented by Bishop Thietmar. There are no other reasons or sources to accept or deny Dobrava’s influence on the prince, but it should be remembered that a similar convention was common in chronicling of the period, and the wives of rulers were often attributed to such actions.

It is generally accepted that Mieszko’s baptism took place in 966. The place of baptism is unknown; it could have been any of the cities of the Empire, such as Regensburg, but also Poznań, Ostrów Lednicki (baptismal bowls from the 60s of the 10th century have been discovered in these two places) or Gniezno. The supposition that the baptism was received at the hands of the Czechs to avoid the dependence of Mieszko’s principality on the German Reich is incorrect, since the Czechs did not have their own ecclesiastical organization until 973. At the time of Mieszko’s baptism, the diocese in force for them was, as far as possible, the German Regensburg, which depended on imperial authority. Hence, it is commonly inferred that Mieszko was baptized by the so-called “Prague-Ratisbon way. Regensburg was the starting point of the Christianization mission, while Prague was the intermediary in its implementation. Such a judgment does not exclude the fact of the adoption of the Bohemian ecclesiastical vocabulary at that time, which may have already formed and been in secular use by then. Such words as: “baptism,” “sermon,” “trowel,” “church,” “apostle,” “bishop” or “confirmation” appeared in Polish through the Czech language. It is likely that they were “brought” with them by church dignitaries who came to Poland together with Dobrava. Perhaps among them was the first Polish bishop – Jordan.

Consequences of baptism and the process of Christianization

By accepting baptism, Mieszko incorporated the Polanian state permanently into Christian Europe of the Western Rite and became a partner for the rulers there. The Marches of the German Reich, nor any other Christian country, could henceforth attack his state under the pretext of Christianization.

Baptism also began the influx of Latin culture into Poland. The first educated and literate advisors arrived at court, and the establishment of a church organization began. In 968, a missionary bishopric of the Latin rite was established in Poznan, directly subordinate to Rome with Bishop Jordan at its head. The existence of this institution emphasized the separateness and independence of the Polanian state. A manifestation of the process of Christianization of the Polish lands was the construction of churches. They were established in Poznan, Gniezno and Ostrów Lednicki. Smaller towns probably also had their own churches.

Christianization also led to political changes. The structures created were independent of the komes and limited their possible arbitrariness. The clerics who came to the country also contributed to the development of education and culture. Being the only people who could read and write, they improved the system of administration and diplomacy in the state. Toward the end of his reign, the prince began to pay a tribute to the papacy – the sacrilege (around 990).

However, the conversion of pagans in the Polish lands was a long process and did not end during Mieszko’s reign. Examples from neighboring countries indicate that the prince may have had to suppress the revolts of the population, and especially fight against the old priestly layer that had been removed from power. The people, especially in the villages, cultivated old Slavic beliefs and customs.

Conquest of Pomerania

After normalizing relations with the Empire and Bohemia, Mieszko returned to his plans to conquer Pomerania. In 967, with the help of Bohemian reinforcements in the strength of two hordes of cavalry, Mieszko was victorious in a decisive battle with the Wolinians, thus subjugating the Oder estuary. The German Grafs did not oppose these actions, and perhaps even supported them; the death of the rebel Wichman probably pleased them. Also noteworthy is a fact illustrating Mieszko’s position among the German lords. The chronicler Widukind of Korbei reported that the dying Wichman asked Mieszko to hand over his weapons to Emperor Otto I. Thus, Mieszko a year after his baptism was already considered worthy of being entrusted with the affairs of the imperial family (Wichman was a relative of the emperor).

How long and with what success Mieszko’s struggle for Western Pomerania lasted remains a mystery. The later clashes of Boleslaw the Wry-mouthed in the region allow us to assume that the conquest was not easy, and may not even have been fully successful. In one version of the Legend of St. Adalbert, information is given that Mieszko gave his daughter as his wife to a Pomeranian prince, who had previously been washed in Poland with the water of baptism of his own accord. The described account, as well as the ease with which Pomerania fell away from Poland during the reign of Boleslaw the Brave, suggests that the region was not incorporated into the state, but only homaged. This is also indirectly evidenced by a passage in the introduction to the first book of Gall Anonim’s Chronicle devoted to the Pomeranians:

Fights with Hodon

After conquering the Riverside lands and building a stronghold in Santok around 970, expansion continued westward. Mieszko’s conquest of the Oder River areas did not end the fighting in the area. In 972 there was an attack by the Saxon Margrave of the Eastern March Hodon on the lands of the Polanian state. According to the chronicle of Thietmar, this attack was an arbitrary action against the will of the emperor:

There are various hypotheses about the motives for the invasion. Perhaps Hodon wished to stop the expansion of Mieszko’s state. The theory of protecting a sphere of influence, which Hodon counted the Wolinian state, threatened by Mieszko, as probable. It is also presumed that it was the Wolinians themselves who called on the Lusatian margrave for help.

Hodon invaded the Polanian lands and clashed twice with Polish forces on June 24, 972 at Cidini, commonly identified with Cedynia. The margrave defeated Mieszko the first time; only the prince’s brother Czcibor defeated the Germans in the second clash, causing great losses in their ranks. It is believed that Mieszko may have used a deliberate retreat maneuver and attacked the flank of the enemy troops moving in pursuit. After this battle, the Polish ruler was summoned, along with Hodon, before the Emperor at a convention in Kwedlinburg in 973. The emperor’s judgment is unknown; what is certain is that the sentence was not carried out, as the German ruler died a few weeks after the convention. It is presumed to have been unfavorable to the Polish ruler. One source says that Mieszko did not come to Kwedlinburg. Instead, compelled by the threat, he sent his son Boleslaw as a hostage.

The standoff with Hodon was a strange and surprising event, as according to the German chronicler Thietmar, Mieszko respected him greatly. As Thietmar wrote:

Acquisitions in the East

According to archaeological research, the 70s of the 10th century saw the subjugation of Sandomierz land, probably belonging to a tribe unknown from written sources, settled between the Vistula, Mazovians and Lędzians, and the Lędzian-inhabited Przemyśl land (often referred to as Czerwieńskie Grody) by the Polan state.

Due to sparse source corroboration, these conjectures remain clearly unresolved. There are two concepts concerning the present issue:

Supporters of the first emphasize that the Sandomierz land, Lublin and Czerwienskie Grody were included in the Piast dominion in the 1570s as a commercially valuable territory and perhaps a launching point for a future attack on Bohemian Malopolska. Its central hub was to be Sandomierz, while Czerwieńskie Grody itself, Przemyśl and Chelm served as border defense points.

Proponents of the opposite concept suggest that the Chernivtsi Grody actually belonged to the Bohemian state, which was supposed to reach the Bug and Styr rivers with its borders during this period. The problem of clear-cut clarification stems from the fact that in the Ruthenian literature of the period “Lachs” were referred to as all the subjects of the Piasts, as well as the Lachian tribe itself. The conquest of the Sandomierz land is also not a certain fact. Perhaps this territory was annexed to Poland later, along with the Vistula state.

Support for German opposition and war against the empire

Based on the supposition of an unfavorable judgment for Mieszko in 973, his joining the German opposition, which, after the death of Otto I, put forward the Bavarian prince Henry the Quarrelsome to the imperial throne. Bohemian prince Boleslav II the Pious, brother of Dobrawa, also joined the opposition. In addition to the concept of revenge for the judgment, it is believed that Mieszko supported this action to change the status of his cooperation with the Germans; he wanted to achieve something more. The participation of the Polanian prince in the conspiracy against Otto is mentioned as the only source under 974 in the yearbooks of the Altaich monastery. The opposition supported by the Bavarian prince lost, and Emperor Otto II regained full power. Soon after, the emperor carried out a reprisal against Bohemia, forcing the country’s prince into submission in 978.

During the same period, specifically in 977, Mieszko’s first wife, Dobrawa, died. Initially, this event caused no apparent repercussions, and the Polanian prince remained in alliance with the Bohemians.

As a result, Otto II was also to invade Mieszko’s country in 979. A reference to this is found in the Acts of the Cambrian Bishops of the 1140s. The course and results of the expedition are unknown, but it is assumed that the emperor was the losing party. Due to bad weather, the German ruler returned to the borderlands of Thuringia and Saxony as early as December. Due to the scarcity of sources, it is uncertain whether the attack actually took place and whether it involved Poland. The Acts of History only states that it was an expedition “against the Slavs.” The thesis of Otto’s invasion is supported by archaeological discoveries. In the last quarter of the 10th century there was a radical expansion of the fortified towns of Gniezno and Ostrów Lednicki, which could have been connected precisely with the Polish-German war. There are even speculations based on the length of the expedition that it may have reached as far as Poznań.

The Polish-German settlement was probably made in the spring or summer of 980, because in November of that year Otto left his country for Italy. It is believed that it was at this time that Mieszko married Oda Dytrykovna, daughter of the Margrave of the Northern March Dytryk (Theodoric). The chronicler Thietmar described the event as follows:

Although Thietmar does not mention a word about the alleged war, the information about restoring consent, acting for the good of the homeland and releasing captives indicates that it did indeed occur.

The wedding with Oda had a significant impact on the position and prestige of Mieszko, who entered the world of Saxon aristocracy through the union. He consorted with Margrave Theodoric, and thus gained an ally in one of the most influential politicians of the Reich. In addition, thanks to the margrave’s distant affinity with the emperor, he entered a group associated with the ruling house.

Polish-Swedish colligations and war with Denmark

It is likely that in the early 1080s Mieszko formed an alliance with Sweden directed against the Danes. It was sealed by the marriage of Mieszko’s daughter Swietoslava to King Eric of Sweden. The aftermath of the treaty is given in an account by Adam of Bremen, which is not entirely reliable, but comes directly from Danish court tradition. In this text, probably as a result of a mistake, the name of his son was given in Mieszko’s place:

Mieszko decided to make a deal with the Swedes probably to defend his influence in Pomerania against the Danish king Harald Bluetooth and his son Swen Forkbeard. Perhaps these rulers acted in alliance with the Wolinians. The Danes were defeated around 991, and their ruler was exiled. The dynastic arrangement probably influenced the equipment and composition of Mieszko I’s ducal squad. Perhaps it was then that the Waregs, whose presence is indicated by archaeological excavations near Poznan, were recruited into the prince’s troops.

Participation in the Reich’s civil war

In 982 Otto II suffered defeat in a battle with the Saracens in Italy. Due to this weakening of imperial power, a great uprising broke out in Swabia in 983. German power in the area ceased to exist, and the Swabian Slavs began to threaten the Reich. This was compounded by the death of Otto II in that year. Eventually, the Swabian Slavs (the Wielets and Obodrzyce) freed themselves from German rule for two centuries.

The emperor left behind a minor heir, Otto III, for whose custody Henry the Quarrelsome claimed. The situation of 973 repeated itself: Mieszko and the Duke of Bohemia sided with the Quarrelsome. This fact is attested to in Thietmar’s chronicle:

In 984 the Bohemians occupied Meissen, while Henry the Quarrelsome gave up the royal crown in the same year.

The subsequent course of the struggle and the role Mieszko played in it are unclear due to scarce and mutually contradictory source materials. It is likely that in 985 the prince abandoned his former ally and went over to the side of Otto III. It is presumed that he was prompted to do so by the uprising in Polabia, which threatened Polish interests. This was a common Polish-German problem, while remaining outside the sphere of Czech interest. According to the Hildesheim Annals, as early as 985 Mieszko came to the aid of Saxon troops fighting the Slavs, presumably the Polabians.

A year later in Kwedlinburg, the Polanian prince was to meet the emperor in person, as mentioned in the record of the Hersfeld Annals:

Other yearbooks and Thietmar’s chronicle state more clearly that the gift offered by Mieszko was a camel. The meeting was followed by closer German-Polish ties, and Mieszko himself joined Otto’s expedition to the land of the Slavs, which together they dragged all over (…) with fire and great depopulation. It is not clear which Slavic territory is being referred to. It is possible that it was about another expedition against the Swabians. Numerous indications also allow us to claim that it was an expedition against Bohemia – the first in which Mieszko took part. It is possible that it was then that the Polanian prince expanded his state into Malopolska.

Doubts about the reality of the expedition arise primarily from the contents of Thietmar’s chronicle, which gives information that was unrealistic in the political situation of the time, that the emperor had made a settlement with Bohemian prince Boleslav. This account is not confirmed by any other surviving sources from the period.

Another record of unresolved significance is the information that Mieszko submitted to the king. Most historians are of the opinion that this was merely a recognition of Otto’s royal authority. Some suggest that it may have been about real fief dependence.

Written down in 983-993 by Gerhard of Augsburg, the “Life of St. Udalric” (Vita Sancti Uodalrici) contains a legend according to which Mieszko was wounded by a poisoned arrow and avoided death only thanks to the help of the Augsburg bishop Udalric (Ulric).

War with the Czechs. Acquisition of Silesia and Lesser Poland

After the meeting at Kwedlinburg in 986, Mieszko eventually moved into the camp of the minor German king Otto III and his mother, Empress Theophanes, then regent. Mieszko accompanied the German king on two military expeditions against the Viets and Bohemians. Friendly relations between the Polanian state and Bohemia finally broke down. The Saxon-Czech truce did not stop the Polish-Czech war, which broke out in 990, or perhaps earlier. As a result of the conflict, the Polanian state conquered Silesia in 990. The occupation of Silesia may also have taken place around 985, since the establishment of the Piast strongholds of Wroclaw, Glogow and Opole dates to that year, and the Polish-Czech alliance was also broken in that year.

The question of Lesser Poland remains unresolved. It is possible that Mieszko conquered it before 990, as indicated by the ambiguous record of Thietmar’s chronicle, which speaks of the country being taken from Boleslaw II by a Polanian prince. In light of this theory, the conquest of Lesser Poland may have been the cause, or rather the first stage, of the war. Many historians suggest that Bohemian authority over Lesser Poland was only nominal and may have been limited to indirect control over Cracow and perhaps other important towns. This theory is based, among other things, on the lack of archaeological discoveries indicating a broader expansion of fortifications or other state investments during the pre-Piast period. Such a situation would explain the ease of Mieszko’s occupation of Malopolska. The outposts for his attack on it were probably the Sandomierz land and the castle complex near Kalisz.

Lesser Poland was to become a district of Mieszko’s eldest son, Boleslaw the Brave, after its acquisition, as again indirectly indicated by Thietmar’s chronicle.

Some historians, based on the chronicle of Kosmas, written more than a century later, assume that the conquest of the lands of the former Vistula state did not occur until after Mieszko’s death, specifically in 999. There is also a theory that during the described period in Lesser Poland was ruled by the son of Mieszko, Boleslaw the Brave, by Bohemian grant.

Dagome iudex

Toward the end of his life (around 991) Mieszko, together with his wife and sons from his second marriage, issued a document called Dagome iudex, in which he placed his state under the protection of the Pope and described its borders. This document is preserved only in regeist, which makes it difficult to analyze and interpret. There are two main hypotheses about why Dagome iudex was issued:

Thanks to Dagome iudex, the borders of the Polish state at the end of Mieszko’s reign can be roughly established. They were to run from the “long sea” (Baltic Sea), along the borders of Prussia, Ruthenia, Cracow (i.e. Lesser Poland), Moravia and Milska, up to the Oder River and along it to the state of

The last years of the reign

In the last years of his reign, Mieszko remained faithful to his alliance with the empire. In 991 he arrived at the Kwedlinburg congress, where he exchanged the customary gifts with Otto III and Empress Theophano. In the same year, he took part in a joint expedition with Otto on the Brenna.

Death and the division of the state

Mieszko died on May 25, 992, and the sources give no reason to believe that the death occurred from other than natural causes. In the words of Bishop Thietmar, he died “aged with age and fever, agonized.”

He was probably buried in Poznan Cathedral. In fact, the ashes of Poland’s first historical ruler were never found and it is not known where he rested. In 1836-1837, a tomb was erected for Mieszko and his successor in the Golden Chapel located in Poznan Cathedral, where the remains found in the destroyed 14th century tomb of Bolesław Chrobry were placed.

In 2010 Przemyslaw Urbańczyk put forward the hypothesis that Mieszko I was not buried in the cathedral, but in a small church near the palatium, together with his wife Dobrawa, i.e. in the basement of today’s Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The tomb, discovered in the 1950s in the cathedral, was attributed to Mieszko I on the basis of Dlugosz’s chronicle and similarities to the burials of emperors. The only trace is a gabbro tile, which, according to Urbańczyk, is not a tomb lining, but a fragment of a portable tablet altar, indicating the burial of a cleric rather than a lay person. According to this hypothesis, in the tomb believed to be the burial place of Mieszko I rests Bishop Jordan. During archaeological investigations, a large pit, most likely a remnant of the tomb, was found in the palace’s Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Also in favor of this burial site is the fact that the same invocation was borne by temples in Aachen, where Emperor Charlemagne was buried in 814, and in Prague, where Prince Spitygniew, who died in 915, was buried. Doubts about the correct identification of the structures in the cathedral were raised earlier by Antoni Gąsiorowski, among others.

According to Thietmar’s account, Mieszko divided his state among several princes. These were probably his sons Boleslaw I the Brave, Mieszko and Lambert.

The settlement structure of Mieszko I’s state consisted of o-poles, which were already known in the tribal era. “O-field” meant a neighborhood-local community living around a strip of cultivated fields and pastures that formed the basis of their livelihood. The most numerous social group in the state of Mieszko I were the free peasants (kmiets), cultivating their own land. It fell on them to maintain the state – they had to give part of the harvest as tribute. A characteristic element of Mieszko I’s state was the existence of so-called servant villages, i.e. settlements specializing in the production of specific products. Amber, furs, salt (mined in Kuyavia and near Kolobrzeg) were exported from the country via trade routes, while cloth, crafts, tools and ornaments were imported.

The primary instrument of Mieszko I’s power was the prince’s troop, which constituted the main military force. Thanks to a system of tributes and servants and money from the Slavic slave trade, a troop of about 3,000 warriors was formed. Among them were the Varangians, as indicated by archaeological excavations, including at Ostrów Lednicki near Poznań, Grzybów, Giecz, Kaldus near Chelmno, and Lutomiersk near Łódź. Scandinavian warriors, as experienced in the crafts of war and well-equipped, were most likely part of elite mounted squad troops, while at the same time constituting, as a foreign element, a mainstay in the organization of the state. The squadron allowed attacking and subjugating neighboring weaker tribes to the ruler. Fear of the military power of invaders played a very important, if not crucial, role in building the state organism. The first Piasts, when conquering new territories, burned strongholds and erected new centers in their place, subordinate to them. Archaeological research shows that this practice was abandoned only at the end of the reign of Mieszko I, when he had already consolidated his position.

Mieszko was a skillful politician. He understood his inferior position to Western rulers and was able to relate to them with far-reaching respect. This is exemplified by Widukind’s aforementioned account of his attitude toward Hodon, as well as Thietmar’s record comparing Mieszko and his son. The chronicler wrote of Boleslaw the Brave that.

Mieszko was probably aware that Christian monarchs, despite his acceptance of baptism, still considered him inferior. The very adoption of the Christian religion indicates the ability to introduce radical, far-sighted reforms and, at the same time, the ability to convince the public to accept them, i.e. the high charisma of the prince’s person.

Mieszko was also characterized by a high degree of diplomatic and political flexibility, which allowed him to manoeuvre between the Roman Emperor and the opposition of Henry the Quarrelsome. Abandoning his alliance with Bohemia and entering into a treaty with the Saxons indicates that the prince put the interests of the state first, rather than personal opinions (he did not seek revenge for Hodon’s earlier invasion). The ruler’s diplomatic skills are evidenced by numerous, often exotic deals – for example, with Sweden or Hungary (the marriage of Boleslaw the Brave).

Mieszko must also have been an excellent military commander, as indicated by his military successes – both offensive and defensive. The example of the battle of Cedynia allows us to assume that the Polanian prince was no stranger to the ability to use deception. Probably Mieszko also possessed high organizational skills allowing him to form a large team, expand his strongholds and develop a system of tribute and service.

According to an account by Anonymus called Gall, before his marriage to Dobrava Mieszko had 7 wives, which he eventually had to repudiate after his baptism. It is not known how many children he had from these unions.

Even before his baptism, Mieszko entered into marriage with Dobrawa. With her he had a son, Boleslav I the Brave, and a daughter, Swietoslava, the future wife of Sweyn Vidlobrod and mother of Canute the Great. There is a hypothesis that he had another daughter married to a Pomeranian prince (this would have been the daughter of one of his pagan wives or Dobrawa).

With his second wife, Oda Dytrykówna, daughter of Dytryk (Theodoric), margrave of the Northern March, he had three sons, Mieszko, Swietopek and Lambert. Power in the country was eventually assumed by the eldest son Boleslaw, while his half-brothers and stepmother were exiled.

Literature

The figure of Mieszko I is immortalized in the 1876 two-volume historical novel Lubonie: A Novel from the 10th Century by Jozef Ignacy Kraszewski, Wiktor Czajewski’s 1906 novel Mieszko, Karol Bunsch’s 1945 two-volume novel

In 1981, the comic book Mieszko I and Bolesław Chrobry was created in the series The Origins of the Polish State by Mirosław Kurzawa and Barbara Seidler. Zbigniew Nienacki placed the character of Mieszko I in the novel I, Dago the Ruler – the third volume of the Dagome iudex trilogy published in 1989-1990.

In 1974 there was a Polish historical film The Nest directed by Jan Rybkowski, in which Mieszko I was played by Wojciech Pszoniak. Zdzislaw Cozac, meanwhile, took a closer look at the achievements of Mieszko I in the feature documentary The Road to the Kingdom (2018), part of the Mysteries of Poland’s Beginnings series.

Money signs

The image of Mieszko I was placed on the following money signs in post-war Poland:

Monuments

Mieszko I is commemorated by monuments:

Sources

  1. Mieszko I
  2. Mieszko I
  3. a b c Postać o niepewnej historyczności.
  4. ^ Historical dictionary of Poland. Greenwood Publishing Group. 1996. ISBN 978-0-313-26007-0.
  5. ^ a b Prinke, Rafał T. “Świętosława, Sygryda, Gunhilda. Tożsamość córki Mieszka I i jej skandynawskie związki [Świętosława, Sygryda, Gunhilda. The identity of Mieszko I’s daughter and her Scandinavian relationships”. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ ca. 922 (O. Balzer), between 930–932 (A.F. Grabski), ca. 935 (K. Jasiński), between 940–945 (S. Kętrzyński).
  7. ^ https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adelajda_Bia%C5%82a_Knegini  Lipsește sau este vid: |title= (ajutor)
  8. ^ Witold Chrzanowski: Kronika Słowian: Polanie. 2006. s. 238; Fragments of the history of Western Slavs. t.1–3; Gerard Labuda. Poznańskie Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk. 2003
  9. Aussprache: Mje-schko.
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