Vytenis as depicted in the Sapieha Genealogy in Kodeń, 1709
|Grand Duke of Lithuania|
Vytenis (Belarusian : Віцень, Vicień; Polish : Witenes) was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from c. 1295 to c. 1316. He became the first of the Gediminid dynasty to rule for a considerable amount of time. In the early 14th century his reputation outshone that of Gediminas, who is regarded by modern historians as one of the greatest Lithuanian rulers. The rule of Vytenis was marked by constant warfare in an effort to consolidate the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with the Ruthenians, Masovians, and the Teutonic Order.
Vytenis is mentioned for the first time in 1292 during his father's invasion of Masovia: an army of 800 men reached as far as Łęczyca.After his father's death, c. 1295, he became Grand Duke. Vytenis was soon involved in succession disputes in Poland, supporting Boleslaus II of Masovia, who was married to a Lithuanian duchess Gaudemunda, and opposing Władysław I of Poland. In Ruthenia, Vytenis managed to recapture lands lost after the assassination of Mindaugas and capture the principalities of Pinsk and Turaŭ.
The crusade against pagan Lithuania and Samogitia intensified and reached a new level in the 1290s as Prussians and other Baltic tribes were conquered by the Teutonic Knights and Livonian Order. During Vytenis's reign a network of defensive castles was established and strengthened along the banks of the Neman and Jūra rivers; the Knights matched this with their own castles on the opposite bank.During this time, the Teutonic Order was attempting to establish a corridor along the Baltic Sea, in Samogitia, to link up with the Livonian Order to the north. During the reign of Vytenis, the Teutonic Knights organized some 20 raids into Samogitia. Vytenis took measures to undermine influence of local Samogitian nobles, as evidenced by an increasing numbers of traitors and refugees. It seems that Gediminas was helping Vytenis to control the nobles, who seriously considered resettling in Prussia as vassals of the Teutonic Knights. The Order also consolidated its control over Semigalia, where Lithuanians had their garrisons since the Battle of Aizkraukle. The Order captured Dynaburg Castle, controlled by Lithuanians since 1281, in 1313.
One of the most celebrated achievements of Vytenis was an alliance with Riga. In 1297 disagreements between the Archbishop of Riga, burghers of Riga, and the Livonian Order grew into an internal war. Vytenis offered help to the citizens of Riga and even made some vague promises to convert to Christianity, to ease religious tensions between the pagan soldiers and Christian residents.Vytenis successfully invaded Livonia, destroyed Karkus castle north of Riga, and defeated the order in the Battle of Turaida, killing Livonian Land Master Bruno and 22 knights. When Livonia was secured, Vytenis organized eleven campaigns into territories of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia in 1298–1313, including one to Brodnica, where entire population was massacred. His cause was helped by the fact that in 1308 the Teutonic Knights conquered Pomerania and started its quarrels with Poland.
A Lithuanian garrison, situated in a "Lithuanian castle" outside the city, guarded Riga until 1313 when the city residents gave it to the Order and sent the pagans away. Friendship with Riga fostered trade and commerce, and helped to consolidate Lithuanian influence in the Daugava basin, where c. 1307 Polatsk, a major trade post, was annexed by Lithuania.Due to close contacts with Riga Vytenis invited Franciscan friars to maintain a Catholic church in Navahrudak for German merchants in 1312. In the field of religion, it seems that Vytenis laid the groundwork for the creation of the Metropolitanate of Lithuania c. 1316. The metropolitanate was a tool in the competition between Vilnius and Moscow for the religious leadership in Ruthenia.
Vytenis died ca. 1315 without an heir. The circumstances surrounding his death are not known. For a long time Russian historians claimed that he was struck by lightning. However, that was a mistake of a Russian scribe: it was an inadequate translation of Teutonic propaganda that Gediminas killed his master Vytenis and usurped his throne.Vytenis is mentioned for the last time in September 1315 during the unsuccessful Siege of Christmemel, the first castle built by the Teutonic Knights on the right bank of the Neman River. Historians know of only one son of Vytenis, Žvelgutis (Swalegote), who possibly died before his father. Such a situation allowed Gediminas, brother of Vytenis, to become the Grand Duke of Lithuania. During his reign the Grand Duchy became a major military and political power in the Eastern Europe.
Jogaila, later Władysław II Jagiełło was the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1377–1434) and then the King of Poland (1386–1434), first alongside his wife Jadwiga until 1399, and then sole King of Poland. He ruled in Lithuania from 1377. Born a pagan, in 1386 he converted to Catholicism and was baptized as Władysław in Kraków, married the young Queen Jadwiga, and was crowned King of Poland as Władysław II Jagiełło. In 1387 he converted Lithuania to Christianity. His own reign in Poland started in 1399, upon the death of Queen Jadwiga, and lasted a further thirty-five years and laid the foundation for the centuries-long Polish–Lithuanian union. He was a member of the Jagiellonian dynasty in Poland that bears his name and was previously also known as the Gediminid dynasty in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The dynasty ruled both states until 1572, and became one of the most influential dynasties in late medieval and early modern Central and Eastern Europe. During his reign, the Polish-Lithuanian state was the largest state in the Christian world.
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state that lasted from the 13th century to 1795, when the territory was partitioned among the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and Austria. The state was founded by the Lithuanians, a polytheistic Baltic tribe from Aukštaitija.
Vytautas, also known as Vytautas the Great from the 15th century onwards, was a ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which chiefly encompassed the Lithuanians and Ruthenians. He was also the Prince of Hrodna (1370–1382), Prince of Lutsk (1387–1389), and the postulated king of the Hussites.
Kęstutis was a ruler of medieval Lithuania. He was the Duke of Trakai and governed the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1342–1382, together with his brother Algirdas, and with his nephew Jogaila. He ruled over the Lithuanians and Ruthenians.
Jaunutis was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from his father Gediminas' death in 1341 until he was deposed by his elder brothers Algirdas and Kęstutis in 1345.
Butvydas or Pukuveras was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1292 to 1295. His influence was strong during his brother Butigeidis's reign. This led some historians to believe, that they were co-rulers, much like the grandsons Algirdas and Kęstutis. During his short reign Butvydas tried to defend the duchy against the Teutonic Knights; he also attacked Masovia, an ally of the knights. He was a direct ancestor of the Gediminids.
Butigeidis was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1285 to 1291. He is the first known and undisputed member of the Gediminids.
Christmemel was a frontier fortress (Ordensburg) of the Teutonic Knights on the banks of the Neman River. It was constructed of wood and earth between April 8 and 22, 1313, by Grand Master Karl von Trier. Christmemel, manned by some 400 men, was to serve as a base for further attacks during the Lithuanian Crusade against pagan Samogitia and Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The Siege of Christmemel was an unsuccessful siege of the Teutonic Knights' castle of Christmemel by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in autumn 1315.
There are 6 surviving transcripts of letters of Gediminas written in 1323–1324 by Grand Duke Gediminas. These letters are one of the first surviving documents from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Since they were sent to the Western Europe, the pope, merchants, and craftspeople, they were written in Latin.
The family of Gediminas is a group of family members of Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania, who interacted in the 14th century. The family included the siblings, children, and grandchildren of the Grand Duke and played the pivotal role in the history of Lithuania for the period as the Lithuanian nobility had not yet acquired its influence. Gediminas was also the forefather of the Gediminid dynasty, which ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1310s or 1280s to 1572.
Skomantas, or Komantas was a powerful duke and pagan priest of the Sudovians/Yotvingians, one of the early Baltic tribes. He was at the height of his power during the 1260s and 1270s.
Duchy of Lithuania was a state-territorial formation of ethnic Lithuanians, that existed from the 13th century until 1413. Most of the time it was a constituent part and a nucleus of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Other alternative names of the territorial formation, used in different periods, were Aukštaitija or Land of Lithuania, Duchy of Vilnius, Lithuania Propria or simply Lithuania.
The Lithuanian Civil War of 1381–1384 was the first struggle for power between the cousins Jogaila, Grand Duke of Lithuania and later King of Poland, and Vytautas the Great. It began after Jogaila signed the Treaty of Dovydiškės with the Teutonic Knights which was aimed against his uncle Kęstutis, father of Vytautas. Kęstutis briefly seized power in the Grand Duchy, but was betrayed by adherents of Jogaila primarily from Vilnius. During negotiations for a truce Kęstutis and Vytautas were arrested and transported to the Kreva Castle. Kęstutis died there a week later but Vytautas managed to escape and then sought an alliance with the Teutonic Knights. Subsequently their joint forces raided Lithuanian lands. Eventually the cousins were reconciled as Jogaila needed internal stability in anticipation of negotiations with the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Kingdom of Poland regarding the possible Christianization of Lithuania. The war did not settle the power struggle; it continued during the next Lithuanian Civil War (1389–1392) which was resolved by the signing of the Ostrów Agreement. After more than ten years of struggle, Vytautas finally became the Grand Duke of Lithuania and ruled the country for thirty-eight years.
The Battle of Turaida or Treiden was fought on June 1, 1298 on the banks of the Gauja River near the Turaida Castle. The Livonian Order was decisively defeated by the residents of Riga allied with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania under command of Vytenis.
The Christianization of Lithuania occurred in 1387, initiated by King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Władysław II Jagiełło and his cousin Vytautas the Great. It signified the official adoption of Christianity by Lithuanians, the last pagan nation in Europe. This event ended one of the most complicated and lengthiest processes of Christianization in European history.
Gediminas was Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1315 or 1316 until his death. He is credited with founding this political entity and expanding its territory which, at the time of his death, spanned the area ranging from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Also seen as one of the most significant individuals in early Lithuanian history, he was responsible for both building Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and establishing a dynasty that later came to rule other European countries such as Poland, Hungary and Bohemia.
The history of Lithuania between 1219 and 1295 concerns the establishment and early history of the first Lithuanian state, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The beginning of the 13th century marks the end of the prehistory of Lithuania. From this point on the history of Lithuania is recorded in chronicles, treaties, and other written documents. In 1219, 21 Lithuanian dukes signed a peace treaty with Galicia–Volhynia. This event is widely accepted as the first proof that the Baltic tribes were uniting and consolidating. Despite continuous warfare with two Christian orders, the Livonian Order and the Teutonic Knights, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was established and gained some control over the lands of Black Ruthenia, Polatsk, Minsk, and other territories east of modern-day Lithuania that had become weak and vulnerable after the collapse of Kievan Rus'.
The Siege of Medvėgalis was a brief siege of Medvėgalis, a Lithuanian fortress in Samogitia, in February 1329 by the Teutonic Order reinforced by many guest crusaders, including King John of Bohemia. The 18,000-strong Teutonic army captured four Lithuanian fortresses and besieged Medvėgalis. The fortress surrendered and as many as 6,000 locals were baptized in the Catholic rite. The campaign, which lasted a little more than a week, was cut short by a Polish attack on Prussia in the Polish–Teutonic War (1326–32). As soon as the Teutonic army returned to Prussia the Lithuanians returned to their pagan practices and beliefs.
The Lithuanian Crusade was a series of campaigns by the Teutonic Order and the Livonian Order, two crusading military orders, to convert the pagan Grand Duchy of Lithuania to Roman Catholicism. The Livonian Order settled in Riga in 1202 and the Teutonic Order arrived to Culmerland in 1230s. They first conquered other neighboring Baltic tribes – Curonians, Semigallians, Latgalians, Selonians, Old Prussians. The first raid against the Lithuanians and Samogitians was in 1208 and the Orders played a key role in Lithuanian politics, but they were not a direct and immediate threat until 1280s. By that time the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was already an established state and could offer organized defense. Thus for the next hundred years the Knights organized annual destructive reise (raids) into the Samogitian and Lithuanian lands but without great success: border regions in Samogitia and Suvalkija became sparsely inhabited wilderness, but the Order gained very little territory. The war between the Teutonic Order and Lithuania was one of the longest wars in the history of Europe.
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