In the 13th century, the territory of Samogitians, Curonians, Prussians, and Semigallians was in a constant state of war. The offensive and protective wars prevented natural economic and cultural development. Saulė, Semba, Durbė, Karuse, Aizkraukle, Turaida, Klaipeda, and other battles; the Order marauding campaigns into the territories of Samogitians, Curonians, Prussians, and Semigallians; the campaigns and raids of Samogitians, Curonians, and Sambians into the lands already occupied by the Order; and the revolts in the Order-occupied lands occurred almost every year. All that devastated the lands of Curonians, Samogitians, Prussians, and Semigallians, undermined demography, and weakened the economic capacity of Western and Northern Baltic tribes. The advanced armament and war tactics used in the offensive campaigns by the Order forced Curonians and Samogitians to take arms and resist. The structure of the army and the fighting methods were in the process of change, because in the mid-13th century Lithuania emerged as a state which already used conscription, and the nature of the army action was often offensive. Sometimes the Lithuanian historical literature mocks at the armament of Curonians and Samogitians, and their chargers Zemaitukai are considered as horses. That is why the historians who choose never to question a single word in the chronicles by the authors who eulogize the Order sometimes face the following questions: what kinds of armament were used by Curonians and Samogitians and what their battle methods were in the 13th century, when the attacked ones bravely went to fight their conqueror the Order. We will explore those questions in the article by employing the archaeological, historical, and cultural landscape research data.
The crusades of the 13th century in the Baltic region represented a conflict between different social systems: on the one hand, the feudal system of Western Europe, and on the other hand, a social model closer to that of the Viking Age society. In the military conflicts of the early 13th century, the Curonians made use of the tactics and experience developed during the Viking Age. That included swift attacks at sea and a rapid change from fighting at sea to fighting on land, tactics that seriously threatened the crusader forces in the Baltic, including Riga, which was attacked by the Curonians on 13 July 1210.
On the basis of archaeological and historical sources and the accumulated historiographical materials, the article analyzes the data on the wooden castles in the ethnic territory of Samogitia in the 13th c. which survived as mounds to the present time. The information about the said castles is scanty. The mounds best studied in terms of archaeology are those of Daugėliškiai, Šaukštelis, and Vedriai, however, no obvious findings of the 13th c. were found in them. Historical sources mention a nameless castle next to Georgenburg castle, built by the Order in 1259, and a never localized Tviremet castle in the same region. The scantiness of the data on wooden castles in Samogitia in the 13th c. cannot be accounted for by merely a shortage of research.
The article summarizes the data about three participants of the battle of Durbė: Pomesanian Matto, Sambian Sklodo, and a Swedish noble Jonker Karl Ulfsson. Their social setting, life circumstances, and their role in the battle are discussed in a wider context of the history of military practices and behavior codes. The dissemination of information about the perishing of Jonker Karl Ulfsson in historical German and Swedish sources and historiography of different countries is analyzed, as well as the materials about the battle of Durbė in Erikskrönika.
This article discusses the development of relations between Žemaitijan society and societies in neighbouring territories, which formed the thirteenth-century Lithuanian state. The starting point for this discussion is the question of whether we can detect an early negative stance on the part of Žemaitijans towards the Lithuanian dukes. This issue was raised in E. Saviščevas’ 2009 article on Žemaitijan self-rule in the thirteenth-seventeenth centuries, which claims that given the bellicose state of affairs with the Teutonic Order at the end of the thirteenth century a tendency developed among Žemaitijans and their Semigallian and perhaps Skalvian allies to regard Lithuanians as enemies, as well as the Teutonic Order.
The reception of the ideology of the 13th–14th c. Crusades on the Eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, the ideological imperatives of the Holy War, and their reflections in the Chronicle of Peter of Dusburg, one of the most famous chroniclers of the conquest of the Baltic tribes, are analyzed in the article. Even though lately the said Chronicle has been paid great attention to in foreign historiography, in Lithuanian historiography the rhetoric of the Holy War, related to the particular example of the Battle of Durbė, has not been analyzed so far. Moreover, the assessment of the spread of Christian missions in the contexts of the battle of Durbė, as well as its activeness, dynamics, and the relation to the Crusades, have not been analyzed, either.
The article reviews the development stages of the battle of Durbė narrative over the period of the 13th to the early 16th c. in Prussian and Livonian historiographical traditions. Attempts are made to find out the way and the reasons of the changes in the battle of Durbė narrative in different traditions, the impact that caused the changes, and the functions the narrative played in historical works. Major attention is focused on three chronicles: the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle (the 13th c.). The Chronicle of the Prussian Land of Peter of Dusburg (mid-14th c.) and Simon Grunau’s Chronicle (mid-16th c.). The chronicles present three versions of the battle of Durbė story which are related and which, however, differ in the plot, details, and functions. Each version marked three different stages of the narrative development and formed three different traditions of the battle of Durbė narrative, on the basis of which subsequent authors created historical myths of the said battle. Part of the details of the historical myths (and especially those borrowed from Simon Grunau’s version) survived and are employed in contemporary Lithuanian fiction, historical, and educational literature.
The article focuses on a relevant problematic issue: the importance and value of the Middle Ages and their battles for the historical culture and for the consciousness of society of the nationalism era. In order to answer the question – firstly, from the perspective of Lithuanian historiography, historical culture, and the manifestations of the historical memory of the society – we invoke the potential of an interdisciplinary approach (i.e., historiography, literature, and cultural studies). The 19th-20th c. history of the research into and the interpretations of the Lithuanian Medieval battles, including the battle of Durbė, are studied in a wide thematic and problematic context. Taking a historiographical orientation towards the long term (longue durée) structural changes, we make a stop at the history and the position of the Medieval battles in the context of national movements. We also pay attention to the transformations of Lithuanian historiography which occur in the interpretations of the battle of Durbė in the Lithuanian historical culture. The hypothesis of the changes of the images, the importance, and the position of the battle of Durbė battle is formulated on the basis of the materials of historiography, literature studies, and cultural history.