The first written mention in historical sources of the name of Žemaitija (or Samogitia), the west Lithuanian region, is well-known. In 1219, the Hypatian Codex described how Žemaitijan dukes, along with Lithuanian dukes, made peace with Volhynia. Much less is known about the emergence of the name of Žemaitija on ancient maps, despite the fact that old cartography often provides the first records of various geographical, socio-cultural and socio-economic phenomena. The article not only tries to trace the first appearance of the name Samogitia on maps, but also discusses its various forms and transformations, explaining the motives behind choices of particular forms of the name. The author examines nearly all the maps created before the early 19th century as cartographic sources. For the classification of this volume of material, she uses the concept of the three-stage cartographic depiction of Lithuania proposed by Vaclovas Chomskis. More than 200 maps of different scales and representing different areas, including Lithuania, Lithuania and neighbouring countries, Lithuania and Poland, Europe, Prussia, etc, were researched in order to track the use of different names for Žemaitija.
The account of the 1219 treaty between the Lithuanian dukes and Galicia-Volhynia provided by the chronicler of the Ruthenian principality lists briefly several dukes from different areas of what is treated by contemporary historians as the Lithuanian confederation. They include the dukes of Lithuania, Deltuva, Nalšia and Žemaitija, but do not mention representatives of the Curonians, Žemgalians (Semigallians) or Yotvingians. Our knowledge of one of the omitted areas, Žemgala (Semigallia, today southern Latvia and northern Lithuania), is still based on the presumption that its society should have developed according to a more or less similar path as other Baltic societies of that period. The article invites us to reconsider this presumption, focusing on one episode mentioned by Henry of Livonia in his chronicle from the early 13th century. Henry describes how, in 1219, the Žemgalians of the Mežotne (Mesoten) area approached the Bishop of Riga seeking military assistance to defend themselves against the Lithuanians, and, as it became evident during the negotiations, against other Žemgalians. In dealing with this episode, the author attempts to characterise the society of Žemgala, mainly its upper social layer, which could be described considering scarce sources. This leads him to the broader question of whether the development of Žemgalian society was similar to other non-Christian (firstly, Baltic) societies.
The paper presents the first general archaeological data about the Stone Age period in the Tauragė and Šilalė districts, in the south of the historic Žemaitija (Samogitia) area of western Lithuania. Until recently, this area was almost excluded from the general context of Lithuanian and east Baltic Stone Age studies, due to a lack of information. However, new archaeological material in the museums of the Tauragė and Šilalė districts now makes it possible to discuss the region in this period. The archaeological material has been subjected to laboratory testing, and the first results are included in the context of the east Baltic region. In addition, archaeological fieldwork that was carried out along the banks of the rivers and lakes in these districts in 2016 and 2017 provided the first evidence of Stone Age hunter-fisherman-gatherer sites. This material consists of hunting and work tools, and the manufacturing debris from flint and non-flint raw materials, osteological remains, and ground stone and flint axes of various types. The material was investigated by reviewing it from a technological perspective, and by the AMS 14C dating method, while some finds were also studied by micro-wear analysis. The study area falls within the Jūra river basin, which consists not only of smaller tributaries, but also of small lakes, some of which have become overgrown and transformed into peat-bogs over the millennia. The archaeological evidence confirms that the earliest inhabited sites in southern Žemaitija date from the Final Palaeolithic, while the area continued to be settled during the Mesolithic and Neolithic.
The article examines the political relations between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, especially Žemaitija as a constituent part, and Žemgala (Semigallia), from the beginning of the 1279 Žemgalian uprising against the Teutonic Order until the rule of Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania. The author tries to explain why Gediminas used the title of Duke of Žemgala in his letters of 1323, although in other cases, the title of the Lithuanian rulers does not include the name of Žemgala, and neither do other sources describing the territorial structure of the grand duchy mention Žemgala as part of it. Some historians have already argued that Žemgala was joined to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1279. The article re-examines this argument, and tries to validate it. The cooperation of Lithuania (especially Žemaitija) with the Žemgalians during the war of 1279–1290 shows that the integration of Žemgala into the Lithuanian state was in fact its integration into Žemaitija during the war. The author concludes that this integration was not denied by the time Gediminas took power, despite the fact that the Teutonic Order had already initiated a new phase in the invasion of Žemgala. Gediminas used the title of Duke of Žemgala because he actually controlled most of Žemgala. A substantial part of it remained permanently within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
This article deals with Bayerburg Castle, built by the Teutonic Order on the banks of the River Nemunas in historical Žemaitija, and mentioned in 1337–1344. Supported by the Emperor Louis IV (the Bavarian), the Crusaders planned Bayerburg to be the capital of conquered Lithuania. Although their plans were never fulfilled, the construction of the castle and the immediate attack on it were significant events in the Medieval history of Lithuania. The aim of this article is to relocalise Bayerburg Castle. In seeking to determine where the castle was actually built, the author re-examines the Chronicle of Wigand of Marburg and other written sources referring to Bayerburg. He discusses the hypothesis put forward in 2004–2005 that this Teutonic castle should be localised at Plokščiai hill-fort (in the Šakiai district), and re-evaluates the arguments that led to the refutation of the previous interpretation, according to which Bayerburg was at Veliuona (in the Jurbarkas district). The article concludes that the Plokšiai hypothesis is poorly substantiated, and the previous idea that Bayerburg should be localised at Veliuona must be ‘reinstated’.
This article seeks to analyse the presence and activities of Lithuanian grand ducal power along the River Nemunas in the period 1283 to 1410. The war between the Teutonic Order and the Lithuanians is viewed from the point of view of challenge-and-response theory. A detailed analysis of narrative sources has allowed us to distinguish two periods in which Lithuanian grand ducal power actively promoted the introduction of innovations in the Lithuanian art of war. The first period encompasses the last decade of the 13th century and the first decade of the 14th century. In this period, not only was a line of Lithuanian castles put in place along the rivers Nemunas and Jūra, but also what we call the Lithuanian military riverine fleet was created. The period was also likely to have been a time when Lithuanian forces adopted the crossbow. The second period involves the last two decades of the 14th and the early 15th century. In this period, a more active defence of fords across the rivers Nemunas and Neris was undertaken from time to time by Lithuanian troops, by putting up wooden fortifications and employing artillery. The synergy of fortification and artillery was a recipe for Lithuanian troops to counter some of the advantages enjoyed by their Teutonic adversaries on water and on land.
This article surveys the complex issue of the Christianisation of Žemaitija, seeking to illustrate with the aid of Church court sources (supplications to Rome from the end of the 15th century and appeals to the provincial court of appeal in Gniezno), the foundation of churches and altars which took on extra vigour from 1500 onwards until the chaos and destruction caused by the Reformation movements slowed the process of Catholic parish endowment for some time, as the limited amount of boyar disposable income was diverted elsewhere to Protestant foundations. Despite the admittedly restricted network of parish churches, and it is logical to assume that churches were built where the greater concentration of inhabitants lived, it is worth examining the emergence of Catholic practices (piety) – supplications to Rome, the cult of Corpus Christi, indulgences, the popularity of indulgenced fairs, participation in various levels of Church court activity (in Medininkai, Gniezno and Rome), parish fraternities, prevalence of Christian names, the foundation of churches, chapels and altars (with an associated rise in the level of liturgical sophistication demanded by founders, and an increase in the number of Masses being celebrated, and therefore open to attendance, in parish churches). Indeed, by the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, when all of these factors can be seen, Catholicism was sufficiently rooted in Žemaitijan society at large that any threat to its development could arise only from internal discontentment (in other words, so-called reform movements) rather than any old (pagan) practices.