The Birth of a Stereotype

Polish Rulers and their Country in German Writings c. 1000 A.D.


In early Medieval Western Europe intellectuals were used to indicate the external location of Slavic countries, as though outside civilization, with the term ‘the North’. The problem did not only concern nomenclature. The stereotype associated with ‘the North’ pointed at the obvious cold weather, but also the primeval nature of the land and people. This study shows the detailed image of Poland created by German authors in the earliest period of existence of the Piast state (963-1034). An important aim of this work was also to identify the wider context of written opinions. Another purpose was to gather information illustrating actions taken by the Polish rulers aimed at creating an image of themselves as civilized men and true Christians.
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Biographical Note

Andrzej Pleszczyński, Ph.D (2008) in History, M. Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland, is Professor of Medieval History at this university. He has published extensively on Polish-German-Czech relations in the Middle Ages and on the medieval ideology of power.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements ... ix
List of Abbreviations ... xi

Introduction ... 1

Chapter One Appearance of the Piast State within Eyeshot of the Elites in the Liudolfings’ Empire ... 9
1.1. Mieszko as ‘King of the North’—rex barbarorum ... 10
1.1.1. Widukind on the Events of 963 ... 11
1.1.2. The So-called Account by Ibrahim ibn Yaqub of the Country of Mieszko ... 14
1.1.3. Archetype of the ‘Savage Slav’—a Dweller of the North ... 24
1.1.4. Sclavus—captivus, servus ... 36
1.2. Amicus imperatoris ... 41
1.2.1. Account of a Skirmish of Mieszko I with the Veleti and Wichman in 967 ... 41
1.2.2. Meaning of the Term ‘Amicitia’ in the Chronicle by Widukind ... 51
1.2.3. Mieszko I and the Empire in the Views of Widukind of Corvey and Thietmar of Merseburg ... 64
1.3. Titles of Power of Duke Mieszko I ... 71
1.3.1. Quidam dux Wandalorum, Misico nomine ... 72
1.3.2. Misicho comes et Sclavus ... 83
1.3.3. Misicho marchio ... 90
1.3.4. Significance of Mieszko I’s Titles of Power ... 98

Chapter Two Integration of the Piasts’ Territorial Power into the Empire of the Liudolfings—Opinions of the German Elites on the Poland of Boleslav Chrobry ... 109
2.1. The Polish Ruler and His Country in German Sources c. 1000 ... 109
2.1.1. Vulpes callida—Power Struggle in Poland after Mieszko I’s Death ... 110
vi contents
2.1.2. Amicus familiaris—Relationships between Boleslav Chrobry and Margrave Ekkehard I ... 120
2.1.3. Dominus [Sclaviniae]—German Sources on the Events of 1000 ... 126
2.1.4. Origin of the Names: The Poles and Poland ... 139
2.2. Opinions by Brun of Querfurt and Thietmar of Merseburg on the Polish Ruler ... 148
2.2.1. Dei servorum mater—the Guardian of Church and a Helper of Christianization ... 149
2.2.2. Dux infaustus—an Evil Ruler and a False Christian ... 162
2.3. Congress of Merseburg, July 1002 ... 182
2.3.1. The Context and Course of the Congress, Boleslav Chrobry’s Participation ... 184
2.3.2. The Attack on Boleslav Chrobry in the Structure of Thietmar’s Narration ... 191
2.3.3. Reasons for Breaking the Alliance between Henry II and Boleslav Chrobry and the Alleged Instigators of the Attack on the Piast Retinue ... 197
2.3.4. Henry II and the Saxon Elites: Boleslav Chrobry’s Place in the Political Structure of the Region ... 216

Chapter Three Polarisation of Attitudes towards the Polish State and the Prevalence of Views Unfavourable to the Piast Monarchy ... 223
3.1. Mieszko II—Thietmar’s Miles Regis ... 224
3.1.1. Family Background of Mieszko II’s Mother ... 224
3.1.2. Congress of Merseburg 1013 ... 232
3.1.3. Mieszko II—the “Civilised” Duke ... 248
3.2. Rex invictissimus—Mieszko II in Mathilda’s Codex ... 254
3.2.1. Archangel Michael—Field Commander of the Army of God and Satan’s Adversary ... 256
3.2.2. St. Sebastian—an Ascetic and a Soldier of Christ ... 263
3.2.3. Dedicational Miniature ... 274
3.3. Misako [. . .] ipsum sousque, immo diaboli satellites—Mieszko II, Servant of the Devil ... 285
3.3.1. The 1025 Piast Coronations as Viewed by German Observers ... 286
3.3.2. The Piast Coronations of 1025 in the Historical Context ... 295
3.3.3. The King’s Status and how it Changed throughout the Early Middle Ages ... 302
3.3.4. Salian Monarchs and the Royal Institution in Poland ... 309

Conclusion ... 323

Bibliography ... 331
Index ... 347


All those interested in medieval history, especially of the middle east Europe, the Slavic-German relations in the Middle Ages, and history of cultural determinants of perception of peoples.


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