Making a Great Ruler

Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania
ISBN: 
978-963-7326-58-5
cloth
$50.00 / €42.95 / £37.00
Publication date: 
2006
358 pages, 80 illustrations (7 in color)

How does a ruler become "the Great"? Is greatness a part of authority exercised or a part of an image created? These and other questions are addressed in this volume on the life and memory of Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania (r.1392-1430). The study raises a hypothesis that Vytautas was the main engineer of his image as the great ruler while his contemporaries and later generations developed this image and adapted it to their needs and understandings.

Investigating the propaganda surrounding the grand duke, this study reveals that, in fact, there were two opposite images: that of a good ruler and that of a tyrant. The paradox is that frequently these opposites were based on the same features of the grand duke's character or episodes from his biography. The research is based on a wide array of written and visual sources as well as on records of oral tradition. Rich and diverse primary materials are analysed from the perspectives of political and social history, memorial culture, as well as iconography and rhetoric.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
A NOTE ON PERSONAL AND GEOGRAPHIC NAMES

INTRODUCTION

THE LIFE AND DEEDS OF VYTAUTAS THE GREAT
STRUCTURE AND METHOD
SOURCES AND SCHOLARSHIP

CHAPTER I. VYTAUTAS CREATING HIS OWN IMAGE

THE EARLY YEARS
The Troubled 1380s: A “Serpent in the Bosom” or a “Duke with Neither Men nor Lands”
The Return
The Second Flight

RIGHT OF BLOOD
Rex iustus, pacificus et christianissimus
Stableman’s Grandson: the Development of the Origin Story
Gediminas’ Worthy Successor

ON THE GRAND DUCAL SEAT
Give Way to the Duke!
Receptions and Gifts
The Parade of 1411
The Purple Throne of 1428

ON THE FIELD
“And I Shall Sit in Moscow”
The Fields of Grunwald

WITHIN THE SYSTEM OF CHRISTIAN VALUES: FROM SARACEN TO A NEW MESSIAH
False Christianity of Lithuanians
The Perverse Saracen
The New Apostle
The Restorer of the Universal Church
Embracing the Heresy
The “Son of Man”

THE VISUAL EXPRESSION OF LORDSHIP
The Residence in Trakai
- The Murals: Copies and Research
- Tradition of Mural Painting
- The Decoration of the Palace in Trakai
Coins and Seals

THE CHERISHED AND TROUBLED CROWN
The 1390s: From “unsere König” to “König zu Littowen”
The 1410 and 1420s: No Crown at the Right Moment
1429–1430: “One Bone for Two Dogs”
The Fundamental Issue of Liberty
A Crown for the King of Lithuania
Acta volant, verba manent

THE FINAL WORD OF PRAISE

CHAPTER II. THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY: SHAPING OF THE IMAGE

MEMORY AND MEMORIAL
The Warrior's Grave
Prayers for the Soul

THE GOOD OLD TIMES OF VYTAUTAS IN LAW AND ANECDOTE

JAN DLUGOSZ ON VYTAUTAS
The Desirable Ruler
The Distinguished Warrior
The Perfidious Lithuanian
Between Ambition and Virtue

CHAPTER III. THE EARLY-MODERN IMAGE OF VYTAUTAS

IN LITHUANIA AND IN POLAND
Legal Evidence
The Pater Patriae: Vytautas at the Grand Ducal Court
The Hero’s Ensign
The Public Display
The Name of Vytautas as Political Argument
Appeals to Rulers
Stephan Bathory as a New Vytautas
Popular Appeal
Debating the Union and Rulership
Historical Writings
The Polish Perspective
The Lithuanian Man of Virtue
The Spirit of the Baroque
Vytautas and the Magnates
The Radvilas as Worthy Followers of Vytautas
Exemplum docet
Jesuit School Dramas
The “Portraits” of Vytautas
Vytautas in Popular Piety

FOLKLORE TRADITION
Popular Memory
The Lithuanian Hero or the Son of a Vestal and a Knight
The Everlasting Imprints of the Grand Duke’s Deeds
The Traditions of Lithuanian Tatars, Karaites, and Jews
A Brief History of the Lithuanian Tatars
A Brief History of the Lithuanian Karaites
The Unifying Military Virtues
The Warrior Patron of the Tatars
The Fairy Prince of the Karaites
The Legislator for the Jews

IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Russia: Warrior of the Neighbors
Western Europe: The Most Powerful Ruler or a Bloodthirsty Tyrant

CHAPTER IV. IMAGE AND IMAGE

MEMORY AND OBLIVION: MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN IMAGES COMPARED

FOLLOWING THE PATTERNS OF KINGSHIP
An Ideal Prince
Roots and Fruits of Tyranny
The Political Theory
Terror in Practice
Julius Caesar or Ivan the Terrible

THE SENSE OF BYZANTIUM

THE MAKING OF NATIONAL HERO

PATHS NOT PURSUED
St Vytautas of Lithuania?
The Spirit of Adventure

CONCLUSIONS

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

PRIMARY SOURCES
Unpublished Materials
Published Sources
SECONDARY LITERATURE

PICTURE CREDITS

"The English of the text is sound, the bibliography is excellent and the conclusions well-argued. An important figure in the history of this region has here received a reliable study of how his image was formed, how it was subsequently shaped, and, more briefly, what role it has played in the forging of modern Lithuanian national identity."
"Mickunaite shows how Vytautas's image took various forms in the early modern era: in the fifteenth century as a legislator (rather a stretch, considering that legal tradition was an embryo during his reign); in the sixteenth century as a warrior and Christianizer of his land; in Western Europe as a bloodthirsty semipagan tyrant; in Russia as a warrior king. Particularly interesting, and deserving of further study by folklorists, are the popular legends of Vytatutas, such as the founding of the village Sorok Tatary near Vilnius."
"This handsome volume brings to the attention of Anglophone readers a major player in early fifteenth-century European affairs, a ruler wooed from Byzantium in the east to Spain in the west. A Holy Roman emperor and a pope offered him crowns. His image dominated Lithuanian and Polish militant nationalist historiography in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and remains potent today."

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