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2011 | 1-2 | 119-141

Article title

Pierwsi Piastowie w kręgach arystokratycznych Cesarstwa


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In historical research into the origins of the first Piast state, great significance has been attached to the hypothesis about its establishment by external conquest. In response to beliefs of this type the tendency has been to show the autonomy of the first Piast state, and its struggle with the Empire arising out efforts to establish the independence of the young state. In the 20th century historiography has also emphasized the importance of internal conquest. Relatively recently historians have started to pay attention to those aspects of the written sources showing the Piasts as rulers aspiring to find their place within the aristocracy of the Empire. The Piast dynasty appear in the written sources as allies of the Empire, in which role they also appear in dedications. They were also, as was also the case with the aristocracy of the Empire, bound to the Emperor by bonds of fidelity, or found themselves in circles opposed to the Emperor. This paper refers to not only the character of their relationship, but also to changes in the structure of it. The first representative of the Piast dynasty who is mentioned by name, turns up in the masterpiece of Widukind, who dedicated his work to the Otto’s daughter Mathilda. Appearing in the historical record for the very first time, Mieszko is presented by Widukind as ‘rex Licikavicorum’. In imperial tradition a ‘Rex Licikavicorum’ is never mentioned earlier among the tribal ‘rulers” coming into Empire’s sphere of interests. The designation ‘rex’ is also a kind of title given to an administrator of one of the smaller territorial entities. The ruler of the Polanie tribe is mentioned by Widukind in the context of an account of his relative Wichman. Nevertheless, the context of those historical facts at our disposal depict the phenomenon of the gradual integration of the Piast ruler into a political and cultural system acceptable to the annalist. Widukind also designated Mieszko as ‘amicus imperatoris’. An interesting written source referring to the contacts between the Piasts and the Empire is the ‘Life of St. Udalric’. It mentions an oath made by Mieszko when wounded in his arm by a poisoned arrow. Mieszko swore in the face of death to send to St. Udalric as a votive of a hand made of silver, if he would restore him to good health. It is worthwhile emphasizing that Mieszko regained his strength thanks to the mediation of one of the allies of Otto I. The marriage with Oda (probably in the year 979/980) was also significant. Thanks to this marriage Mieszko found himself within the ranks of the aristocracy of the Empire. From this moment onwards we can talk about the considerable promotion of the Piasts in the hierarchy of the Empire. Perhaps with this marriage came also the presence of Mieszko in the obituarial sources from within the territory of the Empire. Those obituaries were included in the so-called ‘obituary annals from Fulda’. Piasts are also mentioned in Lüneburg, Regensburg and Bamberg. The last place, Bamberg, performs a special role. Piasts were at some point the official protectors of the Emperor’s grave there. Mieszko thirty years on was treated like one of the last dukes of the Reich.






Physical description


  • Uniwersytet Mikołaja Kopernika w Toruniu, Instytut Historii i Archiwistyki, ul. Władysława Bojarskiego 1, 87-100 Toruń, POLAND


Document Type

Publication order reference


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