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Medieval Lithuania

              Chronology:   50-1009 |  1009-1183 |  1183-1283 |  1283-1386 |  1386-1506


Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages (50-1009)

       C. 62 the Romans started amber trade with the inhabitants of the Baltic Seacoast near the mouth of the Vistula River. The expedition led by Julius brought a lot of amber for decorations of the gladiatorial competitions, organised by the Emperor Nero (54-68).
       In the 1st century the Goths settled near the mouth of the Vistula River. Their contact with Balts is reflected in the ethnonym gudas, which is until now used in the Lithuanian language, though applied to the Belarusians.
       C. 98 Publius Cornelius Tacitus described the Aistians (the Balts) for the first time. He noted a high level of the Aistian agriculture and gathering of amber, which they were selling to the Romans. See source.
       C. 150 Claudius Ptolemy made the first effort to draw the map of the Baltic region. He mentioned some of the Baltic tribes - the Sudavians, Galindians, and, most likely, Curonians and Selonians - for the first time.
       In the 3-5th centuries the Selonian River (Cap. fl. Selliani; probably the modern Daugava) was shown on the Peutinger Map (Tabula Peutingeriana).

Peutinger map
The fragment of the Peutinger map, showing the "source of the Sellonian river"
Hostia fl[uminis] Danubii. - The mouth of the River Danube.
Fl[umen]. Agalingus. - River Agaling - probably the River Dnester (according to K. Miller, Itineraria Romana (Stuttgart, 1916, p. 597), the name of the river may be connected with the Baltic tribe Galindians (Galindai).
Cap[ut]. fl[uminis]. Selliani. - The source of the Sellonian River - probably the mouth of the Daugava River.
Cap[ut]. [Hyp]anis paludis or Cap[ut] fl[umi]nis paludis. - Source of the swamp Hipanis or Source of the Swamp River - probably Southern Bug.
Cap[ut]. fl[uminis]. Nusacus. - probably the source of the River Dnieper (Nōsags - a supposed Gothic name for Dnieper according to Vasmer).

       C. 350-376 Hermanaric (Ermanarich), the King of the Ostrogoths (350-376), organised a military raid against the Aistians (probably, the Sembians and Curonians), according to the Gothic epos, reflected by Jordan (551) and Saxo Grammaticus (1218). See sources.
       In 376 the Huns crushed the Goths. King Hermanaric perished.
       In 454 the Goths and Gepids crushed the Huns at the battle of the River Nedao.
       In 476 the Western Roman Empire was officially abolished by a German general named Odoacer, who became a King of Italy.
       In 493 Theodoric, the King of the Ostrogoths (475-526), seized the power in Italy.
       C. 523-526 Cassiodorus in the name of the King Theodoric wrote a letter to the Aistians. He thanked the Aistians for the amber sent to the King.
       C. 551 the Aistians were described as peaceful people living on the Baltic Seacoast in The Origin and Deeds of the Goths by Gothic historian Jordan. See source.
       C. 833-836 the Aistians were mentioned in The Life of Charlemagne by Einhardt.
       C 840 legendary Viking leader Ragnar Lodbrok organised a raid on the Sembians and the Curonians according to Saxo Grammaticus.
       In 853 the Danes attacked the Curonians (Cori) that "had in former time been in subjection to the Swedes, but had a long while since rebelled and refused to be in subjection". After the defeat of the Danes by the united army of 5 Curonian lands, the Swedish King Olaf organised a successful attack on the Curonians, captured Seeburg (Grobiņa), and forced Apuolė to pay ransom for it (Skuodas region, Lithuania). Apuolė thus became the first place of Lithuania, mentioned in written sources (Life of Anskar by Rimbert).
       In 857 Danish Viking Roric took control over a part of Jutland. According to Saxo Grammaticus, at the beginning of his reign in Denmark Roric defeated the Swedes, the Curonians and the Western Slavs in a sea battle.
       C. 860 the Swedish King of Uppsala Eirik Eymundson "went out every summer on expeditions to different countries, and conquered for himself Finland, Kirjalaland, Curonia, Estonia, and the eastern countries all around" according to Saga of Olaf Haraldson in Heimskringla.
       In 862 Roric (Rurik) was invited to rule in Novgorod. His successor Oleg conquered Kiev in 882 thus laying the foundations for the Kievan Ruthenia.
       C. 870 the name of the Prussians was mentioned for the first time by the so-called "Bavarian Geographer".
       C. 890-893 Anglo-Saxon voyager Wulfstan described the Aistians, living Eastwards from the mouth of the Vistula River, and their trade centre Truso. He noted that their country was large, they had a lot of castles and a king in each castle. There were a lot of quarrels among these kings. He also gave an extensive description of the funerary rites of the Aistians and the division of the wealth of the deceased through a competition of riders.
       C. 935 Norwegian Vikings Egil and Thorolv were looting in Curonian lands. Egil was captured by the Curonians, but liberated himself and 3 Danish Vikings, killing the Curonians, who had captured them, and burning down the place of their imprisonment.
       C. 965 Arabian traveller Ibrahim Ibn Jakub wrote that the Prussians, living near the sea, were famous for their courage. They had their own language and didn't speak the languages of their neighbours.
       C. 970 Norwegian Earl Hacon attacked the Curonians and the Sembians supported by the King of Denmark.
       At the end of the 10th century King Erik Segersall of Sweden is said to have subdued Estonia, Livonia, Curonia and Finland.
       In 983 Vladimir, the Grand duke of Kiev attacked the Yatvingians.
       On April 23, 997, St. Wojciech-Adalbert, a missionary sent to Prussia by the Polish King Boleslaw the Brave, was killed by the Prussians.

       Tomas Baranauskas

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