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Gallus Anonymous (XII c.)
Gallus Anonymous - POLISH CHRONICLE
1. About Duke Popiel
There was in the town of Gniezno, which in Slavonic means the same as "nest"
a duke by the name of Popiel, who had two sons; according to a pagan custom, he prepared a big feast for the shearing ceremony
, to which he invited many notables and friends. And it happened by the mysterious will of God that two guests arrived there, who not only were not invited to the feast but were even unjustly chased away from the entrance to the town. And indignant at the inhumanity of the burghers, they immediately made their way to the outlying area, where purely by accident they arrived in front of a little house belonging to a ploughman of that duke who was giving a feast for his sons. That poor man, full of compassion, invited the strangers to his cottage and as kindly as possible unfolded to them the picture of his poverty. And they accepted with gratitude the invitation of the poor man and entering the hospitable cottage, said to him: "Rejoice indeed that we have come and may our arrival bring to you the abundance of all plenty as well as honor and fame from your progeny."
2. About Piast
, son of Chościsko
The inhabitants of the hospitable house were: one Piast, son of Chościsko, and his wife named Rzepka; both from the depths of their hearts tried as they could to satisfy the guests' needs, and seeing their wisdom, they resolved to seek their advice for one confidential project which they had. When they sat down according to custom and talked about various matters, and the strangers asked if they had anything to drink, the hospitable ploughman replied: "I have a small barrel of fermented beer, which I have prepared for the shearing of the only son I have, but what is this little thimbleful good for? Drink it up, if you will." This poor peasant had resolved that during the time when the duke, his master, was having a feast for his sons, he would prepare a somewhat better meal for the shearing of his little boy-as at other time he could not do it on account of his poverty-and invite equally poor friends not to a feast but to a modest meal; so he fattened a piglet which he destined for that occasion. I will tell you about some strange happenings but who can fathom God's ways? Or who will dare to immerse himself in inquiries into God's blessings, who even in this life often elevates the humble poor and does not hesitate to reward hospitality even among the pagans? So the guests calmly told Piast to pour out the beer because they knew well that because of their drinking, no quantity would be lost but rather it would increase. And it was said the beer increased continually, until all the borrowed dishes were filled with it, while the revelers at the duke's feast found their cups empty. They also ordered that the aforementioned piglet be slaughtered, with whose meat-a thing beyond belief-they were said to fill ten buckets, which were called in Slavonic cebry. So Piast and Rzepka, seeing the miracles which took place, sensed in them some important prophecy for their son, and they were just about ready to invite the duke and his companions but they did not dare without asking the travelers about it first. Why delay? So with the advice and encouragement of the guests, their master, the duke, and all his table companions are invited by the serf Piast, and the invited duke did not consider it below his dignity to pay a visit to his peasant. The reason for this was that the Polish dukedom was not that big yet, nor did the duke of the country carry himself with such conceit and pride, nor did he appear so splendidly surrounded by a large retinue of vassals. So when the customary feast was arranged and everything was prepared in abundance, these guests sheared the boy and gave him the name of Siemowit
in augury of his future fate.
3. About Duke Samowitaj, called Siemowit, the son of Piast
After all this, a young Siemowit, the son of Piast Chościskowic, grew in strength and years and from day to day he progressed and grew in uprightness to such a degree that the king of kings and duke of dukes
, with universal acclaim, appointed him the duke of Poland, and completely removed Popiel with his progeny from the kingdom. Venerable old men also say that Popiel, driven out from the kingdom, suffered so much harassment from mice that he was transported by his attendants to an island, where he was defended for a long time in a wooden tower against those enraged animals which swam by there, until, deserted by everybody because of the deadly stench emanating from the multitudes of slaughtered mice, he died a most shameful death, devoured by those monsters.
But let us leave in peace recollecting the history of the people whose memory disappeared in the oblivion of ages and who were corrupted by errors of idolatry, and having mentioned them only briefly, let us pass to announce those matters which were recorded by faithful memory.
So Siemowit, having reached the position of duke, spent his youth not in pleasures and vain entertainments, but devoting himself to persistent work and knightly service, he gained for himself the fame of uprightness and honorable glory, and he enlarged the frontiers of his dukedom farther than anybody before him. After his death, his son Lestek took his place, who equalled his father in uprightness and courage with his knightly deeds. After Lestek's death came his son Siemomysł, who tripled the memory of his ancestors both by his birth and dignity
4. About the blindness of Mieszko, son of duke Siemomysł
So this Siemomysł begot a great and famous Mieszko, who was the first to carry this name, and who was blind for seven years after birth. So when the seventh anniversary of his birth came, his father, having called according to custom a meeting of the comites
and his other dukes, gave a lavish and joyous feast; and during the repast, he sighed secretly in his heart of hearts over the boy's blindness, not forgetting his pain and shame. And when others enjoyed themselves and clapped their hands according to custom, the joy reached the zenith at the news that the blind boy had regained his vision. But his father did not believe anybody who informed him about it, until the boy's mother, having stood up from the feast, went to the boy and put an end to his father's uncertainty, showing to all revelers that the boy's sight was restored. Then at last the joy became widespread and complete, when the boy recognized those he had never seen before, and in this way the shame of his blindness was changed into unimaginable joy. Thereupon Duke Siemomysł diligently questioned the older and wiser of those present if the boy's blindness and restoration of eyesight did not constitute some miraculous sign. So they explained that the blindness meant that Poland before had acted as if blind but from now on-they prophesied it-was to be enlightened by Mieszko and elevated above neighboring nations. And indeed that was the case, although at that time it could have been understood differently. Indeed Poland had been blind before, knowing neither the reverence of true God, nor any principles of faith, but through the miraculously enlightened Mieszko, it also became enlightened, because when he accepted the faith, the Polish nation was saved from death in paganism. For in a proper order Almighty God first restored to Mieszko his bodily eyesight, and then provided him with spiritual eyesight, so that through the knowledge of visible things he came to know the invisible ones and so that through the knowledge of the things created he could grasp with his eyesight the omnipotence of their creator. But why does a wheel run ahead of the wagon? So in advanced age, Siemomysł departed from this world.
5. How Mieszko took Dąbrówka
for his wife
Having assumed power in the dukedom
Mieszko began to give proof of his mental and physical powers and more and more frequently to assail neighboring peoples. However, up to that time he was so immersed in the errors of paganism that according to his custom he enjoyed seven wives. At last, he sought in marriage one very good Christian woman from Bohemia, by the name of Dąbrówka. But she refused to marry him unless he abandoned that wicked custom and promised to become a Christian. So when he agreed to abandon that pagan custom and to receive the sacraments of Christian faith, that lady came to Poland with a big retinue of secular and ecclesiastical dignitaries but she did not share the nuptial bed with him until slowly and diligently, getting acquainted with the Christian custom and church laws, he renounced the errors of paganism and turned to the bosom of the church-mother
6. About the first Bolesław, who was called Famous or Brave
So the first Polish Duke Mieszko attained the grace of baptism at the insistence of his faithful wife; and for his fame and glory it will be enough if we say that, during his times and thanks to him, the heavenly Light visited the Polish kingdom. Because from this blessed woman, he begot the famous Bolesław
, who after his death ruled the kingdom manfully and with God's grace grew into such virtue and power that he gilded, so to speak, the whole of Poland with his uprightness. Because who can worthily tell about his courageous deeds and the battles waged against surrounding nations, let alone convey them to posterity in writing? Was it not he who subjugated Moravia and Bohemia and seized the ducal seat in Prague and granted it to his deputies? Was it not he who defeated the Hungarians in battle many times and took under his reign their whole country up to the Danube? He subdued the untamed Saxons with such force that in the middle of their land he drove iron stakes into the River Saale to mark the boundaries of Poland. Anyway, is it necessary to enumerate his victories and triumphs over the infidel peoples, if it is known that he trampled them, so to speak, under his own foot. First, he almost destroyed Selencja
, Pomerania and Prussia when they persisted in paganism and then, when they were converted, strengthened them in their faith by establishing many churches and bishops there with the pope's approval, or rather the pope established them through his mediation. It was also he who received Saint Adalbert
with great respect and faithfully fulfilled his instructions and dispositions when he came to him after having suffered many wrongs in a long wandering and before that from his own rebellious Czech people. And the holy martyr, burning with the fire of love and with the desire of spreading the faith, when he perceived that the faith in Poland had developed and the holy Church had grown, went without fear to Prussia and there by martyrdom he fulfilled his life. And later, Bolesław bought his body from the Prussians for its weight in gold and placed it with due respect in the metropolitan see in Gniezno
We also consider it worthy of conveying to posterity that during his times, Emperor Otto the Red
came to the grave of Saint Adalbert to pray and to become reconciled, and also to meet the famous Bolesław, as one may read in more detail in the book about the martyrdom of that saint
. Bolesław received him as honorably and sumptuously as was appropriate to receive a king, a Roman emperor, and a distinguished guest. He prepared truly admirable wonders for the emperor's arrival; first, he positioned various troops of knights, then the notables, like the choirs, on a sizable plain, and each separately standing unit was differentiated by the various colors of their costumes. And these were not a cheap motley of any decorations but the most precious things that one could find anywhere in the world. During the time of Bolesław, each knight and each lady at the court used, instead of linen or wool cloth, coats of precious fabrics, and they did not wear leather clothes at his court, even very valuable ones, even if new, without a lining of precious fabric and without gold fringes. Gold in his time was so common to everybody as silver is today, and silver was as cheap as straw. Having considered his glory, might, and riches, the Roman emperor exclaimed in admiration: "By my royal crown! What I see is more impressive than I have heard!" And with the advice of his notables he added in everybody's presence: "It is not proper to call such a great man a duke or a count, as if one were among dignitaries, but it is proper to elevate him with glory to the royal throne and to adorn him with the crown." And having taken from his head the imperial diadem, he put it on Bolesław's head as a token of alliance and friendship, and for a triumphal flag he gave him as a gift a nail from the Lord's cross together with the spear of Saint Maur, in return for which Bolesław offered him the arm of Saint Adalbert. And they united themselves in such love on that day that the emperor appointed him brother and collaborator of the empire and called him friend and ally of the Roman nation. Additionally, he conveyed to him and his successors all the power of dispensing church positions in the domain which belonged to the empire in the Polish kingdom and also in other barbarian countries already subjugated by it and in those which it would conquer in the future. The provisions of this agreement were later confirmed by Pope Silvester
with the privilege of the Holy Roman Church. So Bolesław, so commendably elevated to the royal throne by the emperor, showed his inborn generosity by arranging during the three days of his consecration truly royal and imperial feasts and by changing every day all the dishes and accessories and setting out new and still more expensive ones. After finishing the feast, he ordered cupbearers and esquire carvers to collect the gold and silver dishes of the three days from all the tables, because there were no wooden cups, chalices, bowls, goblets, or horns, and he offered them to the emperor to honor him, but not as an homage required of the duke. He also ordered the court chamberlans to collect the stretched curtains and table-cloths, carpets, rugs, napkins, towels and whatever was used for covering and also to take all of this down to the chamber occupied by the emperor. And additionally, he brought him many other gifts, namely gold and silver dishes of various kinds of manufacture, and multicolored coats, ornaments unseen up to now, and precious stones; and he offered so much of all of this that the emperor considered all these gifts a miracle. He lavished so many gifts on each duke that from being friendly people they became his greatest friends. Who can count how many and what kind of gifts he gave to his superiors if out of so many servants there not even one left without a gift? So the emperor returned joyfully home with great gifts, and Bolesław, elevated to the royal position, rekindled his old anger against the enemies.
Translated by Michael J. Mikoś
This Polish Chronicle was written in Latin between 1112 and 1116 by an anonymous monk, probably from Provence in France (Gaul). He based his chronicle on annals and religious writings, such as the Life of Saint Adalbert, and on the oral tradition preserved among church and court officials. Connected with the court of Bolesław the Wrymouth, the author devoted a major part of his work to extolling the achievements of the king, and presented the earlier times and rulers of Poland primarily to introduce the genealogy of the Piast dynasty, of which Mieszko, Bolesław the Brave, and Bolesław the Bold were the most prominent representatives. This Polish Chronicle is considered the first artistically conscious work in Polish literature. Its literary value rests on poetic passages, rhymed prose and speeches; on legends that inspired many writers; and on some epic elements, such as the national scope of the narrative, descriptions of Bolesław's heroic deeds of childhood and youth, and the Polish kings' military victories.
It is also the first history of Poland, and although it was based on limited sources and glossed over some unpleasant facts, it gave the Polish local tradition a form of Latin historiography. What is equally important, this chronicle, written by an anonymous historian, has gained great popularity in the last two hundred years and has helped to shape our vision of Poland from the tenth to the middle of the twelfth century.
gniazdo, the nest, is indeed the root of Gniezno and the author demonstrates at the beginning his knowledge of the language.
A pagan custom in which a boy had his hair shorn for the first time and a name conferred upon him.
This Piast is the founder of the dynasty that ruled Poland until the second half of the fourteenth century.
Samowitaj, Siemowit-"welcome here," refers to the last sentence of the preceding chapter.
He was the third Piast and three times more famous than Siemowit, his grandfather.
"comes," a well born courtier or companion (in Latin) to the chief.
Dąbrówka (Dobrava), a daughter of Boleslaw the Cruel, a Bohemian duke, married Mieszko in 965, died in 977.
Mieszko assumed power about 960.
Bolesław I the Brave was born in 966 or 967, crowned as the first king of Poland in 1025, died in 1025.
Selencja, most likely some west Slavic territory, west of Pomerania.
A Czech bishop from Prague, Benedictine monk in the monasteries of Saint Alexis and Saint Boniface in Rome, missionary in Poland, and then in Prussia, where he was martyred in April of 977.
Gniezno became a metropolitan see in 1000.
Otto II, German king and Roman emperor (983-1002).
Gallus Anonymous probably refers here to The Life of Saint Adalbert.
Silvester II (Gerbert of Aurillac), the pope from 999 to 1003.