Making a Great Ruler: Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania

By Giedrė Mickūnaitė | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE EARLY-MODERN IMAGE
OF VYTAUTAS

IN LITHUANIA AND IN POLAND

The period from the early sixteenth to the late eighteenth century was a time of changes and ambiguity in Poland and Lithuania. The major political events were the following: the establishment of the Commonwealth by the Lublin Union in 1569, the de facto shift to elective kingship after the Jagiellonian dynasty died out in 1572, the increasing menace of and frequent wars with Muscovy, and the three partitions of the Commonwealth, leading to the loss of statehood in 1795.

Culturally, the advancement of the Reformation and the spread of Humanist thought and Renaissance art shaped the entire panorama of the sixteenth century. This epoch also elaborated upon the legend of the Roman origins of Lithuania. The legend was that Lithuanian nobility descended from Roman patricians who, after fleeing Nero’s tyranny, settled on the banks of the Nemunas River. The victory of the Catholic Reformers, accompanied and strengthened by the Baroque taste and understanding, defined the spirit and outlook of the latter part of the early modern period.

As for the relations between the two countries of the Commonwealth, legally the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were defined as two separate states with independent administrative, economic, and military institutions.1 People, however, and especially ideas, do not observe legal and institutional divisions. Nevertheless, the two countries did preserve autonomous outlooks and historical traditions, and the image of Vytautas was manifested differently in Lithuania and in Poland, even though the image builders were the same. Authors active in, or anxious about, matters of the Grand Duchy employed Vytautas’ name much more frequently than those whose interests pertained to Polish affairs. However, the fact that Poland and Lithuania had one ruler and shared a common history from the times of Vytautas complicates the “national” division. Therefore, I shall discuss vari-

-145-

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Making a Great Ruler: Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • List of Figures xi
  • List of Abbreviations xix
  • A Note on Personal and Geographical Names xxi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter I - Vytautas Creating His Own Image 19
  • Chapter II - The Fifteenth Century- Shaping of the Image 117
  • Chapter III - The Early-Modern Image of Vytautas 145
  • Chapter IV - Image and Image 251
  • Conclusions 271
  • Selected Bibliography 275
  • Index of Personal Names 329
  • Index of Geographical Names and Peoples 333
  • Subject Index 336
  • Figures 339
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