Making a Great Ruler: Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania

By Giedrė Mickūnaitė | Go to book overview

CONCLUSIONS

Historical tradition provides us with values and guidelines for today by offering a linkage between past and present. The image of Vytautas entered the tradition of the Grand Duchy and found a definite place within the Lithuanian national consciousness. The preceding chapters have investigated the genesis, growth, formation, purification, and many other aspects of the Grand Duke’s image. My basic question was: how did it happen that Vytautas became “the Great.” At this point, it is time to answer this question. I imply that there were alternatives among Lithuanian rulers. Vytautas’ status as a ruler made him an event-making rather than eventful personality, to borrow a term from Sidney Hook;1 hence a comparison with other distinguished actors of history of any other rank would be “unfair.” However, several of the Lithuanian rulers were significant enough to become heroes of the state and nation.

King Mindaugas and Grand Duke Gediminas might have had the necessary heroic potential and their merits are undoubted. Mindaugas is credited with the establishment of the Lithuanian state. Gediminas was the founder of Vilnius and became the ancestor of the ruling dynasty. As to their accomplishments, both the King and the Grand Duke were successful in exercising their office and authority. During their reigns, Lithuania underwent significant transformations in government and expanded her territories. Historical narratives retained enough legendary material necessary to create a heroic aura. Nevertheless, in terms of historical imagery, neither of them was as successful as Vytautas. Conversely, there is no question that Vytautas’ own propaganda efforts were decisive in the establishment of his image.

It must be noted, however, that it was not merely Vytautas’ self-publicity, but also the retrospective view of the early-modern and modern periods, that selected him from among other rulers. Historical thinking requires heroes, and Vytautas seems to have corresponded best to this demand. I believe Christianity played an important role in making Vytautas the Great. It would have been difficult for a sixteenth-century mind to acknowledge the great-

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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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