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Bolesław I the Brave (Bolesław I Chrobry)
(967Ч1025)

Bolesław I the Brave (Bolesław I Chrobry) (967Ч1025)

Bolesław I the Brave (or Valiant), in the past also known as Bolesław I the Great, ruled as Duke of Poland from 992-1025 and as the first King of Poland in 1025. He was a member of the Piast dynasty.

Bolesław was the son of Mieszko I and of his first wife, the Bohemian princess Dubrawka. In 984 Bolesław married an unknown daughter of Rikdag (Riddag, Ricdag), Margrave of Meissen. Subsequently he married Judith Arpad, a daughter of Geza, Grand Duke of Hungary; then Emnilda, daughter of Dobromir; and lastly Oda, another daughter of the Margrave of Meissen. His wives bore him sons, including Bezprym, Mieszko II and Otton; and a daughter, Mathilde. After his father's death around 992, Bolesław expelled his father's second wife, Oda von Haldensleben, and her sons, thereby attempting to unite Poland again.

In 997 Bolesław sent Saint Adalbert of Prague to Prussia, on the Baltic Sea, on a mission to convert the heathen Prussians to Christianity Ц an attempt that would end in Adalbert's martyrdom and subsequent canonization.

From his father, Bolesław had inherited their principality, centered on Greater Poland, being along the river Warta ("valley of Warta"), and much smaller than modern Poland.

By 997, Bolesław already possessed Silesia and the eastern parts of Pomerania (with its chief city, Gdańsk) and Lesser Poland (with its chief city, Kraków). In 1002 Bolesław annexed present-day Moravia, and in 1001 or 1003, parts of present-day Slovakia.

In 1000, Emperor Otto III, while on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Adalbert at Gniezno, invested Bolesław with the title Frater et Cooperator Imperii ("Brother and Partner in the Empire"). Some historians state that the emperor also pledged a royal crown to Bolesław. During that same visit, Otto III accepted Gniezno's status as an archbishopric.

After the untimely death of Otto III at age 22 in 1002, Bolesław supported Eckard I, Margrave of Meissen, for the German throne. When Eckard was assassinated in April, Bolesław lent his support to Henry IV, Duke of Bavaria, and helped make him king as Henry II. Bolesław and his father had earlier backed Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, against Otto, and Henry IV was the son of the earlier Henry. With Eckard dead, Bolesław laid claim to the Margraviate of Meissen as a relative of Eckard through marriage, but Henry only acquiesced to give him the March of Lusatia and detach it from Meissen. Henry remained suspicious of Bolesław for his early support for Eckard and Bolesław for his part remained committed to extending his own territories at the expense of the Holy Roman Empire.

Bolesław conquered, and made himself Duke of, Bohemia in 1003-04, ruling as Boleslav IV of Bohemia.

The intervention in the Kievan succession crisis of 1015Ч19 by the Polish ruler Boleslaw Chrobry was an episode in the struggle between Svyatopolk Vladimirovich ("the Accursed") and his brother Yaroslav ("the Wise") for the rulership of Kiev and Kievan Rus. It occurred when Svyatopolk's father-in-law Boleslaw, ruler of Poland, intervened on Svyatopolk's behalf.

The intervention was initially successful as Boleslaw defeated Yaroslav's armies, and temporarily secured the throne for Svyatopolk. But when Boleslaw withdraw himself and his army from Kiev, Svyatopolk was unable to retain his position, being defeated by Yaroslav in the following year. Chronicles of the expedition include legendary accounts as well as factual history and have been subject to varied interpretations.

There are three main sources that provide historians with evidence for these events. The best and most reliable account is from a chronicle by Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg, who obtained detailed information Saxon knights fighting for Boleslaw.

The Primary Chronicle attributed to Nestor the Chronicler, is another sources giving a detailed account of events, its reliability being variable, depending event-by-event on the sources from which it was compiled. Nestor's writing reflects the typical Rus' admiration of Saint Vladimir, while Bishop Thietmar's account, despite a generally positive attitude towards the Rus', paints both Boleslaw and Vladimir exclusively in a negative light.

A third source is the Chronicle of Polish Dukes, a semi-legendary ode to the early Polish dukes written in the 1110s by the Benedictine monk Gallus'. This account portrays Boleslaw in a very positive light.

According to Thietmar, the army of Boleslaw crossed the border in 1018 and reached Kiev later that same year. Little is known about the armies. Polish historian Rafał Jaworski states that the estimates of the size of Boleslaw's army range between 2,000Ц5,000 Polish warriors, in addition to Thietmar's reported 1,000 Pechenegs, 300 German knights, and 500 Hungarian mercenaries. Less is known about Yaroslav's army, but it is assumed that he also managed to collect a force of similar size. It is also believed that he was aware of Boleslaw's intentions and had time to make defensive preparations.

Probably after concentrating his forces during June, in July Boleslaw led his troops to the border - the banks of the Western Bug River, near one of the settlements of the Volhynia region. In the meantime, Boleslaw's Pecheneg allies approached Kiev, forcing Yaroslav to detach a part of his forces to ensure the safety of his capital. According to Jaworski, Yaroslav, in turn, wanted to prevent Boleslaw from uniting with the Pechenegs, defeat Boleslaw's main force and then take care of the less organized Pechenegs.

The two armies met on opposite banks of the River Bug. Yaroslav's forces may have take position with archers covering the crossing points. Boleslaw seems to have taken his time, allowing his army to rest, and started work on makeshift bridges. The Battle at Bug river finally occurred around July 23.

According to the later Chronicle of Polish Dukes by Gallus, the battle occurred by accident: When Boleslaw decided to throw a feast to boost his army's morale, Yaroslav's archers and scouts decided to create trouble for the Polish servants who were gutting the animals and preparing them near the river. However, they only annoyed them enough that the servants themselves crossed the relatively shallow river and chased away Yaroslav's surprised troops, who had been guarding the river. Bolesław learned of the skirmish sooner than Yaroslav, and managed to move most of his army across the river, defeating the surprised Yaroslav.

The Russian Primary Chronicle gives a different version of events, in which both armies were combat ready and separated by the river before Boleslaw, enraged by insults from across the river, charged with his army, surprising Yaroslav and scattering his forces. All accounts agree that the Polish prince was victorious in the battle. Yaroslav retreated north to Novgorod, rather than to Kiev - likely suspecting that he lacked enough strength to defend Kiev, which was besieged by the Pechenegs and had a significant pro-Svyatopolk faction within its walls. Nestor notes that after reaching Novgorod, Yaroslav attempted to flee "overseas" in hopes of coming back with a Varangian force, but according to the Primary Chronicle, the citizens of Novgorod pressured him to lead the fight back to Boleslaw and Svyatopolk.

Boleslaw's victory opened the road to Kiev, already under harassment from his Pecheneg allies. The city, which suffered from fires caused by the Pecheneg siege, surrendered upon seeing the main Polish army on August 14. The entering forces, led by Boleslaw, were ceremonially welcomed by the local archbishop and Vladimir's family.

A later popular Polish legend related to the history of the Polish coronation weapon, the Szczerbiec sword, is the tale of the Golden Gate of Kiev, upon which the Szczerbiec was supposedly notched when Boleslaw's entered the city. This legend has no historical basis, however, and the gate was only built approximately 20 years later, while the sword itself was not forged until 200 years later. It is of course possible, however unlikely, that Boleslaw notched another gate with another sword, thus giving rise to the legend.

Boleslaw sent his German and Hungarian mercenaries home after Svyatopolk was re-established on the Kievan throne, "the populace" having "flocked to him" and having "appeared loyal". It is not known how long Boleslaw remained in and around Kiev. The 10 months given by the unreliable account of Gallus is fanciful. Boleslaw in fact departed within a few months and, as Thietmar died on December 1 1018, Boleslaw must have been back in Poland a good time before December.

The Primary Chronicle alleges that as the result of Polish plunderings, Svyatopolk ordered "that any Lyakhs [i.e. Poles] found in the city should be killed". The resulting unrest, according to the same source, forced Boleslaw to leave Kiev, whereupon Svyatopolk was left to fend for himself. This negative turn of events is omitted in the only contemporary source, Thietmar of Merseberg's Chronikon.

According to Thietmar, Boleslaw asked Yaroslav to return his daughter, whom Yaroslav had taken prisoner. As Yaroslav refused, Boleslaw took members of Yaroslav's family to Poland as prisoners when he returned to his country in September. His captives included Vladimir's widow and Yaroslav's sister, Predslava, whose hand Boleslaw had sought earlier. Having been rebuffed, Boleslaw now took her as a concubine. The Polish duke also took some commoners as well as much of the treasury of Kiev. Among the notable commoners was the venerated Saint Moses the Hungarian.

In the past some historians (such as Zhylenko and Kostomarov) have conjectured that Boleslaw decided to rule Kievan lands himself, though Boleslaw had no power base there and no Rurikid blood. Boleslaw's main motivation, according to the interpretations of modern historians, was to regain the Cherven towns for his patrimony, while at the same time aiding his kinsman, to whom he had an obligation. The expedition also furnished an occasion to enrich his followers from Kiev's famous wealth. Boleslaw, soon after his arrival, sent a significant force to quarter in Kiev and nearby towns, forcing Kievans to sustain them, and collected significant tributes that he divided among his allies.

On many later occasions in the Kievan period the rulers of Poland, as well as Hungarians or Pechenegs, were paid to intervene in Rus succession disputes; in the case of Boleslaw II, the Polish monarch took the money without making any expedition.

Svyatopolk lost the throne soon afterwards and lost his life the following year. As Boleslaw was involved in a conflict with Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, he did not intervene on behalf of his son-in-law when he was deposed and instead signed a pact with Yaroslav, who had successfully regained the throne. Although he lost control of Kiev, Boleslaw succeeded in keeping the Cherven Towns captured by Vladimir the Great in 981; he was crowned King of Poland in 1025. Yaroslav outlived Boleslaw and contributed greatly to the strengthening of Kievan Rus'.

The intermittent wars with the Holy Roman Empire ended with the Peace of Bautzen in 1018, which left Sorbian Meissen and Lusatia in Polish hands.

Emperor Henry II obliged Bolesław to pledge his fealty again in exchange for the lands that he held in fief. After Henry's death in 1024, Bolesław crowned himself king (1025), thus raising Poland to the rank of a kingdom and being the first Polish king, his predecessors having been princes.

Bolesław sent an army to aid his friend Ц also his nephew, son of his sister Sigrid Ц Canute the Great in his conquest of England.

Bolesław's son, Mieszko II, crowned himself king immediately upon his father died in Poznań.

Bolesław was the first Polish king, since it was during his reign that Poland became a kingdom, despite the fact that there were some Polish rulers before 1025 would never receive a crown. Poland had thus the royal status before their ethnic relatives and neighbors, Bohemia.

He was the first Polish ruler that had been baptised at birth. He founded the independent Polish province of the Church and made Poland a strong power in Europe.

The intervention in the Kievan succession crisis of 1015Ч19 by the Polish ruler Boleslaw Chrobry was an episode in the struggle between Svyatopolk Vladimirovich ("the Accursed") and his brother Yaroslav ("the Wise") for the rulership of Kiev and Kievan Rus. It occurred when Svyatopolk's father-in-law Boleslaw, ruler of Poland, intervened on Svyatopolk's behalf.

The intervention was initially successful as Boleslaw defeated Yaroslav's armies, and temporarily secured the throne for Svyatopolk. But when Boleslaw withdraw himself and his army from Kiev, Svyatopolk was unable to retain his position, being defeated by Yaroslav in the following year. Chronicles of the expedition include legendary accounts as well as factual history and have been subject to varied interpretations.

There are three main sources that provide historians with evidence for these events. The best and most reliable account is from a chronicle by Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg, who obtained detailed information Saxon knights fighting for Boleslaw.

The Primary Chronicle attributed to Nestor the Chronicler, is another sources giving a detailed account of events, its reliability being variable, depending event-by-event on the sources from which it was compiled. Nestor's writing reflects the typical Rus' admiration of Saint Vladimir, while Bishop Thietmar's account, despite a generally positive attitude towards the Rus', paints both Boleslaw and Vladimir exclusively in a negative light.

A third source is the Chronicle of Polish Dukes, a semi-legendary ode to the early Polish dukes written in the 1110s by the Benedictine monk Gallus'. This account portrays Boleslaw in a very positive light.

According to Thietmar, the army of Boleslaw crossed the border in 1018 and reached Kiev later that same year. Little is known about the armies. Polish historian Rafał Jaworski states that the estimates of the size of Boleslaw's army range between 2,000Ц5,000 Polish warriors, in addition to Thietmar's reported 1,000 Pechenegs, 300 German knights, and 500 Hungarian mercenaries. Less is known about Yaroslav's army, but it is assumed that he also managed to collect a force of similar size. It is also believed that he was aware of Boleslaw's intentions and had time to make defensive preparations.

Probably after concentrating his forces during June, in July Boleslaw led his troops to the border - the banks of the Western Bug River, near one of the settlements of the Volhynia region. In the meantime, Boleslaw's Pecheneg allies approached Kiev, forcing Yaroslav to detach a part of his forces to ensure the safety of his capital. According to Jaworski, Yaroslav, in turn, wanted to prevent Boleslaw from uniting with the Pechenegs, defeat Boleslaw's main force and then take care of the less organized Pechenegs.

The two armies met on opposite banks of the River Bug. Yaroslav's forces may have take position with archers covering the crossing points. Boleslaw seems to have taken his time, allowing his army to rest, and started work on makeshift bridges. The Battle at Bug river finally occurred around July 23.

According to the later Chronicle of Polish Dukes by Gallus, the battle occurred by accident: When Boleslaw decided to throw a feast to boost his army's morale, Yaroslav's archers and scouts decided to create trouble for the Polish servants who were gutting the animals and preparing them near the river. However, they only annoyed them enough that the servants themselves crossed the relatively shallow river and chased away Yaroslav's surprised troops, who had been guarding the river. Bolesław learned of the skirmish sooner than Yaroslav, and managed to move most of his army across the river, defeating the surprised Yaroslav.

The Russian Primary Chronicle gives a different version of events, in which both armies were combat ready and separated by the river before Boleslaw, enraged by insults from across the river, charged with his army, surprising Yaroslav and scattering his forces. All accounts agree that the Polish prince was victorious in the battle. Yaroslav retreated north to Novgorod, rather than to Kiev - likely suspecting that he lacked enough strength to defend Kiev, which was besieged by the Pechenegs and had a significant pro-Svyatopolk faction within its walls. Nestor notes that after reaching Novgorod, Yaroslav attempted to flee "overseas" in hopes of coming back with a Varangian force, but according to the Primary Chronicle, the citizens of Novgorod pressured him to lead the fight back to Boleslaw and Svyatopolk.

Boleslaw's victory opened the road to Kiev, already under harassment from his Pecheneg allies. The city, which suffered from fires caused by the Pecheneg siege, surrendered upon seeing the main Polish army on August 14. The entering forces, led by Boleslaw, were ceremonially welcomed by the local archbishop and Vladimir's family.

A later popular Polish legend related to the history of the Polish coronation weapon, the Szczerbiec sword, is the tale of the Golden Gate of Kiev, upon which the Szczerbiec was supposedly notched when Boleslaw's entered the city. This legend has no historical basis, however, and the gate was only built approximately 20 years later, while the sword itself was not forged until 200 years later. It is of course possible, however unlikely, that Boleslaw notched another gate with another sword, thus giving rise to the legend.

Boleslaw sent his German and Hungarian mercenaries home after Svyatopolk was re-established on the Kievan throne, "the populace" having "flocked to him" and having "appeared loyal". It is not known how long Boleslaw remained in and around Kiev. The 10 months given by the unreliable account of Gallus is fanciful. Boleslaw in fact departed within a few months and, as Thietmar died on December 1 1018, Boleslaw must have been back in Poland a good time before December.

The Primary Chronicle alleges that as the result of Polish plunderings, Svyatopolk ordered "that any Lyakhs [i.e. Poles] found in the city should be killed". The resulting unrest, according to the same source, forced Boleslaw to leave Kiev, whereupon Svyatopolk was left to fend for himself. This negative turn of events is omitted in the only contemporary source, Thietmar of Merseberg's Chronikon.

According to Thietmar, Boleslaw asked Yaroslav to return his daughter, whom Yaroslav had taken prisoner. As Yaroslav refused, Boleslaw took members of Yaroslav's family to Poland as prisoners when he returned to his country in September. His captives included Vladimir's widow and Yaroslav's sister, Predslava, whose hand Boleslaw had sought earlier. Having been rebuffed, Boleslaw now took her as a concubine. The Polish duke also took some commoners as well as much of the treasury of Kiev. Among the notable commoners was the venerated Saint Moses the Hungarian.

In the past some historians (such as Zhylenko and Kostomarov) have conjectured that Boleslaw decided to rule Kievan lands himself, though Boleslaw had no power base there and no Rurikid blood. Boleslaw's main motivation, according to the interpretations of modern historians, was to regain the Cherven towns for his patrimony, while at the same time aiding his kinsman, to whom he had an obligation. The expedition also furnished an occasion to enrich his followers from Kiev's famous wealth. Boleslaw, soon after his arrival, sent a significant force to quarter in Kiev and nearby towns, forcing Kievans to sustain them, and collected significant tributes that he divided among his allies.

On many later occasions in the Kievan period the rulers of Poland, as well as Hungarians or Pechenegs, were paid to intervene in Rus succession disputes; in the case of Boleslaw II, the Polish monarch took the money without making any expedition.

Svyatopolk lost the throne soon afterwards and lost his life the following year. As Boleslaw was involved in a conflict with Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, he did not intervene on behalf of his son-in-law when he was deposed and instead signed a pact with Yaroslav, who had successfully regained the throne. Although he lost control of Kiev, Boleslaw succeeded in keeping the Cherven Towns captured by Vladimir the Great in 981; he was crowned King of Poland in 1025. Yaroslav outlived Boleslaw and contributed greatly to the strengthening of Kievan Rus'.


Poland, 1987, Bolesław I Chrobry

Poland, 2000, Otto III gives the crown to Bolesław I Chrobry

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