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Making a Great Ruler

Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania

by: Giedre Mickunaite
published by: Central European University Press
pp: 358
ISBN: 978-963-7326-58-5
price: € 39.95

Book's frontpage

How does a ruler become "the Great"? Is greatness a part of authority exercised or a part of an image created? These and other questions are addressed in this volume on the life and memory of Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania (r.1392-1430). The study raises a hypothesis that Vytautas was the main engineer of his image as the great ruler while his contemporaries and later generations developed this image and adapted it to their needs and understandings.

Investigating the propaganda surrounding the grand duke, this study reveals that, in fact, there were two opposite images: that of a good ruler and that of a tyrant. The paradox is that frequently these opposites were based on the same features of the grand duke's character or episodes from his biography. The research is based on a wide array of written and visual sources as well as on records of oral tradition. Rich and diverse primary materials are analysed from the perspectives of political and social history, memorial culture, as well as iconography and rhetoric.


Table of contents

List of illustrations 
List of abbreviations 
A note on personal and geographic names 
Chapter I
Vytautas creating his own image
The early years Right of blood
On the grand ducal seat
On the fieldWithin the system of Christian values: from Saracen to a new Messiah
The visual expression of lordship
The cherised and troubled crown
The final word of praise 
Chapter II
The fifteenth century: Shaping of the image
Memory and memorial
The good old times of Vytautas in law and anecdote
Jan Dlugosz on Vytautas 
Chapter III
The early-medern image of Vytautas In Lithuania and in Poland
Folklore tradition
In other countries 
Chapter IV
Image and image
Memory and oblivion: Medieval and early modern images compared
Following the patterns of kingship
The sense of Byzantium
The making of national hero
Paths not pursued 
Selected bibliography

Primary sources 
Secondary literature 



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