|Gesta principum Polonorum|
|Cronicae et gesta ducum sive principum Polonorum|
|Author(s)||Anonymous (see Gallus Anonymus)|
|Date||between c. 1112 - c. 1118|
|Authenticity||authentic, but surviving only in later manuscripts|
|Principal manuscript(s)||Codex Zamoyscianus (National Library of Poland Ms. BOZ cim. 28), Codex Czartoryscianus (Czartoryski Museum of Kraków Ms. 1310), Heilsberg Codex (National Library of Poland Ms. 8006)|
|Genre||Historical narrative; gesta|
|Subject||The reign of Boleslaw III Wrymouth (books ii and iii); Boleslaw's ancestors (book i)|
|Period covered||c. 800 - c. 1113|
(mainly c. 1080 - c. 1113)
The Gesta principum Polonorum (English: Deeds of the Princes of the Poles) is a medieval gesta, or deeds narrative, concerned with Duke Boles?aw III Wrymouth, his ancestors, and the Polish principality during and before his reign. Probably completed between 1112 and 1118, the extant text is present in three manuscripts with two distinct traditions. Its author, though anonymous, is traditionally called Gallus (a name which means "Gaul") probably a non-Pole connected with the monastery of Saint-Gilles or elsewhere in western Europe.
The book is one of the earliest written documents on the history of Poland, but also gives a unique Eastern European perspective on the general history of Europe, supplementing what has been handed down by Western and Southern European historians. It pre-dates the Gesta Danorum and the next major source on early history of Poland, the Chronica seu originale regum et principum Poloniae, by roughly a century.
The title intended for or originally given to the work is not clear. In the initial capital of the text in the Zamoyski Codex, a rubric styles the work the Cronica Polonorum, while in the same manuscript the preface of Book I opens with Incipiunt Cronice et gesta ducum sive principum Polonorum ("[Here] begins the chronicles and deeds of the dukes or princes of the Poles"). The incipit for Book II entitles the work Liber Tertii Bolezlaui ("Book of Boles?aw III"), and that for Book III Liber de Gestis Boleslaui III ("Book of the Deeds of Boles?aw III"). These however are not reliable as such things are often added later.
The latest editors and only English translators of the text style it Gesta principum Polonorum ("the deeds of the princes of the Poles"), primarily to acknowledge its faith with the gesta genre (and the likely authenticity of this part of the title) and to avoid confusion with the later work known as the Chronica principum Poloniae ("chronicle of the princes of Poland").
The author of the Gesta is unknown, but is referred to by historigraphic convention as "Gallus", a Latin word for a "person from France or Gaul" (though also, potentially, a forename). The only source for Gallus' existence comes not from the text but rather from a note made by historian and Bishop of Warmia Martin Kromer (1512–89) in the margin of folio 119 of the "Heilsberg manuscript". It is not known why Bishop Kromer called the author "Gallus".
In Gottfried Lengnich's printed edition, Lengnich named the author as "Martin Gallus" based on a misreading of Jan D?ugosz, where Gallus was conflated with Martin of Opava. Martin Gallus became the standard name in German scholarship for some time to come, though this identification is now rejected by most historians. Historian Maximilian Gumplowicz identified the author as Baldwin Gallus, allegedly Bishop of Kruszwica, though likewise this theory has failed to gain general acceptance.
There have been frequent attempts to identify Gallus' origins from clues in the text . Marian Plezia and Pierre David both argued that Gallus came from Provence in what is now southern France, and was closely connected with the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Gilles. Another historian, Karol Maleczy?ski, argued that the evidence suggests a connection with Flanders, while Danuta Borawska and Tomasz Jasi?ski have argued based on stylistic evidence that he was connected with Venice and that he authored an anonymous translatio of St Nicholas. Marian Plezia argued in 1984 that his writing style suggests an education in one of the schools of central France, likely Tours or Orléans.
Plezia and others further argue that Gallus' extensive knowledge of Hungary testify to connections there, postulating a connection to the Benedictine monastery of Somogyvár in Hungary, a daughter-house of St Gilles'. He appears to have been closely connected to the Awda?cy clan, a kindred of Norse or Rus origin who had been successful under Boleslaw II, and who had been exiled to Hungary but returned to prominence in Polish affairs during the reign of Boleslaw III. As he stated that "the city of Gniezno ... means "nest" in Slavic", it is thought that the author may have known the language of the country. All that is certain is that he was a monk and a non-Slav living in Poland, perhaps on a Polish benefice.
Generally, it is thought that the original text was composed at some point between 1112 and 1117. The dedicatory letter on the preface of the Gesta fixes completion of the origin text between 1112 and 1118. The last event mentioned in the work is the pilgrimage of Boleslaw III to Székesfehérvár in Hungary, which occurred in either 1112 or 1113. The work was almost certainly completed before the revolt of Skarbimir in 1117-18. There is some evidence that several interpolations were added subsequently. For instance, there is reference to the descendants of Duke Swietobor of Pomerania (ii.29).
The Gesta is not extant in the original, but instead survives in three different manuscripts representing two different traditions. The Codex Zamoyscianus (Z) and Codex Czartoryscianus (S) represent the first, and earliest documented tradition, the latter being derived from the former. The Heilsberg codex, though later and surviving in less detail, is an independent witness to the text and constitutes the second distinct tradition.
The earliest version lies in the manuscript known as the Codex Zamoyscianus or Zamoyski Codex. This was written down in the late 14th-century, probably in Kraków between 1380 and 1392. It was located in the library of the ?aski family until the 15th century. Thereabouts Sandivogius (S?dziwój) of Czech?oj (d. 1476), a canon of Gniezno Cathedral and friend of the historian Jan D?ugosz, came into possession of it. It was later in the library of the counts of Zamo, but is now in the National Library in Warsaw as Ms. BOZ cim. 28.
A second version of the Gesta lies in the Codex Czartoryscianus, also called the S?dziwój Codex. Between 1434 and 1439 Sandivogius of Czech?o had a second copy made for him, produced from the version in the Codex Zamoyscianus. As it is a direct copy, its usefulness is limited in reconstructing the original text. This version currently lies in the Czartoryski Museum of Kraków, Ms. 1310, fols. 242–307.
The third and latest witness to the text is the version in the so-called Heilsberg Codex. This version was written down between 1469 and 1471, based on an earlier version. The latter had been written at Kraków around 1330, was in ?ekno monastery (Greater Poland) in 1378, and had been transferred to the monastery at Trzemeszno before coming into the hands of Martin Kromer, Bishop of Warmia (1579–1589).
Between the mid-16th century and the 18th century, the manuscript was located in the German-speaking Prussian town of Heilsberg (today the Polish town of Lidzbark Warmi?ski), hence the name. Unlike the version in the Codex Czartoryscianus, this is an independent witness to the original text. It is currently in the National Library in Warsaw as Ms. 8006, fols. 119–247.
The Heilsberg text omits large sections of text present in the other two manuscripts, for instance omitting several chapters like 27 and 28 in Book I.
The text of the Gesta was printed for the first time in 1749, when an edition based on the Heilsberg Codex was published by Gottfried Lengnich, reprinted two decades later by Laurence Mizler de Kolof, and has since been printed in many editions.
Jan Wincenty Bandtkie, who also used Heilsberg, was the first to utilise the Codex Zamoyscianus tradition. As the Heilsberg Codex was "lost" between the 1830s and the 1890s, texts in this period make no original use of it. Finkel & K?trzy?ski's 1898 edition likewise makes no use of Heilsberg. Julian Krzy?anowski produced the first facsimile in the 1940s, while in the 1950s Karol Maleczy?ski's edition was the first to collate all three manuscripts.
The text has been fully translated several times. It was translated into Polish by Roman Grodescki by 1923, though this was not published until 1965. There was a Russian translation in 1961, a German translation in 1978 and an English translation in 2003.
The work begins with an address and dedication to Martin, Archbishop of Gniezno, and to the bishops of Poland's regions, Simon (Bishop of Plock, c. 1102–29), Paul (Bishop of Pozna?, 1098–c. 1112), Maurus (Bishop of Kraków, 1110–18) and Zyroslaw (Bishop of Wroclaw, 1112–20). Thomas Bisson argued that the text was primarily written in the gesta genre of Latin literature as a celebration of Duke Boleslaw III Wrymouth, defending his actions and legimizing his dynasty (compare the near-contemporary Deeds of Louis the Fat).
The work is divided into three books, focused on genealogy, politics and warfare. Book one, of 31 chapters, treats the deeds of the ancestors of Boleslaw III (beginning with the legendary Piast the Wheelwright), and their wars against the Germans and Slavic peoples such as the Rus, the Bohemians, the Pomeranians and the Mazovians. The first Book claims to rely on oral tradition, and is largely legendary in character until the reign of Mieszko I. The earlier material tells of the rises of the Piasts from peasants to ruler, a tale common in early Slavonic folk-myth.
Book two, of 50 chapters, traces the birth of Boleslaw, his boyhood deeds and documents the wars waged by himself and "count palatine" Skarbimir against the Pomeranians. Book three, of 26 chapters, continues the story of the wars waged by Boleslaw and the Poles against the Pomeranians, the war against the German emperor Heinrich V and the Bohemians, and against the Baltic Prussians.