A NEW LOOK AT THE SO-CALLED LEGENDARY PART OF THE BYKHOVETS CHRONICLE

Michal Giedroyc, Oxford

The support given to Canon Daukša by his patron, Bishop Merkelis Giedraitis, is an example of that family’s involvement in the creation of Lithuania’s cultural heritage. The earliest instance of that involvement was the participation of the clan Giedraitis in the compilation of the Second and Third Editions of the Lithuanian Chronicle, and – in particular – of the Chronicle’s opening part known as the ”legendary part“. So far historians have concentrated on three questions concerning the ”legend“: who; when; and for what purpose inspired the ”legend“. The still outstanding question: does the ”legend“ contain any factual information?, – is the subject of this paper. The approach is based on the confrontation of the ”legend“ with total evidence, including: circumstantial and colateral; denominational; and supporting (e.g. archeological, toponymic etc.) evidence. The results are then assigned clearly defined levels of probability.
It was first established that for the present purpose it was sufficient to concentrate on the Bykhovets Chronicle (BC) alone. The next step was to separate notionally the contents of BC under two main headings: war/politics and princely genealogy, and then to analyse each sequentially. The study of war/politics demonstrated that BC is the product of progressive assimilation by its author(s) of sound historical knowledge. This suggested that the other theme (genealogy) should be accorded equally serious attention. The study of genealogy clearly confirms that the ancestry of the Ringaudides, the ”House of Palemonas“, is a fabrication. The ”House of Kentauras“ on the other hand, originated by the historical Zivinbudas (ment. 1219), has a claim to authenticity, because total available evidence justifies the status of high probability not only for Traidenis’s kin, but also for the continuity of this house back to Zivinbudas.
The paper concludes with a suggestion that the ”Roman Theory“ may amount to an oblique hint, that some at least of the significant Lithuanian clans may have descended from Northern European immigrants to the Nemunas.

 


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