Post-classical history


Danzig (mod. Gdansk, Poland) was a town in Pomerelia on the coast of the Baltic Sea that was under the lordship of the Teutonic Order from 1308 to 1454.

Danzig was already a notable trading center in the tenth century and received town rights in the thirteenth. Its castle was the residence of the dukes of Pomerelia, who encouraged an influx of German merchants. When the ducal dynasty died out in 1294, disputes over the suzerainty of Pomerelia arose among Brandenburg, Bohemia, and Wladislaw Lokietek, duke of Great Poland and Cuiavia (later king of Poland), in which the latter sought assistance from the Teutonic Order. In 1308 the order relieved Danzig from a siege by Brandenburg forces and took over the castle and town. By September 1309 the Teutonic Knights had driven the Brandenburg troops from Pomerelia, but refused to hand over the land to Wladislaw. The conflict with Poland that arose from this conquest was settled only in 1343 by the Peace of Kalisz. A convent was installed in Danzig castle, and the devastated town was rebuilt. Dietrich von Altenburg, grand master of the Teutonic Order, initiated the building of a new castle in 1340.

As the greatest trading port under the order’s dominion, Danzig developed into a leading member of the Hanseatic League. Many participants of the order’s campaigns landed, lodged, and made financial transactions here. As its economy grew, the citizens demanded greater liberty, and relations between the town and the order worsened. After the battle of Tannenberg, in which the order’s forces were decisively defeated by a Polish-Lithuanian alliance (1410), Danzig immediately swore allegiance to Poland, but the town was forced back under the lordship of the Teutonic Order by Grand Master Heinrich von Plauen. Danzig joined the league of the Prussian estates (Ger. Preufischer Bund) and finally threw off the order’s rule in 1454 during the so-called Thirteen Years’ War between the league and the order. The burgesses destroyed the order’s castle and allied with the Polish king, whose overlordship allowed them greater independence.

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