Post-classical history

Durben, Battle of (1260)

A defeat of the army of the Teutonic Order by pagan Samogi- tians near Durben (mod. Durbe, Latvia) on 13 July 1260. It triggered revolts among peoples conquered by the Teutonic Order and weakened the crusades in the Baltic area.

At this time the Teutonic Order had conquered Curonia and was expanding into Samogitia. In 1260 Samogitians besieged the fort of Georgenburg (mod. Jurbarkas, Lithuania), newly built by the Livonian and Prussian branches of the Teutonic Order in the area by the Nemunas River called Karsuva (Karsowe). To lift the siege, Teutonic Knights from both branches led out an army of Prussians, Estonians, Curonians, Danes from Reval (mod. Tallinn, Estonia), and thirty knight brethren from Germany. As they marched toward Georgenburg, news came that the Samogitians were devastating Curonia. The order’s army hurried there and met the pagans by the Durben River, near Lake Durben.

According to the chronicle of Peter von Dusburg, the Curonians in the order’s host had asked if their wives and children who had been seized by the Samogitians would be restored in case of victory. Others in the host objected, wanting these captives as war booty. During the battle, the angry Curonians defected, attacking the order’s troops from the rear. Surrounded, the Christians panicked and were slaughtered. Casualties included Burkhard von Hornhausen, Livonian master of the order, as well as 150 Teutonic Knights and large numbers of allied troops.

As a result, the Teutonic Order withdrew from the forts of Durben and Georgenburg, was obliged to fight revolts by the Curonians and the Prussians (1260-1274), and lost King Mindaugas of Lithuania as an ally.

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