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.
Introduction; The Life and Deeds of Vytautas the Great; Structure and Method; Sources and Scholarship; Chapter I. Vytautas Creating His Own Image; The early years; Right of blood; On the Grand Ducal Seat; On the field; Within the System of Christian Values: From Saracen to a New Messiah; The visual expression of lordship; The Cherished 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 D ugosz on Vytautas; Chapter III. The Early-Modern 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; Conclusions; Selected Bibliography; Illustrations