Why did the Teutonic Knights fail to conquer Lithuania?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,197
SoCal
#1
Why did the Teutonic Knights fail to conquer Lithuania like they did with Latvia and Estonia?

Based on this map, the Teutonic Knights never conquered eastern Lithuania and were only able to conquer and hold western Lithuania for less than twenty years:



In contrast, the Teutonic Knights were able to conquer and hold onto Latvia and Estonia for at least a couple of centuries.

Anyway, why did the Teutonic Knights struggle so much to conquer Lithuania?
 
Apr 2017
1,404
U.S.A.
#2
Lithuania was united under central authority, with the exception of Samogitia which didn't fully recognize the Lithuanian Duke. The other Baltic areas were scattered tribes that couldn't stand up to the Teutonic knights. The Lithuanians also later began to expand into Russia and formed an alliance with Poland.
 
Likes: Futurist
Dec 2017
801
-------
#3
After the battle of Saule, when the Balts were united with Samgotians, Semigalians. Possibly Curonians and Selonians, the Knights lost touch with what is today Lithuania.
Battle of Saule - Wikipedia

It was a significant defeat the Knights encountered from the pagans at the time. Many Knights were lost in the battle.

A little later Kęstutis defended western borders of Lithuania, while his brother Algirdas defended eastern borders expanding in Rus land. Both were successful. Algirdas was successful in defeating the most powerful army at the time, the army of Golden Horde, in the battle of Blue Waters.

The final nail into German coffin was the Grunwald battle in 1410. Since then , Poland, Lithuania (present day Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, parts of Ukraine) were free of Knights' threat. Unfortunately, Lithuanians (Samogitians) could not keep away Latvians (Curonians, Semigalians) away from the Germans. Latgalians remain to be Roman Catholic to these days.
 
Last edited:
Mar 2014
1,954
Lithuania
#4
Why did the Teutonic Knights fail to conquer Lithuania like they did with Latvia and Estonia?

Based on this map, the Teutonic Knights never conquered eastern Lithuania and were only able to conquer and hold western Lithuania for less than twenty years:



In contrast, the Teutonic Knights were able to conquer and hold onto Latvia and Estonia for at least a couple of centuries.

Anyway, why did the Teutonic Knights struggle so much to conquer Lithuania?
There is tiny, but strategically very important error in this map. It Shows that Teutonic knights have connected their territories by land this not happened for any serious period of time. For the most of the time Lithuanians held tiny sliver of land around Palanga and Sventoji and Teutonic knights didn't have a land route. There was only sea route. Palanga and Sventoji were held because there were important Pagan religious sites. Sventoji actually means holy or sacred in Lithuanian language.
 
Jul 2012
760
Australia
#5
The Lithuanians were not simple, helpless tribes. Rather they were sufficiently advanced by the start of the 12th century to respond positively to changed international circumstances in their region. For centuries beforehand they were subjected to raids from Vikings from the East and later loosely subjected to the state power of Kievan Rus. The loose hold over Lithuania tribes began tightening with the fragmentation of Kievan Rus and the development of Polotsk as a regional power. That seemed to have spurred the Lithuanians towards a stronger local tribal union to oppose the increased state intrusion. Polotsk would soon weaken as the fragmentation of Kievan Rus continued and the Lithuanian tribal union stregthened. The arrival of German knights later in the 12th century to defend German trade interest intensified that drive. By early 13th century the Lithuanians were mounting external raids and supplanting Polotsk as a regional power, continuing over the next couple of centuries to "gather the lands of rus" under their leadership.

The Teutonic Knights were the most advanced and ruthless military organisation of their time, however that did not mean they were invincible and able to take any lands at will. The Lithuanians may not have been able to contain the Teutonic Knights, but they were able to prevent serious loss of territory. In the meantime they were able to develop their state around former Rus principalities that provided resources to advance the state and continue the resistance to the Teutonic Knights.

However, the Lithuanian development and expansion had its limits and by the end of the 14th century a union with Poland and the adoption of Christianity was looking attractive to the Lithuanian monarchs.

The Teutonic military organisation was supported by a colonising state that was developed to displace the native Prussians. It also benefited from a relative cheap fighting force provided by European knights interested in crusading. But as that interest waned, and organised opposition to the Knight's operations increased, the cost of military operations increased which had to be borne by the local population. But as the colonial society developed into a normal society the opposition to the Knight's state rule increased as heavier taxes undermined the society's economy. By the mid 15th century the local population was looking towards Poland and Lithuania to relieve them of their Teutonic Knights masters.

Although the military power of the Teutonic Knights was broken the combined Polish Lithuanian state could not finish off the Teutonic, now new Prussian state.
 
Likes: lexell
Dec 2017
801
-------
#6
The Lithuanians were not simple, helpless tribes. Rather they were sufficiently advanced by the start of the 12th century to respond positively to changed international circumstances in their region. For centuries beforehand they were subjected to raids from Vikings from the East and later loosely subjected to the state power of Kievan Rus. The loose hold over Lithuania tribes began tightening with the fragmentation of Kievan Rus and the development of Polotsk as a regional power. That seemed to have spurred the Lithuanians towards a stronger local tribal union to oppose the increased state intrusion. Polotsk would soon weaken as the fragmentation of Kievan Rus continued and the Lithuanian tribal union stregthened. The arrival of German knights later in the 12th century to defend German trade interest intensified that drive. By early 13th century the Lithuanians were mounting external raids and supplanting Polotsk as a regional power, continuing over the next couple of centuries to "gather the lands of rus" under their leadership.

The Teutonic Knights were the most advanced and ruthless military organisation of their time, however that did not mean they were invincible and able to take any lands at will. The Lithuanians may not have been able to contain the Teutonic Knights, but they were able to prevent serious loss of territory. In the meantime they were able to develop their state around former Rus principalities that provided resources to advance the state and continue the resistance to the Teutonic Knights.

However, the Lithuanian development and expansion had its limits and by the end of the 14th century a union with Poland and the adoption of Christianity was looking attractive to the Lithuanian monarchs.

The Teutonic military organisation was supported by a colonising state that was developed to displace the native Prussians. It also benefited from a relative cheap fighting force provided by European knights interested in crusading. But as that interest waned, and organised opposition to the Knight's operations increased, the cost of military operations increased which had to be borne by the local population. But as the colonial society developed into a normal society the opposition to the Knight's state rule increased as heavier taxes undermined the society's economy. By the mid 15th century the local population was looking towards Poland and Lithuania to relieve them of their Teutonic Knights masters.

Although the military power of the Teutonic Knights was broken the combined Polish Lithuanian state could not finish off the Teutonic, now new Prussian state.
A brief account of our history. Quite accurate, but there are errors. I can point to them. They are minor.
 
Mar 2018
736
UK
#9
Religion was excuse, not the reason why Teutonic order came to Prussia. They wanted to create their own state and make it as powerful as possible.
Hard to recruit German nights to boost your armies for a crusading campaign to bring Christianity to the natives when the natives are Christian however.
 
Nov 2010
7,648
Cornwall
#10
Religion was excuse, not the reason why Teutonic order came to Prussia. They wanted to create their own state and make it as powerful as possible.
Yes I'm sure you are right.

But the 3 main orders were always in peril when their reason for existence was taken from under their feet. The Templars is rooted in the loss of Acre. So unstead of being a supposed bulwark against the horrors of islam in the east, they were treading on everyone's toes in the home countries, owed a lot of money by a lot of people. The Knights of St John translted well to Rhodes and then Malta, but after the shameful surrender to a passing Napoleon looked like they would become extinct, until they managed to become the St Johns of today

The Teutonic Knights official purpose was 'for Christianity and as Olleus says recruits will dry up if you are just another tinpot state