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The Palemonids were a legendary dynasty of Grand Dukes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The legend was born in the 15th or 16th century as proof that Lithuanians and the Grand Duchy are of Roman origins. Already Jan Długosz (1415–1480) wrote that the Lithuanians were of Roman origin, but did not provide any proof. The legend is first recorded in the second edition of the Lithuanian Chronicle produced in the 1530s.[1] At the time the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was quarrelling with the Kingdom of Poland, rejecting the claims that Poland had civilized the pagan and barbaric Lithuania. The Lithuanian nobility felt a need for the ruling dynasty to show upstanding origins, as the only available chronicles at the time were written by the Teutonic Knights, a long-standing enemy, and depicted Gediminas, ancestor of the Gediminids dynasty, as a hostler of Vytenis.[2]

In this new Lithuanian chronicle, Palemon (could be Polemon II of Pontus), a relative of Roman Emperor Nero, escaped Rome together with 500 noble families. The company traveled north, through the Baltic Sea, and reached the Nemunas Delta. After that they decided to sail upstream until they reached the mouth of Dubysa. There, the Palemonids settled on a large hill and ruled the country for generations until the Gediminids emerged.[1] The chronicle skipped Mindaugas and Traidenis, attested Grand Dukes of Lithuania, entirely.[2] It incorporated the account of the Gediminid line from the first edition. To make the story more believable, the chronicler presented a very detailed account of the journey. Because there were not enough generations to cover the gap between the 1st century when Palemon arrived and the 14th century when Gediminas died, the third edition of the chronicle, also known as the Bychowiec Chronicle, placed Palemon in the 5th century instead of the 1st, when Rome was devastated by Attila the Hun,[1] and included Mindaugas and other attested dukes. But it was not enough and historians like Maciej Stryjkowski and Kazimierz Kojałowicz-Wijuk moved the account further, into the 10th century.[3] Multiple contradictory versions of the legend survive to this day as historians tried to patch up some obvious mistakes and make it more historically sound.

The first to critically evaluate and reject the legend was historian Joachim Lelewel in 1839.[4] At the end of the 19th century there were some attempts, for example in a history written by Maironis, to tie the legend with the expansion of the vikings.[1] While many historians up until the dawn of the 20th century believed the legend to be true, it is now largely discarded as a fictional story that only serves to illustrate political ideology in the 16th-century Lithuania.[5]

Genealogical tree according to the second edition of the Lithuanian Chronicles[edit]

From Column family
Duke of Samogitia
Founder of Jurbarkas
Duke of Aukštaitija
Founder of Kaunas
Duke of Eastern Lithuania
Name: Lake Spėra
Duke of Deltuva
From Centaurus family
Duke of Lithuania
Founder of Kernavė
Duke of Samogitia
Duke of Samogitia
Duke of Deltuva
Name: valley in Kernavė
Name: Neman River
Duke of Navahradak
Skirmantas Vykintas
Duke of Samogitia
Duke of Navahradak and Polatsk
Duke of Samogitia
Duke of Lithuania
Duke of Navahradak, Pinsk, Turaŭ, etc.
Duke of Polatsk
Duke of Samogitia
Grand Duke of Navahradak
Grand Duke of Karachev
Duke of Turaŭ
Duke of Polatsk
Duke of Navahradak
Duke of Polatsk
Duke of Lithuania and Samogitia
Founder of Utena
Duke of Navahradak
Duke of Navahradak
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Name: valley in Vilnius
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Duke of Samogitia
Duke of Lithuania and Rus'
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Daumantas Olshan
Ancestor of Olshanski
Ancestor of Giedraičiai
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Source: Jučas, Mečislovas (2003). Lietuvos metraščiai ir kronikos (in Lithuanian). Vilnius: Aidai. p. 53. ISBN 9955-445-40-8. The table was prepared according to the second edition of the Lithuanian Chronicles, the so-called transcription of the Archaeological Society. Other editions, transcriptions, chronicles, and later historians presented significantly different genealogical trees.

Note: Darker shaded cells represent dukes who share their names with real historical figures. Dukes with the title Grand Duke of Lithuania ruled the unified country: i.e. they ruled Lithuania, Samogitia, and Rus'.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ivinskis, Zenonas (1953–1966). "Palemonas". Lietuvių enciklopedija (in Lithuanian). 21. Boston, Massachusetts: Lietuvių enciklopedijos leidykla. pp. 400–401. LCC 55020366.
  2. ^ a b Ivinskis, Zenonas (1953–1966). "Metraščiai". Lietuvių enciklopedija (in Lithuanian). 18. Boston, Massachusetts: Lietuvių enciklopedijos leidykla. pp. 307–310. LCC 55020366.
  3. ^ Jonynas, Ignas (1936). "Borkus". In Vaclovas Biržiška (ed.). Lietuviškoji enciklopedija (in Lithuanian). 4. Kaunas: Spaudos Fondas. pp. 251–255.
  4. ^ Jučas, Mečislovas (2000). Lietuvos ir Lenkijos unija (in Lithuanian). Aidai. p. 240. ISBN 9986-590-95-7.
  5. ^ Rowell, S. C. (1994). Lithuania Ascending: A Pagan Empire Within East-Central Europe, 1295-1345. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series. Cambridge University Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-521-45011-9.