Battle of the Strėva

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Battle of the Streva
date February 2, 1348
place Streva river not far from Žiežmariai
output Victory of the Teutonic Order
Parties to the conflict

Teutonic Knights and Guest Knights

Lithuanians and allies


Grand Commander Winrich von Kniprode and
Order Marshal Otto von Danfeld

Grand Duke of Lithuania Kestutis and
Prince Narimantas

Troop strength
about 4,000 men approx. 9,000 men

8 knights, 60 followers

about 6,000 dead

The Battle of Strėva , also known as Battle of the Strebe , on February 2, 1348 , was a skirmish between the Teutonic Order and troops of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as part of the Teutonic Order's Lithuanian Wars . It took place on the banks of the Strėva River, a right tributary of the Memel , not far from today's Žiežmariai, southeast of Kaunas . The meeting ended in a heavy defeat for the Lithuanians.


The most important war goal of the Teutonic Order in the Baltic States during the 14th century was the conquest of Lower Lithuania . With this, the order wanted to gain a land bridge between its two core areas, Prussia and Livonia. The conflict with the rulers of Lithuania, who vehemently rejected the sacrament of baptism and also inclined to conquer, gave the Teutonic Order and the state structure it shaped in the late Middle Ages the legitimation for armed conflict with the "unbelieving" Lithuanians. After efforts to large-scale conquests failed with the destruction of the Bayerburg at the beginning of the forties of the fourteenth century, efforts were made to weaken Lithuania’s grand princes by destroying their power bases. The order, itself too weak in terms of personnel, was dependent on the help of so-called knightly guests , who sought to win over promises of salvation based on the traditions of the crusades and the ideals of chivalry for the struggle in the east.

In the late autumn of 1347 a promising constellation arose for the Teutonic Order: As a result of an armistice in the war between England and France , an unusually large number of guest knights from both powers appeared for the "pagan war" at Marienburg and in Königsberg . In addition, an early winter with severe frost offered the opportunity to advance deeply into the main castles of Vilna and Trakai in impassable and swampy Lithuania . In the middle of December, however, a thaw set in, which delayed the departure of the army by a few weeks. It was not until mid-January 1348 that two columns of march from Marienburg and Königsberg to Lithuania started moving. While the column led by Grand Master Heinrich Dusemer stopped near Insterburg due to bad weather (snowstorms), the Army Division led by Grand Commander Winrich von Kniprode and Order Marshal Otto von Danfeld reached the area southeast of Kaunas. After the crossing over the Streva, this army was confronted with an encirclement by the unnoticed concentrated Lithuanian army under the Grand Duke Kęstutis and his brothers Narimantas and Manvydas . The Lithuanian army detachments blocked the route of retreat across the Streva.

Course of the battle

Relatively little is known about the course of the battle. The only source is the history of the Wigand von Marburg . But this was only drawn up fifty years after the event.

What is undisputed, however, is the fact that the Order's army was cut off from any supply or retreat by the Lithuanians standing on the western bank of the Streva. A far-reaching bypass seemed impossible in view of the circumstances (impassability and bad weather).

As a result, Kniprode and Danfeld decided on an unconventional maneuver: They faked a further advance to the east on Vilna and Trakai, but set an ambush on suitable terrain (dense forest behind presumably open fields east of the icy Streva). In view of the supposedly immediate threat to Vilna, the Lithuanians probably left their advantageous position on the west bank of the Streva and pursued the army of the order.

The extent to which a ford through the river played a role or the onset of thaw decided what happened next remains controversial. In fact, after a brief skirmish of the bow and crossbowmen, the heavy cavalry of the order crossed the advance guard of the Lithuanians. The knights of the order and their guest knights pushed the main power of the Lithuanian army immediately following into the Streva. According to Wigand, the knights are said to have crossed the Streva with “dry feet”. That would mean crossing the river on the mass of the dead.

It is precisely this fact that gives rise to criticism: The Streva was never a deep river where you could drown en masse. However, the river was partially frozen at least in February 1348, as Wigand von Marburg himself confesses that “God's irrevocable will free the river from the ice” and thus possibly led to floods .

The attack of the heavy cavalry of the order on favorable terrain, unexpected by the enemy, decided the battle. The fact that some descendants of Grand Duke Gediminas must have been among the dead speaks for heavy losses of the Lithuanians . Narimantas and Manvydas are no longer mentioned in later records.

Therefore, the battle on the banks of the Streva is an early example of the tactical exploitation of the terrain in adverse conditions.


As a result, the Livonian branch of the order advanced to Šiauliai in autumn 1348 without significant resistance and the Lithuanian influence on Pskov and Smolensk waned. For its part, the Teutonic Order was unable to exploit its success due to internal difficulties. In 1351 he lost a quarter of his knight brothers due to the devastating plague wave . Since there was no influx from Western Europe either, the military forces of the order were insufficient to carry out extensive operations against the armed forces of the Lithuanian grand dukes.


Contemporary chronicles

Source editions

  • The chronicle of Wigand of Marburg. Original fragments, Latin translation and other remains . ed. by Theodor Hirsch. In: Theodor Hirsch, Max Toeppen, Ernst Strehlke (eds.): Scriptores rerum Prussicarum. The historical sources of the Prussian prehistoric times up to the fall of the order . Volume 2, Leipzig 1863, pp. 453-662.
  • Theodor Hirsch, Max Toeppen, Ernst Strehlke: Scriptores rerum Prussicarum. The historical sources of the Prussian prehistoric times up to the fall of the order . Volumes 1–5, Leipzig 1861–1874.

Scientific works

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wigand von Marburg : Chronica nova Prutenica
  2. ^ Wigand von Marburg : Chronica nova Prutenica
  3. ^ Wigand von Marburg : Chronica nova Prutenica
  4. ^ Wigand von Marburg : Chronica nova Prutenica
  5. ^ Theodor Hirsch, Max Toeppen, Ernst Strehlke: Scriptores rerum Prussicarum . The historical sources of Prussian prehistoric times up to the fall of the order ; Volume 3, p. 76
  6. ^ Wigand von Marburg : Chronica nova Prutenica
  7. ^ Wigand von Marburg : Chronica nova Prutenica
  8. Inga Baranauskienė: Kęstutis ir Algirdas: 1344-1345 m. perversmas ir valdžios dalybos Archived from the original on May 27, 2008. Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Voruta . 23, No. 521, December 7, 2002. Retrieved July 18, 2008. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /