Bezprym (Hungarian: Veszprém; c. 986–1032) was the duke of Poland from 1031 until his death. He was the eldest son of King Bolesław the Brave, but was deprived of the succession by his father, who around 1001 sent him to Italy in order to become a monk at one of Saint Romuald's hermitages in Ravenna.
|Duke of Poland|
|Predecessor||Mieszko II Lambert|
|Successor||Mieszko II Lambert|
|Died||1032 (aged 45–46)|
|Father||Bolesław the Brave|
|Mother||Judith of Hungary|
Expelled by his half-brother Mieszko II Lambert after the death of their father, Bezprym became ruler of large areas of Poland in 1031 following a simultaneous attack by German and Kievan forces and Mieszko II's escape to Bohemia. His reign was short-lived and, according to some sources, extremely cruel. He was murdered in 1032 and Mieszko II returned to the throne of Poland. It is speculated that a pagan reaction began during his short reign.
In primary sources Bezprym appears as: Besprim (Thietmar's Chronicle), Besfrim (Annalista Saxo), or Bezbriem (Chronicles of Hildesheim and Annales Altahenses). This name was not used among the Polish nobility but was known in Bohemian sources, where it appears as: Bezprim, Bezprem, or Bezperem. According to one of the hypotheses the name is of Slavonic origin, and was probably originally pronounced as Bezprzem or Bezprzym. Due to tradition and the impossibility of determining the correct version of the name, Bezprym remains the form used, although, according to K. Jasiński, it probably requires modifications. The name meant "stubborn", "self-confident, not willing to retreat". The name of the Hungarian city of Veszprém is considered to be derived from the same.
Older historiography frequently combined the figures of Bolesław the Brave's sons Otto and Bezprym. Marian Gumowski also suggested, on the basis of numismatic research, that this "combined" prince could have governed the Duchy of Bohemia in 1003. These theories are based on the chronicle of Wipo of Burgundy, who described only one brother of Mieszko II, Otto. Modern historians assume, however, that Bezprym did exist, and that the chronicler erroneously combined Otto and Bezprym into one person.
Bezprym was the only child of Bolesław the Brave born from his second marriage with an unknown Hungarian princess who, in older literature, was identified as Judith, daughter of the Hungarian ruler Géza. Though opinions vary about the actual identity of Bolesław I 's second wife, there are a number of researchers who still support the hypothesis that she was a daughter of Géza. Soon after his birth, the marriage of his parents ended, probably because of the deterioration in political relations between Poland and Hungary. Bezprym's mother was repudiated and sent away, although she probably remained in Poland and died soon afterwards.
Little is known on Bezprym's youthful years, in contrast with his half-brother Mieszko II, whose youth was fully described in several contemporary sources. This probably showed that his father disliked him and considered Mieszko II as his successor since his birth, which was confirmed by Bolesław I's later political activity.
Bezprym was then destined to a Church career, a fact that was demonstrated in the Vita of St. Romuald, a hermit from Ravenna. There it was stated that in one of the hermitages resided a son of a Polish Duke, who in 1001 gave him a horse. According to modern historians, this Polish prince could only be Bezprym. However, in earlier historiography, it was theorised that the Polish prince who lived in the hermitage of Ravenna was Lambert, son of Mieszko I, or an unknown son of Bolesław I from his first marriage with the daughter of Rikdag, Margrave of Meissen.
It is possible that Bezprym was in Hungary and there he was appointed head of Veszprém and Zala county. In this case the name "Veszprém" would have originated from his name. However, this hypothesis proposed by a Hungarian researcher has not found acceptance among Polish historians. It is also probable that Bezprym was present at the coronation of his father as King of Poland in Gniezno Cathedral on 25 April 1025.
After Mieszko II took control over the government of Poland, both Bezprym and his youngest half-brother Otto probably resided in Poland for a short time. However, Mieszko II soon expelled Bezprym from the country, and probably did the same with Otto in 1030, when he discovered that they conspired against him with the help of Emperor Conrad II.
Bezprym took refuge in Kievan Rus' and probably used the weakened position of Mieszko II as an excuse to gain the alliance of the Rurikid rulers Yaroslav I the Wise and Mstislav. In 1031, while Mieszko II was defending the western border (Lusatia) from the German expedition of Conrad II, Bezprym and the Kievan forces entered into Poland, and Mieszko II was therefore unable to repel the Kievan attack. Mieszko II was then forced to escape to Bohemia, where he was imprisoned and castrated by orders of Duke Oldřich. Yaroslav I the Wise annexed Red Ruthenia to his domains and Bezprym ascended to the Polish throne. It has been postulated that Yaroslav I's troops intervened directly in the central provinces of Poland, aimed at embedding the new Duke on the throne, but this is now considered doubtful. It is possible that the new rule of Bezprym was attractive to the population. Some scholars assume that he may even have stood at the head of a pagan reaction.
Shortly after taking power, Bezprym sent the Polish regalia to the Emperor. Thus, he resigned from the royal title and accepted the primacy of his western neighbour. The royal crown and regalia were personally delivered by Mieszko II's wife, Queen Richeza. In 1031, together with her children Casimir, Ryksa and Gertruda, she left the country. At the court of Emperor Conrad II, the deposed queen was received with all honors, and was also allowed to continue to use her royal title. The departure of Richeza, and especially of her son, was extremely beneficial for Bezprym, because this eliminated (at least temporarily) a possible pretender to the throne. Mieszko II was not considered too dangerous at that time, since he was still imprisoned in Bohemia.
However, there probably remained a large group of supporters of the former ruler. It is believed that Bezprym started a bloody persecution against them shortly after he began his government. As a result, many representatives of the Polish social elite were forced to flee. According to sources, some of them took refuge in Masovia. Perhaps among the victims of the repression were two bishops, Roman and Lambert, whose date of death was recorded in 1032 in the Chronicles of the Chapter of Kraków. The brutal fight with the opposition could have led to the above-mentioned Pagan Reaction, but it was probably instigated by discontent against the power of the Church and with the state apparatus. Contemporary historiography places these riots in 1031–1032, during the reign of Bezprym. The reaction was not only of a religious background, but also social. Mainly it was a reflection of the economic situation caused by the aggressive policy of Bolesław I the Brave and the less successful rule of Mieszko II. The defeat in the battle in the west during that period cut off the basic source of livelihood of the Polish troops, who were forced to loot the western lands. As a result, the cost of maintaining the existence of an extensive army was probably too much for the population. In addition, the devastating incursions of foreign troops was another cause of dissatisfaction among the citizenship.
It is noteworthy that one can find in older historiography the theory, currently generally rejected, of the existence of an older son of Mieszko II known as Bolesław the Forgotten (Polish: Bolesław Zapomniany) This Bolesław apparently succeeded his father in 1034 until his own death in 1038, and, according to some historians, was the real instigator of the Pagan Reaction.
The rule of Bezprym did not last long due to his extreme cruelty. According to the Chronicles of Hildesheim, he was murdered by his own men no later than spring of 1032. Probably the instigators of his death were his half-brothers, although the main conspirator was thought to be Otto, who remained free in Germany. The place of his burial is unknown.
As a result of Bezprym's rule, the Polish state was substantially weakened. After his death the country was divided into three parts, governed by Mieszko II, Otto, or their cousin Dytryk. This significantly increased the impact of the Holy Roman Empire on Polish affairs. Poland also lost its status as kingdom for nearly a half century.
- O. Balzer, Genealogia Piastów, Editorial Avalon, Kraków 2005 (first edition 1895), ISBN 83-918497-0-8.
- D. Borawska, Kryzys monarchii wczesnopiastowskiej w latach trzydziestych XI wieku, Warsaw 1964.
- Gallus Anonymus, Cronicae et gesta ducum sive principum Polonorum, translated by Roman Grodecki, introduction and development of Marian Plezia, Editorial Ossolineum, Wrocław 2003, pp. 36–37, 39-40, ISBN 83-04-04610-5.
- Z. Górczak, Bunt Bezpryma jako początek tzw. reakcji pogańskiej w Polsce [in:] Nihil superfluum esse, edited by J. Strzelczyka and J. Dobosza, Poznań 2000, pp. 111–121.
- A. F. Grabski, Bolesław Chrobry, Warsaw 1964.
- R. Grodecki, Bezprym [in:] Polski Słownik Biograficzny, vol. II, Kraków 1936, p. 2.
- R. Grodecki, S. Zachorowski, J. Dąbrowski, Dzieje Polski Średniowiecznej, vol. I, Editorial Platan, Kraków 1995 (first edition 1926), pp. 103–125, ISBN 83-7052-230-0.
- K. Jasiński, Rodowód pierwszych Piastów, Oficyna Volumen Editorial, 1993, pp. 105–107, ISBN 83-85218-32-7.
- G. Labuda, Mieszko II król Polski, Editorial Secesja, Kraków 1992, ISBN 83-85483-46-2.
- G. Labuda, Pierwsze państwo polskie, National Agency Editorial, Kraków 1989, ISBN 83-03-02969-X.
- S. Szczur, Historia Polski średniowiecze, Wydawnictwo Literackie 2002, pp. 75–81, ISBN 83-08-03272-9.
- Hypothesis of Jacek Hertel (Imiennictwo dynastii piastowskiej we wczesnym średniowieczu, PWN, Warsaw 1980, pp. 106-109).
- K. Jasiński, Rodowód pierwszych Piastów, p. 106.
- Krajčovič, Rudolf (2005). Živé kroniky slovenských dejín [Living Chronicles of the Slovak History] (in Slovak). Bratislava: Literárne informačné centrum. p. 61. ISBN 80-88878-99-3.
- Kazimierz Jasiński: Rodowód pierwszych Piastów, Warsaw 1993
- Oswald Balzer: Genealogia Piastów, Kraków 1895, pp. 39-41
- S. A. Sroka, Historia Węgier do 1526 roku w zarysie, p. 19.
- K. Jasiński, Rodowód pierwszych Piastów, pp. 105-107; J. Wyrozumski, Dzieje Polski piastowskiej (VIII wiek - 1370), p. 103.
- A hypothesis presented by Tadeusz Wojciechowski and Anatol Lewicki.
- Oswald Balzer, Genealogia Piastów, Kraków 1895.
- György Györffy, Kontakty Polski i Węgier w dobie tworzenia się obu państw, explained by Izabela Szyszkowska-Andruszko in "Kwartalnik Historyczny”, vol. XCV, 1988, No 4, p. 9.
- A. F. Grabski, Bolesław Chrobry, Warsaw 1964, p. 292.
- According to chronicles of Wipo, the Polish prince banished by Mieszko II soon after his succession was Otto; however, modern historians assume that in fact was Bezprym, and the author made a mistake by confusing the identity of the two princes.
- Roman Grodecki. Bezprym – an entry in Polski Słownik Biograficzny.
- A strong supporter of this theory was Gerard Labuda, Mieszko II król Polski, pp. 85-86; Roman Grodecki, by the other hand, was opposed to this idea, saying that the że brak jakichkolwiek, choćby pośrednich wskazówek, które by pozwalały przypuszczać, że Bezprym - do niedawna, choć wbrew woli, zakonnik - oparł swe dążności na żywiołach pogańskich w Polsce (...) i że ofiarą jego padł Kościół polski. Prawo Bezpryma do tronu, jako pierworodnego, uznawać mogły najbardziej schrystianizowane żywioły (Dzieje Polski średniowiecznej, p. 107).
- This pattern of events the Stanisław Szczur (Historia Polski Średniowiecze, p. 80). Close to him are the views of Zbyszko Górczak (Bunt Bezpryma jako początek tzw. reakcji pogańskiej w Polsce). G. Labuda put the thesis already mentioned above, that the reaction led to the same Bezprym. In turn, Danuta Borawska stated that the social problems during the government of Bezprym were only one of several reactions, the first of which was to occur as early as 1022 (Kryzys monarchii wczesnopiastowskiej w latach trzydziestych XI wieku). This idea is opposite to the theory of Roman Grodecki, according to which both the social and religious problems occurred only in the second half of the 1030s (Dzieje Polski średniowiecznej, vol. I, pp. 103-114).
- Theory supported, among others, by Roman Grodecki.