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Battle of Cedynia

The Battle at Cedynia (also Cidini, Cydyna, Ceden, Cedin, Zehden) occurred on 24 June 972 during the rule of Duke Mieszko I, the first Christian ruler of the Polans (later Poland). There was a war raging over the western border of the young country, because Mieszko wanted to capture the lightly defended and economically important estuary of the Oder River, in order to secure influence in Pommerania. This led to a conflict with Margrave Hodo of the Nordmark (Northern March) and the Saxon March, who was also ruler of the neighbouring marchy of Lusatia (an antecedent of Brandenburg) and responsible for gathering tribute of the tribes which were Mieszko's point of interest. In the course of division of the East March, the power in the area was exercised by unchecked warlords. Margrave Hodo wanted to extend his territory and influence, and finally gathered his forces. He received support from another man, Count Sigfried and decided to attack. He was sure of victory, and his raid was a private conflict which was against the agreements made by the German emperor, who needed to secure his power in Italy. However, against his expectations, the battle was won by Mieszko.

The forces

The numbers of the fighting parties are unknown, apart from folk tales of the Ursidae cavalry. However, the military readiness, ability to field soldiers and the rank of opponents indicate that there could not have been more than 4,000 men on each side. The German forces most likely fielded more heavy cavalry, while the Polish side's advantages came from the use of quite mobile infantry, well-suited to fighting in uneven terrain, as well as archers.

The battlefield

The duke of the Polans wanted to avoid a long campaign on his territory and stop the enemy on his borders. The fight was on one of the furts or passes through the Oder River directly across the later town of Oderberg, just north of Frankfurt (Oder). The location had been chosen carefully. The only other available pass was next to a high hill, covered with trees and replete with swamps. Further down was the town of Cidini.

The battle

It should be noted that the sources of information on the actual battle operations are at best scarce.

The Polish duke, with a part of his forces (likely to have been most of the horsemen), headed for Oder in order to defend the passage while leaving the rest of army under command of his brother Czcibor, not far from Cedynia.

During the initial phase of the battle, Hodo broke through Oder and pursued Mieszko, who eventually fled to Cedynia. While Hodo's forces were preparing to assault the town, Czcibor's army attacked them from the hills on their flanks. Soon after, another strike came from the fortifications and the march's soldiers were getting overrun. The battle turned into a slaughter.

Aftermath

Not many Germans escaped, however, Sigfried and Hodo did. Eventually the son of Mieszko was taken by the German emperor, Otto I. Otto II wanted to have revenge in 979, but was also defeated.

Sources

Based upon "Słynne bitwy w historii Polski" (Famous battles in Polish history) by Rafał Korbal. Information about this battle is found in the Gall Anonim Chronicle and the Thietmar Chronicle.

After the city of Zehden in Brandenburg was conquered by Soviet Army in 1945, it was called Cedynia and a monument was erected by Poland to commemorate the battle.

Also see Brandenburg Early Middle Ages

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