|Country||Poland, Duchy of Mazovia, Duchy of Silesia, and several Duchies of Silesia|
|Titles||Duke of the Polans, Duke of Poland, King of Poland, King of Rus', Duke of Mazovia, Duke of Silesia, and several other ducal titles (see Dukes of Silesia)|
|Founder||semi-legendary Piast, son of legendary Chościsko|
|Final sovereign||Casimir the Great, in the Kingdom of Poland, and George IV William, Duke of Leignitz, in the Silesian duchies|
|Dissolution||1370, in the Kingdom of Poland, and 1675, in the Duchies of Silesia|
|Cadet branches||Silesian Piasts, later became the oldest surviving branch of the dynasty|
The Piast dynasty was the first historical ruling dynasty of Poland. The first documented Polish monarch was Prince Mieszko I (c. 930 – 992). The Piasts' royal rule in Poland ended in 1370 with the death of king Casimir III the Great.
Branches of the Piast dynasty continued to rule in the Duchy of Masovia and in the Duchies of Silesia, until the last male Silesian Piast died in 1675. The Piasts intermarried with several noble lines of Europe, and possessed numerous titles, some within the Holy Roman Empire.
Origin of the name
The early dukes and kings of Poland regarded themselves as descendants of the semi-legendary Piast the Wheelwright (Piast Kołodziej), first mentioned in the Cronicae et gesta ducum sive principum Polonorum (Chronicles and deeds of the dukes or princes of the Poles), written c. 1113 by Gallus Anonymus. However, the term "Piast Dynasty" was not applied until the 17th century, introduced by the Polish historian Adam Naruszewicz, it is not documented in contemporary sources.
The first "Piasts", probably of Polan descendance, appeared about 940 on the territory of Greater Poland at the stronghold of Giecz. Shortly afterwards they relocated their residence to Gniezno, where Prince Mieszko I ruled over the Civitas Schinesghe from about 960. The name Polani, from Slavic: pole ("field"), did not appear until 1015. The Piasts temporarily also ruled over Pomerania, Bohemia and the Lusatias, as well as Ruthenia and, by pawning, the Hungarian Spiš region in present-day Slovakia. The ruler bore the title of a duke or a king, depending on their position of power.
The Polish monarchy had to deal wth the expansionist policies of the Holy Roman Empire in the west, resulting in a chequered co-existence, with Piast rulers like Mieszko I, Casimir I the Restorer or Władysław I Herman trying to protect the Polish state by treaties, oath of allegiances and marriage politics with the Imperial Ottonian and Salian dynasties. The Bohemian Přemyslid dynasty, the Hungarian Arpads and their Anjou successors, the Kievan Rus', later also the State of the Teutonic Order and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were mighty neighbours.
The Piast position was decisievely enfeebled by an era of fragmentation following the 1138 Testament of Bolesław III Krzywousty. For nearly 150 years, the Polish state shattered into several duchies, with the Piast duke against the formally valid principle of agnatic seniority fighting for the throne at Kraków, the capital of the Lesser Polish Seniorate Province. Numerous dukes like Mieszko III the Old, Władysław III Spindleshanks or Leszek I the White were crowned, only to be overthrown shortly afterwards. The senior branch of the Silesian Piasts, descendants of Bolesław III Krzywousty's eldest son Duke Władysław II the Exile, went separate ways and since the 14th century were vassals of the Bohemian Crown.
After the Polish royal line and Piast junior branch had died out in 1370, the Polish crown fell to the Anjou king Louis I of Hungary, son of late King Casimir's sister Elizabeth Piast. The Masovian branch of the Piasts became extinct with the death of Duke Janusz III in 1526. The last ruling duke of the Silesian Piasts was George William of Legnica who died in 1675. His uncle Count August of Legnica, the last male Piast, died in 1679. The last legitimate heir, Duchess Karolina of Legnica-Brieg died in 1707 and is buried in Trzebnica Abbey. Nevertheless numerous families, like the illegitimate descendants of the Silesian duke Adam Wenceslaus of Cieszyn (1574-1617), link their genealogy to the dynasty.
Coat of arms
Piast kings and rulers of Poland appear in list form in the following table. For a list of all rulers, see List of Polish monarchs.
- Bolesław the Forgotten
- List of Polish rulers
- Dukes of Silesia and Silesian Piasts
- Dukes of Masovia
- Dukes of Greater Poland
- Dukes of Cuiavia
- Dukes of Leczyca
- Dukes of Sieradz
- Poland during the Piast dynasty
- Category:House of Piast
- Encyklopedia Powszechna PWN Warsaw 1975 vol. III p. 505
- "Piast Dynasty". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 30 March 2011. "The name Piast was not applied to the dynasty until the 17th century."
- Górczyk, Wojciech, "Półksiężyc, orzeł, lew i smok. Uwagi o godłach napieczętnych Piastów" http://histmag.org/?id=3057&act=ac