Battle of Strėva

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Battle of Strėva
Part of Northern Crusades
Date 2 February 1348
Location Strėva River near Žiežmariai
54°48′N 24°25′E / 54.800°N 24.417°E / 54.800; 24.417Coordinates: 54°48′N 24°25′E / 54.800°N 24.417°E / 54.800; 24.417
Result Victory of the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Commanders and leaders
Grand Commander Winrich von Kniprode Kęstutis or Narimantas
unknown unknown
Casualties and losses
heavy heavy

Battle of Strėva, Strebe,[1] or Strawe[2] was fought on 2 February 1348 between the Teutonic Knights and pagan Grand Duchy of Lithuania on the banks of the Strėva River, a right tributary of the Neman River, near present-day Žiežmariai.[3] Wigand of Marburg publicized this battle as a great victory for the Knights: he claims that some 18,000 Lithuanians were killed or drowned while only 8 knights and 60 other soldiers died on the Knights' side.[3] Narimantas and Manvydas, two sons of Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania, are thought to be killed in the battle.[4] Because of the change in leadership (the Grand Master Heinrich Dusemer was troubled by poor health and died in 1353) and spreading Black Death, the Knights did not take full advantage of one of the biggest defeats of the Grand Duchy.[1]

In 1347 the Teutonic Knights saw an influx of crusaders from France and England, where a truce was made during the Hundred Years' War.[1] Their expedition started in late January 1348 but due to bad weather bulk of the forces did not proceed further than Insterburg. Small army led by Grand Commander and future Grand Master Winrich von Kniprode invaded and pillaged central Lithuania for a week before being confronted by Lithuanian troops. The Knights were in a difficult position: they could cross the frozen Strėva River only a few men at a time and once major forces had crossed, remainder soldiers would be annihilated. Knights had limited supplies and could not wait. Lithuanians, led by Kęstutis or Narimantas, also had short supplies and decided to attack by hurling arrows and spears injuring a great number. However, at the critical moment crusaders counterattacked with their heavy cavalry and Lithuanians lost their formation.[1] So many of them drowned in the river that Knights could cross it with "dry feet." This episode caused much criticism of the source: the Strėva River is shallow, especially during winter, and could not have caused such a massive drowning.[3]

As a result of the defeat Lithuanians were weakened: the same year the Knights attacked and pillaged Šiauliai area without much of opposition and destroyed a castle in Veliuona. In the east Lithuania lost influence in Pskov and Novgorod in 1348 and in Smolensk the following year.[5] The Knights attributed the victory to the Virgin Mary and in her honor Grand Master Winrich von Kniprode established a Cistercian nunnery in Königsberg.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Urban, William (2006). The Samogitian Crusade (2nd ed.). Chicago, Illinois: Lithuanian Research and Studies Center. pp. 122–124. ISBN 0-929700-56-2. 
  2. ^ a b Christiansen, Eric (1997). The Northern Crusades. London: Penguin Books. p. 222. ISBN 0-14-026653-4. 
  3. ^ a b c Simas Sužiedėlis, ed. (1970–1978). "Strėva, Battle of". Encyclopedia Lituanica V. Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius. pp. 308–309. LCC 74-114275. 
  4. ^ Jokimaitis, Rimantas; Algis Kasperavičius; Eugenijus Manelis; Beatričė Stukienė (1999). World and Lithuanian History. VI-XVIII centuries. The World and Lithuania. Vilnius: Kronta. pp. 118–135. Retrieved 2007-05-26. 
  5. ^ Baranauskienė, Inga (2002-12-07). "Kęstutis ir Algirdas: 1344–1345 m. perversmas ir valdžios dalybos". Voruta (in Lithuanian) 23 (521).