De moribus tartarorum, lituanorum et moscorum

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Title page of the book (1615)

De moribus tartarorum, lituanorum et moscorum ("On the Customs of Tatars, Lithuanians and Muscovites") is a 16th-century Latin treatise by Michalo Lituanus ("Michael the Lithuanian"). The work, which was originally dedicated to Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund II Augustus, survived only in ten fragments that were first published in 1615 by Johann Jacob Grasser in Basel, Switzerland.[1]


The treatise is thought to date from around 1550: the author's ideas and writing style show the clear influence of humanism.

While the treatise contains some useful historical information, this should be treated with care. The work is neither a chronicle nor a travel book, but rather a political essay which is critical of the author's motherland (Grand Duchy of Lithuania) and overly praises Muscovy and the Crimean Khanate for their centralized governments and united subjects.[2] The author examines the reasons behind Lithuania's decreasing power and influence, criticises the nobility and high Catholic officials, and advocates for a strong centralized government.[3] He further idealizes the era of Vytautas the Great, when the ruling class supposedly did not pursue self-interests, and instead served the state.[1]

Michalo supports the theory that the Lithuanian nation was founded by the legendary dynasty of the Palemonids from the late Roman Empire, and he proposes introducing Latin as the Grand Duchy's official language, thereby restoring forgotten ancestral traditions.[1] As proof of the similarity between Lithuanian and Latin, Michalo includes a list of 74 words that are similar in the two languages. He also compares ancient Roman traditions with pagan Lithuanian customs.[1]


The identity of the author, also known as Michalon Litwin or Michalo the Lithuanian, is not known. In the book's title his name is given in the genitive as "Michalonis Lithuani". Modern historians, including the Lithuanian Ignas Jonynas and the Russian Matvey Lubavsky, have identified the author as Michał Tyszkiewicz, the Lithuanian envoy to the Crimean Tatars in 1537–39.[1] However, Tyszkiewicz was an Eastern Orthodox while "Michalonis Lithuani" identified himself as a Catholic. The Polish historian Jerzy Ochmański [pl] has proposed notary Vatslav Nikolayevich (Vaclovas Mikalojaitis or Wacław Nikołajewicz, c. 1490c. 1560) from Maišiagala.[3] Nikolayevich began to serve Grand Chancellor of Lithuania Albertas Goštautas around 1526.[4] In 1528 and from 1534 until his death, he was a secretary at the Grand Duke's Chancery. He was an envoy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to Moscow in 1537 and 1555–1556 and to Crimea in 1543.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Sužiedėlis, Simas, ed. (1970–1978). "Michalo Lituanus". Encyclopedia Lituanica. III. Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius. pp. 516–517. LCC 74-114275.
  2. ^ Introduction to the Russian translation: Михалон Литвин. О нравах татар, литовцев и москвитян. Moscow 1994
  3. ^ a b Zinkus, Jonas; et al., eds. (1985–1988). "Mykolas Lietuvis". Tarybų Lietuvos enciklopedija (in Lithuanian). III. Vilnius, Lithuania: Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija. p. 83. LCC 86232954.
  4. ^ a b Gudavičius, Edvardas (2009-05-25). "Mykolas Lietuvis". Visuotinė lietuvių enciklopedija (in Lithuanian). Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos centras.