The texts included in this volume were written between around 1450 and 1590 by eleven different authors in Latin, the universal language of scholarly communication in western Christendom. Together, the texts provide some of the most detailed records of any European pre-Christian religion. However, the texts must be read in context and cannot be used to reconstruct Baltic religious beliefs and practices without careful analysis. The authors were writing within established interpretative and literary traditions, some stretching back to the ancient world, and therefore disentangling literary features of accounts of paganism from factual detail can be a very challenging task.
Woodcut showing Lithuanian pagans worshipping trees, snakes and fire, from Olaus Magnus, On the Northern Peoples (The History Collection / Alamy Stock Photo).
This book provides the first English translations of the key early modern Latin texts on Baltic paganism, including extracts from works by Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Jan Długosz, Filippo Buonaccorsi, Maciej z Miechowa, Johannes Stüler, Martynas Mažvydas, Michalo Lituanus, and Alessandro Guagnini, as well as the complete text of Jan and Hieronim Malecki’s ‘Little book on the sacrifices and idolatry of the Old Prussians’ and Jan Łasicki’s ‘On the gods of the Samogitians’. It is the first book to consider early modern ethnographic works on East-Central Europe in the context of recent scholarship on early modern ethnography as a whole. While the author is an established scholar of the history of religion and belief in medieval and early modern Europe, this will be his first published contribution to the field of Baltic studies.