Prince Racibor’s Conquest of Konungahela – Pomeranian Chronicles
881 years ago, on 9th August 1136, the fleet of Pomeranian Prince Racibor I – tributary of the Polish king Bolesław Wrymouth, attacked and defeated Scandinavians on their soil. After passing 300 miles and two Danish straits, the Lechitic fleet numbering approximately 650 warships, and as sources claim, almost 29,000 warriors, attacked during the night between 9th and 10th of August, conquered and plundered the “unconquerable” stronghold, one of the most important ports and religious centers of Christian Scandinavia – a city that belonged to Norway, Denmark and Sweden at the same time – Konungahela.
Konungahela (Konghelle; Kungölv nowadays, in southern Sweden, close to Goteborg), which lay on the borderland of Norway and Sweden over the Götafeld river, was formally ruled by the Danish king Eric II in the XII century. It was one of the most important trade centers both on sea and land. This city was one of the richest ports in northern Europe and had a special religious and political role for whole Scandinavia. From the sea, the city was protected by high fjords; from the land, by a great stronghold. It was considered impregnable.
Historians are not sure what was the reason of this raid commanded personally by Prince Racibor I of the Gryffin dynasty and the brother of the Pomeranian King Wracisław I residing on Kamień Pomorski. Besides the lust for gold and slaves, there was probably also a political reason – destroying of the Danish-German conspiracy which was pointed towards Lechitic pirates, and weakening Denmark military-wise and economically. The Danes were the main enemy of the Rani and Pomerani tribes. Furthermore, Bolesław Wrymouth also had his agenda in it. Snorri Sturlusons saga claims that the Pomeranian fleet was 780 warships strong. When we add to this that one ship was able to take 44 warriors and 2 horses aboard, we must conclude that this is the greatest known sea raid of Western Slavonic tribes.
We have to remember that “historians” very often increased or decreased the numbers in battles to excuse defeats and make victories more epic. One way or another, the great Pomeranian fleet left Kołobrzeg, destroyed almost completely Danish fleet and plundered few ports along its way to Konungahela. The town was 10 km inland, with two branches of river leading to it. Racibor, who was experienced in raiding Scandinavians, split his army in two groups and directed them on the stronghold. In the morning of 09.08.1136, both armies saw the goal of their expedition.
The son of the priest Andrew, called Einar, disturbed the holy mass and raised the alarm after having spotted the incoming warships. Civilians went to the shore and tried to make armed resistance from the wooden wall. One part of the Pomeranian fleet had no problems landing, and the cavalry rounded the walls quickly. The second part of the fleet was under constant fire from bows, and they had to burn tradeships which were blocking their way to the shore. Snorri claims that only during that part of the attack, the “Wends” lost 170 of their naval units. Either way, it was the moment when the first slaves were captured, and the rest of the defenders went to hide on the other side of the city walls. After a short rest, the Slavonics proceeded to the town to plunder, burn what was left and enslave the population.
Those who did not die in the port or the city, found refuge within the thick walls of the stronghold, the last point of defense. Racibor tried to convince the Scandinavians to surrender, promising them safe passage with weaponry, clothes and gold, but the defenders suspected that to be too good to be true. There was no field for negotiation, so it meant only one thing: further combat.
Besieged, and seeing the overwhelming power of the Pomeranians and their determination to completely erase the place from the map, the Scandinavians tried to call for support from mainland. They managed to send a message to Skurbarga where a great feast was taking place. Warriors were encouraged by the berserker and went south to Konungahela. Here, Snorri lets his imagination flow to describe the bravery of his countrymen. He also mentions the great sacrifice undertaken to kill the sole Pomeranian bow-sharpshooter who was heavily defended by a group of warriors. No backup could change the situation. Konungahela was to fall under Slavonic boot.
When the defenders ran out of arrows, spears and stones, they had no choice. Because they refused to give up when they had a chance, Racibor was merciless. Everyone who wasn’t acceptable as a slave was killed, everything that had no value was burned to ashes. Konungahela never revived its former glory.
Racibor returned to Slavia leaving nothing but burned ground behind. He was one of the famous royal-blooded warlords among the Western Slavonic tribes. He was fighting alongside Prince Niklot during the Wendish Crusade. Racibor had a hobby: his closest Scandinavian neighbors. Historians claim that Pomeranians and Ranians exterminated a third of the whole Danish population during raids and battles.
A few years after the conquest of Konungahela, in 1147, Racibor sat on the throne of Pomerania. He never stopped raiding Scandinavia. After he “went to Navia,” Pomerania was split between two of his sons, Kazimierz I (Casimir I) and Bogusław I.
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