Battle of Durbe

Battle of Durbe
Part of the Livonian Crusade
Teutonic Order 1260.png
Military activities of the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century
Date13 July 1260
Location
Near Durbe
ResultSamogitian victory
Belligerents
SamogitiansLivonian Order, Teutonic Knights, platoons of Swedes, Danes, Old Prussians
Commanders and leaders
Treniota?Burchard von Hornhausen 
Strength
Around 4,000Around 8,000 and 190 knights
Casualties and losses
Unknown150 knights
Baltic tribes at the beginning of the 13th century before the orders started their crusade

The Battle of Durbe (Latvian: Durbes kauja, Lithuanian: Durbės mūšis, German: Schlacht an der Durbe) was a medieval battle fought near Durbe, 23 km (14 mi) east of Liepāja, in present-day Latvia during the Livonian Crusade. On 13 July 1260, the Samogitians soundly defeated the joint forces of the Teutonic Knights from Prussia and Livonian Order from Livonia. Some 150 knights were killed, including Livonian Master Burchard von Hornhausen and Prussian Land Marshal Henrik Botel.[1] It was by far the largest defeat of the knights in the 13th century: in the second-largest, the Battle of Aizkraukle, 71 knights were killed.[2] The battle inspired the Great Prussian Uprising (ended in 1274) and the rebellions of the Semigallians (surrendered in 1290), the Couronians (surrendered in 1267), and the Oeselians (surrendered in 1261). The battle undid two decades of Livonian conquests and it took some thirty years for the Livonian Order to restore its control.

Background

The Livonian Order had been fighting the Samogitians since 1253, when Mindaugas was crowned as King of Lithuania and transferred parts of Samogitia to the order. The Samogitians did not recognize the transfer and fought for their independence. For the knights, Samogitia was a strategically important region as it physically separated their Prussian and Livonian branches. After the Samogitians killed 12 knights in the Battle of Memel, near the newly built Memel Castle (Klaipėda) in 1257, a two-year truce was concluded.[3] Once the truce expired, the Samogitians invaded Courland and defeated the knights in the Battle of Skuodas in 1259.[4] The success encouraged the Semigallians to rebel.[1] The knights attempted to strengthen their strategic position and attacked Tērvete (Terwerten) hoping to turn the Semigallian outpost into a Teutonic castle.[5] When the attack failed, they built a fortress in nearby Dobele (Doblen) and Georgenburg (possibly present-day Jurbarkas) in Samogitia.[6] The Semigallians attacked Dobele, but, due to poor siege tactics, suffered heavy casualties. The Samogitians did not attack Georgenburg directly but built a fortress nearby, cutting off the castle from its supplies and continuously harassing the garrison.[7]