Owing to the frequent raids of the Norsemen the people of this region early organized an effective military force of defense. Under the protection of the military bands and their chiefs the fields could safely be cultivated and the little, fortified towns (grody), which became places for the transaction of intra-tribal business and barter for common worship and for the storage of goods during a foreign invasion could be successfully defended and the wrongs of the people redressed. The military bands and their leaders soon became the unifying force, and, the fortified towns the centers of a larger political organization, with the freeman( Kmiec or Kmeton) as its base. The first historical town of this nature was that of Kruszwica, on the Lake of Goplo. It soon gave place to that of Gniezno (called Gnesen by the Germans) or Knezno, further west, which by its very name indicates that it was the residence of a Knez, or prince or duke.
Polish warrior being attacked by tribal peoples
In time Poznan (Posen) became the princely town, and the principality began to assert itself and to grow westward to the Oder, southward to the Barycza and eastward to the Pilica Rivers. In the east this territorial expansion met with the armed opposition of another large tribe, the Lenczanians, which was similarly organized under a military ruler and which occupied the plains between the Warta, Bzura and Pilica Rivers. Further east, in the jungles of 'the middle course of the Vistula to the north of Pilica, lived the most savage of the Polish tribes, the Mazurs. This tribe was the latest to come under the sovereignty of the principality which began its political existence on the bank of the Goplo Lake under the leadership of the wheelwright Piast, whose dynasty ruled the country till 1370. To the north of the Netze River between the Oder and the Baltic, lived the northernmost of the Polish tribes known as the Pomorzanie, or people living by the sea. "Po" in Polish means "by" and "morze" the sea; hence the name of the, province Pomorze, later changed by the Teutons to Pomerania.
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The winged Hussar armor of Polish medieval times may have been influenced by historic tribal symbols
Some historical writers attribute the change in the political organization of the primitive Polanie tribe to the influence of foreign commerce which for geographic reasons had early centered around the Goplo. At that period the lake was a very large body of water with a level at least ten feet higher than at present. The many small lakes now existing in the region were in all probability a part of Goplo, and the valleys of the vicinity constituted the bottom of the lake. There are many reasons to believe that such was the hydrography of the section in that remote age. In his description of Goplo, written five hundred years ago, Dlugosz, a Polish historian, speaks of a vast body of water, leading us to believe that the lake then was much larger than it is at the present time. There is reason to believe that five hundred years previous to this historian's time, before the primeval forests were cut, the lake was still larger. The supposition that Goplo at the time of its highest level was connected by means of small navigable streams with the river's Warta, Oder and the Vistula is quite plausible. The constructive 'fancy of the economic historian sees flotillas of the Pomeranian merchants moving to and fro from Stettin down the Oder and Netze. Here they met merchants from the east, the southeast and the southwest of Europe.
The first king of Poland, the legendary Mieszko the first
The Byzantine, Roman and Scandinavian cultures met at Kruszwica, the largest town on the banks of this vast internal sea of Poland, and exercised a revolutionary effect upon the modes of thought and the political institutions of the tribe. Otherwise the sudden transformation which took place from the tribal and communal organization of the people, which still existed in the second half of the eighth century, to the militaristic structure of society with a strong princely power, as is known to have existed in the ninth century, becomes almost unaccountable. The pressure from the west and north was, no doubt, an important element, but it alone would hardly seem sufficient to explain the change. Economic and cultural reasons had unquestionably exercised a great influence in the rapid molding of a new form of political life which was more adapted to conditions that had arisen since the change from nomadic pursuits to settled agriculture.