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The Kursenieki are also known as Curonians.
Curonians in the context of the other Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE. The Eastern Balts are shown in brown hue while the Western Balts are shown in green. The boundaries are approximate.

The Curonians or Kurs (Curonian: Kursi; German: Kuren; Latvian: Kurši; Lithuanian: Kuršiai; Estonian: Kuralased; Polish: Kurowie) were a people living on the Eastern shores of the Baltic who were eventually absorbed by the expansion of the Latvian and Lithuanian nations. They gave their name to the region of Courland (Kurzeme). They spoke the Curonian language. The Curonians lived in what is now Latvia and parts of Lithuania from the 5th to the 16th centuries.

The Curonians were known as fierce warriors, excellent sailors and pirates. They were involved in several wars and alliances with Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic Vikings. Grobin was their main center during the Vendel Age. Chapter 46 of Egils Saga describes one Viking expedition by the Vikings Thorolf and Egill Skallagrímsson in Courland. They took part with the Oeselians in attacking Sweden's main city Sigtuna in 1187. Curonians established temporary settlements in overseas regions including eastern Sweden and the islands of Gotland and Bornholm.

The Curonians were an especially religious people, worshipping pagan gods and their sacred animal, the horse. Some of the most important writing sources about the Curonians are the Rimbert's Vita Ansgarii, the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia, the Livländische Reimchronik, Egils Saga, and Saxo Grammaticus's Gesta Danorum.

The Curonians were conquered by the Livonian Order in 1266 and eventually merged with other tribes. Descendents of the Curonians include the Kursenieki of the Curonian Spit and the so-called Curonian Kings of Courland.

Administrative division

Map of Courland

Bishop Rimbert of Bremen (lived before 888 AD) in his life of St. Ansgar, Vita Ansgarii described the territory inhabited by the Curonians (Cori) and gave the names of the administrative districts or lands (civitates):

  • Vredecuronia or Vanemane was the land in the northeast of Courland, today in the district of Talsi.
  • Wende or Vindava was the land around the mouth of the river Venta, today in the district of Ventspils.
  • Bandowe (Bandava) south of Vindava, is today in the district of Kuldīga.
  • Bihavelanc or Piemare, also south of Bandava, is today in the district of Liepāja.
  • Powsare (Dovsare) or Duvzare was a land further south in Courland, today in the district of Liepāja.
  • Megowa or Megava (mentioned also as Negouwe in chronicles) 500 km², was in the environs of modern Palanga, Kretinga and Šventoji.
  • Pilsaten or Pilsāts was the smallest region of around 200 km², in the western part of modern Klaipėda district and northwestern part of Šilutė district.
  • Ceclis or Ceklis – the largest land of 1500 km² west of the Venta River in Samogitia, up to the Lithuanian-Latvian border.




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