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Prince Popiel.
The Mouse Tower in Kruszwica, constructed in 1350, incorrectly associated with Popiel.

Prince Popiel (or Duke Popiel) was a legendary 9th-century ruler of the West Slavic ("proto-Polish") tribe of Goplans or Polans, the last member of the pre-Piast dynasty, the Popielids. According to the chroniclers Gallus Anonymus, Jan Długosz and Marcin Kromer, as a consequence of bad rule he was deposed, besieged by his subjects, and eaten alive by mice in a tower in Kruszwica.

As the legend goes, Prince Popiel was a cruel and corrupt ruler who cared only for wine, women, and song. He was greatly influenced by his wife. Due to Popiel's misrule and his failure to defend the land from marauding Vikings, his twelve uncles conspired to depose him. However, at his wife's instigation, he had them all poisoned during a feast (she might have done it herself). Instead of cremating their bodies, as was the custom, he had them cast into Lake Gopło.

When the commoners saw, what Popiel and his princely German wife had done,[1] they rebelled against their rulers. The princely couple took refuge in a tower near the lake. As the story goes, a throng of mice and rats (which had been feeding on the unburnt bodies of Popiel's uncles) rushed into the tower, chewed through the walls, and devoured Popiel and his wife alive. Prince Popiel was succeeded by Piast Kolodziej and Siemowit.

On the shore of Lake Gopło stands a medieval tower, nicknamed the Mouse Tower. However, it can't be the site of the events described in the legend as it was erected some 500 years thereafter.


  1. ^ The German wife of the legendary ruler Popiel is sometimes mistakenly called Ryksa (Hilderyka, or Brunhilda); however, her actual real name has not been specified by any early historians. See: Historya narodu polskiego, Volumes 3-4. By Adam Naruszewicz, 1836. Chapter "Podług rękopisma Puławskiego". As noted by Naruszewicz, the name of Popiel's wife has not been specified neither by Marcin Kromer nor by Wincenty Kadłubek.

See also

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