Historians have recorded that in ancient times a variety of distinct tribal groups inhabited this land now called Poland, including the Celts, Balts, Scythians, Huns, Goths, and Germanic peoples.
The earliest settlement found here was an Iron Age fortification, dating to around 700 BC. In modern times archaeologists discovered the remains of a Bronze Age settlement in central Poland.
In the 10th century, Duke Mieszko I of the Piast dynasty, a pagan and Poland's first recorded leader, converted to Christianity and this event is considered the birth of the Polish nation.
The Christian Crusades (1095-1291) were a wide series of military campaigns fought across Europe. The First Crusade, organized by Emperor Alexus with assistance from Pope Urban II and sanctioned by the Latin Roman Catholic Church, was begun in order to restore Christian access to holy places in and around Jerusalem.
In 1226 Konrad I invited the Teutonic Knights, a crusading military order during the Middle Ages, to help him fight the Baltic pagans; a decision which would ultimately lead to centuries of warfare pitting Poland against the Knights.
In 1385, Lithuania's Grand Duke Jagiello accepted Poland's offer to become its king. He consequently converted pagan Lithuania to Christianity and established a personal union between the two lands that lasted for 400 years.
In the 1500s the 'Renaissance' came to Poland; Polish became the official language and literature and learning flourished. In 1569, the Polish Parliament unified Poland and Lithuania into a Commonwealth (or one state).
Near the end of the century Poland's capital city was moved from Krakow to Warsaw by King Sigismund III because of its central location between the Commonwealth's existing capitals of Krakow and Vilnius.
In the middle of the 17th century Sweden invaded Poland. Much of the Commonwealth was virtually destroyed as cities were burned and plundered. An estimated 4 million lay dead due to that war, as well as epidemics and the resulting famine.
In 1683, under John III Sobieski, the King of Poland, the Commonwealth's military prowess was re-established. But because Poland was subjected to almost constant warfare and had suffered massive damage to its economy, the Commonwealth fell once again into decline.
In the late 1700s Poland's three powerful neighbors, Austria, Prussia and Russia coveted Poland. None wanted war with each other so they just decided to divide the now-weakened Poland in a series of agreements called the Three Partitions of Poland.
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