Dagome iudex is one of the earliest historical documents relating to Poland. Although Poland is not mentioned by name, it refers to Dagome and Ote (Mieszko I and his wife, Oda von Haldensleben) and their sons in 991, placing their land (called "Civitas Schinesghe") under the protection of the Apostolic See. The document's name derives from its opening words.
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Most historians believe that the word "Dagome" is a melding of two names: the Christian "Dago," for "Dagobert" (Mieszko's hypothetical baptismal name), and the Slavic "Me," for "Mieszko." The Latin word "iudex" ("judge") could refer to "prince." Another interpretation is that "Dagome iudex" is a corruption of "Ego Mesco dux" ("I, Prince Mieszko"). In the Vatican copy, the e of Dagome might have an s adscriptum (similar to cedilla), although the Vatican copyist read iudex literally, relating it to Sardinia and its four "judges".
Place names are misspelled by the writer who made the summary. He was apparently unaware that the document related to territory later called Poland.
The boundaries of the "Gniezno" state are described as those that extended to the "Long Sea" (the Baltic), Prussia, Rus', Kraków, Moravia and the Oder River. Lesser Poland is included by the mention of its capital, Kraków ("craccoa"). Between alemura, probably Olomouc and Upper Lusatia region of the Milceni (terra mileze)[a] a straightened border could include Silesia.
The text seems to use ciuitas schinesghe as a synonym of Greater Poland. Otherwise, the boundary description would be more logical if schenisghe meant the city of Szczecin. Of the other regions and places in Mieszko's territory, it mentioned only Kraków and Lusatia, both without fines (border). The regions outside Mieszko's rule, pruzze (Prussia) and russe (Ruthenia) were mentioned with the word fines.
The Dagome iudex is of critical importance to Polish history, since it provided a general description of the future Polish state in that period. It, however, left many questions unanswered. First, it did not explain why Mieszko I placed his state under the Pope's protection. Also, it is unclear why the document did not mention Mieszko's eldest son, Boles?aw I the Brave. Instead, his sons by his second wife (except the third), Oda, were mentioned instead. Finally, Mieszko I is not referred to as "Dagome" in any other document.
Historians suppose that Boles?aw's absence from the document might be explained by an old Slavic custom whereby children received their inheritance as soon as they reached the age of majority. Thus, Boles?aw the Brave might have received Kraków as his part of his father's legacy before the Dagome iudex was written.
Notes based on interpretations by the Polish historian Gerard Labuda:
a.^ When Lusatia came in sight of medieval writers, the Lusici lived only in Lower Lusatia, the Milceni in Upper Lusatia. Later on, the term Lusatia (Lausitz, Lu?ice) was spread to the south. Therefore, nowaday's term Lusatian Mountains does not totally fit with the history of settlement.
b.^ "Dagome" is commonly identified as Mieszko I. However, the question remains open whether this was a misspelling or his Christian name. If the latter, it might correspond to the names "Dago", "Dagon" or "Dagobert".
c.^ In classical Latin, the term iudex was used to refer to "a person who is ordered to do some work on behalf of others" and was identical in meaning to the Byzantine archont. However, in medieval Latin iudex could also mean a sovereign ruler. Princes of Slavic tribes were sometimes referred to as iudices. Nevertheless, some historians claim that this was a misspelling of the Latin dux ("duke" or "prince").
f.^ Scribe's note, only in the Vatican copy; the four is written non-classical as iiii.