Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

After 16 October 1522 Szapolyai, Voivode of Transylvania defeats the Turks in Wallachia

Voivode of Transylvania, later King Szapolyai János of Hungary

At the end of September 1521, after the capture of Nándorfehérvár, Suleiman went home to Constantinople. At the same time, Voivode Basarab of Wallachia died, after which his son, Teodosie, and a pretender named Radu competed for the throne. Teodosie won the first round, but Mehmed Bey of Silistra entered Wallachia and took Teodosie with him. Radu did not remain the prince of Wallachia for long either, in March 1522 Mehmed drove him out as well.

A Wallachian rider

Radu fled to Transylvania. Not only in Transylvania but also in the Hungarian royal court, the news could be heard more and more often that Mehmed now wanted to invade Transylvania. In any case, Mehmed remained in Wallachia / Havasalföld in the spring of 1522 and constantly threatened Southern Transylvania with his raids. At the same time, another Ottoman army invaded Croatia and occupied Knin and Scardona at the end of May, and besieged Klisza and Jajca.

The Kingdom of Hungary at the end of the 15th century

Responding to the danger, Transylvanian Voivode Szapolyai János announced a provincial assembly in Enyed on March 30, and then in the second half of April, he marched through Szeben to Brassó, to Prázsmár, to await his armies. Here he also met the exiled Radu. During the Hungarian raids, they already entered Wallachia / Havasalföld, and the heads of the killed Ottoman warriors were impaled on the rampart of Prázsmár.

The fortified church of Prázsmár
Photo: Civertan

Finally, around June 20, Radu’s army of Wallachian (Romanian) boyars and Hungarian soldiers crossed the Tömösi Pass of the Carpathian Mountains and advanced successfully. He also defeated one of the Turkish armies at Plata. Szapolyai started about two weeks later, after July 6, and soon caught up with Radu. Mehmed also united his armies, but the Wallachian-Hungarian attack at Grumazi still came as a surprise. He was forced to defend himself but was defeated. Mehmed fled to his homeland, and Silistra and Radu’s troops pursued him to the Danube. The ousted voivode thus regained his throne, Szapolyai immediately returned to Transylvania and was already in Szentpéter on July 29.

Voivode Radu

The King, II. Lajos (Louis) of Hungary and Bohemia, who was in Prague at the time, was happy to note the success, as the Hungarian army won on other fronts as well. Palatine Báthory István won a battle at Pétervárad against an Ottoman army, and the Croatian forces liberated Klissza and Jajca. After that, Szapolyai stayed in Szentpéter, near the Hungarian border, and, as it turned out, very farsightedly. As it turned out, Mehmed Bey attacked Wallachia again at the beginning of August, defeated Radu in several battles, and invaded the province. The voivode once again found refuge in Transylvania. He was already there in mid-August.

Ottoman warriors in 1526

For this reason, Szapolyai again made preparations for war, and the Palatine, who also held the title of Captain-in-Chief of the Lower Parts, also appeared at the Lower Danube and prepared his armies for the Croatian-Slavonic-Dalmatian border. It is also clear from this that the Turks once again applied the proven strategy, i.e. attacked along the entire front of the Hungarian southern border section to divide the strength of the defenders.

The campaign of Szapolyai

On October 14, Szapolyai and Radu marched out of Szentpéter at the same time and crossed the Tömösi Pass. As soon as they entered Wallachia, they had to face a battle at Rucar. The battle took place sometime in the days after October 16, and this time Mehmed Bey also prepared for the clash. This didn’t help either, the army of the voivods swept the Turks away. It seems that a significant part of Mehmed’s army was destroyed since after that the two voivodes were able to continue the recapture of Wallachia separately. Radu marched against his capital, Tȋgovişte, and won another victory over the Turks at Didrih, south of the city. Mehmed fled again across the Danube, and Radu was able to retake his throne.

The map of Wallachia in the 17th century

During this time, Szapolyai marched against Kisnikápoly in a forced march, but he could not take the castle. He camped there for a few days, raided the countryside, and then headed home. They distributed the booty in the city of Piteşti and crossed the Törcsvár Pass on November 12. Two days later, the Hungarian army was in Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt), and Szapolyai camped here until the end of January 1523.


When starting campaigns, it was usually necessary to wait for the summer harvest to start a larger-scale campaign. In the summer, Szapolyai only dared to undertake a short-term and long-term attack, but in the fall he attacked all the way to the Danube and his campaign lasted for a month. His army could consist of about 4-6,000 horsemen and 2,000 infantrymen, and all the Wallachian soldiers could be added to this. Mehmed may also have had an army of nearly 6-8,000 people.

The result of these two campaigns of Szapolyai was that he prevented the complete incorporation of Wallachia into the Ottoman Empire. Although Radu had to flee to Transylvania several times, Wallachia still did not become a mere province of the Ottoman Empire but could remain a principality with limited sovereignty. (Note: Szapolyai was a voivode who obeyed the Hungarian king as Transylvania used to be an integral part of the kingdom.)

The overall situation in Hungary

The fall of Nándorfehérvár / Belgrade in 1521 seemed to have awakened the kingdom. Luckily, the year began well because Voivode of Wallachia, Radu defeated the army of Bey Mehmed of Silistria as we could see, in a row of serious fights. Meanwhile, the Treasury was empty; it was the year King Lajos married Habsburg Maria.

King Lajos and his wife, Habsburg Maria

The Turks took the castle of Orsova in February but Bey Hüszrev of Bosnia failed to take the Castle of Klissza in June. The fort was defended by Captain Péter Monokovics. During the summer, German troops arrived in Croatia and Archduke Habsburg Ferdinand began to take his part in the defense of Croatia. 

The silver minted by Lajos

We can see that only one-tenth of the tax has arrived in the Treasury this year, although the silver and copper production has been increased: alone in Selmecbánya there were 43 mining workshops and 918 miners worked there for the Fuggers. It was the year when the silver rate began to decrease in the minted Denars. King Louis II was growing up and was 17 years old in 1523 but he had less powerful supporters and worse circumstances than King Matthias had when he had been crowned at the age of 16.

We can see the first more remarkable signs of his maturity in his actions taken in Bohemia in February 1523: he replaced the Czech governing body of barons and took the royal properties back to the Treasury; he had a new tax voted and organized military help against the Ottomans. It was high time to take measures because Bey Bali of Nándorfehérvár / Belgrade was besieging Pétervárad Castle which was the second gate of the southern borderland after Nándorfehérvár / Belgrade`s fall.

Nándorfehérvár 1521

The king has managed to find the best general for defending the south, it was Archbishop Tomori Pál of Kalocsa. He was appointed in April 1523 as Chief Captain of Lower Hungary. (Later he was the general of the Hungarian army at Mohács.)

The Turks were threatening from all sides: Wallachia was flooded by the Ottoman troops and Voivode Radu had to flee to Hungary; the Turks were also besieging Klissza and Kruppa castles. In May, Tomori Pál took action and led a 10,000-strong-army to the long Borderland. We had written about the victorious Battle of Szávaszentdemeter before which took place on 6 August 1523, just let us recall that Bey Bali suffered a crushing defeat, losing 7,000 men while the Hungarians lost about 600 soldiers. After the battle, Tomori began to reorganize the frontier system and the boaters` fleet.

The thaler of Lajos

At the end of the year, the Ottomans succeeded in taking Osztrovica Castle which used to belong to the Croatian-Slavonian-Dalmatian Bán (Duke) Ivan / János Karlovic; this fort was the second most important castle of the Dalmatian shores after Klissza.

It was the year when Antonia Burgio, the legate of the Pope arrived in Hungary: his help will be vital in the following years and fortunately we have his letters to the Pope which I am going to translate for you in the next posts.

The income of the kingdom was 189,709 gold Forints (without the extra war taxes) while the expenditure was 237,331 gold Forints in 1523. It was time for the young king to grow up and try to wrench the power from the hands of the barons and the bankers.

Source: partly from Szibler Gábor’s research

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