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 returned to Constantinople. At the same time, Voivode Basarab of Wallachia died, and his son Teodosie and a pretender called Radu vied for the throne. Teodosie won the first round, but Mehmed Bey of Silistra invaded Wallachia and took Teodosie with him. Radu did not remain prince of Wallachia for long either, as Mehmed expelled him in March 1522.

A Wallachian rider

Radu fled to Transylvania. Not only in Transylvania but also at the Hungarian royal court, news of Mehmed’s intention to invade Transylvania was heard with increasing frequency. In any case, Mehmed remained in Wallachia / Havasalföld in the spring of 1522, constantly threatening southern Transylvania with his raids. At the same time, another Ottoman army invaded Croatia, occupying Knin and Scardona at the end of May and besieging Klisza and Jajca.

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

The Transylvanian voivode, Szapolyai János, responded to the danger by calling a provincial assembly in Enyed on 30 March, and in the second half of April, he marched through Szeben to Brassó, to Prázsmár, to await his armies. Here he met the exiled Radu. During the Hungarian raids, they entered Wallachia / Havasalföld, and the heads of the Ottoman warriors killed were impaled on the ramparts of Prázsmár.

The fortified church of Prázsmár
Photo: Civertan

Finally, around 20 June, Radu’s army of Wallachian (Romanian) boyars and Hungarian soldiers crossed the Tömösi Pass in the Carpathians and advanced successfully. He also defeated one of the Turkish armies at Plata. Szapolyai started about two weeks later, after 6 July, 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 deposed voivode regained his throne and Szapolyai immediately returned to Transylvania, arriving in Szentpéter on 29 July.

Voivode Radu

The king, II. Lajos (Louis) of Hungary and Bohemia, who was in Prague at the time, was pleased with the success, as the Hungarian army also won on other fronts. Palatine Báthory István won a battle at Pétervárad against an Ottoman army, and Croatian forces liberated Klissza and Jajca. After that, Szapolyai stayed in Szentpéter, near the Hungarian border, and, as it turned out, he was very far-sighted. 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 took refuge in Transylvania. He was there by mid-August.

Ottoman warriors in 1526

Therefore, Szapolyai again prepared for war, and the Palatine, who also held the title of Captain-in-Chief of the Lower Parts, also appeared on the Lower Danube and prepared his armies for the Croatian-Slavonic-Dalmatian border. It is also clear that the Turks were once again using the tried and tested strategy of attacking along the entire front of the southern Hungarian frontier to divide the defenders’ strength.

The campaign of Szapolyai

On 14 October, Szapolyai and Radu left 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 16 October, and this time Mehmed Bey also prepared for the clash. But it didn’t help, the voivods’ army swept the Turks away. It seems that a significant part of Mehmed’s army was destroyed, as the two voivods were then able to continue the recapture of Wallachia separately. Radu marched towards his capital, Tigoviste, and won another victory over the Turks at Didrih, south of the city. Mehmed fled again across the Danube and Radu was able to regain 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, plundered the countryside, and then returned home. They divided the booty in the town of Piteşti and crossed the Törcsvár Pass on 12 November. Two days later, the Hungarian army reached Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt), where Szapolyai camped until the end of January 1523.


It was customary to wait for the summer harvest before launching a major campaign. In the summer, Szapolyai dared only a short and a long attack, but in the autumn he attacked up to the Danube and his campaign lasted for a month. His army could have numbered around 4-6,000 horsemen and 2,000 infantry, plus all the Walachian soldiers. Mehmed may also have had an army of nearly 6-8,000 men.

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

The overall situation in Hungary before Mohács

The fall of Nándorfehérvár/Belgrade in 1521 seemed to have awakened the kingdom. Fortunately, the year began well, as the Voivode of Wallachia, Radu, defeated the army of Bey Mehmed of Silistria in a series of serious battles. Meanwhile, the treasury was empty; it was the year when King Lajos married Maria of Habsburg.

King Lajos and his wife, Habsburg Maria

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

The silver minted by Lajos

We can see that only a tenth of the tax came into the treasury that year, although silver and copper production increased: in Selmecbánya alone there were 43 mining workshops and 918 miners worked for the Fuggers. It was also the year when the silver rate of the minted denar began to fall. King Louis II grew up and was 17 years old in 1523, but he had less powerful supporters and worse circumstances than King Matthias had when he was crowned at the age of 16.

The first more significant signs of his maturity were his actions in Bohemia in February 1523: he replaced the Czech baronage and returned the royal property to the treasury; he had a new tax vote and organized military help against the Ottomans. It was high time to take action because Bey Bali of Nándorfehérvár besieged the castle of Pétervárad, which was the second gate of the southern Borderland after the fall of Nándorfehérvár.

Nándorfehérvár 1521

The king had found the best general for the defense of the south, Archbishop Tomori Pál of Kalocsa. He was appointed in April 1523 as the supreme captain of Lower Hungary. Later he was the general of the Hungarian army in Mohács. You can read more about him on my page:

Tomori Pál (drawing by Somogyi Győző)

The Turks threatened from all sides: Wallachia was flooded by Ottoman troops and Voivode Radu had to flee to Hungary; the Turks also besieged the castles of Klissza and Kruppa. In May, Tomori Pál took action and led a 10,000-strong army into the long Borderland. We have already written about the victorious Battle of Szávaszentdemeter, which took place on 6 August 1523, but it is worth remembering 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 border system and the fleet of boats.

The thaler of Lajos

At the end of the year, the Ottomans managed to take the castle of Osztrovica, which belonged to the Croatian-Slavonian-Dalmatian Bán (Duke) Ivan / János Karlovic; this castle was the second most important castle on the Dalmatian coast after Klissza.

It was the year when Antonia Burgio, the Pope’s legate, arrived in Hungary: his help would be vital in the years to come, and fortunately, we have his letters to the Pope, which I will translate for you in the forthcoming 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 wrest power from the hands of the barons and bankers.

Source: partly from Szibler Gábor’s research

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