Báthory István defeats the Ottomans at Illádia, 12 October 1512
Selim, (later nicknamed “the Terrible”) removed his more peaceful father, Sultan Bajezid II from the throne of the Ottoman Empire in April 1512. Bajezid died not much after that, and his son began a more aggressive expansion of the Empire. Sultan Selim focused rather on the eastern lands but he also tried to test the strength of the Kingdom of Hungary. It happened 22 years after the death of King Matthias Corvinus, and 14 years before the Battle of Mohács. Let us recall that the Hungarian Kingdom was still the greatest rival of the Ottoman conquest towards the west, a roadblock before Vienna and Rome.
In the age of King Matthias Corvinus, the Ottoman Empire was still a lot smaller than during the reign of King Lajos (Louis) II. In fact, it had been half as big in Matthias’ time while the Ottomans’ economic strength used to be just about one-third of the power they had in Selim’s age. After the death of Matthias, the Jagellionian kings spent the kingdom’s money on the country’s welfare, and the mighty Black Army, Europe’s first standing army has been dispersed.
In 1512, the military strength of Hungary was just enough to withstand the combined military power of the Ottoman Sandjaks and Vilayets that were on the other side of the border. Not to mention the rapid development of the quality of the Ottoman army which was getting better and more updated than the armies of contemporary Europe. Their training, equipment, artillery power, and logistics were far ahead of the western armies until the end of the 15-Year-War in 1606. Here is more about the Long War aka the 15-Year-War (1591/93-1606):
The difference in effectiveness between the western and eastern warfare became visible in earnest only after the Thirty Year War (1618-1648) but as for 1512, the Ottomans were still in a better situation. Knowing this, the Hungarian Borderland warriors faced a real threat when the Ottoman armies attacked the southern line of forts in October 1512. The enemy attacked from several directions, trying to divide the Hungarians’ southern defense system. Although one of the Ottoman armies was defeated, they succeeded in isolating the Hungarian armies from each other.
The Bosnian Turk troops managed to hinder the army of Palatine Perényi Imre in Slavonia. Another Ottoman army attacked the Temesköz which is a flat region bordered by the Tisza, Maros, and Danube Rivers, divided by the Temes River, located in present-day Hungary, Serbia, and Romania. In the meanwhile, the main Ottoman army was successfully conquering the Banate of Szrebernik which had been part of Hungary since 1404. It was famous for its wealthy silver mines. Having taken them, the enemy took also the castles of Tessány and Szokol. It was possible because the Hungarian units were isolated in the Banate of Temes, in the Croatian-Slavonian Banate, and the army of Szapolyai János, Voivode of Transylvania could not come to interfere, either.
However, Duke Báthory István, Comes of Temes County was able to defeat the Ottoman army that was attacking him. His victory took place at Illádia. There were 3,000 in the Ottoman army, according to the records of Budai Kakas János, Prebend of Pécs. According to the Venetian envoy’s report in November, there were 7,000 Turk soldiers. They assaulted the Banate of Temes in the first days of October, as we can read about it in a valuable source, in the report called „Landorfejírvár veszísinek oka” (“The reason of Belgrade’s fall”) that was written in the Hungarian language. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order when I write down Hungarian names whereas family names come first.)
The raiding parties of the enemy had come from Szendrő (Смедерево / Smederevo) castle which was a neighboring stronghold on the Turks’ Borderland. They crossed the Krassó River and plundered the area of Mezősomlyó (Șemlacu Mare, Großschemlakand) and destroyed the land around Temesvár (Timisoara). They have taken a huge booty. It is assumed that Báthory István, Comes of Temes County (later Palatine of the Kingdom) was not there at this point because he attacked the foe from the direction of Nándorfehérvár aka Belgrade. Before he got there, the defense may have been organized by his subordinates, Gétyey János and Kutasy Lukács
The Hungarian army was a lot smaller than the Ottoman but the enemy was burdened by the booty and was moving slowly. Báthory succeeded in surprising them and scattered them at Illádia. Báthory collected 160 heads of the enemy and piled them on a great wagon drawn by 8 horses, and sent it to Buda to the king, along with a few captives. Undoubtedly, it was a nice victory but it could not beautify the loss of the Banate of Szrebernik. The Ottomans were able to make a gap in the southern Borderland system and thus, they could reach the Száva River. Let us remark, that all of this was achieved by the combined Ottoman forces of the Borderland region, the main Imperial Ottoman army was not involved.
We have a document issued on 17 May 1526 by King Lajos II which praises the military deed of Perneszy Ferenc. According to this, the young nobleman was fighting at Illádia in 1512 when he was just 16 years old. Perneszy literally grew up on the battlefields of the Borderland and at Illádia, he was fighting more bravely than any adult. He was wounded in his right hand. Later, he fought on the Borderland and was among the valiant but few defenders of Belgrade / Nándorfehérvár in 1521. The enemy took him alive and even the Sultan wished to see him. According to a legend, he was released because of his bravery. However, we know that the survivors of the siege were slaughtered by the Ottomans so this legend is quite unlikely. (But the question arises, how could King Lajos award him in 1526 if Perneszy was not alive, though.)
The defeat at Illádia was a sign that Hungary’s military potential still cannot be ignored. Additionally, the Turks were not able to take Jajca Castle at the end of 1512. The next year, the Ottomans’ failure at Dubica convinced Sultan Selim that the Kingdom of Hungary was not as weak as he had thought. He realized that he should stop his western expansion for the time being and should focus on his eastern wars. There were no bigger attacks against Hungary until 1521. Sultan Selim was content with the conquest of Siria, Mesopotamia, Hedzsász, and Egypt. It was his son, Sultan Suleiman who was going to destroy the southern line of defense of Hungary.
As for the illustrations in this article, they were made by Nemes Mihály in 1900, based on figures found on different Hungarian Coat of Arms, tombstones, and paintings. You can find more of them on the page of @Arcanum Adatbázis Kiadó:
Sources: Szibler Gábor, Kiss Csaba, Papp Gergely
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