A duel in 1590 between Bori Mihály and Bey Ibrahim

the duels had strict rules in the 16th century on the Borderland

Duels on the Borderland

The duels between the Hungarians and the Ottomans had strict rules that both sides had to keep. Honor and reputation were the most valuable things for the warriors of the Valiant Order, let they be Turks or Hungarians. Here, you can read more about the Valiant Order: https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/members-of-the-valiant-order/

These fights were constantly parts of the “small war” that was raging between major wars along the 1,000-mile-long Borderland. As these duels took place mostly in time of a Truce, the duelists had to get a permit from their superior which was not an easy process. According to Takáts Sándor, the underpaid Hungarian warriors regarded these duels (and ambushes, ad-hoc duels which were not legal at all) as the source of their living. Ransoming a rich Bey was a good income. Especially, when the Ottomans appointed a new Pasha who was often challenged right after his arrival to his position.

We have many letters of challenge that were exchanged between the Turks and the Hungarians. When the duel was approved, the participants were allowed to bring along their fellow warriors of equal size. The weapons and the terms were agreed and the “truth-seers” (the judges) appointed the spot for the fight. According to Takáts Sándor, each duel was followed by a feast where the Ottomans and the Hungarians were celebrating together, often engaging in horse races and other games.

Now, let us read about a duel that has become mad bloodshed because both sides violated the rules. Thanks to Szibler Gábor who found it in the Chronicle of the Hungarians written by Istvánffy Miklós (1538-1615). Note, that I am intentionally using the Hungarian names in the Oriental name order in the case of Hungarian names.

The terms and conditions of the duel 

It was Bory Mihály, Vice-Captain of Bakabánya who had a dispute he wished to settle with Bey Ibrahim of Drégelypalánk. Allegedly, they quarreled over the ransom of a captured soldier which served as a reason for the duel. You can read more about Bakabánya and Drégelypalánk on my page: 


Drégelypalánk Castle


In the beginning, the officers exchanged letters that contained the usual phrases (scorning and mocking remarks) but their style soon became harsher and demanded blood. At last, they challenged each other to a duel. As there was a Truce between the Ottomans and the Hungarians, they both had to apply for a permit to conduct the fight. Pasha Ferhát of Buda gave his permit to Ibrahim and because of this, Pálffy Miklós, Chief Captain of Lower Hungary approved it as well. Pálffy agreed to it under one condition, though. He said that the Turk warrior could be accompanied only by 100 cavalrymen. Unfortunately, he didn’t properly clarify in the permit whether the duel should be canceled if there were more than 100 enemy riders or if the opponent could be simply killed in case of breaking the rule. It turned out, that both Hungarians and Ottomans interpreted it in different ways.  

The day of the duel: 14 May 1590

It was Captain Sibrik Gáspár of Bakabánya Castle who set the time of the fight. Bey Ibrahim showed up on the appointed day, escorted by Agha Hassan of Csíkvár (Szabadbattyán), along with the Ottoman warriors from the garrisons of Drégelypalánk and Boska. As for the Hungarians, there was Captain Pogrányi Benedek from Korpona Castle and Captain Nagy Ferenc of Leszenye from Léva Castle, Thurzó György, a Hussar officer from Újvár Castle who came with Révay András, Dúló Gergely, and Borbély János.
The Mining Towns sent along many riflemen to support them.
Hungarian reenactors
According to Istvánffy’s Chronicle, the Turks had brought a bit more than 100 men, not because of spiteful intention, though. Bey Hassan argued that he did count his men at the bridge of the Ipoly River and saw that there were more than 100 of them. Seeing so, he sent the exceeding people home but they were following them in secret. Hassan apologized for it, and he was pleading to the Hungarians that it should not be called deception. It has been readily accepted by Pogrányi and Sibrik.

In the meantime, Vice-Captain Bory came to know that Ibrahim wanted to ride a wild and biting horse during the duel. These horses were trained to bite the opponent’s horse or the rider. Once they bit into the flesh or clothes, they didn’t let it go.

“The Duel” (painting by Zichy Mihály) – though it was another duel
Lord Bory didn’t want to fight against the horse and the Turk at the same time so he protested against this kind of fight. He said, there would be no problem if the opponent used a different horse but Bey Ibrahim refused to do so. They were arguing about this for hours. As a result of this, the duel could not take place and the Turks were heading for home. At this point, the Hungarian Hussars of Újvár Castle leveled their lances and attacked them. We do not know the reason for this sudden action. The Turks had fewer men and they fled but the Hungarians gave them a chase. The Turk warriors lifted their hands in protest against the breaking of the oath, then they had to draw their sabers to defend themselves.
The Thury Toportyánok: Hungarian renactors at Szigetvár
   According to the Chronicle of Istvánffy, Captain Pogrányi of Korpona Castle couldn’t stop the lancers because they were not under his command. He was in charge only of the Hussars of Korpona. Here you can read of another duel that had taken place right at Korpona Castle, two years before this event: 
The Turks were chased as far as the village of Pecsenyéd, near to the fortified palace of Sember. More than sixty of them were slain, including the famous warriors called Sábán and Kurt. Fourteen other Turks were captured, Agha Ali, the Voivode of the infantrymen was among them. Bey Hassan and Ibrahim knew the terrain well and they were able to escape with a few men. As it happened, the Hungarians took the wild horse as the object of the initial debate. Nevertheless, the horse was put to the test some days later because they wanted to know if it was as wild as it had been reputed.
Lord Pálffy told Draskovich János to mount it and try it out against other cavalrymen in a real fight. In the Borderland, there were everyday clashes with the enemy. Indeed, the horse proved to be just as wild as it was told. It was kicking the opponent off with its forelegs, then killed them by biting them with its teeth. Draskovich was unable to stop him.
Hungarian reenactors
  Even Istvánffy disapproved and condemned the oath-breaking of the Hungarians. He was complaining about it to Archduke Habsburg Ernő (Ernst) and he presumed that Pasha Ferhát of Buda must have avenged it if he had not been killed in an uprising of the Janissaries. Also, the case remained unrevenged because the 15-Year War broke out in 1591. Yet, while he lived, the Pasha had demanded the punishment of the oath-breakers and wanted to have the booty sent back. He even sent a messenger to the Sultan and it is thought that his letter may have contributed to the growing dismay against the Habsburgs. The Ottomans were just finishing the Persian war in 1590 so they were getting ready to turn towards the west. 
The case was forwarded to Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) but the verdict was made only in the winter when such cases were being judged. Archduke Ernst appointed David Ungnad, the Chief of the Military Council to handle the case. He also appointed Andreas Teuffel, the General of Győr as well as Teuffel’s brother-in-law, Wolfgang Gilles. We know that the Chief Captain of Komárom, Erasmus Praun was the last member of the courthouse.
Archduke Ernst of Austria
As it turned out, the Hungarian soldiers were protesting against the German judges and it made Herr Ungnad very upset. Finally, they figured out that Lord Pálffy should judge his soldiers by himself. Pálffy mostly dismissed the punishment but he had Nagy Ferenc, Nyíry György, and Ormánközy Péter arrested to silence the Ottomans’ demands. Finally, they sent Jovan Jurkovics to the Pasha of Buda with gifts. The Pasha was upset for a short time but later he seemed to be satisfied. Not much later, he fell victim to the uprising of his Janissaries.

As for Sibrik Gáspár, we have to add that after this incident, he had to leave for Transylvania. He was welcomed there because he had served in the army of King Báthory István of Poland. Prince Báthory Zsigmond of Transylvania appointed him as the Chief Captain of his Court troops. It was Sibrik who carried out Báthory’s bloody order in 1594 and arrested Kendy, Báthory’s opponent. He also executed him.

Sources: Szibler Gábor and Takáts Sándor

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