Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

The Long War, Part 35; Internal war in Transylvania 1600-1604

The Principality of Transylvania in the first part of the 17th century

The first years of the 17th century were disastrous in the Principality of Transylvania. As for me, it is hard to figure out who was the most harmful villain among the contesting parties: General Basta, Prince Báthory Zsigmond, Voivode Mihai Viteazul aka Vitéz Mihály but we could add others to the list. Let us follow the summary of our historian, Szibler Gábor who is summarizing this complicated but very interesting period for us. The inserted links might be helpful to take a deeper look into events before 1600.

Death comes to the soldier (by Ken Welsh)

We have to trace back the events for a better understanding of the situation. Let’s begin with the takeover of the Wallachian voivode. The Voivode of Wallachia, Vitéz Mihály defeated the army of Prince Báthory András in the autumn of 1599 and he marched into the capital, Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia).
The Chief Captain of Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau), Giorgio Basta had also set out towards Transylvania but hasn’t moved into the Principality. Instead, he was taking important castles on its frontier.

The borders of Transylvania around 1570

Voivode Mihály was accusing him because of his late arrival, saying that Prince Báthory András had bribed him. Basta was deeply hurt by this accusation and it has greatly influenced their future relationship.   

Voivode Vitéz Mihály aka Mihai Viteazul

The Voivode was actually the subject of Emperor Rudolf but he began to make himself detached from him, acting like a sovereign prince. His Wallachian lords have appeared in his court and many of them were given high offices. Besides, he summoned a Diet and tried to balance his position between the Sublime Port and the Holy Roman Empire. When Ungnad Dávid and Székely Mihály, the commissioners of Rudolf arrived in the first part of 1600 to take over the power and the lead of Transylvania on behalf of their lord, the Wallachian Vitéz Mihály was demanding an immense price in exchange for doing so. He also wanted to be recognized as the “eternal governor” of Transylvania but later he wanted the title of Prince of Transylvania and the Partium (a wide land between Transylvania, the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary, and Royal Hungary) as well as the leader of Wallachia and Moldova. He has also announced his claim for further domains and castles, including lands that were to be retaken from the Turks only in the future.

Emperor Rudolf

Rudolf answered him on 12 September, allowing him to govern Transylvania in his lifetime but only as a governor on behalf of the Emperor. In the meantime, the Voivode sent similar claims to the Sublime Port which has sent him the symbols of princedom in exchange for this. Voivode Mihály took Moldova back from Voivode Jeremias Mohila during the spring so he has established a loose personal-union of the three principalities. 

The lands controlled by Mihai Viteazul

As the taxes in Transylvania were growing and more and more mercenaries had to be supplied in the cities, the local lords were getting restless and annoyed, all the more when they saw the growing influence of the Wallachians in the administration.
They began plotting against the Voivode and Mihály hurried to break their movement down by force before it would be strong. There were two groups of rebels, one of them was waiting for the help of Emperor Rudolf while the second was expecting the return of  Báthory Zsigmond who lived as an “outcast” in Bohemia. Finally, the two groups have joined forces and turned together against the Voivode. They thought they could catch him unaware because Mihály was busy gathering troops in order to beat back an attack that was threatening him from Poland.

Prince Báthory Zsigmond

They pretended themselves to be the Voivode’s followers and could successfully come together on the field of Keresztes, organized by Csáky István as if they had wanted to join the Voivode’s army. In the meantime, Mihály was summoning all his Wallachian, Cossack, Serbian, and Hungarian Székely soldiers at Szászsebes and he realized just too late that the Hungarian noblemen were actually coming together against him. The Voivode sent for help to General Basta but the Hungarian rebels have also sent an envoy to him, pleading for his help, too.

General Basta

The Chief Captain of Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau) was instructed by the Court of Prague to march against Voivode Mihály because the Emperor had had enough of the Voivode’s growing power. The Imperial troops set out at the beginning of September and the Hungarian rebels joined them at Torda (Turda) on 14 September.

Basta has brought 6,000 mercenaries and the army of the Transylvanians was about 12,000 men. They had 4 smaller and 8 larger cannons, too. The army of Mihály was slightly bigger, it was estimated at about 22,000 soldiers and he had 28-32 cannons as well.
The two armies met at Miriszló, along the Maros River, not very far from Gyulafehérvár on 18 September 1600.
After a pitched battle, the Voivode and the remains of his army have fled, losing 4-10,000 men. Basta lost a lot fewer soldiers. 
Mihály has lost Transylvania and withdrew to Fogaras. Then, he gave his wife and children to Basta as hostages and moved to Moldova. Here is a more detailed article about these events:

There, in Moldova, he suffered several defeats by an allied Moldovan-Polish army and he was forced to leave even from Wallachia. Finally, he has found shelter in the court of Emperor Rudolf in Prague but his role has not been finished just yet.

Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), the capital of Transylvania (Photo: Kiki Vasilescu)

Basta has taken over the governing of Transylvania but the destructions of his mercenaries had no limits. Suddenly, Báthory Zsigmond has returned in 1601 and many people took his side. In the meantime, Voivode Mihály came to terms with Emperor Rudolf and he was also returning to Transylvania. 

 Prince Báthory was collecting soldiers to fight against the combined army of General Basta and Voivode Mihály. Having done so, his army attacked the camp of Basta at Majtény, and after this Zsigmond tried to begin talks with the General but his attempts were in vain. Then, he withdrew towards Transylvania but his army began to lose morale and the soldiers were leaving it.

Common Hungarian Székely soldiers (by Somogyi Győző)

Basta, instead of waiting for reinforcement that was not given, hurried after Prince Báthory. The two armies met at Goroszló, not far away from Zilah on 3 August. Basta and Mihály defeated Báthory Zsigmond who fled to Moldova with his remaining followers.
Soon, General Basta and Voivode Mihály have developed a quarrel. While Mihály`s army was sacking Transylvania, the Voivode was exchanging letters with the Turks. It meant treason for the Imperials and Basta had the Voivode murdered by his Walloon mercenaries on 19 August.

The assassination of Vitéz Mihály

After this, Báthory`s and Basta`s private war was destroying the lands of Transylvania even further. Soon, Báthory has received Turk aid. While Basta took himself into northern Transylvania, Báthory occupied the south. 

Finally, the Court of Prague has authorized Basta to offer Báthory Zsigmond the lands of Oppeln and Ratibor again. Zsigmond took the offer willingly and he was about to leave the country. He was on the way out of Transylvania when his army, led by Székely Mózes was defeated by Basta on 2 July 1602, at Tövis near to Gyulafehérvár. Báthory had to say farewell to Transylvania for good, he left for Prague where he died soon. 

Székely Mózes

Székely Mózes was elected by the Estates as the Prince of Transylvania but after the defeat of Tövis, he fled to the Turks.
Basta remained, and made the Estates accept the rule of Emperor Rudolf and he was governing Transylvania on his behalf.
Yet, Székely Mózes has gained the support of the Pasha of Temesvár (Timisoara), Bektás, and he broke into Transylvania during the first part of the next year. Basta could not reach him there.

Due to the great destructions caused by the mercenaries of the Imperial army, the inhabitants of the land sided with Mózes who took the fort of Karánsebes, then Lugos Castle. It was Huszár Péter who used to be the captain of Lugos, he was a very famous warrior of the Hungarian Borderland. Mózes captured him and handed the old warrior to the Crimean Tatars who executed him ceremonially and drank from his blood. You can read about his heroic life here:

The defenders of Gyulafehérvár surrendered on 7 May. Here, Székely Mózes declared himself Prince of Transylvania.
General Basta was urging the Emperor to send him supplies and money and he wrote to his ally, Voivode Radu of Wallachia to come to his aid. As nothing happened, Basta was slowly forced out to the lands of the Partium. The army of Prince Székely and Pasha Bektás has taken almost the entire Transylvania and they were joined mainly by the Hungarian Székely Frontier Guardsmen. Read about the Székelys here:

Prince Székely Mózes told to the Voivode of Moldova, Jeremiás Moghila to join him so as to tie down Voivode Radu and Moghila showed his willingness. At the same time, Székely Mózes talked with Radu as well and offered him the Turks’ help who would affirm his rule if he didn’t attack him. Voivode Radu pretended to have taken this offer but as it turned out, he just wanted to gain time.

Voivode Radu Serban

Then, Radu sent a 3,000-strong-army to Transylvania, led by Deli Marko (Merya) against Mózes. In answer to that, Prince Székely Mózes sent a 4-5,000-strong-arm from Segesvár (Sighișoara,Schäßburg), led by Makó György to the Barcaság area. Their vanguard clashed with the Wallachian soldiers who were aided by the Hungarian Székely Guardsmen on 11 July near Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt). There was a minimal loss on both sides. The Wallachian army slowly began to retreat and Makó attacked them on 13 July. The Wallachian troops and the Székely Guardsmen were defending from a fortified position, then they launched a counter-attack. The Transylvanians had huge losses, about 3,000 men while the Wallachian-Székely army had only 300 casualties. Even Makó György fell in the fight. 

Ottoman troops joined in the destructions of Transylvania, too…

At the same time, Prince Mózes and Pasha Bektás marched to Brassó and Voivode Radu has arrived there as well. He would have agreed to make a truce but his noblemen were against the Turk’s dependence and forced him to hold a battle. The Battle of Brassó took place on 17 July and both sides sent about 10,000 men there to fight. The camp of Mózes was defended by a wagon-fort and the Turk and Crimean Tatar troops stood on his right-wing.

Székely Mózes, the only prince of Transylvania who was on the Unitarian faith after Prince János Zsigmond

The Tatars were the first to flee and the enemy could easily attack the camp of Mózes. There was a hard fight but the enemy could break in and made a horrible slaughter among the Transylvanian troops. The forces supporting Székely Mózes suffered 3-7,000 casualties. The fleeing prince was killed and his head was placed on the top of the bastion of Fogaras Castle. It was buried later by the Chief Judge of Brassó, Mihály Weisz. After this, Voivode Radu has returned to his country but allegedly he received a flag and the rank of an Imperial prince from King Rudolf who has achieved by this time to become the only ruler of Transylvania. Was he able to hold it? It remains to be seen. One thing was for sure, the 15-Year-War has not just been finished.

Source: Gábor Szibler

Here is a previous article that is connected to these events:

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