Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

Balassi Ferenc, younger brother of Balassi Bálint

Balassi Ferenc

We know much about the famous Balassi Bálint, the warrior-poet but it is proper to commemorate his younger brother, Balassi Ferenc, who fell in the Battle of Monostorpály on 22 July 1594 when fighting the Tatars.

Ferenc was born in 1563, his father was Lord Balassa and Lady Sulyok Anna. The sisters of his mother, Sára and Krisztina were the wives of Captain Dobó István of Eger and Bocskai György. Thus, he (like Bálint) was the cousin of Bocskai István, later Prince of Transylvania.

(My remark: note, that I am intentionally using the Hungarian name-order according to the Hungarian grammar where the Christian name comes second, unlike in the English. I would like to introduce this usage as far as Hungarian names are concerned.)

Like Bálint, Ferenc was learning in Nurnberg (he went there when he was barely past 10). He has been to Poland several times, too, to visit their lands in Poland and their relative who was nobody else than King Báthory István (Stephen), king of Poland and Prince of Transylvania. The other reason for his visits was that his father had been imprisoned by Emperor Maximilian in 1569 but the old Balassa escaped from there and fled to Poland. Ferenc spoke very well in Latin, Polish and German as well.

He began his military career in 1585, he was a lieutenant in Eger Castle, commanding to 50 horsemen in 1591. He was on very good terms with Captain Rákóczi Zsigmond of Eger who later became Prince of Transylvania. Ferenc fought in the Battle of Szikszó in 1588 when they defeated the Turks. Read about the battle of Szikszó in my book:

After his years in Eger, he became Vice-Captain of Tokaj Castle and he was appointed as its captain in 1593. He has been fighting in all the first battles of the 15-Year-War. Bocskai István sent those young Hungarians from Transylvania to him who had wanted to fight against the Turks but were not allowed to do so because Transylvania was not involved in the war just then.

Ferenc got a severe wound in the battle of Tura on 1 May 1594 so he could not be at the siege of Esztergom where his elder brother died.
His wound was not fully healed but he joined the fight against the Tatar troops of Khan Ghazi Girály on 22 July 1594 at Monostorpályi. There he received several injuries and finally he was killed by an arrow.
The contemporary public opinion was shocked by learning of the deaths of the two Balassi brothers. Next year, the two brothers` deeds were praised in a 41-verses-long poem where the deeds of Ferenc were more emphasized than Bálint`s.
Lieutenant Káthay Mihály, a former comrade of Ferenc from Eger and later Chancellor of Prince Bocskai, lamented over their deaths, especially of Ferenc` loss.

The Catholics regarded Ferenc as the best example of the Christian soldiers, the „miles christianus”; his high esteem derived from his rhetoric abilities which were as necessary things for a good noble soldier as the valiant military deeds.
He had no wife and left behind no children. The village of Monostorpályi commemorated him on a marble memorial table in the church in 2016.
Let us think of Ferenc, too, when we praise the art of Balassa Bálint.

(Source: Gábor Szibler)


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