Bey Sásvár, the renegade

Ottoman soldiers

The following story fits into the period of “small war” between 1571-1591. It is about a renegade Turkish chief officer who had a bad reputation among the Valiant Order of the Borderland, he was Bey Sásvár. His real name was Sehszüvár but everybody knew him as „Sásvár” and he also called himself this way in his letters that were written in the Hungarian language. He was originally Hungarian by birth and was born somewhere in the Ottoman Occupied Land of Hungary.

He became a renegade and embraced the Muslim faith and had made quite a remarkable career in the Ottoman Empire. His birthplace was somewhere on the Hungarian Great Plain and he was brought up in Szolnok, under the care of the Sanjak Bey called Mahmud. Soon, he and his younger brother called Baba Hasszán had become a great hero of duels continuously held near the castle of Eger. His first bigger success took place in 1562 when Balassa János, the Captain of the Mining Town of Hungary, assaulted the castle of Szécsény.

Szécsény castle

Bey Sásvár was fighting as the second-in-command of Bey Mahmud and they could defend their castle. For Captain Balassa (the father of the famous poet Balassa Bálint), this was a major failure and he lost his reputation.

Bey Mahmud was appointed as the commander of the city of Székesfehérvár in 1566 and Bey Sásvár was serving under him. Three years later it was Sásvár who defeated the army of the „black man”, Karácsony György, at Balaszentmiklós (now Törökszentmiklós). Karácsony had been a fanatic who led his mainly weaponless folks against the Turks, hoping only in the power of the cross.
We don`t know much about the Bey for the next few years but it is for sure that he returned to Szolnok castle as a Sanjak Bey in 1580.

It was the year when the hussars of Eger castle, including the Hussar lieutenant Balassa Bálint, could gain a significant victory during the raid of Hatvan city, also amassing a huge booty. This raid was an unheard-of scandal for the Turks and it brought about the fall of the Pasha of Buda, Kara Üvejsz, and his successor, Ali Kalajlikosz arrived in Buda only during the summer.

Hungarian reenactors: Turk-Hungarian fight

Bey Sásvár had a big role in removing Pasha Üvejsz and it was Sásvár who acted as a caimacam, the substitute of the Pasha, who was directing the Vilajet of Buda until Ali has arrived. Sásvár had been aspiring for the position of the pasha in secret, though.

Bey Sásvár wanted to take revenge for the raid of Hatvan so he set out and he was pillaging the area of Eger and raided the village of Maklár where they killed the Reformed pastor and the schoolmaster.

The military leaders of the lands of Upper Hungary couldn`t endure the actions of the Bey any longer so they joined forces against him. The German rifled cavalry beat back the army of the Bey at Rakamaz and the Hungarian frontiersmen joined in the assault, led by Geszthy Ferenc, Captain of Diósgyőr castle. Mainly because of the firepower of the German riders, the Turks suffered a great defeat at Nádudvar. Captain Geszthy had a preacher at his village of Mezőtúr called György Szepesi who wrote a poetic chronicle about the event in 1580. It was the „Historia cladis Turcicae ad Nadudvar”, the story of the Turkish peril of Nádudvar. He simply calls Sásvár „the evil Satan” in his work. This chronicle can be considered as a very good summary of the life of Bey Sásvár.

A Sipahi vs. Hussar duel at Szigetvár, Hungary (by Thury Toportyánok)

The Bey was raiding and pillaging in Borsod county on 11 April 1582 but his army was caught at Hídvég by the combined forces of the frontiersmen of the borderland castles of Eger, Ónod, Diósgyőr, and Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau). The hussars slaughtered there about 1,500 Turks. Allegedly, Sásvár had to dress into the clothes of common Turkish soldiers to be able to flee.

Sásvár was despised by the Hungarians because he was a renegade and the bey of Szolnok felt a fierce hatred against them in exchange. As a renegade, he had to prove his worthiness to the Turks better than a native Muslim soldier so he was destroying the Hungarians more savagely than others.

His name appears in almost every raid and the Hungarians kept mentioning him as a „breaker of the truce” and as ”peaceless”. Even the pashas of Buda were regularly complaining about him to Istanbul.

Yet, his soldiers adored and admired him because he had always protected them against the tax increasing of Pasha Üvejsz. They would have followed him to hell, too.

Ottoman cavalrymen in the 16th century

The Sublime Port didn’t trust him as much as to make him a pasha in the Occupied Lands of Hungary. When Sásvár tried to gain the leadership of the Vilajet of Temesvár (Timisoara) in 1583, he was rejected. They made him a pasha only two years later and he was given Bosnia but he spent there for only eight months. After this he simply made himself addressed as Pasha Sásvár. He was not granted the pasha post in Hungary because he was a renegade and they didn’t trust him. Anytime when the post of the Pasha of Buda became available, he tried to apply for it but was refused.

When Pasha Juszuf Szinán Frenk left Buda in 1586, Sásvár was acting in his stead until the next Pasha, Ali arrived. Sásvár had to make do with the title of a Sanjak Bey.

He was restless there, too, and finally, his fate had been fulfilled. He, the ingrained breaker of the truce, combined his forces with other troops coming from the southern Trans-Danubian sanjaks and they launched a big attack in the summer of 1587 in the Zalaság area. When they were returning with their large booty, they were trapped by the combined forces of Nádasdy Ferenc, Zrínyi György, and Batthyány Boldizsár at night and received a disastrous defeat.

Two of the sanjak beys were captured, one of them was the son-in-law of the Sultan, while a third Bey was killed in the battle. Bey Sásvár could manage to flee and got out from the marshlands of Sárkánysziget but he got out of favor at the Sublime Port. He was arrested but he could buy himself mercy with his property. He tried to blame the Pasha of Buda for the defeat but it was in vain.
Not much later he died in Istanbul under unclear circumstances.
According to Balassi Bálint, „he is said to have been poisoned”.

Balassi Bálint

He was so much hated by the Hungarians that when the Bey`s son fell in the victorious battle of Szikszó in 1592, the head was sent to be nailed above the gate of Eger castle as a precious trophy of war.

Sources: Szibler Gábor took it from the article of Ács Pál: „The history of Bey Sásvár” from Historia cladis Turcicae ad Naduduar. 1580. Hadtörténelmi Közlemények 115 (2002)

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