Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

Captain Thury György (cc1520-1571)

The Thury family is from Hont County, originally from the village of Középtúr. They were an ancient but common noble family who had served the Hungarian kings with their swords since the age of the Árpád Dynasty. One of them was Thury Miklós who distinguished himself in the wars of King Matthias Corvinus, and Gábor, his son was also a renowned warrior. Thury Gábor was the father of our hero, Thury György who had two brothers: Benedek and Farkas who were also great warriors of the 1,000-mile-long Hungarian Borderland in the 16th century. Note, that the name “Farkas” (“Wolf”) was usually given to the youngest male child in the family. Please, also note, that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.

We do not exactly know when György was born, the date is between 1518-1520. We have no records about his education, allegedly he never learned to read or write. He joined the life of the Borderland warriors at a very young age, he was already a “chief Hussar warrior” at the beginning of the 1540s when he served in Ság (Ipolyság). Soon, he became a Hussar officer. He took part in the famous battle of Szalka in 1544 where the Hungarians defeated the Ottomans of Esztergom castle who had tried to ambush Léva castle where Balassa Menyhárt was in charge. You can read more about this battle on my page:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/dramatized-historical-writings/lord-balassas-victory-at-szalka-1544/

György’s reputation was increasing, it might be connected to the fact that he was a winner of more and more duels against the Turks. The next time we read about him was in 1549 when he was a participant in an Ottoman – Hungarian negotiation in Gyöngyös. As it turned out, he befriended a Turkish soldier called Juszuf and gifted him a long spear. Juszuf was drunk and wanted to amuse the soldiers with all kinds of tricks he knew and kept throwing the spear up in the air. Unluckily, he failed to catch it and it pierced his belly, killing him. 

A modern drawing of Thury György by Somogyi Győző
We know of a duel from 1551 when the Habsburg king gave a permit to György and two of his mates to get involved in a duel. Then, he killed his opponent who was a famous duelist himself. Thury reported the duel in person to King Ferdinand. György fought bravely in the Battle of Palást in 1552 and it was he who saved the life of the Italian contingent. You can read more about his deed on my page here:
As Pasha Ali took Ság, Thury’s village, it is thought that he had gone to serve in Léva castle. He became the captain of Léva in 1556 but he was also the judge of the area who supervised the castle’s income as well. He was appointed as the Chief Comes of Bars County in 1558 but he never gave up his dueling habits. Besides other enemy warriors, he also defeated the newly appointed Bey of Vác castle in a duel. Thury resigned in 1558 and Dobó István became the next captain of Léva castle. However, Thury accepted the position of the captaincy of Palota (Várpalota) castle in the same year. You can read more about Palota castle here:
Palota castle
 He was not just sitting in Palota castle but continued his battles against the Turks. Besides, he kept sending letters of challenges to the Ottoman warriors. One of the most renowned Ottoman duelists was a man called Voivode Dzsáfer, Thury fought with him at Palota. Thury had many troubles with the Snjak Bey Hamza who was commanding Fehérvár castle. Bey Hamza was a cunning and fierce enemy. He wanted to have Thury assassinated but he outsmarted him. You can read the details of this on my page, too:
Thury also had spies in his service and could monitor the enemy’s moves. Also, he regularly sent raiding parties to the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary. The Viennese court always received lots of complaints from the Ottoman Beys and from the Pasha of Buda. Although it was the period of truce when duels were banned, smaller raids were often overlooked by both parties. When Habsburg Maximilian was crowned as a King of Hungary in 1563, Thury was invited to take part in the celebrations held in Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava). Naturally, he fought in the knightly tournament which was part of the festivities. Finally, he defeated everybody except for Gyulaffy László, the “Hungarian Achilles”. The king had to separate them because he was afraid of accidentally losing his best swordsmen. They were awarded by accepting them into the Knightly Order of the Golden Spur. Read more about this Order here:
Gradually, Thury’s name became well-known even in distant lands, he was called the “most savage Hungarian”, the “El Cid of Hungary” or the “Lion of the Trans-Danubian Region”. He married Hathalmy Zsófia in the autumn of 1563. Archduke Charles sent him two gilded cups for the wedding. Thury György had several sons and daughters but all of his male children died at a young age. 
Contemporary drawing of Thury György (in the middle)
There was a good chance to liberate Fehérvár castle in 1565 but the plan failed due to the delay made by the king. It was when the embittered Captain Thury had handed in his resignation again. Fortunately, he remained in his position because Palota castle was facing a great threat. Sultan Suleiman was coming to Hungary in 1566 to take Szigetvár and Gyula castles but Pasha Arszlán of Buda decided to attack Palota before his arrival. It was how Pasha Arszlán wanted to distinguish himself before his ruler. He launched his private war and besieged Palota castle on 5 June 1566.
Palota castle
Thury and his 500 men were bravely defending the castle, their artillery fire and sallies made lots of damage to the attackers. Even the poet-warrior Zrínyi Miklós (1620-1664) wrote about his deeds in his work the “Peril of Sziget”. The Ottoman cannons caused lots of damage to the walls. Finally, the reinforcing army of General Salm, Chief Captain of Győr castle arrived and saved the situation. However, there is more to it because Pasha Arszlán quit the siege in such a hurry on 20 June which cost him his life, and his cowardice was severely punished by the sultan. You can read the details of this amusing siege on my page:
Thury and his men joined Salm and went to the camp at Győr. We know that his contingent scattered the raiding unit of Bey Mahmut of Fehérvár castle on 5 September on the fringe of the Bakony Mountain. Thury’s horse was killed in the battle but he won the fight, cutting down lots of soldiers. He captured Bey Mahmut and 40 additional prisoners of war, along with eight flags. They brought plenty of severed heads to King Maximilian, it was a habit that was a weird custom that was rewarded by both the Christian and the Muslim ruler. The king knighted Thury repeatedly and gave him a necklace that was worth 1,000 Gold Forints. 
Hungarian reenactors (the Palotai Darabontok) commemorate Thury’s death at his statue, 2021
After the execution of Pasha Arszlán, Pasha Mustapha took his place. He made the mistake of insulting Thury, Gyulaffy, and Török Ferenc, the three best swordsmen in the country. They jumped at the opportunity and challenged the Pasha but he did not dare to take up the fight. You can read the text of this letter here:
After the siege of Palota castle, Thury György resigned from his post and it was his nephew, Márton who became the captain of the fort. The king gave Kesző castle to György, including the villages and lands belonging to it because he owed lots of money to him. It was easier to give a domain than to pay cash. When Veszprém castle was besieged by the enemy in 1567, Thury György as a Hussar captain was among the reinforcing Imperial army. After the success, the king offered him the position of Captain of Kanizsa and Vice-Chief Captain of the Trans-Danubian Region in September. To make him accept the job, the king gave him further domains. Among other lands, he received the market town of Tolna, regardless of the fact that the settlement was in the Ottoman Occupied Lands.
(Vár) Palota Castle, Hungary
In this age, it was not a malicious thing: rulers considered the Ottomans’ conquest as a temporary thing and gifted lands where they had no power. What is even more surprising, the Hungarian lords accepted these domains and tried to collect taxes from there. Also, we know that the local peasants insisted on paying taxes to their old landlords who had long run away from the Ottomans. And the landlords never gave up their right to their properties, in spite of losing them a hundred years before. Now, in 2022, imagine how weird it would be if I went to Slovakia and collected rents after the house that had been taken away by force from my grandfather in 1946.
This map is not perfect but it shows both the 16th century and the modern borders of Hungary (pink dots)
Thury György met and befriended Chief Captain Lazarus von Schwendi in Kanizsa castle. As the Captain of Kanizsa, Thury’s goal was to extend the castle vicinity’s boundaries and take back lands from the enemy. He wanted to increase the profit made by the castle’s villages. Soon, he got into a conflict with the Bey of Szigetvár castle because of this. Once he even captured the Bey but the Viennese court ordered him to release him. As for his duels, we do not have records about their numbers because they were banned. According to contemporary sources, he had 600 victorious fights. However, we know about a few. For example, there was a very strong warrior called Koralikos who came all the way from Mesopotamia just to challenge him. Later, Thury took part in a duel where a team fought against another team of warriors in 1570 in Kanizsa.
Kanizsa castle in the 17th century
Thury caused plenty of damage to the enemy in the South-Trans -Danubian Region so the Ottoman beys of the area decided to lure him into a trap in 1571. They sent a smaller raiding party as bait near Kanizsa. Thury rode out with a small unit and he was ambushed in a narrow valley at Orosztorony by a vastly outnumbering army of the enemy. He made his last stand there. When his horse was killed, his page offered him his own horse but he was dragged back to the ground: the ambushers tried to injure his leg to capture him alive. Thury did not want to get into their hands so he tore off his helmet to receive a lethal wound sooner. “You, hounds, will not lead me on a led,” he said according to a song about him. Thus, he was slaughtered, his head was severed, and sent to Istanbul. We know, that many Borderland warriors of Kanizsa were killed or captured in this fight, too. His head was not given out to the Habsburg Emperor’s envoy, though. You can read more details about his last stand here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/1541-1699/1571-the-last-stand-of-captain-thury-gyorgy/

Thury’s “pallos” in the museum of Kanizsa, being guarded by Hungarian reenactors
When Thury’s friend, Zrínyi György heard about the peril, he hurried to Orosztorony but he was too late. He buried the hero in Kanizsa castle. The chapel where Thury was put to rest was standing in 1664, according to the Christian troops who besieged Kanizsa at that time. It means, that the enemy respected and did not bother the tomb of Thury György even after the taking of Kanizsa in 1600. It is quite likely that his scribe, Alistály Márton was the one who created the famous song about his death. The scribe was fighting beside him at Orosztorny. The double-edged broadsword of Thury György is on display in the Hungarian National Museum. You can read more about this weapon here:

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