“Non licet in bello bis peccare”: You mustn`t commit the same fault twice in the war

a Hungarian helmet from Transylvania, 15th century

Count Zrínyi Miklós (Nikola Zrinski) knew everything about the war and he preferred to refer to Machiavelli and other Italian and Roman sources whenever he wrote about the military deeds of King Matthias. In his „Observations about King Matthias” (“Mátyás király életéről való elmélkedések”), written 167 years after the king`s death, he was giving an account of how Matthias had made war against the Polish and the Czech, gaining Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia.

I think his goal with the western wars had been to be elected as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as King Sigismund had been. He may have thought his Empire would be the best such structure to fight the Ottoman Empire back.

He failed in trying so because he was poisoned in Vienna and we will never learn it but let us see what did Count Zrínyi write about him in 1657? Did the Habsburgs prove to be more effective against the Turks in his time? Our series tries to give an answer to that, too.


 

As for military tactics, Zrínyi remarked:
„There has nobody been better in history to change the military situations than Emperor Julius of Rome because when it was needed, he attacked at the enemy so daringly but under different circumstances, he got himself so much entrenched that nobody could dig him out. Our unfortunate King Louis II (my remark: the one who died at Mohács in 1526) didn`t know this military lore and his army didn`t know it, either; they thought the military tactics included only the frontal battle in the open field, this is the reason why we are sighing now over our past doom in his time. (My remark: Zrínyi may have given a hint here that King Louis should have taken himself behind the walls of Buda Castle instead of marching against Suleiman.) 


 

Non licet in bello bis peccare. You mustn`t commit the same fault twice in the war. So, King Mátyás just like any of the military leaders of old times was able to decide which military action was the proper one for the given situation. He boldly attacked the Polish and took Trencsén Castle from them.

Trencsén Castle

Yet, in Braszló (Wroclaw, Breslau) he pretended himself fearful and didn`t go to the field; the enemy was scolding and flouting him a lot for this, not thinking that the king had done it bravely and cleverly, with a reason. (…) The king kept sending raiding parties and has done such ruin in the enemy that all his towers and dungeons have got filled up with thousands of captives he had taken; so the foe has lost heart. The second trick of the king was the diversion. One who can handle the art of diversion, verily, he will make good use of it. Szapolyai István and Kinizsi Pál were ravaging Poland without being opposed; the king knew it well that the enemy will go home when he receives the news of such damage, and he was not mistaken, these raids forced the enemy to plead for peace. It is no good to cause only small damage but rather a big one because your enemy won`t be moved for any small damage. 
Hannibal took his army to Italy against the Romans and nobody was able to drive him out from there; yet, Scipio has gone to Africa against Carthago and as a result of his presence, Hannibal was called back. So let all the military leaders trust me that the diversion is the most crafty and valiant deed: one who uses it, will not make a mistake.”

Here is the previous post about king Matthias:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/delirant-reges-plectunur-achivi-the-people-pay-for-the-foolishness-of-the-kings/

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