The peril of Demeter Jaksith – a legend from Szerémi`s Chronicle
Foreword: the Jaksich family
This famous noble family is mentioned in many ways: Jaksich, Jaksics, Jaksity, Jakšić, Jaxyth, and Jaksith. There are Croatian, Serbian, and Hungarian people with this name. We know that one of their forefathers found shelter from the Turks in Hungary, in Temes County. They brought along 1,200 warriors, and they fought on the side of despot Đurađ Branković, King Matthias, and his general, Kinizsi Pál in the 15th century. The king awarded them with the city of Nagylak in Csanád County in 1461, and they began to use this name, too: “Jaksics de Nagylak” (Nagylaki Jaksics). Jaksich Miklós became a baron in 1687. Perhaps one of the most famous family members of them is Demeter Jaksics: in Serbia, there is a tower named after him.
In fact, it was Demeter Jaksith, the son of Jakša Brežičić who came to Hungary in 1459, after the fall of Szendrő (Smederevo) castle. You can read more about the fights around Szendrő castle here:
Lord Demeter brought allegedly 50,000 Serbian soldiers to Hungary to support the king in 1481. The family was loyal to King Matthias even at the time of the conspiracy of Vitéz János of Zredna. Later, Demeter was the commander of the Serbian soldiers in the Battle of Breadfield (Kenyérmező) in 1479. Read more about this battle here:
Kinizsi Pál settled many Serbian people in the Hungarian Kingdom because the local Hungarian inhabitants had been wiped out by the Ottoman attackers. He obliged the new Serbian settlers to fight in his army in exchange for the lands. Later, King Matthias sent Lord Demeter to the Sultan as a diplomat but he was slain on the way back home in 1487…
The legend about Lord Jaksith and King Matthias:
There are many legends attached to King Matthias, this is one of them:
„When King Matthias was besieging Vienna, there were often clashes with the defenders who sallied out from the castle. There was a strong German warrior among them who came out to the field every day, cut a few Hungarians, and was scorning the Hungarians saying that nobody dares to face him.
King Matthias was looking at it once, twice, but when he saw the boasting German for the third time he has said to his men:
„Whoever fights this villain, will get a castle from me with all its income.”
Demeter Jaksith, the valiant Rác ( Serbian or Croatian) warrior has heard it and he told to the king:
„If I get a castle with all its income, I will fight the German.”
„Defeat him, my son, the Castle of Kórogy will be yours.”
Jaksith was not idle, jumped on his horse at once, drew his sword and said to his friends:
„You are my true witnesses, good comrades of mine, you are going to see my virtue. Come, and fight against the German`s men, I«ll cut their leader off.”
With this, he galloped to the middle of the field and split the armored German in two with a single blow.
When the German fell off his mount, Jaksith descended from his saddle, grabbed the corp of the German, and ran with it straight to the king`s tent. He stood before it, took the body, and threw it into the tent, crying:
„King, here is the German! Give me the castle!”
The king was surprised at the strength of the lad but he was taken aback by his savageness. Told him:
„Why did you kill the German champion? It would have been better if you could have led him before me alive. I appreciate the valiant virtue and the warriors but I do not treat them as if they were dogs when they die.”
Yet, he fulfilled his promise and gifted the Castle of Kórógy to Jaksith.
Jaksith was replying to the king like this:
„Consider it well what you say, king. If you want to win, let`s win or let the whole thing leave to the devil.”
Seeing how reckless and fierce this warrior was, the king asked from his lords:
„Behold, how this warrior is talking. What should we do with him?”
The lords answered him:
„Your Majesty, send him against the Turks. Bey Ali has just broken into Transylvania, let Jaksith join the army of Pál Kinizsi, he will teach him how to behave.”
It was exactly what King Mathias has done. The king sent the Rác warriors, led by Jaksith to Transylvania against the Turks.
Jaksith was fighting against the Turks valiantly, too, but even Kinizsi could not handle his vehemence and ferocity. The general was teaching and warning him in vain, Jaksith was treating the captured Turks cruelly. Kinizsi was enduring it for a while but he sent Demeter back to his father, to the Rác Voivode, saying, that he can do anything he wants to at home.
As it happened a bit later, Demeter was hunting with a few friends of his and ran into two Turk Pashas, the Gházi brothers who were also hunting. They captured them at once and took them to the court of the Voivode where he said to them:
„Your last hour has come!”
The Gházi brothers begged him on their knees to have mercy on them, offering a rich ransom if they were released. Demeter pretended to have considered it but in fact, he was up to no good. Finally, he has told to the two Pashas:
„Cast a dice. Whoever casts a bigger number, will be free.”
It was Mustafa Gházi who was luckier, he cast a six. Then, Demeter forced him to have his own brother impaled and roast him alive. After this, he broke all the teeth of Mustafa and released him.
From this time on, Demeter has been afraid to set out from home without men-at-arms, though he used to be reckless before. He had a good reason to be afraid because Mustafa was getting ready to take revenge on him.
Not much later, King Matthias summoned him and gave him the order:
„My son, you speak well in Turk. Go quickly, carry my letter to Constantinapolis.”
Alas, the great warrior has got frightened, hearing this. He was begging and pleading the king:
„My Lord, do not murder me. If you send me to the Turks, you won`t see me alive anymore.”
But the will of King Matthias cannot have been altered.
Jaksith has gone home very sadly, said farewell to his family, said goodbye to his faithful scribe, Gergely, then set out to the town of the Turk Sultan.
He has delivered the letter without any trouble but on the way back he was trapped in a small forest by the unit of Mustafa Gházi near Szendrő Castle. The Pasha ambushed him and slew Jaksith and all of his warriors on the spot because they were more numerous.
This was the death of Demeter Jaksith, he was given what he had given to others.
The news of his death was flying far, like a big black raven. It sat on the housetops and croaked the death of the great warrior. It was croaked above the house of Demeter Jaksith, too. His family has mourned him and scribe Gergely wrote an epitaph for him:
»Thus, the great peril of my lord has been fulfilled,
Which made the king feel sad very much,
For he could not see his envoy with his eyes anymore.”
Further reading about this family (in the Hungarian language):
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