Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

The value of Money

Talking about the worth of money: here is a summary taken from the post of the Hungarian historian, Szerecz Miklós who provided us information about the financials in Royal Hungary from 1609:

Our historian from Sziget Castle, Szerecz Miklós writes about the question of the Hungarian warriors’ unpaidness along the Frontier. He takes his sources from Perjés Géza. At the end of the 15-Year-War (1591-1606) of Hungary, there was a Hungarian officer called Kornis Gáspár who was complaining to his superiors that he had lost all his properties during the long war:

One gold = 100 Denars

„Because of serving faithfully my liege-lord, all that I have remained is just my dolman on my back. I used to be a lord myself and became a common soldier. Now, what God might do with me, I do not know: your Lordship may think about what I can hope for. (=nothing)”
Yet, there were worse situations than his. By the end of the long and bloody 15-Year-War against the Ottomans and the Truce has been made, the „honor” (mean: the pay) of the warriors of the Frontier became not so important. Before it, the situation was quite miserable but now it has become a disaster. Note, the expenses of war have pushed even the Habsburg Empire to the fringe of bankruptcy.

Gold of King Matthias Corvinus

The Diet of 1609 in Hungary declared that the soldiers’ pay must be restored according to the previous customs and habits: „…each horseman should receive three gold Forints and twenty denars while each infantryman should get two gold Forints a month.” (My remark: when the gold Forint used to be stable, it was worth 100 silver denars; later, 5-600 denars made up a Forint.)
Well, the above-mentioned pay would have been just enough to die in starvation, even if it had arrived in due time. (My remark: most of it was spent on wine, as a rule. Note, the western mercenaries in Hungary earned three times higher pay, plus supplies.) Yet, we can see that even this above-mentioned amount was not increasing throughout the first part of the 17th century. Palatine Eszterházy Miklós and later Count Miklós Zrínyi were calculating these sums when it came to paying their soldiers. According to Perjés, the market value of this pay was like this:

 One „köböl” (60 kg) of wheat was worth one Hungarian gold coin…Supposing that there were five persons in the family of a soldier, annually the price he had to pay for the grain was 25 Hungarian gold Forints. An infantryman would have gained 24 Forints a year (which never happened in reality) and obviously, he could not provide for his family. But there were other costs as well: industrial items, weapons, clothes, and in the case of the hussars, there were the horses to feed. (Note: these costs were usually covered for the foreign mercenaries by their lord. Additionally, the Hungarians received half of their pay in bad-quality broad cloth or in salt cubes. This was how the Hungarian proverb derived: „There is no pay nor broad-cloth.”)

Prince Bocskai’s coin

According to Zrínyi, he says that a full dress for a soldier would cost 12 Forints, (including the dolman and the fur-coat for 3 Forints, the hat and a pair of boots or shoes for 3 Forints, trousers for 2 Forints, underwear for 1 Forint) so half of the annual pay of a soldier was spent for his equipment. It didn’t include the costs of the Hussars’ horses.

Some data about the value of the money: the price of an ox was 16-32 Forints, a cow was 20 Forints, and a calf was 2 Forints.
As for the weapons, a rifle cost 5 Forints, a pair of pistols were 4.5 Forints, and a saber cost 1.6 gold coins.
The biggest problem was not the low level of pay but the late and irregular time of paying it.

Prince Bethlen’s gold Forint, minted in 1625

It has been many times said that Vienna regarded the Hungarian soldiers as unreliable and didn’t trust them very much in the period of „Hungarian destruction seculum”. And there is some truth in it. They were rightly considered unreliable against the Transylvanian forces – but not against the Turks.
In fact, during the wars of the Transylvanian princes Bocskai István and Bethlen Gábor, the warriors of the Hungarian Frontier welcomed them and eagerly joined them against the Habsburgs. There were several reasons behind this but one of them was the fact that the Transylvanian princes paid their soldiers regularly, though not giving them more…

Transylvanian Thallers

According to Tóth Csaba, the Thaller (Hungarian: “tallér”) was the most important monetary item of the Early Modern period. It speaks for itself that many historians who research the history of money call the 16th-19th centuries the “Age of the Thaller”. A Thaller was a big silver coin, its weight was 28.5 grams, and it was about 4-centimeter wide. They were minted first in Transylvania during the reign of King János Zsigmond, in 1562. The last ones were minted by Prince Apafi Mihály in 1690. Here are a few nice ones:

A Thaller of King János Zsigmond (1568)
Prince Báthori Zsigmond (before 1602)
Báthory’s Thaller (reverse side)
Bocskai’s Thaller (1605)
Bocskai’s Thaller (1605) reverse side
Bethlen’s Thaller (it was more valuable if the corners were not cut off)
Bethlen’s Thaller (1613-29) reverse side
Rákóczi György I (1620-49)
Rákóczi György I (1620-49) reverse side, 1647
Kemény János (1661-62)
Kemény János (1661-62) reverse side
Apafi Mihály (before 1690)
Apafi Mihály (before 1690) reverse side

If you like my writings, please  feel free to support me with a coffee here:

This article contains Amazon ads. By purchasing through these links, you can help my work at no added cost to you. Below, you can find my books in various editions (color/black-and-white, paperback, hardcover, ebook) Thank you very much.

 My work can also be followed and supported on Patreon:

In the pictures below, you can see coins minted and used in our area during this period… Denar: silver coin; Forint: gold coin; Thaller: huge silver coin; garash: worth several denars…Take delight in the coins used in the “Hungaries”: