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:
„Because of serving faithfully my liege-lord, all that I have remained is 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.
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 with these sums when it came to paying their soldiers. According to Perjés, the market value of this pay was like this:
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, a calf was 2 Forints.
As for the weapons, a rifle cost 5 Forints, a pair of pistols were 4.5 Forints, a saber cost 1.6 gold coins.
The biggest problem was not the low level of the pay but the late and irregular time of paying it.
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…
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 the 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:
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