Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

Zrínyi’s reply to Montecuccoli 1661

Zrínyi Miklós, the poet and general
Let me share with you some thoughts of Count Zrínyi Miklós (Nikola Zrinski, 1620-1664), based on the research of Szerecz Miklós. We know that General Raymondo Montecuccoli passionately detested Zrínyi and tried to spread negative propaganda against him. Zrínyi was defending his reputation in his letters, basically, their debate was a heated political fight, but the liberation of Hungary and Croatia was at stake. A full book can be filled with letters written against each other, and there were many circumstances that should be described. For now, let us see what happened after the fall of Várad castle (1660) for which Zrínyi was blaming the Habsburg generals because they were just watching the siege from a short distance.
The siege of Várad in 1660 (Source: Arcanum)
The debate was raging between them in 1661-1662, in particular, the topic was the “losing of Transylvania” that Zrínyi blamed on him. In fact, their opinions were different about the anti-Ottoman struggles in general. Zrínyi was reasoning with bringing up the French example of King Henry IV of Navarra. Let us cite the words of the Hungarian-Croatian lord:
The “Hungaries” (Royal Hungary, the Ottoman Occupied Lands, and the Principality of Transylvania), French map from 1664
„…Have you saved Transylvania? Wow! These are great deeds, indeed, the greatest ones! But your laurels are over with these haughty words. Just tell me, what was the use of your campaign regarding Hungary? Tell me, have given Transylvania back to us, the land that had been handed over to you intact? At first, you should give Transylvania back to Prince Kemény whom you were deceiving by offering him protection, giving him your word. Give back the happiness, peace, and wealth that you have chased away with your troops. When you have done so, you might celebrate your triumph, and then you can usurp the three words “I came, I saw, I won”. And we will joyfully call you Mars, Hercules, Dionysos, and with rejoicing soul, we will greet you, you, who descends to us on your coach from fragrant-smelling India. But alas! We are disappointed, and you are reasoning. Yet, the philosophers are wise only in their speech, but they are immeasurably stupid when it comes to action. You say one cannot make an effort from the distance. But if you, you who are as mighty as the Sun, cannot warm the ground up from the sky, then you will have to come closer. If you want to manacle the enemy, then you do not have to stay miles away from the foe. Rather, you should have ventured a bit closer to the enemy to tear somewhat honor for yourself, similar to the Moor commander (Bartholomeus Rogatus, De bello Maurorum et Hispanorum) who, when he was mocked by the Spanish for his short sword, replied that he would add its length with a step.”

Zrínyi went on: “You are bitterly blaming the soldiers of Kemény for having given in to havoc, and for getting confused by fear and panic. I believe it to you willingly. But if we are looking for the origin of the havoc, we should not accuse those miserable soldiers of being cowards but there are higher and bigger causes for cases like this when God allows “the Achaeans to expiate”. I put the question to you, Oh, noble Leader, tell me what medicine should be given to such a fearful army? According to my belief, if the tempest is coming, one should put on a coat of an excellent commander and should encourage them with brave words. Just like we can read in the biography of the French King Henry IV, written by Petrus Matthaeus: “his bravery should be a burning torch, lighting hundred more torches without losing from its own strength”. I expected you to be similar, or if I am not mistaken, you should have made an attempt at least before judging so harshly above them. But you were nowhere near to them, wherever they were, so how can you wish us to believe you? You claim, they were far fewer than the Turks; well, now I see that you think war is just arithmetic, and you think that for the smaller army it is necessary to yield before the larger one. Behold, Epaminondas was not like this! Just listen to what he said to his soldiers who lied about the size of the enemy (it is written by Plutarchos in the life of the rulers): If my soldiers are not so numerous, I will substitute them with my own person”.
Épaminondas
 You can read Zrínyi’s letter in the Hungarian language as well:

“…Megmentetted Erdélyt? Ejha! Nagy tettek ezek, bizony a legnagyobbak! De ezekkel a fennhéjázó szavakkal vége is a dicsőségnek. Mondd csak, mi hasznát látja Magyarország a te hadjáratodnak? Mondd, csak, mondd, visszaadtad-e nekünk Erdélyt, amelyet bizony épségben vettél át? Add vissza előbb Erdélynek Kemény fejedelmet, akit becsületszóval és oltalommal hitegettél, add vissza azt a boldogságot, békét és bőséget, amelyet seregeddel és őrségeiddel kiűztél onnan, és akkor tarts diadalmenetet, akkor bitorold el azt a három szót: „jöttem, láttam, győztem”! Mi pedig önként nevezünk majd Marsnak, Herkulesnek, Dionüszosznak, és örvendező lélekkel köszöntünk Téged, aki a fűszeres illatú Indiákról szállsz le hozzánk kocsidon. De ó jaj! Mi csalódunk, Te pedig okoskodsz. Pedig a filozófusok csak beszédjükben bölcsek, ha tettre kerül a sor, végtelenül ostobák. Azt mondod, távolból nem lehet hatást kifejteni. De ha te, aki bizonyára oly hatalmas vagy, mint a Nap, nem tudod fölmelegíteni a földet az égből, akkor közelebb kell jönnöd; ha bilincsbe akarod verni az ellenséget, akkor nem mérföldekre kell maradnod tőle, hanem, mint ama mór vezér (Bartholomeus Rogatus, De bello Maurorum et Hispanorum), aki a hispán gúnyolódására, hogy rövid a kardja, azt felelte: majd megtoldom legalább egy lépéssel, neked is legalább egy kicsinyég közelebb kellett volna merészkedned az ellenséghez, hogy valami dicsőséget szakajts tőle. …

Prince Kemény János of Transylvania
Keserűen hányod Kemény katonáinak szemére, hogy felőrölte őket a zűrzavar, megzavarta a páni félelem. Készségesen elhiszem ezt neked. De ha a zűrzavar eredetét keressük, látnivaló, hogy nem ezekre a nyomorultakra háramlik a bűn, hanem nagyobb s magasabb oka van annak, ha az Isten megengedi, hogy „az akhájok lakoljanak”. Kérdem hát tőled, nemes Vezér, miféle orvossággal kell segíteni az ilyen félénk hadseregen? Én legalábbis úgy hiszem, hogy ha itt az égiháború, ki kell fordítani a subát: a kiváló vezér erélyének kell lelket öntenie beléjük. Amint Petrus Matthaeus írja IV. Henrik francia király életrajzában: „vitézsége fáklyaként lobogjon, amely száz másikat gyújt meg anélkül, hogy maga vesztene erejéből”. Azt vártam, Te is ilyen légy, de ha nem tévedek, legalábbis próbára kellett volna tenned őket, mielőtt ilyen vakmerőén ítélkezel fölöttük: ám ha meg sem fordultál arra, ahol valaha is iparkodtak, miképpen kívánhatod, hogy higgyünk neked? Azt állítod, sokkal kevesebben voltak, mint a törökök; nos, látom már, hogy Te számtannak nézed a háborút, és azt hiszed, szükségszerű, hogy a kisebb szám engedjen a nagyobbal szemben. Bizony nem ilyen volt hajdan Epaminondász! hallgasd csak, mit felelt annak a katonájának, aki az ellenség sokaságát lódította (Plutarchos írja a Fejedelmek életében): „Amennyivel kevesebben vannak az enyéim, azt magam pótolom…”
Source: Szerecz Miklós

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General Montecuccoli, the great adversary of Zrínyi Miklós

You can read more about the Zrínyi family members and the Habsburgs here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/the-zrinyi-family-and-the-habsburgs/

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