Zimony castle (Photo: Lánczi Imre)

Zimony (Земун / Zemun, Semlin, Taurunum) is in Serbia, in Szerémség / Sirmium County but it used to be a stand-alone settlement. Now, it belongs to Belgrade (Nándorfehérvár), which is 5 kilometers from its center to the northeast, on the bank of the Danube River. Obviously, this fort was the “twin-fort” of Nándorfehérvár / Belgrade Castle, standing perhaps in the most important strategic place: anybody wanted to conquer Hungary, first, they had to take these forts.

Zimony castle (Photo: Lánczi Imre)

It was mentioned first as Zemlen in 1173: its old Latin name was Taurunum. In the Middle Ages, it was called Zemlén.
The Crusaders were passing through here in 1096 and they took the castle but the Hungarian King Kálmán defeated them. The Byzantine Emperor Manuel took it in 1152 for a short time.

Zimony castle (Photo: Lánczi Imre)

Zimony was besieged by King István III in 1164 and took it. The army of Emperor Manuel took the fort in 1165 again but Comes Dienes István took it back the next year. There was a famous battle in 1167 where the Byzantine army defeated the troops of Comes Dienes but they had suffered so high casualties that they had to withdraw from the Kingdom of Hungary.

Zimony castle (Photo: Lánczi Imre)

The army of King Béla III occupied Zimony in 1180. The settlement at the castle became a Royal „civitas” in 1368. Zimony used to belong to the Despot György (George) Draskovics in the 15th century as it was first given to despot Stefan Lazarević in 1411 and 1427. It was confirmed as a fief of despot Đurađ (Djuradj) Branković, then it was owned by the Hungarian Hunyadi family. According to a legend, Hunyadi János, Governor of Hungary died in Zimony after the great battle of 1456. You can read more about this fight here:


The death of Hunyadi János

King Matthias Corvinus used to say that Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) was the gate to Buda, and if it fell, Hungary would fall, too. Zimony castle’s fate was connected to Nándorfehérvár’s, by all means. The Hungarian king owned it between 1519-21. The Ottomans gained the fort on 12 July 1521, after the heroic fight of the Skoblic (Szklubics) brothers. The siege of Zimony began on 3 July and was finished on 12 July. Sultan Suleiman`s army had already taken Szabács / Sabac Castle but the siege of Nándorfehérvár / Belgrade had not been finished at that time. Grand Vizier Piri Mehmed sent Bey Khoszrev of Szendrő castle to take Zimony castle. Nevertheless, further troops had to be sent to him: Jannissary units and cannons were needed to carry out the order.

Zimony castle and Nándorfehérvár aka Belgrade (Photo: Lánczi Imre)

Barely 350 soldiers were defending Zimony Castle and their leader, the Croatian Markó Szklubics / Sklobic swore he would die but not surrender. There were about 200 Croats, about 100 Hungarians, and a few Serbs among them, they were the famous boaters who patrolled the river. There were only three howitzers in the fort but they could not answer the challenge effectively of the Ottoman artillery. The hopeless fight lasted for nine days and it was the sultan who gave out the order at the end of the general assault on 12 July.

Zimony castle (Photo: Lánczi Imre)

In this fight, Szkublics received a lethal wound and he and his remaining 100 men made their last stand on the market square of the castle, all of them died. The half-dead Szklubics was carried to the sultan who had him executed by his war elephant. The surviving soldiers of Szklubics were taken to Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) castle where the sultan had them slaughtered in front of the defenders of Nándorfehérvár. 

The Sultan’s war elephant

However, later it was said, that the Ottomans had greatly appreciated the heroic fight of the defenders of Zimony and Szabács. But I think if they had truly appreciated their bravery, they would not have killed the captured soldiers. After the fall of Zimony, the castle of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) could be surrounded fully by the besieging Ottoman army. 

Zimony castle (Photo: Lánczi Imre)

 In 1541, Zemun was integrated into the Syrmia sanjak of the Budin Pashaluk, it had a right to keep weekly markets and was in the „háne” group of taxes which was a privilege in the Ottoman Empire. Zimony was the place where King János Zsigmond was summoned to kiss the hand of the Sultan on 26 June 1566. The Habsburgs were able to take it back only in 1717.
You can watch this video about the castle:


Source: partly from Szibler Gábor

Zimony in the 18th century

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Here are some more pictures of Zimony: