Temesvár (Timisoara, Temeschburg, Temeşvar) is the center of the Bánát area and used to be the entrance of Transylvania from the direction of the Great Hungarian Plain. It can be found in Romania: who would forget the Hungarian and Romanian heroes of Temesvár who triggered the Revolution in 1989 that finally has overthrown the communist dictator’s rule?
Now, the town is populated by several ethnic groups, Hungarians, Serbs, Romanians, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Roma people. The town is also described as “small Vienna” because of its beautiful buildings.
Temesvár has been always inhabited since ancient times due to the closeness of the three rivers, the Tisza, the Maros, and the Danube. Temesvár was a strategic castle next to the Transylvanian border, a much-disputed fort between the Ottoman Turks and the Hungarians.
The region was populated in the second part of the 10th century A.D. by Hungarians whose cemetery was found near Temesvár. The name “Temes” derives from the name of the Temes River while “vár” stands for “castle”. The Romanian and German names came from the Hungarian word “Temesvár”. As for the fortress, it was first mentioned in the Register of Arad around 1177. Next time, it was mentioned in a document issued by King András II of Hungary, it was called Castrum Temesiense. However, others say it referred to another town. Assumedly, it was an earth-timber construction at that time.
This first castle was destroyed during the Mongolian Invasion in 1241 but later the walls were rebuilt. The place was mentioned again in 1266, in a document of King István V. It was called Castrum Tymes, the fort was a rectangular castle, with three sides defended by rivers, and on the third side by a moat. The castle had strategic importance as the Chief Comes of Temes County could easily control the area from there.
The city grew under the reign of King Károly Róbert who, upon his visit here in 1307, ordered the construction of a royal palace. Italian masons completed the work, adding stone walls and bastions to the corners of the new castle. At the beginning of his reign, King Károly Róbert held his court there before he could overcome the powerful oligarchs of the country. Later, the king visited the castle in 1330, he set out from there when he launched his campaign against Voivode Basarab of Wallachia.
The “guest settlers” in the town (hospites de Themeswar) were first mentioned in 1341. We have a document from 1342 when the inhabitants of Temesvár were mentioned as “burghers”: cives de Temesvar. However, the place was mentioned as an “oppidum” (market town) until 1512. It was King Lajos I who gave a COA to the city in 1365, it is one of the earliest Hungarian COAs given to cities. Merchants from Ragusa (now Dubrovnik in Croatia) settled in the town around 1402. Bulgarians, Wallachians, and Serbians also moved to the town in the 15th and 16th centuries.
By the middle of the 14th century, Temesvár was at the forefront of Western Christendom’s battle against the Ottoman Turks. French and Hungarian crusaders met at the city before engaging in the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. In 1397, King Zsigmond held a Diet in Temesvár to discuss how to defend against the Ottoman threat.
In 1440, Hunyadi János was appointed as Chief Comes of Temes County. He moved there with his family and launched his campaigns from there. Unfortunately, a major earthquake destroyed the castle in 1443 and Hunyadi had to build up Temesvár castle again, with the help of Italian masons. Thus, it has become a military stronghold against the Turks. It was on a strategic point, nothing shows it better than the fact that it was repeatedly besieged by the Ottomans in 1462, 1476, 1491, and 1522. It was so important that King Matthias Corvinus appointed his best general, Kinizsi Pál as the Chief comes of Temes county in 1478. Temesvár remained the property of the Hunyadi Clan until 1490. The rebelling peasants of Dózsa György were defeated near Temesvár by Lord Szapolyai János in 1514. Dózsa was executed in the city.
The fatal siege of Temesvár castle in 1552
The prelude to the siege
The Ottoman onslaught of 1552 began on 22 April in earnest but let us see what happened in the first part of the year.
The leading Pasha of Anatolia, Kara Achmed, and Pasha Szokollu Mohamed were in charge of the attacking army which had set out to occupy Hungary. The cause of the war was the treaty between the recently murdered Cardinal Martinuzzi György and King Ferdinand I regarding the takeover of Transylvania. You can read about Prior György, the “White Monk” who literally wrought together the Principality of Transylvania here:
The Turks wanted to take revenge for this crime and also, they wanted to show who had the real upper hand about Transylvania. The Ottomans wrote a letter to the Transylvanians to get rid of the Germans and put János Zsigmond back on his throne. The Sultan wrote to the Hungarian Székely guardsmen to pay their taxes (!) to him at once and attack the Germans „or stone will not remain on a stone” in Székely-Land. Of course, they didn’t obey. All in all, the threat has caused great distress in Transylvania and Castaldo was losing the trust rapidly. Neither the noble Estates of Transylvania nor his own (unpaid) mercenaries obeyed him. The assassination of Prior György proved to be a grave mistake of King Habsburg Ferdinand.
The Sultan didn’t have to be afraid of any Christian help that might come to Hungary. The French were instigating the Sublime Port against the Germans as always. At the same time, Suleiman reassured the Protestant German princes that his campaign was against Ferdinand. The Polish were indifferent as King János Zsigmond was related to them, being the grandson of the Polish king. Even the Pope turned a deaf ear to the events.
The two Romanian Voivodes of Moldavia and Wallachia were ordered to join the Turks, too, and they did so. Although the Sultan was not there in person, he had just sent a large army. At the same time, the Pasha of Buda, Khádim Ali, also received his orders to launch his campaign with the assembled troops of his vilayets.
We will see that the Ottoman campaign of 1552 brought great success to the Turks, although the Hungarians could heroically defend the single castle of Eger led by Captain Dobó István. It was the time when the crescent moon was placed on the ancient city of Veszprém. It was also the time of the so famous moment in our history when Captain Szondi György fell in trying to defend the tiny castle of Drégely. This campaign has brought about the end of many smaller castles in Nógrád County, too: Szécsény, Hollókő, Buják, Ság. Some other cities and forts also fell into the hands of the attackers like Temesvár, Lippa, Sólymos, Lugos, Karánsebes, Szolnok. But it is just a rough summary, let us go into the details.
future attack against Transylvania was obvious. The Sultan had a bridge built across the Danube at Kilia for the Sandjak Beys of Bulgarian and for the Tatars from Dobrudja. The main army was going to cross the river at Haram and Krusevac. Lots of food and fodder was being piled up along the Danube and the Voivode of Moldavia provided the cargo boats along with a huge quantity of wheat. Unlike in the Habsburg King’s army, the logistics of the Ottomans were excellent as always, they were a hundred years ahead of the Christian armies in this respect.
Castaldo and Báthori András (King Ferdinand had appointed him as Voivode of Transylvania) summoned the Transylvanian Estates to a Diet at Torda to save the situation. It took place in May but the decisions of this meeting were not obeyed. While Prior György had been able to call to arms 30-35,000 people before, now only a couple of thousands of men could hardly come to the assigned meeting place at Keresztesmezeje. The Hungarian noblemen claimed that they were obliged to go to war only under the condition that the King would come in person as well. As Ferdinand was busy fighting the Protestants in Germany, it was impossible.
But let us focus on Temesvár Castle and its area, at first.
After the „peril of Szeged”, Pasha Kászon moved into the burned city in March 1552. As for the city’s former commander, the Sultan made Sandjak Bey Mikhaloglu-Khidr resign and appointed Kászon to lead Szeged in his place.
General Castaldo received the news in Nagyszeben (Sibiu) in March about the military preparations of the Sultan. Suleiman had concentrated his Rumelian forces on Drinápoly (Edirne) and the Anatolian troops came there, too, led by Pasha Hasszán. Pasha Kara (aka „Black”) Achmed, a hero of the recent Persian war, got appointed as the Second-Vizier. The Sultan wanted to dismiss Szokollu Mohamed but Kara Achmed asked him not to do so because Szokollu`s experience regarding sieges was quite valuable.
Thus, Szokollu became the commander of the Balkanian troops. Pretty soon, the inhabitants of Temesvár castle have been informed that Szokollu wants to lay a siege on the fort again. Hearing this, the Hussars and the Hajdús of the castle, having been unpaid for several months, wanted to leave the Temesvár. As Aldana had brought almost all the garrison of Lippa and Temesvár to Szeged, there were just a few soldiers anyway.
To prevent a mutiny, Castaldo sent Diego Mendoza with his 100 Spanish to Temesvár, along with a battalion of German mercenaries. Dombai Mihály and his 100 Hussars were ordered to hurry there, too. Aldana was ordered to do so but he denied the order. He said, Castaldo`s men should complete the construction of the fort and send there a further 600 troops, then he would come, too.
Aldana was not blind and saw the great Ottoman forces being concentrated at Szeged and Becskerek. Begler Bey Ali of Buda and Begler Bey Kászim of Szendrő have brought so many soldiers that the whole area’s situation became critical. Temesvár Castle was in ruins because of the last year’s siege and its repairs have not been started due to the lack of money.
It wasn`t helpful either, that the soldiers of Oppersdorf and Aldana, the German armored cavalry, left their commanders and forts (Lippa and Gyula) in April because of the money. They marched to the safety of Várad Castle. King Ferdinand appointed Losonczy István as the Chief Captain and Chief Comes of the Southern Lands of Hungary in April but Temesvár and Lippa were in such a neglected state that there was little he could do.
In Temesvár, Losonczy took the advice of Martini de Spazio and focused on the construction of the palisade. When Losonczy took Temesvár over, he found there were just 400 riders instead of the 950 listed on the payroll. Soon, he realized that Aldana had failed to pay even the money of the remaining troops in spite of the fact, that Aldana had been issued the pay of 700 riders. It became clear, that both the money issued for the soldiers and the construction of the castle, had been simply stolen by him.
Second Vizier Achmed arrived by the end of May in Szendrő (Smederevo). He had the Anatolian troops with him, along with the troops from Vidin and Edirne. His task was to join forces with Szokollu Mohamed and target the southern and eastern castles. At this time, the Turk forces approached the country from the other three directions as well:
1. Begler Bey Hadim Ali summoned the troops from the Sandjaks of Székesfehérvár, Pécs, Esztergom, and Szeged to Buda, led by Arszlán, Dervis, Velidzsán, and Mustafa beys;
2. A 40,000-strong Romanian-Crimean Tatar-Turk army was in Moldova, led by Voivode Élias of Moldova;
3. Begler Bey Ulama was ready to attack in Bosnia, aided by the beys of Herzegovina and Hlevnó.
Captain Losonczy was thinking of an „active defense” and wanted to destroy all the lands before the Turks, agreeing with the contemporary warriors of the Valiant Order who said that „a castle can be defended only in the field”. Losonczy did his best to persuade the lords of the surrounding area to help him. He summoned the noblemen of the Southern counties in June to Simánd to ask for their financial help for repairing the castle.
He wanted to get peasants, too, to give a hand in the work. Yet, his words fell on rocks. The noblemen said they would not help unless the King took up arms in person. They refused to send him peasants because the harvest was going on. Many lords went home but some stayed and took up arms. After the harvest, Losonczy had only two weeks to finish the earthworks of the fort.
The money he eventually received from the military-tax, had to be sent to other castles where the troops were on the fringe of mutiny. He was running out of time. In his letter of 11 June, he was begging the heir of the Habsburg throne, Archduke Maximilian to send him 1,500 men and equipment; he expressed his fears that his unpaid warriors and Hussars would leave the fort at any night as the enemy was approaching. He didn`t know that the Habsburgs were regrouping their Trans-Danubian forces to retake Veszprém Castle and had no intention to send any reinforcement to him.
Second-Vizier Achmed was getting closer, he took the Castle of Versec (Vrsac) and made his camp at Mezősomlyó (Semlacu Mare), which was two day walk from Temesvár. Castaldo was terrified, thinking that the Turks would come to Transylvania after taking Temesvár. He wrote to his king, complaining that he would never be able to leave Transylvania alive.
Szokollu Mehemed crossed the Tisza River on 15 June, unhindered. He had plenty of irregular troops but his main strength was the 11-12,000 Janissaries and the Asabs. They joined forces with Achmed`s army on 22 June. This time, they had about 70,000 men. The backbone of the army consisted of high-quality Sipahi riders.
They brought along 100 medium size cannons and 16 wall-breaching ones. There were many laborers as well to help with the logistics and the trench digging. Tinódi (in his chronicle) thought the whole army was 160,000 strong but Castaldo made them just 90,000. He remarked how much food they had been carrying. It was the situation two days prior to the siege.
The first stage of the siege
When we talk about the siege of Temesvár Castle, we must underline the personal bravery of Captain and Chief Comes Losonczy István and his Spanish officer, Alfonso Perez. Let us not forget, that the castle beat the Ottomans back in 1551 again but its most famous siege took place in July 1552.
The second siege of Temesvár began on 24 June 1552. The castle has not been mended properly and it was badly equipped. Captain Losonczy István had just 17 cannons. According to the chronicle of Tinódi, the castle was defended by a lot fewer men than last year, there were altogether 3,500 Hungarian, Czech, Spanish, Serbian, and German soldiers, 1,900 of them were Hungarians. (Castaldo knew different numbers, though.)
Pasha Achmed led an army of thirty thousand against the fort, and he made his camp at Mezősomlyó. At once, he sent some 1,500 riders to find out the strength of the fort. They were led by Szokollu Mohamed and Pasha Kászim of Becskerek. Seeing them, Alonzo Perez and his 100 Spanish infantrymen and the Serbian Voivode Mila with his 400 Hussars sallied out and engaged in a hard fight with them, and the Turks finally fled. Losonczy entered the fort only after this incident, at night.
However, another officer, Gianbattista Castaldo had recommended giving up the fort before the Turks would get there but Losonczy contradicted him and faced the enemy regardless of these unbalanced conditions. Castaldo wanted to send after him 12,000 gold Forints at the last moment, sending along supplies and gunpowder but his orders were denied. He thought that Losonczy would not be able to defend the castle even for a month.
Losonczy made a speech to his men on 25 June as it was the habit of the time: the soldiers and their captain used to swear an oath to defend the castle until the last man. Losonczy told that „I swear with strong faith that I will sacrifice my properties, treasures, and even my life if it is needed for the sake of Christendom. (…) You are fighting in order to gain victory for a true goal and to defend the holy faith of Christ. (…) But we will never surrender the castle! Swear, that none of us will go out from here alive!”
Allegedly, all the soldiers received these words with merriment. At the same time, Losonczy wrote a letter to his wife, asking her for selling his family treasures and hire more soldiers. The letter was smuggled out of the castle by his wife`s scribe, Földvári István who used a secret tunnel. Lady Pekry Anna, Losonczy`s wife was far away from Temesvár, she was staying in Somoskő Castle.
Upon receiving the letter, she did as her husband said so. She gave 6,000 gold Forints to Földvári and the scribe helped her to recruit and organize the reinforcement for her beloved husband. Földvári hired about 500 „free” Hajdú soldiers and he was joined by the surviving 700 Hajdú troops of Tóth Mihály of Szeged. (Read a few paragraphs later about the tragic fate of the reinforcement.)
Unfortunately, Captain Losonczy could not expect any other reinforcement than them. The troops of Transylvania and the Trans-Tisza River Region were being held up in the southeastern corner of Transylvania, they could not come to his aid. Also, Voivode Báthori András, King Ferdinand`s appointee, had escaped from the responsibility of helping Temesvár, claiming he was sick. He delegated the task to Castaldo. As it was, Castaldo hoped that the Turks would stop the siege of Temesvár after receiving the Transylvanian taxes so he didn`t really push Aldana so hard to bring reinforcement from Lippa Castle.
Later, Castaldo seemed to have changed his mind in this respect. When Temesvár was under siege in earnest, Castaldo did send six cannons to Aldana from Várad castle along with wagonloads of food and gunpowder, ordering him to get the supplies into Temesvár by all means. Yet, Aldana hasn`t even tried to do so, kept everything for himself. Castaldo sent 200 Germans to Aldana as well, led by Záray Pál on 2 July but they were held up, too. For some reason, Aldana hated Losonczy and wanted to avoid sending reinforcement there. (It had to be connected with the fact that Losonczy had discovered Aldana`s theft.)
At the beginning of the siege, ten Sipahi riders (heavy cavalrymen) and an Agha officer rode up to the walls and began crying out loudly, demanding that the Hungarians accepted their challenge for duels, „for breaking lances”. The captain of Temesvár smilingly listened to the boasting men, fastened his helmet on, then asked his officers who of them wanted to come down with him. All Hungarians were ready and many Spanish, too, but the German and Czech officers refused it. Finally, they had to decide who might come by casting dice. Perez Alfons threw a six so he could accompany Losonczy.
They rode out by the sounds of trumpets. After the first clash, two Turks fell from their saddles. Later, two more of them died and two fell from the back of the bewildered horses with broken lances. The surviving Sipahies fled and neither Losonczy nor Perez suffered any harm. Behold, how daring it was from the captain to risk his life on the very first day of the siege.
Hearing the result of the duel, Second Vizier Achmed got terribly angry. He turned towards the East and swore that he would have the castle bombarded to shreds.
The second stage of the siege
The systematic bombardment of Temesvár began on 27 June. The Ottomans had dug huge trenches during the previous night around the castle and could bring the big cannons very close to the walls. Soon, the houses on the market square began to burn along with the other part of the city. The cannon balls breached the walls at one place, particularly the eastern gate and its bastions were under attack.
As it was, the bulk of the Ottoman army and all their cannons arrived on 28 June. When dismounting and unpacking, Losonczy hindered them with a fierce sally. Many Turks were killed or captured. It elevated the defenders’ morale.
Second Vizier Achmed was a seasoned warrior with great military experience. He deployed the army of Szokollu Mohamed on the east while Pasha Hasszán’s army was placed on the west. Still, the total surrounding of Temesvár was not an easy thing because of the high water level of the rivers and marshes. It was how Losonczy was able to send his letters through the reeds.
At this time, Aldana wrote to Castaldo, that „not even a fly could get in the castle” which was obviously a lie. Actually, Castaldo began to doubt the sincerity of Aldana, saying that „he had spent so much money on the reinforcement of Lippa Castle which would have been enough to reconstruct Vienna.” (29 June) Nevertheless, Castaldo ordered the troops of Georg Helfenstein and Brandeis to go to Temesvár but they denied it, claiming they had not got their pay for five months.
According to Castaldo’s letter of 29 June, Losonczy had the following troops in the castle: 1,000 Hungarian riders, 200 Hajdús, 300 Czech infantrymen, 250 Spanish, and 150 German infantrymen. Other sources mention 500 Spanish troops. On the other hand, Achmed had 36 wall-breaching cannons which were ruining the walls day and night. Sixteen of them fired their 27-pound balls, then the other 16 were fired.
He deployed his artillery at three places: the first was set up against the eastern gate, the second and third were against the northern gate and the northern stone wall. The cannons were aimed at the troops on the bastions and at the towers of the castle as well as at the churches and bigger buildings of the city.
The Bohemian mercenaries were guarding some parts of the walls and they got so frightened that they wanted to leave the fort. Losonczy had to put down their mutiny on 2 July. Then, the Captain wanted to shelter his men as much as he could so he withdrew them from the outer town which had no proper fence. He also ordered to set houses on fire in the outer town called „Sziget” (aka Island). Doing so, he had the connecting bridge ruined as well.
The Turks realized that the outer town would be a better place for the cannons so they quickly occupied the burning town and put the flames out. Having carried their big guns there, they could bombard the walls a lot more effectively from here. Thus, the eastern gate and its earthen walls and palisades have suffered the cannonade and the Turks could breach the walls there. The attackers filled the moats with branches and timbers.
The first general assault was launched on 3 July. It was led by Sandjak Bey Mustafa Tenbel of Edirne, accompanied by the loud sounds of Turk music bands. Great throngs were assaulting the castle, in waves; when a wave was repelled, a rested unit took their place, continually. Losonczy led his army to the gap and there was terrible bloodshed. The Hungarians and the Spanish were fighting bravely. Not even the elite Janissaries could break through the defenders.
The retiring Janissaries met the riflemen of Bey Mustafa whose job was to shoot whoever would flee. Mustafa ordered a new assault, bravely leading the charge. The Janissaries, being caught between two fires, followed him and broke into the castle through a gap. They managed to force out the Spanish troops of Castelluvio from the trenches and occupied the gap. Many Ottomans were scaling the walls and they tried to break the gate, too. At the height of the peril, Castelluvio heroically threw himself in front of his running men and managed to turn them back.
Losonczy sent the Hajdú troops to help the Spanish and their ferocious attack drove the Turks out of the trenches. During the 4-hour-long fight, 2,000 Ottomans were killed and 150 defenders fell, not including the wounded. When Bey Mustafa tried to regroup his scattered troops in the outer town, a bullet of a Spanish soldier shot him in the chest. The Janissaries picked him up and carried him back, then attempted another angry assault, trodding on the debris.
Losonczy was fighting against them in the first line, thus encouraging his exhausted men. The Turks had to withdraw again but Losonczy remained there all night long. It was the day when Castelluvio lost his brave life. Getting tired after the fight, he put down his armor and helmet and he was cleaning his dust-covered, sweaty body with a towel. A Janissary took notice of him and shot across his heart. After this, the Spanish were not fighting so eagerly. But the Hungarians took revenge for the death of the valiant Spanish officer, they sallied out and were slaughtering the Turk warriors in the outer town until dusk.
Losonczy had the heroic Spanish officer buried on the side of the earthen bastion where he had died. Then, the Spanish soldiers were taken over by Captain Mendoza. Despite their huge losses, the Ottomans continued the fight and took the eastern gate and its bastion but they were forced out from there. At night, Losonczy had the gaps walled in and mended them.
During the next few days, the enemy was assaulting the northern part of the city and the eastern part of the castle. As the water level was too high, they could not even get closer to the Water Tower in June. Yet, the heat in July dried up the marshland at lots of places and the Turks could drive away the water of the rivers as well.
By 6 July, the northern walls of the city have been destroyed and there were open gaps at several points. The Janissaries launched two attacks and the Hungarian and Spanish troops could repel them only after a very hard fight. Many of Achmed’s best warriors perished there.
Soon, the Second Vizier was informed that Losonczy had not enough money to pay his soldiers. Keeping this in mind, he proposed negotiations with Losonczy. He offered that he would cease the siege and go away if the tax, sent by King János Zsigmond to the Sultan arrived promptly. The Captain knew that Achmed was not sincere but pretended to consider the offer in order to gain time for the mending of the walls.
Yet, the Turks could not be outwitted so easily, the Turkish chronicler Dzselálzáde Mustafa wrote: „The infidels seemed willing to pay taxes just because they wanted to gain time”. However, there was a cease-fire for some days. Losonczy was fervently repairing the walls and wrote more letters to get help.
He wrote the following letter to Voivode Báthori András, shortly before his heroic death:
„If Your Lordships were as silent as up to now, you would obviously lose the country and us.” He reminded Báthori of his responsibility as an appointed Voivode of Transylvania, adding that he should not follow the example of the cowardly indifferent attitude of the foreign mercenaries, especially „that envious villain, Aldana should not be trusted because he does not even know his own present location.”
„Your Lordship, please write to me about how your health is doing because we are in good health and we are merrily waiting for the hour when we will have to pay our last debt.”
“As for me, I am not going to see any shortage in my own good faith in God nor in my faithfulness and love towards my Homeland until my spirit remains in my flesh due to my trust in the Living God. As for you, if you want to live in Hungarian dominions, trust not your matters to foreigners as they treat Hungarians like dirt. I recount what I have seen with my very own eyes. It is obvious that nobody has pity for our nation or for us.”
It is worth quoting it in archaic Hungarian language for the sake of my Hungarian readers:
“Én az én Istenömhöz való jó hitömben, az én hűségemben és az én hazámhoz való szeretetemben, az én lelkem míg testben leszen, az élő Istennek segítségével meg nem fogyatkozom, de ha Magyarországban akartok lakni, idegen embörre dolgotokat ne bízzátok; mert az magyarokat semminek veszik; szömömmel látott dolgot mondok; nyilván nem szánja sem országunkat, sem mimagunkat!”
Later, indeed, the Western mercenaries were the ones who made Losonczi surrender the castle but we have to explain the reasons. As for mercenaries, they were usually employed by a contract that contained how long they should defend a castle before the reinforcing army would arrive. It is why we must take a look at the whereabouts of this reinforcing army.
The tragic fate of the reinforcement
Captain Losonczi kept sending urgent messages to receive the reinforcement, he wrote to Gianbattista Castaldo who held the power in Transylvania for the time being, and sent a letter to Chief Captain Nádasdy Tamás as well. We know that he wrote to his wife, Pekry Anna. Lady Anna pledged her jewelry to get cash and gave it to Földvári István to hire soldiers and buy food and gunpowder. She also sent 6,000 gold Forints to the former Judge of Szeged, Tóth Mihály who hired 200 Hajdú soldiers from this sum.
Finally, the reinforcing army contained only the men of Földvári and Tóth, they met at Lippa castle. Chief Comes Varkocs Tamás of Bihar County also sent his 1,000 Hajdú warriors there. Tóth was planning to break through the siege of Temesvár and bring his soldiers and supplies in. However, he was afraid to tell to his warriors because he knew they would not set out against the Turks if they knew about this daredevil plan. So they set out to Arad castle, and from there, Tóth continued his way toward Temesvár with 500 cavalrymen. He told his battle plan at the last minute and indeed, his men got frightened and began to grouse. The closer they got to Temesvár, the less courage they had.
Tóth was begging and pleading with them and even applied force to keep his riders back from running away. They renewed the debate at Temesszentandrás when the Turks noticed them. The enemy’s riders were alarmed and ambushed the Hajdús at once. Many of the Hajdús could not even mount their horses when they were cut down. Tóth fought bravely but he received a wound, and he could barely flee from the massacre. Tóth took shelter in a manor house of a nobleman called Ambrózi, then he returned to Arad. There, he called together his surviving 1,200 men and tried to take them to Temesvár again but they were not willing to go. Soon, the army dispersed, and the men went home.
The last stage of the siege
By 12 July 1552, the castle has been in a very bad condition and the defenders were running out of gunpowder, too. Now, Achmed was attacking the Water Tower so as to cut the town and the castle from each other, which costs what it costs. The artillery fire was focused on the earthen bastion at the northern gate. They caused such great damage that the Ottoman warriors were sent to destroy the remnants.
In the grey hours of dawn, 2,000 Turk warriors crossed the Béga River noiselessly and they surprised the Spanish guards, making them flee. Then, they began to cut the palisade to pieces with their axes and opened huge gaps with their shovels in the fortification. Hearing the sounds, Losonczy sent reinforcement to the Spanish who hurriedly built up a second line of a barricade to get covered from the musket fire.
The fight began all along the defenses in the morning of 13 July, thus finishing the cease-fire. The Janissaries were marching in thick columns up to the city walls. Waves of attacks were storming the eastern gate of the castle, too. It cost great losses to the defenders to repel them. It was the point when Losonczy and some valiant soldiers sallied out, while the thronged Janissaries were being shot by all his cannons and guns at the same time. After bloody close combat, the Janissaries had to withdraw.
In the meantime, the enemy had approached the island at the castle and built a pile that reached up to the walls and the bastions, using sacks of earth and branches. Their riflemen took up position on its top, bringing along a few smaller cannons as well. A long and desperate fight has developed. Achmed was sending his rested units one by one. The aimed shots and volleys from the top of the heap caused terrible damage to the Spanish troops.
Captain Mendoza had to withdraw and cede the ramparts to the attackers. Now, the Turks could position their bigger cannons there and could silence the defenders` cannons. The gate was literally shot to shreds from a close distance. Dzselálzáde Mustafa wrote that the duel of cannons was so cruel „as if it was raining from the cannons”. Even Achmed`s horse was shot.
Second Vizier Achmed has begun negotiations on 18. July, for the second time but Losonczy refused his terms. This time, the Pasha tried to bribe him, offering him a huge amount of gold and silver, good horses, and gifts. Losonczy replied that he would rather die tenfold than become a traitor.
On the next day, a man of Castaldo sneaked into the fort, bringing 3,500 gold Forints for the mercenaries` pay. It wasn`t a great help as they were running out of food.
Pasha Achmed had some problems as well. He was running out of gunpowder and had to stop the bombardment until he could get more supplies from Szendrő and Belgrade. It was the 26th day of the siege. Losonczy wrote in his last letter that only one-fourth of the 50,000-men-strong Ottoman army had any military value and they would quit the siege at once if they heard that a Christian reinforcement would be approaching.
Sadly, just the 700 Hajdús of Tóth Mihály have arrived at Lippa, paid for by the wife of Losonczy. (When they approached Temesvár on 23 July, the soldiers got frightened of getting into the fort. Soon, a bigger Turk riding party noticed and scattered them. Tóth got wounded but was able to escape. Achmed had 100 heads of the dead Hajdús placed on stakes and put them around Temesvár for all to see.)
The Turks renewed the fight on 20 July and the cannons were aimed at the Water Tower. There was a north-western corner bastion of the castle that was blocking the enemy`s way but Achmed had an earthen bastion built in front of it. It was as high as the Christians`. The siege went on but the Ottomans` losses were increasing, even the chronicler Dzselálzáde Mustafa admits it. Yet, the walls and the targeted bastions have been literally flattened to the ground by 24 July. The Turks filled the moats with the debris of the walls. The Water Tower had only one wall standing.
Achmed launched a general onslaught early afternoon. The eastern gate of the castle and the Water Tower were assaulted. They broke through at the Water Tower but Losonczy forced the half-victorious Janissaries out with a counterattack of dismounted Hussars and Czech, German, and Spanish troops. Captain Mendoza received a heavy wound but he begged his comrades to fight on. Losonczy lost 150 of his men, this time but crowds of Achmed`s best soldiers were sacrificed. It was the fight when Achmed`s chief officer, Kubad died as well. This particular fight on 24 July was perhaps one of the most glorious deeds of the castle wars of the 16th century, according to the witnesses.
The Ottomans launched their general attack again, on the morning of 25 July, not letting the defenders rest. The enemy managed to set the houses of the city on fire. Losonczy had to send some of his forces to extinguish the flames. Thus, he had not enough men to defend the Water Tower which was soon taken by the enemy. Losonczy had to withdraw all his men from the city into the totally ruined inner castle. When the Turks ventured there, they were forced out by the heroic officer called Balázs Pattantyús and his men.
By evening, the defenders had no food nor gunpowder, and almost all of the Hungarian defenders died. Also, they had no shelter against the Ottoman cannons.
Seeing this, Achmed sent an envoy and offered them a safe escort if they ceded the castle. It was refused.
Then, the Second-Vizier has put his cannons to work again. At night, the Turks sent people to the walls who loudly demanded they surrender the castle. Losonczy`s officers and the delegates of the burghers asked their captain for accepting the terms but he refused it. He didn`t believe in the enemy`s words because the guards of Veszprém Castle had been all slaughtered two months before when they ceded their fort.
Without Losonczy`s knowing, a Spanish officer agreed to the terms and conditions with Pasha Achmed on the morning of 26 July. He received a sealed document, too. The foreign officers faced Losonczy and the Captain had to let them agree with Achmed. The Second Vizier allowed the defenders to march out of the castle, keeping their weapons and flying their flags high. They were also allowed to bring their belongings on wagons. The burghers were promised that the city would not be looted.
The survivors left Temesvár on 27 July. First, he sent the wagons of the leaving burghers, then the wagons with his injured men, escorted by Hussars on both sides. Secondly, the garrison came out, led by the Vice-Comes of Temes, Battyány Farkas, in battle-ready formation, with flying flags. Losonczy came after them, in the company of Forgách Simon and Alonso Perez, among his Hussars. Losonczy didn`t put on his Hussar armor to show his bravery and to show that he would not get captured alive. The surviving foreign mercenaries walked behind them and the few remaining Hajdú soldiers. Those folks of the city who wanted to leave came after them. The Spanish soldiers were coming out in the rear, guarding their backs.
By this time, Pasha Achmed had decided to slaughter them all. He had the Janissaries positioned on both sides of the marching Christians.
At the drawbridge, Szokollu Mehmed and Bey Kazim ceremonially greeted Losonczy and assured him of their good intentions. When the last Spanish soldier left the castle, a cannon was fired and the Ottomans began to pull out the valuables they saw being carried before their eyes. With weapons, the Spanish were attacked at first. Then, the young women and lads were grabbed by the Janissaries. Those who tried to shelter them were slaughtered.
Losonczy`s page, Tomori Endre was pulled down from his saddle but the Captain cut down the auspicious Janissary. Then, he turned and gave an order to Forgách Simon for the final fight. He had his drums and trumpets sounded and told his men to take up arms, „not to die without getting revenged”. Most of the Christians were killed or captured.
Losonczy`s dagger killed a Sandjak Bey riding near him. Losonczy`s horse soon fell but the Captain fought on. He killed many Turks but finally, the left side of his chest was thrust through by a spear. He was still alive when he was dragged on a rope before the Second Vizier. He was called a dog but Losonczy cursed him with his last words: „Be cursed, you vile oath-breaker. Let all the curse of the Hungarians` God fall on you.” Seeing Losonczy`s two lethal wounds, Achmed had Losonczy beheaded. Then, he had his body buried with the befitting military respect. Yet, his head was skinned and stuffed with scented grass, thus sent to the Sultan in Istanbul.
His skull was placed on a stake in front of the gate of Temesvár.
Temesvár in the Ottoman Age
In spite of the massacre, the city began to develop during Turkish rule, especially agriculture. Part of the Bánát region also became part of the Ottoman Empire. Temesvár remained under the Ottoman rule for nearly 160 years, controlled directly by the Sultan and enjoying a special status, similar to other cities in the region such as Buda and Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade). During this period, Temesvár was home to a large Islamic community and produced famous historical figures such as Osman Agha of Temesvár.
Temesvár was also an important trading center. It was the first city where besides the Turkish merchants, the Sefard Jewish traders appeared in bigger numbers. The houses of the city were built of clay and covered by wooden roofs and the streets were paved with wooden planks. Each quarter of the city was surrounded by water and had its own fortress. Temesvár became a center of a Vilayet and it was the starting point to launch raids and military moves to the nearby regions.
During the 15-Year War, an uprising broke out in the area against the Ottoman rule in 1594 but the rebels couldn’t take Temesvár. However, Bán (Duke) Borbély György of Karánsebes, a general appointed by Prince Báthory Zsigmond of Transylvania was able to achieve success in the region in 1595. Shortly after this, the army of Báthory Zsigmond appeared at Temesvár and besieged it for 40 days, unfortunately in vain. The next siege took place in 1597, then it was Jósika István who led the Transylvanian army but they quit the siege after ten days. The soldiers of Voivode Michael II of Wallachia were raiding the outer town of Temesvár in 1600.
The castle had an important role in the wars launched by the Transylvanian princes against the Habsburgs, too. When the army of Székely Mózes was defeated at Tövis in 1602, he fled to Temesvár. He sent his letter to the Sultan from here, asking for the throne of Transylvania in it. Then, Székely Mózes launched his attack from Temesvár against the Habsburg-occupied Transylvania in 1603.
Temesvár was visited many times by important Ottoman officials and foreign envoys, including the visits of the Sultans. All of the fugitives from Transylvania found shelter here, especially those who aspired to get the throne of Transylvania with the Turks’ help. Bethlen Gábor, later Prince of Transylvania used to stay in the city like many Romanians who wanted to rule Wallachia or Moldavia one day. We know that Bethlen succeeded: he was aided by Ottoman troops to seize the throne of Transylvania in 1613.
Temesvár witnessed an uprising in 1652-53 when the leaders of the city rebelled against Pasha Mustafa who allegedly had misused his power. After the Siege of Vienna, the Ottomans’ rule was weakening and Sultan Mustafa II suffered a great defeat at Zenta in 1697. The sultan and the remains of his army fled from the battlefield to Temesvár. After the Treaty of Karlóca (Karlowitz) in 1699, the Temes area remained part of the Ottoman Empire as it was quite uninhabited and the Austrians didn’t need it for the time being.
The new war against the Ottomans broke out in 1716, and after the victorious Battle of Pétervárad, Prince Eugene of Savoy attacked Temesvár. The siege lasted for 48 days and most of the buildings were destroyed because of the cannonade. Finally, Pasha Mustafa, the last Ottoman captain of Temesvár had to surrender the fort. The prince and Mustafa agreed that all the Turkish inhabitants must leave the city but the Romanians, Serbs, Armenians, and Jews were allowed to stay. The prince appointed Count Claude Florimond de Mercy to govern the city. He organized and led the region of the Banate of Temes (Temesi Bánság). Temesvár became its center in 1719.
The city was prospering, and the Habsburgs settled many German people in the area. Many German villages were founded around the city. The Béga Channel was created between 1728 and 1732 so the swamps disappeared. The channel connected the Béga River with the Tisza and the Danube Rivers. The Vauban-style fort was built between 1723 and 1765. During this period, a huge epidemic killed 1,000 inhabitants of the 6,000 in 1738. Now, only a small section of the fort is still intact.
The Bánát region used to be under direct military control until 1751 but it became again part of the Kingdom of Hungary only in 1778. Temesvár received the privilege of a free royal town in 1781 which was a great step in its economic growth. The Serbs of Hungary held a national congress in Temesvár in 1790, demanding autonomy. Emperor Habsburg Leopold II accepted their demand but he died in 1792. During this period, there were several epidemics and the town suffered because of a fire and an earthquake in 1797, too.
When Emperor Bonaparte Napoleon attacked Austria, the Habsburg coronation jewels and the Hungarian Holy Crown were taken to Temesvár in 1809. The next war after 1716 around Temesvár took place in 1849 when the Hungarian troops tried to take it from the Habsburgs. The unsuccessful siege lasted for 114 days, it was the last battle of the Hungarian Revolution in 1849.
After the Revolution, the Habsburgs reorganized the area and they created the Serbian Voivodeship of Serbia and Banat of Temes. Again, the region was under the direct control of Vienna. As Temesvár remained a free royal town, the place experienced a fast industrial development. The Bánát region became part of the Hungarian Kingdom again in 1860. The development of the city was unbroken, after London, it was the second European town where the public lamps were fed by electric power as soon as 1884.
Temesvár had many hardships in WWI. There was a local German politician called Otto Roth who made an attempt in 1918 to turn Temesvár and its vicinity into a sovereign state. It was the Bana Republic that lived until 1919. Finally, French and Serb troops marched into Temesvár and the bánát region was divided between Serbia and Romania. Temesvár became part of Romania.
After 1920, the ethnic structure was changed, and many Romanians moved into the town. The city suffered much destruction in 1944. The Romanians changed sides and arrested the German officers in Temesvár, then they were able to defend it against the German army. Then, the Soviets arrived and took over control. they stayed there until 1958. As for the Hungarian Freedom Fight of 1956, we must remark that Temesvár gave place to the biggest anti-communist demonstrations in Romania.
There was huge industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s, and the ethnic picture of Temesvár has been profoundly changed. In December 1989 a popular uprising began in Temesvár against the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. The Hungarian Calvinist pastor Tőkés László was ordered to be deported by the Securitate, or secret police, and as a reaction, his house was surrounded by members of his church. People supporting him, even including people of Romanian origin, gathered at the central square (Opera Square). The Communist administration ordered the army to fire at the congregation. However, a number of army officers refused to open fire and sided with the people. That was the beginning of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which ended the Communist regime a week later.
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