Warfare in Fourteenth Century Hungary, from the Chronica de Gestis Hungarorum

The Chronica de Gestis Hungarorum, also known as the Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle, is an important record of events in Hungary and Eastern Europe from the eleventh to early fourteenth centuries. Compiled by an anonymous chronicler during the reign of Louis I, known as Louis the Great (1342-1382), this work was produced by combining, rewriting and elaborating several older histories. The sections given below, which are found at the end of this work, were probably written in the 1330s by an unknown Franciscan friar of Buda. The first section describes the battle of Rozgony, which took place on June 15, 1312. After the death of Andrew III in 1301, the crown of Hungary was fought over between several contenders, and it would be ten years later when Charles Robert, an Angevin and father of Louis I, was able to claim the country. In the battle of Rozgony King Charles defeated the last major opponents to his rule.

In the second section (Chapter 209) King Charles Robert launches an unsuccessful campaign in 1330 against Bazarad, Voivode of Wallachia, who was a vassal of the Hungarian ruler. The Wallachians were able to surprise the King’s army on the road to the Vorostorony Pass, along the river Olt. The Hungarian army was practically wiped out in a ravine when the Wallachians hurled down rocks and shot arrows at the men below. The King was rescued by Dezso Hedervari, who assumed the King’s armour and helmet and fell in the battle.


In the year of our Lord 1312 ring Charles besieged with his army the royal castle called Sarus, which was held by Demetrius, the son of Nicolaus, under the mandate of Matheus, a most powerful prince. Matheus, the son of Peter, from Trinchinium, sent seventeen hundred mercenary spearmen and almost all his own forces to the help of Demetrius in order that he might be sufficiently strong to drive back the King far from the castle. At the head of the army he placed the aforesaid Demetrius and Aba, called the Handsome or the Tall. When the King heard of their approach, he thought that he was not strong enough to stand against them, and withdrew to Szepes. The people of Szepes loyally provided both horsemen and footsoldiers, and with these the King went forth more boldly against his enemies. They had begun meanwhile to attack the city of Cassasea; for in this town the Count Palatine Omodeus had been put to death without cause by the Teuton or rather the Saxon populace. When they learned from scouts of the King’s coming, they raised the siege of the city and went confidently to meet the royal army. Both they and the King made speed to reach the more favourable ground for battle, and it was they who occupied it first. In a valley near the river Harnad the King and his army had meanwhile made confession and been given absolution and had received from the aforesaid crusaders the sacrament of the Lord’s Body, and thus in all ways they had made themselves ready to die. Into this valley, having armed themselves for the combat, those most stubborn enemies of peace rushed down from the summit of a mountain to fight the King; and on the Friday which was the feast of SS Vitus and Modestus a battle was fought on the slope of the mountain more fierce than any since the time when the Tartars were in Hungary. In this battle Kokos, the son of Stephen named Porch, from the royal household, and the eminent nobles Stephen, the son of Bagen, Ladislaus, the son of Thomas, Jacob, the son of Aladarius, Michael, the son of Peter, Gurke and Michael, the sons of Gurke, and Peter the seneschal of Bereg, met their death. Gurke was the King’s standard-bearer, and when he was killed and the royal standard fell, the King fought under the standard of the crusaders. On the opposing side, Demetrius, the son of Nicolaus, and Aba, the leaders of the army, and the two sons of Omodeus were soon struck down by death’s dart. Many others were mortally wounded, and either on the battlefield or in some other place they paid their debt of death; and although the greater number fell upon the King’s side, yet the King with glory won the victory. This we believe and declare to have been God’s work.


For in the same year as perished Felicianus of accursed memory, namely in the year of our Lord 1330, in the month of September, the King marched by way of Zeuryn [province of Szoreny] to the land of Bazarad, Voivode of the Vlachi [Wallachia], which land is uninhabitable for those not acquainted with it. He tools with him a large army, but not all his forces, for he had sent many soldiers on divers expeditions against enemies on his own frontiers. He engaged himself in this campaign at the instigation of Thomas, Voivode of Transylvania, and Dionysius, the son of Nicolaus, who was the son of Iancha, and it was intended to drive out Bazarad from his land or at least to give it to one of the instigators of the attack upon him, although the prince had always’ faithfully paid the tribute due to the royal majesty. When the King had occupied Zeuryn and its castle, he gave them over to the aforesaid Dionysius, and raised him to the rank of Ban. When this had been done, Bazarad sent this communication to the King by the hand of worthy messengers: “Because you, my lord the King, have been at great labour to assemble an army, I will recompense you for your labour with seven thousand marks of silver. Zeuryn and all that belongs with it, which you have taken into your hands by force, I will hand over to you in peace. The tribute by which I am bound to your crown I will cause to be paid faithfully every year. Further, I will send one of my sons to serve in your court at my charge and expense. Only do you return in peace, and beware lest you bring yourself and those with you into danger; for if you come farther, you shall not escape dangers.”

When the King heard this, he was roused and broke forth to the messengers in these words: “Say this to Bazarad. He is the shepherd of my sheep, and I will drag him by his beard from his lair.” Then a faithful baron, Donch by name, count of Zolio and Liptou, spoke to the King thus: “My lord, Bazarad addresses you with great humility and deference, and therefore in your letters you should be pleased to assure him of your royal favour and of the fullness of your affection.” Then the King repeated his proud and threatening words. Thus rejecting the sounder counsel, he went onwards to do battle.

Among the high mountains and forests of this unknown country they could find no provisions, and the King himself and his soldiers and the horses soon began to suffer hunger. They therefore made a truce with Bazarad, who pledged his word that he would obey the King and ensure to him and all his men a safe return and show them the right road. So the King turned back without misgiving, trusting in the good faith of the perfidious schismatic. With his whole army he came to a defile where the road was shut in on either hand by steep slopes; and ahead, where it broadened out, the way was blocked by strong barriers which the Vlachi had set up at many points. The King and all his men suspected nothing, and then from the top of the slopes on either side countless numbers of the Vlachi running back and forth hurled down missiles upon the King’s army in the road below. It could not be called a road, but rather was it like the narrow hold of a ship, in which fighting men and strong horses were so pressed against each other that everywhere they fell to the ground. The sides of the defile were so precipitous that it was impossible to climb up them against the Vlachi, nor could they go forwards because of the barriers; they were like fishes trapped in a weir or caught in a net. Without distinction they fell, the young and the old, the princes and the powerful. From Friday until the Monday this was their miserable plight, and during these days the strongest soldiers were thrown helplessly one against the other, like babies rocked in a cradle or reeds trembling in the wind. Great was the slaughter, and the number of soldiers and lords and nobles who fell there on the Friday before the feast of the blessed Martin [November 9, 1330] and the days following until the Monday was beyond reckoning. Three provosts there met their death. Master Andreas, provost of the church of Alba, a most venerable man and the King’s vice-chancellor, perished there, and with him the King’s seal was, lost. Michael, provost of Posoga, and Nicolaus, provost of Alba Transylvanasa, also died. Andreas, vicar of Sarus, and Brother Peter of the order of the Preachers, a man of great virtue, had to take the cup of a dreadful death, for they were brained with wooden clubs. Priests who were chaplains to the King were killed. Countless numbers of the Comans were also slaughtered. The bodies of all these men, ecclesiastic and lay dignitaries, lie on the field of battle, awaiting the general resurrection; and their dear ones, because of attacks by the enemy, could not recover the bodies of those whom they loved.

The Vlachi carried many away captive, both wounded and uninjured, and from the bodies of the fallen they took many weapons and much precious raiment, money in silver and gold, costly vessels and baldrics, many purses heavy with coins, and many horses with saddles and bridles, all which they carried away and gave to the Voivode Bazarad. The King himself had changed his coat of arms for those of Desev, the son of Dionysius, who was cruelly slain, as they took him for the King. With a few men the King barely made his escape, protected by his faithful soldiers. Like a wall of stone there stood around him master Donch with his son Ladislaus and other soldiers of the royal household, and master Martin, the son of Berend, and upon themselves they took the heavy rain of arrows and sword strokes in order that the King’s life might be preserved against the onrush of death. While like a pack of dogs they set upon the Christian people and slaughtered without mercy Christ’s anointed priests, around the army the Vlachi fell on every side, like flies overcome with sweetness. How many of the Vlachi were there killed by the Hungarians is known only to the subtle keeper of the reckoning in hell.

Thus did the King come hack to Vyssegrad. After the Hungarians had battled everywhere most bravely and most hard, this must happen to them lest their many victories might make them proud, or rather in order that having become proud they should be chastised, so that they might learn humility and might teach the lesson that through the blows of fatherly correction they more merited the: grace of divine love: for God the Father chastiseth those whom He loves.

These sections are from The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle, edited by Dezso Dercsenyi (Hungary, 1969).

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