Battle of Nicopolis, 25 September 1396

Battle of Nicopolis, 25 September 1396

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Battle of Nicopolis, 25 September 1396

Disastrous finale to what was in effect a crusade launched against the Ottoman Turks. The crusader army was based on the Hungarian army of Sigismund of Luxembourg, with a large French element led by some of the greatest French nobles, including Marshal Boucicautalong with German, Polish, Italian and English elements. The army may have reached sixty thousand men, a vast army for the time, and was almost entirely cavalry. Sigismund crossed into Ottoman territory, and laid siege to Nicopolis, a large Bulgarian city. The Ottoman sultan, Bajazet, was not rushed into reaction, and waited for his entire army to muster before responding. The Ottoman army formed up some four miles from the Crusader camp, and invited attack. Sigismund proposed to use his own horse-archers as the first attack, with the Crusader cavalry in reserve to deliver the decisive blow against the Ottoman lines. However, the French leaders refused any role that denied them the first attack, and leaving the Hungarian army behind, they charged the centre of the Ottoman line, where they thought there was a cavalry force for them to attack. However, once the French knights came within range, the Ottoman horse-archers let loose a volley, then pulled aside to reveal well dug-in archers behinds rows of wooden stakes. Despite taking heavy casualties, the French broke through to the archers, and were also able to hold off an attack by Ottoman cavalry, before finally being beaten by the arrival of yet another cavalry force. The French took severe casualties, including Philip, Count of Bar, and Jean de Vienne, the Admiral, although many more were captured.

The Hungarian royal army, meanwhile, was moving towards the battle. Sigismund's force was engaged with the Ottoman cavalry, when it was ambushed by the Serbian allies of Sultan Bajazet, led by Stephen Lazarevitch, who had retained his lands at the price of becoming an Ottoman vassal. This attack by the Serbs broke the Hungarians, and when Sigismunds banner was cast down, the army dissolved. Sigismund himself managed to escape downstream to Constantinople, but the Sultan, apparently enraged by earlier massacres of Turkish prisoners, killed all but a dozen of his French captives. Very few survivors of the battle returned to the west. Those that did blamed the Hungarians for the defeat, although the appalling behaviour of the French knights was in reality a major cause of the disaster. Fortunately for Europe, Bajazet was more concerned with his lands in Turkey, where he had established himself as ruler, before meeting his match in Timur, who defeated and captured him in 1402.

Battle of Nicopolis – The Failed Crusade Against The Ottomans

Twenty-five years after the slaughter at Chernomen in 1371, an epic battle took place. The army of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid the Thunderbolt routed the Crusaders’ forces. Those forces were the allied armies of Hungary, Germany, and Croatia, all led by their king, Sigismund of Luxemburg.

It is the early autumn of 1396. Near the city of Nicopolis, an armed clash of two faiths would determine the future of the Second Bulgarian Empire. After this battle, the Ottomans would cement their position in Europe and a year later the Bulgarians would suffer five hundred years of horrific slavery. The Anti-Ottoman coalition would cost the life of Ivan Strazimir, the last Bulgarian Emperor.

For the West, the defeat at Nicopolis would be hugely significant. For almost 50 years the old continent would not be able to make a new Crusade against the Ottomans. The Battle of Ankara in 1402 and the wars between 1419-1437 would hinder the efforts of the biggest military forces in Southeast Europe to fight each other to a permanent outcome.

Battle of Nicopolis 1396

Part 1
Background to the Battle of Nicopolis 1396. The rise of the Ottomans in the 1300’s at the expense of the Byzantine Empire, and then their expansion into the Balkans. Brief description of the geography of the Balkans and (Blue) Danube, and histories of 14th century Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania – a golden age in the minds of some nationalists.

Part 2
In 1396 a large crusader army assembled, made up of numerous nationalities- French, German and Burgundian knights, together with soldiers from Hungary and Romania (Wallachia), plus a fleet from Venice, Genoa and Rhodes. The aim was to drive back the Ottomans, who had already conquered much of the Balkans and now threatened central Europe. The crusaders were confronted by an Ottoman army led by Sultan Bayezid at the strategic city of Nicopolis, on the lower Danube. Pictured: John Count of Nevers, King Sigismund of Hungary, Sultan Bayezid

Map of Balkans

Today in European history: the Crusade of Nicopolis (1396)

Although we think of “the Crusades” as the numbered (anachronistically) series of Christian military expeditions in the Middle East (and North Africa, and Greece that one time) that took place in the 11th-13th centuries, the Crusading movement actually encompassed much more than that. The Reconquista in Iberia was, for a time, treated as a Crusade, for example. There was also the “Alexandrian Crusade” of 1365, which brought Christian fighters back to the Middle East to sack the city of Alexandria. Crusades didn’t even have to involve Muslims. The Albigensian Crusade in the early 13th century targeted the Cathars, considered heretics by the Church, and the Northern Crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries targeted the last pagan populations in Europe (mostly in the Baltics and Finland). There were also “Crusades” that were called to defend Christendom from Muslim—usually Ottoman—invasion. The 1396 Crusade of Nicopolis (which is often called the “Battle of Nicopolis” since the enterprise collapsed after just one engagement), was one such effort.

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'Pride Was Their Downfall'—The Muslim Slaughter of Christians at Nicopolis

Today in history, on September 25, 1396, a major military encounter with Islam that demonstrated just how disunited Christendom had become took place.

In 1394, the Ottoman Turks “were doing great injury to Hungary,” causing its young king, Sigismund, to appeal “to Christendom for assistance.” It came at an opportune time. The hitherto quarreling English and French had made peace in 1389, and a “crusade against the Turks furnished a desirable outlet for the noble instincts of the Western chivalry.”

Matters were further settled once “men of all kinds”—pilgrims, laymen, and clerics returning from the Holy Land and Egypt—told of “the miseries and persecutions to which their Eastern co-religionists were subjected by the ‘unbelieving Saracen,’ and . . . appeal[ed] with all the vehemence of piety for a crusade to recover the native land of Christ.”

Western knights everywhere—mostly French but also English, Scottish, German, Spanish, Italian, and Polish—took up the cross in one of the largest multiethnic crusades against Islam. Their ultimate goal, according to a contemporary, was “to [re-]conquer the whole of Turkey and to march into the Empire of Persia . . . the kingdoms of Syria and the Holy Land.” A vast host of reportedly some one hundred thousand crusaders—“the largest Christian force that had ever confronted the infidel”—reached Buda in July 1396.

But numbers could not mask the disunity, mutual suspicions, and internal rancor that was evident from the start. Not only did the French spurn Sigismund’s suggestion that they take a defensive posture and forego the offensive, but when the king suggested that his Hungarians were more experienced with and thus should lead the attack on the Turks, the Frenchmen accused him of trying to take away their glory and set out to take the field before him. They easily took two garrisons before reaching and besieging Nicopolis, an Ottoman stronghold on the Danube. Victories and still no response from Bayezid led to overconfidence and complacency dissolution set in and some sources say the camp became all but a brothel.

Suddenly, on September 25, 1396, as the Western leaders were feasting in a tent, a herald burst in with news that Sultan Bayezid—who only three weeks earlier was far away besieging Constantinople—had come. Without waiting for Sigismund’s Hungarians, who were still trailing behind, the Westerners instantly formed ranks and made for the first, visible line of the Ottoman force, the akinjis, or irregular light cavalry.

Although they made quick work of them, the vagabond horsemen had “veiled from the sight of the enemy a forest of pointed stakes, inclined towards the Christians, and high enough to reach the breast of a horse.” Many charging horses were impaled and fell—as volleys of arrows descended upon man and beast, killing many of both.

So considerable was the loss inflicted on the Christians. A young French knight called on the men “to march into the lines of the enemy to avoid a coward’s death from their arrows and the Christians responded to the marshal’s call.” Although the Muslim archers harrying them were scattered along a sloping hill, the unhorsed and heavily-armored crusaders marched to it on foot.

As they ascended, “the Christians struck vigorously with axe and sword, and the Ottomans retaliated with sabre, scimitar and mace so valiantly, and packed their lines so closely, that the issue remained at first undecided. But as the Christians were mailed, and the Ottomans fought without armor, the bearers of the Cross . . . butchered 10,000 of the infantry of the defenders of the Crescent, who began to waver and finally took to their heels.”

As the latter fled, another, larger host of Islamic horsemen became visible. The unwavering crusaders “hurled themselves on the Turkish horse, effected a gap in their lines, and, striking hard, right and left, came finally to the rear,” where they hoped to find and kill Bayezid with “their daggers [which they used] with great effect against the rear.” Startled at this unusual way of fighting—reportedly five thousand Muslims were slaughtered in the melee—“the Turks sought safety in flight and raced back to Bayezid beyond the summit of the hill.”

At this point, the Western leaders called on their knights to stop, recover, and regroup yet despite “their exhaustion, the weight of their armor, and the excessive heat of an Eastern summer day,” the berserkers pursued “the fugitives uphill in order to complete the victory.” There, atop the hill, the full might of the Muslim host finally became visible: forty thousand professional cavalrymen (sipahi), with Bayezid grinning in their midst.

Instantly and to the clamor of drums, trumpets, and wild ejaculations of “Allahu Akbar!” they charged at the outnumbered and now exhausted Christians. The latter valiantly fought on, “no frothing boar nor enraged wolf more fiercely,” writes a contemporary. One veteran knight, Jean de Vienne, “defended the banner of the Virgin Mary with unflinching valor. Six times the banner fell, and six times he raised it again. It fell forever only when the great admiral himself succumbed under the weight of Turkish blows.” His “body was found later in the day with his hand still clutching the sacred banner.”

Still, no amount of righteous indignation or battle fury could withstand the rushing onslaught. Some crusaders broke rank and fled hundreds tumbled down the steep hill to their deaths others hurled themselves in the river and drowned a few escaped and got lost in the wood (a handful made it home from their odyssey years later, in rags and unrecognizable).

The Hungarians arrived only to witness the grisly spectacle of a vast Muslim army surrounding and massacring their Western coreligionists. Sigismund boarded and escaped on a ship in the Danube. “If they had only believed me,” the young king (who lived on to become Holy Roman Emperor thirty-seven years later) later reminisced “we had forces in plenty to fight our enemies.” He was not alone in blaming Western impetuosity: “If they had only waited for the king of Hungary,” wrote Froissart, a contemporary Frenchman, “they could have done great deeds but pride was their downfall.”

Though it failed, the crusade caused considerable damage to Bayezid’s forces: “for the body of every Christian, thirty Muhammadan corpses or more were to be found on the battlefield.” But the Islamic warlord would have his vengeance:

On the morning after the battle the sultan sat and watched as the surviving crusaders were led naked before him, their hands tied behind them. He offered them the choice of conversion to Islam or, if they refused, immediate decapitation. Few would renounce their faith, and the growing piles of heads were arranged in tall cairns before the sultan, and the corpses dragged away. By the end of a long day, more than 3,000 crusaders had been butchered, and some accounts said as many as 10,000.

Whether because hours of this “hideous spectacle of mutilated corpses and spilt blood horrified [even] Bayezid,” or whether because his advisors convinced him that he was needlessly provoking the West, “he ordered the executioners to stop.”

When news of this disaster spread throughout Europe, “bitter despair and affliction reigned in all hearts,” writes a chronicler. Never again would the West unite and crusade in the East. “Henceforward it would be left to those whose borders were directly threatened to defend Christendom against the expansion of Islam.” All of this was a sign of the times, of a burgeoning secularization that prioritized nationality over religion in the West. As historian Aziz Atiya notes in his seminal study of the battle:

The Christian army consisted of heterogeneous masses, which represented the various and conflicting aspirations of their countries and nascent spirit of nationality therein. The sense of unity and universality that had been the foundation of Empire and Papacy in the early Middle Ages was passing away, and in its place the separatism of independent kingdoms was arising. This new separatist tendency demonstrated itself amidst the crusading medley before Nicopolis. There was no unity of purpose, no unity of arms and companies, and no common tactics in the camp of the Christians. The Turkish army was, on the other hand, a perfect example of the most stringent discipline, of a rigorous and even fanatic unity of purpose, of the concentration of supreme tactical power in the sole person of the Sultan. For an increasingly isolated Constantinople, such developments boded ill.

Thanks to its cyclopean walls, the city of the Byzantine emperors managed to survive for another 57 years, falling to the Turks in 1453—thanks primarily to cannons developed by European turncoats contracted by the Ottomans.

Note: All quotations in the above account were excerpted from and documented in the author’s book,Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West. Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.


First attestation (1394–1395) and the Battle of Nicopolis (1396) Edit

Following the great Ottoman offensive in the fall of 1394, when the battle of Rovine took place, Mircea the Elder was removed from the throne of Wallachia and replaced by Vlad I (1394–1396) with Turkish help. [1] As a result, in July 1395, a Hungarian expedition led by the Hungarian king Sigismund of Luxembourg aimed on removing Vlad and replacing him with Mircea on the throne of Wallachia succeeded only into conquering the fortress of Turnu. A faithful garrison to the king was left in the city, which disturbed his Wallachian ally. In this context, the first attestation of the city, dating back to 1397, appears in a diploma by Sigismund of Luxembourg, when the battles carried here between 1394 and 1395 are mentioned: [2]

"After our accession to (Wallachia), we flew the Romanians and the Turks with their captains and took the blood of the Nicopolis minor fortress, located in Wallachia, with great bloodshed." [3]

Throughout the following year, in 1396, the struggles for the removal of Vlad, supported by the Turks, continue, being interrupted only by the King's participation with his vassals, including Mircea the Elder, at the Nicopolis crusade. During this expedition the territory of Wallachia was bypassed, given the important Wallachian and Ottoman military force stationed here. Instead, the Danube route was chosen. [4]

In 1396, Stibor of Stiboricz, the Transylvanian voivode, together with Mircea go to Wallachia, defeated Vlad I, reclaimed the citadel at Turnu, and crossed the Danube to Nicopolis to take part in the crusade. It is likely, due to its proximity, that the fortress played a significant role during the Battle of Nicopolis on September 25, 1396, when a Franco-Wallachian Army commanded by Sigismund of Luxembourg was defeated by the Turkish army led by Bayezid I. In the context of his anti-Ottoman struggle Mircea the Elder participates personally with an army corps at the Nicopolis crusade. The Wallachian army, made up of light cavalry was not invited to take part of the first attack along with the heavy cavalry and withdraws without entering the battle. [5]

In another document by Johann Maroth in 1404, Sigismund also tells how Baiazid I invaded Walachia, deserted it, took the fortress of Nicopolis minor (Turnu fortress) from Prince Mircea by force and left his troops as a garrison.

Other documents from Sigismund's time, written between 1406 and 1408, mention the battles for the little Nicopolis from 1394 to 1395. [3]

Transformation into Turkish Raya (1417) Edit

The Turnu fortress played an important role in the defensive system of Wallachia, especially during the reign of Mircea the Elder, when the ruler raised the shield against the Ottoman threat in the south of the Danube. This fortress along with Giurgiu, Turtucaia and Brăila from a chain of fortifications along the Danube. In 1417, towards the end of the reign of Mircea the Elder, the Turnu fortress will become Ottoman, being transformed into a Turkish raya like a niyabet from the Nicopolis sanjak, subjected to the pasha of Silistra, along with all the territory within a 15 km radius around the tower. Turnu raya was established after 1419 and included the Turnu fortress and the villages of Flămânda, Măgurele, Odăile, Ciuperceni, Craba and Gârla. [6]

Within the rayas, the Turks had established garrisons by which they constantly supervise Wallachia and Moldova, collect accurate information about the state of affairs and act in case of need. [7] The armed forces cantons here were especially prepared to intervene at the slightest sign of disobedience. In addition, they have the advantage of being directly supported by the Turkish naval fleet. To each raya there was added more or less extensive territories, comprising several villages, which had the task of maintaining the garrisons. For example, Turnu had 3 villages, Giurgiu 25, and Brăila about 50 villages. [7] Because they were located in very good commercial areas, the rayas were used for trade between the Romanian countries (almost monopolized by the Ottomans) and the Ottoman Empire. Here taxes were collected or goods were being stored. The Wallachian rulers held a diplomatic agent called capuchehaie in each raya of the country's territory. [7]

The rayas in Wallachia do not seem to have been turned into military feuds they constituted territories owned by high-ranking state officials. Thus, in the 17th century Giurgiu was given the command of the Danube fleet of war Turnu was in the possession of a member of the sultan's family. [8]

The Battle of Turnu (June 1462) Edit

During the reign of Vlad Ţepeş and in the context of his conflict with the Ottoman Empire, the Turnu fortress is for a short time under Romanian rule. Vlad Țepeș organizes a surprise campaign south of the Danube in the winter 1461/1462 when the Nicopolis fortress was conquered and over 20,000 Turks were killed by Wallachians. Following the raids of the Wallachian army south of the Danube, sultan Mahomed II decided to attack Wallachia and headed a large army to Targovishte. The Sultan went to Wallachia in April 1462 with an army of 80,000 to 100,000 soldiers. The official scribe of the great vizier Mahmud Pasha, a direct participant in the events, presents a very well-organized force, equipped with armed men with shining armor. Vlad has been gathering his troops on the Danube since May 15, aiming to prevent Ottoman troops from entering the country. The Ottoman troops attempted to cross the river in early 1462 at Nicopolis-Turnu, but they did not succeed because the Wallachian army was waiting on the left bank. After they passed, the Ottomans attacked Vlad Tepes' army, but they were repulsed. The Romanians counterattacked but were stopped by the fire supported by the 120 bombs. Țepeș ordered a withdrawal and adopted the tactic of leaving the Ottomans to starve and thirst and attacking them by surprise. [9]

In front of a superior army, the Wallachian ruler withdraws the people to the mountains and forests, and attracts the Ottomans inside the country through continuous harassment. His objective was to find a good place for the surprise attack, which will take place near Târgovişte on June 17, 1462. [9]

Michael the Brave conquers the fortress (1594–1595) Edit

In the context of the Ottoman Power rising a "Holy League" was created as an alliance between the Christian countries struggling to stop the expansion of the Ottoman Empire to Western Europe. The accession of Wallachia to the "Holy League" led to the outbreak on 13 November 1594 of an anti-Ottoman rebellion that resulted in the killing of all the levantine creditors and the entire Ottoman garrison stationed in Bucharest. On this background, known as The Long War, prince Michael the Brave starts a general offensive against the Turkish Empire attacking the Ottoman fortresses on both sides of the Danube (Giurgiu, Hârşova, Silistra, etc.). [10]

The campaign of harassment of the Turks from the north of the Danube led to the Ottoman withdrawal in the cities along the river, where, taking advantage of the stationing of Ottoman troops in the winter camps in the Belgrade area, the Romanians attacked the Giurgiu and Turnu fortresses and managed to release civil settlements. In January 1595 all the left bank of the river was under Romanian control. Turnu remained under Wallachian command during Michael the Brave's reign. The fortress fell under Turkish control after the death of Michael the Brave on the Câmpia Turzii on August 9, 1601. [11]

Iancu Jianu's outlaws (1809) Edit

In 1809, Iancu Jianu's outlaws raided the Turkish citadels on south of the Danube when Vidin and Plevna were being burned, killing the Turkish population in response to the actions of the Vidin pasha Osman Pazvantoglu who had attacked Craiova and burned the villages of Oltenia.

Jianu's Oltenians destroy the Turnu fortress, which had become the incursion base when Osman Pazvantoglu attacked Wallachia. [12]

Returning to Wallachia (1829) Edit

Following the Russian-Turkish War of 1828/1829, the Adrianople Peace Treaty of 1829 established that the border between the Ottoman Empire and Wallachia was to be fixed on the Danube, so that the fortress of Turnu, together with the Braila and Giurgiu rayas, definitively returned to Wallachia. Upon returning to Muntenia, the Turnu fortress was demolished, burned, and the territory of the former raya was incorporated into Wallachia. After the demolition in 1829, the ruins of the fortress were used as construction material for locals and local authorities. The settlements of Turnu raya are embedded in the Olt County. [6]

Archaeological research has shown that the fortress consisted of a central tower, an enclosure wall that surrounded the tower about 6 m away from it and a defense ditch bordered on the inside by a wall and on the outside by an escarpment. The central tower had a diameter of 17.40 m and a wall thickness of 3 m. It stored ammunition and grain and was covered with tiles. The wall had an irregular polygonal route, and its thickness varied between 4 and 5 meters. On it there were placed massive bastions. The wall that bordered the interior of the defense ditch was 1.50–2 m thick and included an access area from which a drawbridge descended. There was a counter-escarpment on the outside. [13]

In a document found and dated 1397-1398 it is called "Holavnic". The same name appears in 1531 in a map of Johann Homann in the form "Cholonic", with the notation: Nicopolis Minor. A document of Alexandru Aldea from 1432 mentions the fortress of Pirgos ("Tower" in Greek has the form Pyrgos), identifying with the fortress of Turnu. Gh. I. Cantacuzino, suggests that he designates the fortress of Pirgos on the right bank of the Danube. In foreign documents up to the 16th century, the fortress appears exclusively called "Little Nicopol", as a pendant of the fortress on the other bank of the Danube.

The Turnu fortress is recorded by August Treboniu Laurian in the Historical Store for Dacia from 1846 stating that the fortress was built on the ruins of a Roman tower.

The manuscript Archaeological Excursion (1869) by Cezar Bolliac (a copy from the late 1930s according to the text published in the Official Gazette no. 222-224) describes a campaign of archaeological excavations 4 decades after the fortress was abandoned. Bolliac's observations and actions from the fortress of Turnu concluded that this was in fact the Roman fortress of Romula. From his description we notice two aspects: the fact that Cezar Bolliac is one of the first, if not the first archaeologist who demolished the old tower and that, although "I could not find anything around it", he could undo it on all sides so that " its outline is taken." [14] In fact, the material used to build the first phase of the fortress, during the period of Mircea the Elder, was brought from the former Roman camp at Oescus, located south of the Danube, as Grigore Florescu would later suggest. [13]

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1980 Chevy Chase calls Cary Grant a homo on Tomorrow show, a lawsuit follows

    US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site USSR performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk USSR

Event of Interest

1981 Sandra Day O'Connor sworn in as the 1st female US Supreme Court Justice

Event of Interest

1981 Nolan Ryan's 5th career no-hitter as Astros beat Dodgers 5-0

    Rolling Stones begin their 6th US tour (JFK Stadium, Philadelphia) Northwestern ends 34 football game losing streak, beats No Ill 31-6 Penn prison guard George Banks kills 13 (5 were his own children) USSR performs underground nuclear test Keke Rosberg becomes the first Fin to win the Formula 1 World Drivers Championship when he finishes 5th in season ending Caesars Palace Grand Prix in Las Vegas wins by 5 points from Didier Pironi 35th Emmy Awards: Hill Street Blues, Cheers, Ed Flanders & Shelley Long win Bob Forsch pitches 2nd career no-hitter, Cards beat Expos 3-0 USSR performs nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya, USSR "Quilters" opens at Jack Lawrence Theater NYC for 24 performances 1st London performance of musical "Stepping Out" presented Egypt & Jordan regain diplomatic relations

Baseball Record

1984 NY Met Rusty Staub joins Ty Cobb, who hit HRs as a teen & in 40s

    Akali Dal wins Punjab State election in India Palestinian terrorists kill 3 Israeli sailors at Lanaca Cyprus

Baseball Record

1985 Rickey Henderson steals Yankee record 75th base of season


1988 Pope John Paul II beatifies Friar Junípero Serra (founder of 1st Californian missions)

    Romanian gymnast Daniela Silivaș wins 3 gold medals in one day at the Seoul Olympics balance beam, floor exercise & uneven bars events records record equalling 7 perfect scores of 10

Olympic Gold

1988 Americans sweep the medals in the long jump at the Seoul Olympics Carl Lewis wins his second gold of the Games with leap of 8.72m ahead of teammates Mike Powell & Larry Myricks

    Phoebe Mills finishes third in the balance beam at the Seoul Olympics to become the first American female gymnast to win a medal at a fully attended Games East German swimmer Kristin Otto swims Olympic record 25.49 to win the 50m freestyle gold at the Seoul Olympics her 6th gold medal of the Games Super swimmer Matt Biondi wins his 5th gold medal of the Seoul Olympics anchoring the victorious American 4 x 100m medley relay team Hungarian swimmer Tamás Darnyi wins the 200m individual medley gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in world record 2:00.17 wraps up medley double at the Games Archaeologists open Titus of Rhine grave in Amsterdam Ronald Harwood's play "Another Time" premieres in London Wade Boggs is 1st to get 200 hits & 100 walks in 4 consecutive seasons 1st 8 NY Yankees hit safely vs Baltimore Orioles to tie record Oakland A's clinch 3rd straight AL West title

Event of Interest

1990 Saddam Hussein warns that US will repeat Vietnam experience

    UN Security Council vote 14-1 to impose air embargo against Iraq "Good & Evil" premieres on ABC TV Paramount at Madison Square Garden in NYC opens 3rd World Championships in Athletics: Carl Lewis wins gold in 100m

Event of Interest

1992 "Barry Manilow's Showstoppers" opens at Paramount NYC

Battle of Nicopolis, 25 September 1396 - History

By William E. Welsh

A delegation from the Kingdom of Hungary seeking military aid to fight the Ottomans undertook a diplomatic mission in the spring of 1395 to a number of great cities in France and Burgundy. They met with Latin rulers and high royalty, including Doge Antonio Venier in Venice, Duke Philip “The Bold” of Burgundy in Lyons, Margaret of Flanders in Dijon, Duke John of Gaunt in Bordeaux, and the regents of French King Charles VI in Paris. Pope Boniface IX, eager to ensure that Constantinople remained in Christian hands, already had thrown its weight behind the venture.

The purpose of the planned military expedition was to roll back the advances of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, who had recently extended his empire’s western border to the Danube River. In the final decade of the 14th century, Bayezid was on the offensive in the Balkans. The Ottoman sultan was steadily gnawing his way north through the lesser kingdoms and principalities of the Balkans. Some of these, such as Bulgaria, he conquered outright others such as Serbia, he coerced into becoming his vassal.

Following the fall of Acre in May 1291, which brought an end to the 200-year lifespan of the Crusader States in Palestine and Syria, the so-called Later Crusades began. These military undertakings, which were put in motion by papal bulls, were not called crusades at the time instead, they were pilgrimages in which those who signed on were warrior pilgrims said to be “taking the cross,” writes Eric Christiansen in The Northern Crusades. The Later Crusades were directed against pagans and infidels in several theaters, including the Iberian Peninsula, the Balkans, and the Baltic.

Philip of Burgundy was the main sponsor of the Crusader army that would march overland to Hungary to assist King Sigismund. The crusade had been four years in the making and had suffered numerous leadership changes and schedule delays. Through special taxes, Philip raised 700,000 gold francs. His son, 24year-old Count John of Nevers, was picked, not surprisingly, to lead the Franco-Burgundian army.
It was impractical to await an attack by Bayezid, so the Crusaders’ strategy was to march into enemy-occupied Bulgaria to force Bayezid to give battle, notes Norman Housley in The Later Crusades.

All Latin crusades, including the 1396 crusade, had a major organizational weakness, which was that the Latin armies were composite forces, writes John France. This led to a lack of unity regarding the tactics to be used. In the case of the Battle of Nicopolis, dissension occurred at the most inopportune time imaginable: the arrival of Bayezid’s army to lift the Crusaders’ siege of Ottoman-held Nicopolis.

On the eve of the battle, King Sigismund submitted to the will of the overbearing French and Burgundian nobles. Rather than fighting a defensive battle as Sigismund would have preferred, the Crusader army would attack. The Franco-Burgundian troops formed the vanguard of the attack. On the morning of September 25, their heavily armored cavalry struck. That tactic had failed the French up to that point in their war with England.

The French and Burgundian nobles had no appreciation of what they were up against. The Ottoman army was unified, well led, and experienced. Nicopolis was a great victory for Bayezid and a catastrophic defeat for the Crusaders. Many a soldier who might have remained in France or Burgundy to fight the English in the early 15th century died in the Danube Valley that day.

The battle [ edit | edit source ]

At daybreak on 25 September the combatants began to organize themselves under the banners of their leaders. At this point, Sigismund sent his Grand Marshal to Nevers to report that his scouts had sighted the Turkish vanguard and asked for the offensive to be postponed for two hours, when his scouts would have returned with intelligence as to the numbers and disposition of the enemy. Nevers summoned a hasty council of advisors, in which Coucy and Jean de Vienne, admiral of France and the eldest French knight on the crusade, advised obeying the wishes of the Hungarian king, which seemed wise to them. At this, D'Eu declared that Sigismund simply wished to hoard the battle honors for himself and declared his willingness to lead the charge. Coucy, who declared D'Eu's words to be a "presumption," asked for the council of Vienne, who noted, "When truth and reason cannot be heard, then must rule presumption." ⎱] Vienne commented that if D'Eu wished to advance, the army must follow, but that it would be wiser to advance in concert with the Hungarians and other allies. D'Eu rejected any wait and the council fell into a fierce dispute, with the younger hawks charging that the elder knights were not prudent, but fearful. The argument seems to have been settled when D'Eu decided to advance. ⎱]

D'Eu took control of the vanguard of the French knights, while Nevers and Coucy commanded the main body. The French knights, accompanied by their mounted archers, rode out with their backs to Nicopolis to meet the Turks, who were descending the hills to the south. The Knights Hospitaler, Germans and other allies stayed with the Hungarian forces under Sigismund. The subsequent events are obscured by conflicting accounts. Tuchman notes, "Out of the welter of different versions, a coherent account of the movements and fortunes of the battlefield is not to be had there is only a tossing kaleidoscope." ⎲]

Depiction of the French charge. Note the nearly innumerable combatants.

The French charge crushed the untrained conscripts in the Turkish front line and advanced into the lines of trained infantry, though the knights came under heavy fire from archers and were hampered by rows of sharpened stakes designed to skewer the stomachs of their horses. Chroniclers write of horses impaled on stakes, riders dismounting, stakes being pulled up to allow horses through, and the eventual rout of the Turkish infantry, who fled behind the relative safety of the sipahis. Coucy and Vienne recommended that the French pause to reform their ranks, give themselves some rest and allow the Hungarians time to advance to a position where they could support the French. They were overruled by the younger knights who, having no idea of the size of the Turkish force, believed that they had just defeated Bayezid's entire army and insisted on pursuit. ⎢]

The French knights thus continued up the hill, though accounts state that more than half were on foot by this point, either because they had been unhorsed by the lines of sharpened stakes or had dismounted to pull up stakes. Struggling in their heavy armor, they reached the plateau on the top of the slope, where they had expected to find fleeing Turkish forces, but instead found themselves facing a fresh corps of sipahis, whom Bayezid had kept in reserve. As the sipahis surged forward in the counterattack sounding trumpets, banging kettle drums and yelling "God is great!", the desperation of their situation was readily apparent to the French and some knights broke and fled back down the slope. The rest fought on "no frothing boar nor enraged wolf more fiercely," in the words of one contemporary chronicler. Admiral de Vienne, to whom was granted the honor as the eldest knight of carrying the French standard into battle, was wounded many times as he attempted to rally the morale of his countrymen, before being struck down dead. Other notable knights who were slain include Jean de Carrouges, Philippe de Bar and Odard de Chasseron. The Turks threatened to overwhelm Nevers and his bodyguard threw themselves to the ground in silent submission to plead for the life of their liege lord. Notwithstanding the declaration of jihad, the Turks were as interested in the riches that could be gained by ransoming noble captives as anyone else, and took Nevers prisoner. Seeing Nevers taken, the rest of the French yielded. ⎳]

1540 depiction of the battle

The timeline of events is hazy, but it appears that as the French were advancing up the slope, sipahis were sweeping down along the flanks in an envelopment. Accounts tell of the Hungarians and other nationalities in confused combat on the plain and of a stampede of riderless horses, which Tuchman speculates pulled free from their tethers, at the sight of which the Transylvanians and the Wallachians concluded that the day was lost and abandoned the field. Sigismund, the Master of Rhodes, and the Germans fought to prevent the envelopment with "unspeakable massacre" on both sides. ⎢] At this point, a reinforcement of 1,500 ⎢] Serbian knights under the command of Stefan Lazarević proved critical. ⎞] Sigismund's force was overwhelmed. Convinced to flee, Sigismund and the Master managed to escape by fisherman's boat to the Venetian ships in the Danube. ⎢] Hermann, a soldier in Sigismund's army led the force that allowed the escape and was later rewarded by being named a count. [ citation needed ] Bayezid and his ally Stefan Lazarevic recognized the Nikola II Gorjanski, Lazarevic's brother-in-law, fighting on Sigismund's side. A deal was made, and Sigismund's army surrendered, completing their defeat in detail. [ citation needed ]

Siege of Nicopolis

Titus Fay saves King Sigismund of Hungary in the Battle of Nicopolis. Painting in the Castle of Vaja, creation of Ferenc Lohr, 1896.

Nicopolis, located in a natural defensive position, was a key stronghold controlling the lower Danube and lines of communication to the interior. A small road ran between the cliff and river, while the fortress was actually two walled towns, the larger one on the heights on the cliff and the smaller below. Further inland from the fortified walls, the cliff sloped steeply down to the plain. ⎫] Well-defended and well-supplied, Ε] the Turkish governor of Nicopolis, Doğan Bey, was certain that Bayezid would have to come to the aid of the town and was prepared to endure a long siege. ⎬]

The crusaders had brought no siege machines with them, but Boucicaut optimistically stated that ladders were easily made and worth more than catapults when used by courageous men. However, the lack of siege weapons, the steep slope up to the walls and the formidable fortifications made taking the castle by force impossible. The crusaders set up positions around the town to block the exits, and with the naval blockade of the river, settled in for a siege to starve out the defenders. ⎬] Nevertheless they were convinced that the siege of the fortress would be a mere prelude to a major thrust into relieving Constantinople and did not believe that Bayezid I would arrive so speedily to give them a real battle. ⎭]

Two weeks passed as the bored crusaders entertained themselves with feasts, games and insulting the martial prowess of their enemy. Whether through drunkenness or carelessness, the crusaders posted no sentries, though foragers venturing away from the camps brought word of the Turks' approach. Bayezid was at this time already through Adrianople and on a forced march through the Shipka Pass to Tirnovo. ⎮] His ally Stefan Lazarević of Serbia joined him on the way. Sigismund had sent 500 horsemen to carry out reconnaissance in force around Tirnovo, 70 miles to the south, and they brought word back that the Turks were indeed coming. Word also reached the besieged inhabitants of Nicopolis, who blew horns and cheered. Boucicaut claimed the noise of their celebration was a ruse as he believed that the Sultan would never attack he further threatened to cut off the ears of anyone who discussed rumors of the Turks' approach as being damaging to the morale of the crusaders. ⎮]

The Battle of Nicopolis, Ottoman miniature

One of the few to concern himself with scouting the situation was Coucy, who took a group of 500 knights and 500 mounted archers south. Learning of a large group of Turks approaching through a nearby pass, he separated 200 horsemen to carry out a feint retreat, drawing the pursuing Turks into an ambush where the rest of his men, waiting concealed, attacked their rear. Giving no quarter, Coucy's men killed as many as they could and returned to the camp where his action shook the camp from its lethargy and drew the admiration of the other crusaders. Tuchman argues that it also increased the overconfidence of the French and again drew the jealousy of D'Eu, who accused Coucy of risking the army out of recklessness and attempting to steal glory and authority from Nevers. ⎯]

Sigismund called a war council on the 24th, in which he and Mircea of Wallachia suggested a battle plan in which the Wallachian foot soldiers with experience in battles with Turks, would be sent in the first attack to meet the Turk vanguard, which was usually a poorly armed militia normally used for pillage but was used in battles to tire opponents before they met better quality Turkish forces. Sigismund claimed that this vanguard was not worthy of the attention of knights. Sigismund proposed that, once the shock of first clash had passed, the French form the front line to rush in, while the Hungarians and the other allies followed to support the attack and keep the sipahis (Turkish cavalry) from sweeping around the crusaders' flanks. D'Eu denounced the proposal as a demeaning to the knights, who would be forced to follow peasant footmen into battle. He reportedly stated, "To take up the rear is to dishonor us, and expose us to the contempt of all" and declared that he would claim front place as Constable and anyone in front of him would do him mortal insult. In this he was supported by Boucicaut Nevers, reassured by the confidence of the younger French lords, was easily convinced. ⎯]

With the French set on a charge, Sigismund left to make a battle plan for his own forces. Apparently within hours, he sent word to the camp that Bayezid was only six hours away. The crusaders, said to be drunk over dinner, reacted in confusion - some refusing to believe the report, some rising in panic, and some hastily preparing for battle. At this point, supposedly because of a lack of spare guards, the prisoners taken at Rachowa were massacred. Even European chroniclers would later dub this an act of "barbarism". ⎰]

Nicopolis, Crusaders Defeated in the Battle of

When Emperor John VI left the Byzantine throne in 1354, he left behind an “empire” so reduced that it was only made up of Constantinople itself and a few territories in Greece. His co-emperor, the rebellious John V Palaiologos, succeeded to the throne. John V was later followed by his son Manuel upon his father’s death. Manuel’s reign was marked by humiliating defeats of Christian kingdoms of Eastern Europe by the Turks. He renewed the call for a Crusade against the Turks. The Crusaders who took part in it were defeated again in the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Twilight of the Byzantine Empire

Emperor John VI left the Byzantine throne to his young co-emperor John V Palaiologos in 1354. In the years that followed, the Byzantines steadily lost Thracian cities to the Ottoman Turks. Faced with the loss of Byzantium itself, John V came up with a drastic solution. He wrote to the Pope and offered to return to Catholicism if he would provide the Byzantine army with extra men.

Pope Innocent VI was happy to help with John V’s desire to convert to Catholicism. As for the Emperor’s need for extra troops, the Pope was powerless about it. He did ask several European rulers to help the Byzantines, but they either ignored him or sent too few men to help John V.

Pope Innocent VI died in 1362, and he was succeeded by Pope Urban V. He returned to Italy in 1369 after living in Avignon for some years. He moved to Viterbo as the condition of the Lateran Palace was not good at that time. John VI travelled to Viterbo and made another desperate appeal to Pope Urban V. There he submitted to the Pope and converted to Catholicism.

John V’s submission was useless as the Pope could provide only hundreds of men. The emperor tried Genoa and Venice next as he had no money to go home to Constantinople yet. The rulers of Venice and Genoa refused to help him. The Doge of Venice also reminded John V that he owed a lot of money to Venice. This loan was made by his mother so she could support his bid as emperor during the civil war. He was left stranded in Venice until his son Manuel came up with enough money to bring him home.

When he returned to Constantinople, he had no choice but to submit to the Ottoman Sultan Murad. He became nothing more than an Ottoman vassal with a reduced and impoverished territory. He also sent his son Manuel to the Ottoman court to assure the Turks that he would behave.


The Ottomans had a stable base in Thrace, so it was only a matter of time before they launched the attacks in Bulgaria and Serbia. Both kingdoms were beaten into submission, along with the Greek city of Thessalonica during the 1380s. Sultan Murad died during the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. He was replaced by his son Bayezid.

Bayezid forced Manuel to become a part of the Ottoman troops, and the prince had no choice but to submit. The Sultan also forbade John V from building Constantinople’s defences and threatened Manuel’s life if John V disobeyed. It was the last straw for the desperate John V. He stayed inside his own room until he starved to death in 1391.

Manuel fled from Bayezid when he heard that his father had died. He returned to Constantinople and ruled what was left of the once great Byzantine Empire. Bayezid allowed him to rule, but he sent Manuel a message that made it clear that the Ottomans would conquer Constantinople soon.

A New Crusade

The Turks first tried to besiege Constantinople in 1394, so Manuel had no choice but to ask other Christian kings for help. The problem, however, was that almost all the Christian rulers near him had submitted to the Turks. It was only King Sigismund of Hungary who answered his urgent pleas for help. Sigismund, in turn, pleaded with the Pope and other European kings to send soldiers to help them.

The antipope in Avignon and the Pope in Rome both issued a papal bull to start a new Crusade. As much as 10,000 French volunteers joined the Crusade, and they were led by John, Count of Nevers. A few Venetian and English soldiers also joined them, along with some Knights Hospitaller. They arrived in Hungary in June 1396.

The Battle of Nicopolis

Sigismund was so impressed with the entourage of the Count of Nevers that he became optimistic of their victory. The King added as much as 60,000 Hungarian soldiers to counter the Turkish threat. They crossed the Danube River, and easily captured a couple of Turkish strongholds. While Bayezid and the Turks were busy attacking Constantinople, the Crusaders started to attack the Ottoman stronghold of Nicopolis (in present-day Bulgaria). When Bayezid heard of this, he immediately left Constantinople and marched his men to Nicopolis.

The Crusaders were caught by surprise when they heard that the Turks were coming. The Turks and the Crusaders met on the 25th of September 1396 in Nicopolis. The French knights recklessly engaged the Turks in battle without waiting for the Hungarian soldiers, so they were easily defeated. Bayezid also hid the Ottoman soldiers in the woods near Nicopolis and attacked the Hungarian troops who followed the French knights. The Crusaders were slaughtered, and Sigismund only escaped by boarding a ship which took him across the Danube. The rest of the Crusaders drowned as they were trying to flee.

Many of the captured Crusaders were executed right after the battle, while some knights were imprisoned and ransomed. The defeat of the Crusaders in the Battle of Nicopolis left another bitter taste in the mouth of the Europeans. It was the last of the major Crusades the European nobility took part in, and this fiasco left Constantinople truly alone. The Ottomans, meanwhile, followed up their victory by capturing several Bulgarian cities.

Watch the video: 日軍在山上埋伏怎料卻被獵人用弓弩一個個滅掉 抗日 (June 2022).


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