The state of society-Greater and lesser boyards-Taxation and oppression of the peasantry-Immorality of the boyards-The priesthood-Officers of State-Classes of peasantry-Rise of the towns-The soldiery-Aggression of Turks and Tartars-Michael the Brave-His rise to power-Accession to the throne (1594)-Remonstrances with the Porte-Alliance with Hungary and Poland-Massacre of the Turks-Anecdote-Conspiracy against Michael quelled-The Turks attacked and routed on the Danube-Invasion of Wallachia by Achmed Pasha-His defeat-Michael swears fealty to Sigismund of Transylvania-Second Turkish invasion by Sinan Pasha-Determined stand of Michael at Giurgevo-Retreat of Michael and battle of Kalugereni-Defeat of Sinan-Retreat of Michael-Occupation of Wallachia by Sinan-Michael and his allies take the offensive-


As the state of the northern Danubian territories the foundation of the Principalities has been compared by us to the present condition of what is called Independent Tartary, and at a subsequent period to that of the early Saxons, so in the rein of Michael the Brave (1594-1601 A.D.) the state of society resembled that of England under the Norman kings; indeed, there is a remarkably interesting agreement in some of its phases. As in England there were [177] greater and lesser barons, so in Moldo-Wallachia there were greater and lesser boyards. These seem to have possessed al1 the rapacity of our robber barons, with but little of their reputed chivalry. They oppressed the peasantry, who since the time of Vlad the Impaler were to a large extent serfs, with unbearabletaxes, and endeavoured on all occasions to shift the burdens of the State upon those whose shoulders were the least able to bear them. One of these imposts was the poll-tax, similar to that which gave rise to Wat Tyler's riots in the time of Richard II, but which, strange to say, still survives in Roumania, to the dissatisfaction of all her right-minded citizens.


Besides the poll-tax, there was the 'Standard gift' [178] (Poklon), which was levied at the installation of the Voivode ; the Easter present; the extra tax (ajutorita), which was raised when the other taxes ran short. Moreover, there were taxes in kind on malt, salt, fish, cattle, and horses, payable to the prince. The landlord (boyard) was entitled to land and pasturage tax, the tenth of the earth's productions, feudal service, bee, pig, and sheep taxes, and in addition to these a rate was levied upon bees, pigs, tobacco, wine, and sheep, for the benefit of the prince.1 Whilst these imposts and the extraordinary levies and ravages of war often reduced the whole of the peasantry to the most abject poverty, bordering on starvation, the boyards lived in comparative ease, and led a life of immorality and self-indulgence. Concubinage widely prevailed, and many boyards had, besides their legitimate wife, ten or a dozen mistresses. They appear to have been gradually growing in influence, and the greater boyards filled all the chief offices of State as well as the leading military posts in the districts. Personal distinctions existed also, the leading boyards being allowed to wear long beards, a practice which was forbidden to the lesser boyards.

Besides the boyards and their serfs there was hardly any native population worth speaking of, and no middle class whatever; all trade being in the hands of Greeks, Jews, Armenians. There was, however, a priesthood, who were as ignorant as the peasantry; indeed many of them followed both occupations, the only exceptions being the metropolitan and the higher clerics, who possessed considerable influence there as elsewhere in the middle ages. The power of the princehad no definite limits, and, with the exception of the counteracting influence of the boyards, it was practically absolute. There was a council of twelve boyards, whose signatures along with that of the prince were usually appended to all important State documents.

In the time of Stephen (some writers say, at an earlier [179] period), the various offices of State were established, which were maintained down to a recent date, both in Wallachia and Moldavia; and as it is impossible for the reader to interest himself in any question bearing upon the past history of the country without finding some mention made of one or other of them, it may be useful here to enumerate a few of their titles.

1. The Ban of Craiova was Viceroy of Little Wallachia, and his authority reached back, in all probability, to the foundation of the principality. 2. The Vel-Vornic, or Minister of the Interior, was Governor of the Carpathians and of the neighbouring districts. 3. The Great Vornic was governor of the lowlands.4. The Logothet, or Chancellor, was Minister of Justice. 5. The Great Spathar was Minister of War. 6. The Great Vestiar, Treasurer and Master of the Robes. 7. The Great Postelnik, Master of the Post. The Paharnic, chief butler and cup-bearer (this was a title of Hungarian origin). 9. The Great Stolnik, chief cook. 10. The Great Comis, Master of the Horse. 11. The Aga, Chief of Police. 12. Great Pitar, Inspector of Commissariat. 13. Serdar, general of infantry of three districts (3,000 men). In Moldavia the Spathar was called the Hetman; in both principalities there were minor offices, and in Stephen's time the first six only formed the Council of Ministers. 2

Although, as we have said, the peasantry were chiefly serfs, there were differences in their condition. The chief were called Scutelnici, and the peasantry generally were divided into two classes, those who possessed land of their own, and those who worked on the estates of the prince, the boyards, or the monasteries. Part of the latter were free to move about in search of employment, and the rest were absolutely serfs attached to the soil; the term of service inevery case was fixed at forty-eight days in the year. The towns were growing in importance, the capital [180] being Tirgovistea, but Bucarest (to which place Constantine Brancovano transferred his capital about a century later) was already an important place, owing chiefly to its situation. Another town or large village was Curtea d'Ardges. But the Wallachian Voivodes shifted their 'capital' as it suited their pleasure,and the removal in those days was probably not a very onerous undertaking. It appears that Vlad Dracul (the Devil) preferred Tirgovistea, whilst another Voivode, Michna, favoured Ardges. 3 Other towns of note Craiova, Ploiesti, Buzeu, and two or three ports on the Danube. In Moldavia, Iasi, Suceava, and Roman were the chief towns. The government of the towns was carried on by a burgomaster, or mayor, a prefect, and a council of twelve citizens.

The army was very heterogeneous both as regarded its nationalities and its armament. It was then, or perhaps at a somewhat later period, divided into three sections, the regular army,4 the militia, and the landsturm, the last-named being without pay and only called out in times great danger, and it consisted mainly of the servants and slaves of the boyards. The arms of the regular soldiers were originally, as in this country, bows and arrows and lances,but in Michael's time there were already musketeers and primitive artillery. Besides the native soldiery there were mercenaries, namely, Hungarians, Szeklers, Poles, Cossacks, Servians, Bulgarians, Albanians, cavalry as well as infantry. The whole country was at that time divided into military districts answering to the present Judeztu or departments each district being under the control of a captain who united military, administrative, and judicial power in his own person. The names of most of the districts remain unchanged to the present day.

To this account of the state of Moldo-Wallachia it is necessary to add that in time of war, and that was the [181] normal condition, the people were subjected to terrible privations. When an army advanced, the peasantry were laid under contributions for the troops; when it fled before the enemy, everything was burned or destroyed in its retreat, so that the pursuing force might be checked for want of supplies.

Schools for the people there were none, and all the knowledge that existed was confined within the walls of the monasteries, which were, however, numerous and well-endowed. At no period of its history was Wallachia in such a deplorable condition as when Michael ascended the throne. Besides possessing the suzerainty of the principality the arks completely occupied the whole southern bank of the Danube, along with some posts and what is known as Temesvar, on the northern side. The Transylvanian slopes on the Carpathians and the country beyond were a fief of the German, or, as it was called, the Roman Empire, over which at that time Rudolph II. reigned, whilst the territory north of Moldavia formed part of Poland. But although Wallachia was nominally autonomous, and was allowed to choose its own rulers, it was in reality an oppressed province of Turkey. The treaties had been completely set at defiance. Mosques, had been erected and houses built by Turkish residents, contrary to the stipulations of the Treaty of Nicopolis, with the connivance of the voivodes, who, as we have said, were raised up and deposed as it suited the greed or policy of the Porte. Their fortresses and garrisons on the Danube served as centres from which the Ottomans made raids into Wallachian territory, spreading desolation far and wide, and in addition to this scourge the suffering inhabitants had from time to hostile visits from the Tartars. Hordes of these savages were in alliance with the Turks against Hungary, and not unusual for them to deviate from their route, fall into the plains of Wallachia, and renew the scenes of rapine and outrage which had characterised the passage of the Eastern barbarians.

Michael, who was probably the posthumous son of a former voivode of Wallachia called Petraschko, was born [182] about the year 1558, and in 1583 he married the widow of a boyard, by whom he had at least one, if not two sons, and a daughter. He occupied several honourable positions in the State, and was Ban of Craiova before he ascended the throne of Wallachia. This step he accomplishedthrough intrigues at Constantinople with the aid of his father-in-law, whereby he succeeded in deposing his predecessor Alexander. Some marvellous tales are told concerning the hairbreadth escapes of Michael in his struggles for the ascendency, one being that, when he was captured by Alexander and ordered for execution, the headsman was so terrified at the majesty of his countenance that he dropped the axe and fled, and no one else was to be found willing to undertake the odious duty. Be that as it may, he succeeded eventually in removing his rival, and mounted the throne of Wallachia in 1593. For some time after his accession Michael addressed remonstrances to his suzerain at Constantinople concerning the lawless proceedings of the Turkish and Tartar soldiery but, finding these to be of no avail, he sought the alliance of Sigismund, Prince of Siebenbürgen 5 (Transylvania), and Aaron, Voivode of Moldavia, and determined to rid his country of the oppressors. Aaron of Moldavia, it should be added, was a feeble prince, who would not have joined Michael butfor the circumstance that, having been attacked and defeated by the Poles, he was compelled to seek refuge at Michael's court. After the alliance between thethree princes was completed the first blow was struck for independence, and on November 12 or 13, 1594, all Turks who were found in Bucarest or Jassy were slaughtered without mercy. Michael is said to have invited a large number of true believers, who were pressing for the settlement of lawful claims, to meet him in a khan in Bucarest,and when they were assembled he had them all put to the sword, and this was the signal for a massacre throughout the Principalities. A few Turks escaped through the humanity or friendship of private individuals, and one instance of this is [183] specially recorded. The Cadi of Giurgevo, who happened to be at Bucarest, was walking out on the morning of November 13, when he was stopped by a Wallachian friend who said, 'Ali-Gian-Hogea, how many years have I eaten of thy bread and salt?' 'About twenty years,' answered the Turk. 'Well, then,' said his friend, 'out of gratitude I will give thee a word of counsel.' 'Speak,' said Ali. 'Do not stay in this city until three or four o'clock; neither remain in Giurgevo, but hasten thee as speedily as possible to Rustchuk' (on the opposite bank of the Danube). 'But wherefore?' enquired the Turk. The Wallachian walked way,but, turning round and seeing his friend still undecided, he called out: 'Forget not what I have told thee!' Wandering on in the city, the Turk could not help noticing greater activity than usual in the streets; suspecting mischief, but without saying a word to any person, he ordered horses to be harnessed andfled to Giurgevo. The interior of Wallachia having been thus cleared of the Turks, Michael proceeded to attack their positions on the Danube. First he stormed Giurgevo and compelled the Turks to leave it, some crossing over the Danube, and others taking refuge in the fortress which was situated on an island in the river ; but this latter he was unable to capture, as troops, ammunition, and provisions were sent into it from the Bulgarian side. Content, therefore, with his victory, he retired to Bucarest.

1Teutschländer, from whose excellent little treatise, Michael der Tapfere (Wien, C. Gräser, 1879), these details are taken, mentions many customs as existing in the time of Michael which were in all probability only introduced at a later period. The tobacco-tax is clearly one of them. 2 The reader will find full accounts of the officials and their various duties, as well as a description of the investiture of the princes, in Raicevich, p. 62. In Wilkinson, p. 55, he will find that in his day there had been a great multiplication of the offices; there were second and third Logothets, second and third Vestiars, &c. 3 Reissenberger, p. 39, in part quoting Engel. 4 Some modern Roumanian historians affirm that Mircea already had a regular army, but Roesler and others treat the assertion with ridicule. As to Michael, the reader will judge for himself whether or not it would have been possible to accomplish what he did without a disciplined force. 5 Siebenbürgen was so called from seven forts erected there.


Shortly afterwards a conspiracy against Michael was set on foot by adherents of the Turks, and under the pretence of desiring simply to march through the country, a Turkish Emir, with two thousand men, entered Bucarest. Michael, who knew of the conspiracy, made a pretence of acquiescence in this movement, but shortly afterwards withdrew quietly to the camp of the allies, and returning with a sufficient force surrounded the house of the chief conspirator, in which the Emir and his escort were quartered, and put them to the sword. The fury of his troops was unbridled, and no quarter [184] was given, the last of the enemy being put to death. But Michael did not stop here. In order to protect Wallachia from Turkish inroads, he determined to clear both banks of the Danube of their garrisons. With this view he sent the noted and successful Transylvanian general, Albert Kiraly, with a sufficient force, who took, plundered, and burned the Turkish town at the mouth of the Jalomitza, where it falls into the Danube. The fortress, however, be was obliged to leave in the hands of the Turks. Michael, following with the remainder of the army, crossed the river itself and besieged Oroschik (now Hirschova). This place was strongly reinforced by the Turks, but after an obstinate battle, which was fought partly on the frozen waters of the Danube, the allies were victorious, and retired across the river with an immense booty.

Shortly afterwards he moved up the river to Silistria, where he a second time encountered the Turks, gained a victory, and reduced the place to ashes. These victories of Michael struck terror into the rulers at Constantinople, an an Ottoman army, under Achmed Pasha, was sent to Rustchuk, whilst the Khan of the Crimea, an ally of the Turks, was ordered to enter Wallachia from the east, the Porte hoping by these vigorous measures to reduce its rebellious vassal to submission. The Turks did not, however, know of what material Michael was made. Dividing his army into two parts, he succeeded, by the rapidity of his movements, not only in keeping the allies asunder, but in completely routing both. The Tartars were twice defeated, and their fugitives spread terror amongst the Ottoman forces. Michael next gave the Turks battle at Rustchuk with his whole force defeated and dispersed them, and slew their general. After these exploits he returned in triumph and with great booty to Bucarest.

Without, however, resting long under his laurels, he once more divided his army into several detachments, which under different generals, marched once more to the Danube, the result being that the allied princes of Wallachia and Moldavia were soon able to report to Prince Sigismund that [185] both banks of the Danube eastward to the Black Sea had been swept clear of the Ottoman forces.


But Michael's troubles were far from terminated by these victories. Before securing the co-operation of the Prince of Siebenbürgen, he had, with a duplicity which characterised his whole career, agreed to acknowledge Sigismund as his suzerain, his object being to free himself from Turkish rule and then assume independent power. But the Transylvanians were not to be so easily disposed of, and after the victories over the Turks they in their turn demanded homage from the two Voivodes, and backed their claim by an irresistible force. The Voivodeof Moldavia was seized and imprisoned, and Michael, deeming prudence the better part of valour, submitted to the terms which were dictated to him. These werein appearance worse even than the Turkish 'capitulations,' but, as they were never kept, it is unnecessary to mention them. Sigismund assumed the title 'By grace of God, Prince of Siebenbürgen, of Moldavia and Wallachia, and of the Holy Roman Empire, &c.' (he in his turn being the vassal of the German Emperor), whilst Michael was denied the claim to divine right, was restricted in his princely powers, and was addressed as 'Dominus Michael Voivoda regni nostri Transalpinensis.' He was not permitted to employ the national seal, but was allowed the use of red wax.

Perhaps it was well for Michael that he submitted to these humiliating conditions at the hands of his ally, or his reign might have been even shorter than it was, for the Turk was at his gates with an overwhelming army. The Sultan Murad III. was dead, January 1595, and was succeeded by Mahommed III.; nineteen brothers, we are told, having been slaughtered to obviate dissensions, a custom which is still followed, as the reader is doubtless aware, in certain oriental realms. Shortly after his accession, the Porte again proceeded to assume the sovereignty of the Principalities, and an army variously estimated from 100,000 to 180,000 men, [186] under Sinan Pasha, was concentrated at Rustchuk to take repossession of the provinces. Michael was at the time able to collect only 8,000 men, for the Transylvanian troops, had been withdrawn, but his encounter with the overwhelming Turkish force arrayed against him on this occasion undoubtedly presents the most brilliant phase of his remarkable career. Marching rapidly to Giurgevo with his handful of men, he managed to detain the Turkish army for weeks on the south side of the Danube, destroying their bridges and preventing them from crossing the river. Turned at length by a Turkish detachment, which had succeeded in crossing at a point above Giurgevo, he was compelled to withdraw to a village about halfway towards Bucarest. His little army had been strengthened by an accession of Transylvanian and Moldavian troops, the former under brave Albert Kiraly, but even then it barely numbered 16,000, whilst the army of Sinan Pasha must have been at least six times as strong. Kalugereni, the village at which this Stand was made, is still to be found on the maps, on the line of railway from Giurgevo to Bucarest ; and it only differed from Thermopylae in the fact that the enemy was not alone checked in his career, but for the time the littlearmy of Roumanians and their allies were completely victorious.

Nothing could have exceeded the astonishment of Sinan Pasha when he found Michael ready to give him battle with his handful of patriots; but as he proceeded to make his dispositions for the onslaught, he found that his adversary possessed in his favourable position much to compensate him for his inferior numbers. The nature of the ground was such that Sinan could not employ the whole, nor even the major part, of his forces, and Michael and his allies were protected by a morass and river, which rendered it necessary for the Turks to concentrate their whole attack upon a road and bridge crossing the latter. At this bridge the battle was practically fought. Michael and his forces for a long time sustained the attack of the Ottomans, who had posted their guns so as to commit havoc in the ranks of the allies, until these, fighting hand to hand, were obliged to [187] retreat. The Turks followed and had made sure of their victory, when Albert Kiraly succeeded in bringing two guns into a favourable position, and by a flank fire threw the enemy into confusion. Of this circumstance Michael availed himself once more to renew the attack, this time with the most happy results. The enemy retreated in disorder over the bridge, and by the furious onslaught of the allies his hosts were driven helter-skelter into the morass. On the one hand Michael is said to have performed prodigies of valour, whilst on the other Sinan Pasha, who fought with equal bravery, was unhorsed and thrown-into the bog, from which he only escaped with his life through the fidelity of one of his followers, who was afterwards known as the 'Marcher.' Michael recovered his own guns, which had been captured early in the fight, as well as many of the enemy's, along with a great booty comprising many Turkish standards, and including the sacred standard of Mohammed, which was believed to be invincible. Thus ended a struggle of which to this day Roumanians are proud, and which they associate with the memory of their greatest hero. This battle was fought and won at some indefinite date between August 13 and 26, 1595. The rest of the campaign may be dismissed in a few sentences.

That Michael with his small force could draw no advantage from his victory may be readily imagined; and, a council of war being held during the night, a retreat was decided upon. Passing rapidly through Bucarest, which was sacked by the Transylvanian troops in order that the Turks might not profit by its treasures, the allies retired to Tirgovistea, followed by the inhabitants on their route; and a few days' rest they proceeded to a village at the foot of the Carpathians to await succour from Siebenbürgen. The Turkish commander, meanwhile, instead of following them promptly, entered Bucarest at leisure, where he divided his army into numerous detachments, to take possession of a parts of the country and garrison fortresses, and spent his time in turning churches into mosques and substituting the crescent for the cross. Then he marched on, took [188] possession of Tirgovistea, and sent a large force to occupy Braila.

Meanwhile Sigismund had collected a powerful and well-disciplined army, consisting of imperial troops and Transylvanians, and numbering 20,000 horse and 30,000 foot with 53 guns. With these he crossed the Carpathians, and, joining Michael and Albert Kiraly, he resumed the offensive against the Turks, driving them before him wherever he encountered them. Sinan took fright, and retired to Bucarest. Tirgovistea was recovered by the allies after three days' fighting, and many guns were captured. Sinan continued to retire before the advancing foe. Having set fire to the city and burned many churches, he hastily withdrew to Giurgevo; and, thinking that the allies would enter Bucarest, he is said to have left it mined ready for explosion. In this, however, he was mistaken. Sigismund and Michael passed by Bucarest and pursued him in all haste, arriving at Giurgevo whilst the Turkish army was still crossing the river. Sinan had managed to reach the Bulgarian side with a portion of his troops, but the rearguard was still at Giurgevo, and a fight ensued in which the greater part of Turkish force was cut to pieces either on land or in their attempt to traverse the stream. The Danube was reddened with the blood; 5,000 Turks are said to have fallen, 4,000 to 5,000 Christians to have been liberated from their chains. The whole campaign is said to have cost the Turks 30,000 men and 150 large and small guns.


Having, with the aid of his allies, effectually freed his country from external enemies, Michael had now a space of time for improving its internal condition, for it is hardly necessary to say that these desolating wars had reduced it to the very lowest stage of misery. Fields were distilled, cattle imported from Transylvania, seed corn distributed amongst the peasantry, and soon the face of assumed a smiling aspect, and new towns and sprang from the ruins of the old. Minor wars he had with [189] the Tartars, and conspiracies were formed against him and quelled. He was even accused of treachery against his suzerain, whom, however, he managed to satisfy during a visit to Weissenburg ; and well would it have been for Michael and his country if his ambition had not prompted him to over-estimate his powers, and if he had been content to reign in peace over his own principality. But this was not his policy. His victories had given him a high rank amongst the powers of the Orient; and the changes which were taking place brought him into communication with one and another, and favoured a scheme of aggrandisement which, though it was for a time successful, eventuated in his downfall and death.

Sigismund Bathori, weary of government, had abdicated in favour of his brother, the Cardinal Andreas, with whom he had nothing in common, and then it was (if not previously) that the latter began to nurse the design of becoming the independent ruler over what had been ancient Dacia, namely, Wallachia, Moldavia, and Siebenbürgen. With this view he commenced negotiations with the Porte, which were eagerly welcomed; and he also approached the German emperor, from whom he needed money to pay his mercenary troops. Indeed, for the purpose of accomplishing his ends, he at one and the same time did homage and acknowledged himself the vassal of both powers. For a long time he temporised and contented himself with strengthening and drilling his forces. At length taking advantage of unfriendly relations which subsisted between Andrews Bathori and the emperor, from whom he had succeeded in obtaining a subsidy on the plea that he required it for his operations against the Turks, who constantly threatened the Empire, Michael hastily assembled his forces, and, against the warnings and wishes of his wife and some of his more discreet counsellors, he crossed the Boza Pass in the Carpathians in 1599, and proceeded to overrun Siebenbürgen, as he professed, in the name and interests of his suzerain, the German emperor.

After striking terror into the inhabitants of Transyl [190] vania by the excesses of his troops, Michael's first step of any consequence on entering the country was to appear before Kronstadt with his army and demand its surrender. This was granted, and Michael deemed it politic not to enter the city, but to march forward and get possession of other towns, which yielded to him one after the other in rapid succession.

Andreas Bathori was staggered and perplexed by this sudden inroad into his dominions, but when he became fully alive to the danger the whole country was roused by the carrying round of the 'bloody sword.' He also sent emissaries to induce Michael to return to his own country, but the latter kept these in confinement until the conclusion of the campaign. What made the matter more serious for Andreas was that a vast number of discontented inhabitants and freebooters, lusting after plunder, had joined the army of Michael, and had swelled it to the number of 25,000 men. A council of war was hastily called by Andreas, and after considerable delay the Transylvanian army was collected at Hermanstadt. Michael, not expecting serious opposition so soon, had recourse to stratagem in order to gain time and deceive his enemy. To his shame be it said that he sent emissaries to Andreas who were instructed to represent the whole proceeding as an unfortunate mistake, and to express Michael's regret at the excesses of his troops. All wished, he said, was a free passage through Siebenbürgen into Hungary, where he desired to join his forces with those of the Empire against the Turks. And when the cardinal sent him word that he must return to Wallachia with his forces before he could consider their old friendship restored, Michael carried his duplicity so far as to conclude a truce with the emissaries and make a proposal to exchange hostages. The negotiations were, however, in all probability insincere on both sides ; and, after further delay, the emissariesreturned to their respective camps, and the opposing armies met in hostile array upon a plain between Hermanstadt and Schellenberg. Here each prince addressed his troops previous to the encounter. Cardinal Andreas, [191] divested of his clerical robes and fully equipped and mounted, denounced Michael in the bitterest, terms. His brethren, he said, still herded sheep and pigs in Wallachia. He had associated himself with robbers and with a miscellaneous rabble collected from all parts to ruin the country. 'Be not afraid,' he added, 'of this nation of Sclaves, who, from time immemorial, have been conquered subjects of the Hungarians, and who should be punished rather with rods and blows than with the sword.' Thus, and much more in the same strain, spake Andreas. Michael, on the other hand, spoke of his enemy with contemptuous jocularity, as a mounted and perjured priest who had allied himself with the Turks, the enemies of Christendom, whilst he himself claimed to represent fidelity to Christianity and the Empire. Moreover, he held out to his troops the prospect of great booty if they were victorious.

We shall not attempt to describe the engagement which followed. At the very outset it declared itself to some extent in Michael's favour through the desertion of one of most influential leaders in Andreas's army. It was chiefly a series of encounters between isolated detachments of the troops, and in many cases not only were men of the same nation arrayed against each other, but the opposing forces were under the leadership of near relatives. The first to yield after a fierce and protracted contest, was Andreas, who fled from the field believing the battle to be lost. His brave generals, however, rallied his men, and to a great extent retrieved the fortunes of the day. In fact they fought so successfully that a portion of the Wallachian army, where Michae1 himself was in command, took to flight, and for a time dragged its leader along with it. The cowardice of Andreas prevented the Transylvanian leaders from taking advantage of this turn in their favour; and Michael, seeing that all was not lost, made strenuous efforts to rally his troops. By threats, blows; and angry exclamations, he at length succeeded in arresting the stampede, but it was not until he had with his own sword run two fugitive captains the body that he was once more successful in leading [192] his followers into the field, and this time in effectually routing the enemy. This end was facilitated by an event similar to the one which commenced the fight. The Poles in Transylvanian service, seeing their leader flee, and regarding his cause as lost, deserted in a body in order that they might not lose their share of the booty.

This battle, which is called by some the battle of Schellenberg, and by others of Hermanstadt, laid Transylvania at the feet of Michael. Hermanstadt would have opened its gates to him, but instead of entering it he marched onwards, and on November 1, 1599, he entered the capital, Weissenburg, in triumph. On that occasion the magnificence of his apparel and surroundings scarcely seems to have been consistent with his reputation as a hardy warrior. We read of a white silk mantle embroidered with gold lace; of buttons of precious stones; of a girdle, in which was carried scimetar rich in gold and rubies; and of his wife and children being in similar state. One other feature is worthy of mention. With booming of cannon, tolling of bells, sound of fife and drum, and tramp of richly-caparisoned steeds was associated the Wallachian national music performed by gipsies (Laoutari), an incident which enables one who has even to-day heard their wild music to picture to himself a vivid representation of the scene.


Michael now assumed the direction of affairs in Transylvania, notwithstanding that the German general, Basta had hoped to acquire the government for himself; was with an army to control his action. Soon he heard of the capture and murder of Andreas Bathori, on whose head he had set a price, by the peasantry of the mountains ; and, calling an assembly of the notables, he succeeded in securing their adhesion to his viceroyalty. After long-protracted negotiations the emperor, seeing that Michael was firmly installed in his government with the consent of the of Assembly of States, and finding him willing to submit as a vassal of the German crown, accepted the situation, and permitted [193] him to do homage. This was done with great reluctance and in spite of Papal remonstrances, as the murder of Cardinal Bathori had caused great bitterness against Michael at Rome. As soon as the latter felt or deemed his position in Siebenbürgen secure, he turned his arms against Moldavia, with a view to depose Jeremiah Mogila, the reigning voivode, and complete his incorporation of that country with the two over which he already ruled. The manœuvres of Michael were questionable previous to his contest with Andreas; but now he excelled himself. In order to obtain his ends, he threatened the emperor with an alliance with the Turks, unless he gave him further supplies of money. The Porte he pacified by receiving its envoys and doing homage. To the Pope he turned for support against the infidel, but his only response was that Michael should first adopt the true faith-he being, of course, a member of the schismatic Greek Church; and just before entering Mo1davia with his army he had the effrontery, in order to throw Mogila off his guard, to propose a marriagebetween his daughter and Mogila's son. Finally, in order to secure the obedience of his subjects in Siebenbürgen during his absence in Moldavia, he sent alarge number of Transylvanian nobles to his son in Wallachia, to be detained there as hostages until he had accomplished his ends.

The King of Poland, who was in alliance with Moldavia, was aware of Michael's schemes, and appealed to the emperor To check them; but Michael, little heeding, collected a heterogeneous army, and in May, A.D. 1600, he commenced his march into Moldavia, announcing it as his intention to avenge the death of the late Voivode Stephen, who had been murdered by Jeremiah Mogila. His passage across the Carpathians was beset with difficulties, his army being often almost bare of supplies; but, once in Moldavia, all yielded before his arms. Jeremiah was at a wedding in fancied security, and had barely time to collect a small army when Michael was upon him. A battle was fought near the capital Suczava, which decided the fate of the principality. A great part of Jeremiah's army deserted to Michael, who [194] defeated his enemy without difficulty, and obtained possession of Suczava. After remaining for a short time in Moldavia, Jeremiah escaped to Poland, and succeeded in raising the Poles in his support. These, however, were so terrified at the successes of Michael's arms that they contented themselves with sending an army to the frontier, and there standing on the defensive. Michael won over the Moldavians by exempting them from taxation, and, having placed the government in the hands of a military commission, he turned his face towards Transylvania, and re-entered Weissenburg in triumph, within two months of the day on which he had departed on his mission of conquest.


The authority of Michael was readily recognised by the Transylvanian States General, and with great misgiving the Emperor Rudolph. He was now at the pinnacle of his fame, styling himself, modestly enough, Viceroy, but acting with the authority of a despotic ruler. Gold and silver medals were struck in his honour, some of which are extant; emissaries waited upon him from the German and other courts, and were received in royal state.

From his effigy upon these medals, and from a portrait of him which was painted subsequently, he appears to have been a man of striping presence and somewhat stern aspect. His face was characterised by an aquiline nose, a beard and moustache, and it is said to have been full of expression.

Would that we could leave him at this triumphant stage of his career; but that is impossible, for rapid and remarkable as was his ascent, his fall and ruin were more precipitate. Scarcely was he installed in his threefold authority when his troubles commenced. He had never been heartily accepted by his nobles, many of whom were ambitious and self-seeking, and considered him in the light of a usurper. The nation itself was composed of antagonistic races, Szeklers, Saxons, Hungarians, &c., and where he pleased one race he displeased the other. The Poles, too, were only watching their opportunity to disturb his [195] government in Moldavia. A rising at home, which Michael endeavoured to quell by the execution of some of the leaders, soon became very formidable, and the nobles assembled a considerable army of retainers and encamped at Thorda. Michael endeavoured by various stratagems to get them into his power, but failed to do so. General Bastes, who was eager to be revenged upon him for having kept him out of the viceroyalty of Siebenbürgen, joined the Transylvanian army; and Michael, finding all his efforts at pacification unavailing, at length encountered General Basta and the nobles at Miriszlo, a village which the reader will still find marked on the railway, between Karlsburg and Klausenurg. The position of Michael was a very strong one, and, he awaited the attack of his enemies, the probability is that he would again have been victorious. But in Basta he had a wily adversary. Finding it impossible to attack Michael where he was encamped, he feigned a retreat, whereupon Michael, asking contemptuously of his generals 'whither the Italian hound was fleeing,' allowed his army to follow in disorderly pursuit. They were, however, soon checked, and Michael was then obliged to give battle under far less favourable conditions. His army was more numerous that of his enemy; but not only was the latter composed of seasoned troops, but it was far better officered. The encounter was a fierce one, and it wasdecided against Michael by a clever manœuvre of Basta. One of his generals noticed that Michael's artillery, which was so posted as to harass the army of the allies, might be seized by a flank movement. He sent three hundred musketeers, who succeeded in capturing the guns and turning them upon Michae1's forces. All was soon lost, and after vain attempts to rally his men he at length yielded to the solicitations of his officers and prepared to fly. His conduct on this occasion is characteristic of the man. 'So he ordered the national flag to be brought, which was made of white silk, and bore a device consisting of a raven with a red cross in its beak upon a green field. This was torn from the staff, and Michael hid it in his bosom. The officers followed his [196] example with the remaining ensigns. Then he gave spurs to his horse, and with loosened rein, accompanied by his officers and some Polish and other cavalry, took to flight. Had he waited a few minutes longer, he would surely have been made prisoner.'1 With the enemy at his heels Michael reached the banks of the Naros river, and instead of allowing himself to be ferried across he sprang into the waves on horseback, and his faithful horse, which was of Turkish breed, lauded him safely on the other side. Here, filled with gratitude and affection for the animal, and knowing that it was unable to carry him further, he patted it on the neck, stroked its mane, kissed it, and let it run free into the fields. To follow Michael's adventures after this terrible defeat would be impossible. At first he took refuge in the Carpathians, in the Fogaras mountains as they are called; he then returned, and, joined by his son, succeeded for a short time in maintaining a foothold in Transylvania. But threatened by Rudolph and by the Poles, he was glad to escape into Wallachia.

Here he was again followed by the Poles, and, to complete his perplexities, the Turks commenced making raids into his country. Once more he was defeated by the former on the Telega river, near Ploiesti. A brother of Jeremiah Mogila having been put upon the throne of Wallachia, Michael found it necessary to take refuge in the Banate of Craiova, his first seat of government. Then it was that he appealed for protection to the German emperor, expressing his desire to present himself before him to plead his own cause. Rudolph granted him a safe-conduct for himself and a moderate following through Siebenbürgen, and Michael succeeded to the German Court. Notwithstanding the safe-conduct, however, his journey was fraught with peril. He was fired upon from castles, was followed by hostile bands, and was at last only allowed to cross the river Theiss at Tokay with a hundred men. He reached Vienna in safety on January 12, 1601, and was there prevented from proceeding to Prague, where the Emperor was, by orders from the imperial court. [197]

Shortly after this, however, the Transylvanian nobles, as faithless to Rudolph, to whom they had sworn fealty, as they had been to Michael, recalled Sigismund Bathori, and, without the sanction of the Emperor, placed him on the throne of Siebenbürgen. Then it was that Rudolph found it convenient to allow Michael to approach his person. The latter, on his arrival, presented a petition embodying his defence which might have been drawn by a special pleader, and which was accepted by the Emperor as a justification of his proceedings. A complete reconciliation tooK place between them, and Michael was formally re-appointed vicegerent of Transylvania. A sufficiently well-appointed army and a large sum of money were placed at his disposal, and he was requested to join with his old enemy, General Basta, in dethroning Sigismund. An apparent reconciliation took place between the two chiefs, Michael and Basta, and they marched as allies into Siebenbürgen. Sigismund, finding that his case with the Emperor was hopeless, and after, it is said, vainly endeavouring by foul means to prevent the junction of Michael and Basta, sought and obtained the aid of the Turks and Moldavians. That is to say, the former would have sent him acontingent of troops had not Michael, by means of forged letters, purporting to be signed by Sigismund, kept them at a distance. The opposing forces met at Goroszlo near Klausenburg, and after a hotly contested battle the Transylvanians were defeated with terrible slaughter. Hardly, however, was the victory won when jealosies and recriminations between the two generals followed.

Michael considered himself, as viceroy of Siebenbürgen, called upon to manage the affairs of the country. Basta, smarting under the disappointment of having failed to secure the viceroyalty, continued to assume the position of commander-in-chief of the forces, and not only interfered with the orders and wishes of Michael, but charged him with various offences, the chief one being that he was again usurping the supreme power. Believing that he would be safe in using this charge as a justification for his acts, and [198] that his removal would pave the way for his own accession to the viceroyalty, Basta then determined to have Michael assassinated. Knowing that it was his intention to proceed to the Carpathians and liberate his family which had been kept there in confinement, Basta sent a captain with three hundred Walloons to effect his purpose. This man applied at Michael's tent for permission to accompany him on his journey, and asked him to obtain the necessary permission from Basta. Michael assented, whereupon the officer entered the tent hastily, and, approaching the prince who was reposing, addressed him as his prisoner. Michael exclaimed that he would not yield himself alive, but before he could obtain possession of his sword to defend himself, the officer had run him through the body with his halberd.2 This foul deed was perpetrated between August 17 and September 1, 1601, and it is said that the assassins struck off his head and sword-hand with Michael's own sword. Afterwards they tortured and assassinated his minister, a veteran of eighty years age, and spread such terror amongst the troops who had remained faithful to their murdered prince, that his boyards and their followers took to flight and sought refuge in Wallachia.

Thus fell Michael the Brave, rash, courageous, false, ambitious, patriotic, the central figure in the past history of Roumania. Basta sought to justify his act of treachery in a letter to the Emperor; but whilst on the one hand, the German court dared not quarrel with him in the then condition of Transylvania, on the other hand they refused to reward him for a deed of blood which has sent down his name with execration to posterity.

1 Teutschländer, p. 201. 2 According to Vaillant and others there were two officers each with 300 men and Michael ran his sword through one of the officers, but before he could withdraw it the other, called Bory, struck him down with his halberd.

Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents