The bravest Hungarians – myth, literature, history; part 2
There is a wide range of stories connected to the bravery of Hungarians. We already wrote about several aspects of Hungarian culture, famous people of Hungarian history, for example, György Dózsa and János Hunyadi. Today, as a continuation of our previous article, we will introduce you to another 3 famous Hungarian figures of history. This time the article is dedicated to the bravest Hungarian people. Time elevated them to legendary heroes who are often called ‘vitéz’ – a word dedicated to the biggest heroes – in Hungarian.
If you have not yet read the previous article of the series or are simply interested in some of the most famous Hungarian figures, you can do it HERE.
Count Miklós Zrínyi IV
Captain of ‘Szigetvár’
In 1561 Zrínyi applied for the position of castellan of ‘Szigetvár’. It was an unwanted position by many. For Zrínyi, the position requiring of ‘vitézség’ (doing what must be done without any acknowledgement) was not unusual. His grandfather’s death and military career have inspired, almost predestined Zrínyi for this role. His vocation, Christian commitment and the unflagging love he felt for his homeland might have also contributed to his decision. Zrínyi’s assignment started a new era in the defence against the Turks.
The Sultan’s army arrived at the castle on 5th August 1566, and the heroic battle has started. Miklós Zrínyi’s defending force consisted of 2,500 people, while the opposing force had about 50,000 soldiers. The unusually hot summer was in favour of the Turks, who consistently pushed the defenders to their limits. The defenders were waiting for the supporting force from Győr, but it never came, it was never able to due to the long distance and lack of naval support. Zrínyi and his defenders were on their own. The enormous numerical superiority of the Turks has pulverised the Hungarian defence and Zrínyi decided to make a final assault on the attacking forces.
In the morning of the 7th September, the Turks have set the inner fort on fire and launched their assault. At this time, Zrínyi prepared for his final fight, he changed and held his speech for his soldiers and they blasted out the castle’s doors to make their final, heroic stand. According to the description of eyewitnesses, they fired a cannon from the throat of the gate and Zrínyi alongside his ‘vitéz’ soldiers charged through the bridge into the Turk forces. During his final and unfortunately futile assault, Zrínyi held a round shield and the sabre he received from his father in his hands.
Zrínyi and his company of ‘vitéz’ Hungarians have sacrificed themselves to finish their glorious battle with honourable death. With this decision, Zrínyi also prevented the Turks from capturing him and using him as a hostage later during the peace negotiations.
Thanks to the heroic sacrifice of the Hungarian defenders, the campaign of the Sultan has failed. They held the Turks back for so long that combined with the news of the Sultan’s death; the enemy was unable to continue fighting. After this battle, the Turks have not launched any attacks against the Hungarian Kingdom for 30 years, and Central Europe was saved from the conquest of the Turkish forces.
István Dobó along with Ferenc Zay became the castellan of the castle of Eger in 1548. Under the captaincy of Dobó, the castle was further reinforced.
What made Dobó famous is the siege of the castle of Eger by the Turks in 1552. Dobó and his soldiers acted heroically and were able to defend the fort against all the odds. The number of Hungarian soldiers was only 2000 who held back the Turk forces of 40,000 enemy soldiers. During the siege, Dobó was also injured and had to face the chaos caused by the explosion of the defender’s black powder depository as well as to command the defenders to successfully save the castle from getting into the hands of the enemy.
„I myself promise – Dobó put his two fingers on the cross – promise that with all my might and thought and with my blood if necessary, I will defend this castle and my homeland. I promise that I will be there in the peril alongside you. I promise that I will not let this castle get into heathen hands. I will give up neither the castle nor myself alive. The earth taketh my body and the heaven my soul. May the eternal God refuse me from entering heaven if I breach my oath.” – excerpt from ’Egri Csilagok’.
The cult of Titusz Dugovics is the strongest in Nagysimony in Vas county. They think – although it is not proven – that Titusz is originating from their village. People in Nagysimony have erected a stone cross in memory of the Hungarian hero of Nándorfehérvár and they named their elementary school about him.
It is certain that the story was first written in Antonio Bonfini’s work about Hungarian history in 1492. Bonfini received a commission to write about Hungarian historical events in a renaissance, humanist manner from our famous king Mátyás himself. Bonfini wrote the story as follows:
„A number of Turks have brought their flags and tried to place it on the towers and destroy the insignia of the Hungarian king. They remembered a Turk sneaking with a flag hastily up the ladders towards the highest tower. He wanted to toss the Hungarian insignia to the ground to demoralise the Christians and to place their ruler’s insignia on the fort to inspire the other Turks fighting outside the walls. A Hungarian soldier immediately followed the foe and before he could destroy the Hungarian banner, he started to wrestle with the Turk. Desperate in trying to stop the Turk from achieving his nefarious goal, he grabbed the Turk and threw himself off of the tower bringing down the enemy with him.”
With his deed, Titusz Dugovics have prevented the Turk from overrunning the fort and largely contributed to the successful defence of the castle of Nándorfehérvár. Whether he was a real person or just a creation of oral tradition to inspire the defenders is debated by professionals, but nonetheless, we Hungarians think of him as a great hero of our country. I personally remember that I was inspired by his story of heroism as a child.
If I were unable to quench your thirst for Hungarian history, I would recommend you to take a look at this article about György Dózsa, the famous leader of the peasant’s revolt.
Source: Daily News Hungary