Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Serbian Hussars


Salve,
the very beginning of Polish Hussaria   belongs entirely to the  Balkan Serbian warriors already known as hussars (for almost a hundred years prior to their coming to Poland).
They came to the Polish  Kingdom, at the end of the 15th century,   in search of military employment and probably somewhat of a easier life,  and our Polish Kingdom did  offer these noble refugees from the Turkish-Hungarian-Habsburg wars of the 15th century plenty of  religious freedom  and economic  prosperity...
They carried 3 meters long, light lances with small pennons, Balkan shields, oriental and Hungarian sabres, and presumably war axes and 'klevets' or war hammers. They used light Balkan, Turkish and Hungarian saddles,  peculiar round stirrups, curb bits and long 'czaprak'  (large and often richly decorated  textile horse blanket or 'shabraque') to cover their horse back, sides, and  hindquarters.
 Polish-Serbian hussars can be seen in action  circa AD 1514  in this  very large 1530s painting from the Polish National Museum in Warsaw, you can take at look at the painting here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Battle_of_Orsha_(1514-09-08).jpg 
The painting depicts the first Polish-Lithuanian victory over a huge Muscovite army near Orsha on the Dniepr River (now Bielarus), one of three battles that took place at Orsha  in the first half of the 16th century.
During the next 50-70 years hussars acquired  full armor, larger horses, longer and heavier lances, shishak (Turkish style) helmets,  leopard, bear, wolf and lion pelts to cover themselves and their horses, and plenty of eagle, ostrich, falcon etc  feathers.

3 comments:

anglisti said...

The Orsha painting is just fabulous. One thing that caught my mind are the sabres carried by Hussars. There seems to be a great variety among them. As far as I think they look tad a bit different than the stereotypical 16thcentury "polish-hungarian" type. Are there some pics of those 15thcentury(early 16th) weapons? Also are they a direct copy/adaptation of the turkish kilij?(some of them seem to have a wooden handle , pretty much like the ottoman one, alebit the quillions/crossguard is a bit different , and we are talking pre-karabela period). Sorry if I steered off topic :) . Regards

Samik

Dario T. W. said...

thanks for your interest Samik,
as far as I know there is no trace of these hussar weapons as shown in the Orsha painting.

I am going to post a piece on the woodcut form mid-16th century showing Polish-Lithuanian sovereign with his hussar entourage.
As far as the origin of the weapons they must have had the entire Central Asia and Balkan heritage behind them, including the handles (from ancient Thracian curved 'sabres,' Greek machaira through Hungarian early sabres to Turkish kilij).

Samik said...

Thx for reply , sabres of that period is really what bugs me the most. Yeah we have the old stuff from the arrival of the magyars , khazar , avar stuff etc. and later from the 16th century onward,but there seems to be a lack of those weapons in the period betwen crusades and hunyady/corvinus era(as far as hungarian kingdom is concerned,and I myself am from Slovakia which was the northern part of it,hence the interest:) ). There are bits and pieces here and there (mostly cuman warriors), but the real (re)introduction of the sabre seems to have come with the hussar cavalry. Anyway thank you for running this blog and for those marvelous illustrations , keep it up!
Samik