Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July is a good month in my Polish military history - on July 4 1610 small Polish army defeated 6 times its size Muscovite-Western army at Klushino. On July 15, 1410 Polish -Lithuanian armies under king Wladyslaw Jagiello dealt crushing and overwhelming blow to the mighty Teutonic Order army, thus securing the most magnificent victory over the Teutonic Order and their Western 'guest' knights (from France, England, Reich, Italy etc) on the fields of Grunwald (Tannenberg).

Returning to hussars - today perhaps it may be desirable to talk a bit about the appearance of the winged hussars in the XVI (16th) century.
Hussars started as Serbian cavalry back in the early XV (15th) century, and became known to the West during the reign of the famous Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, who came close to become the Holy German emperor himself, and was many times a victor of the Hapsburg armies - amongst other his 'Black Army' took Vienna from them and made her his capital. Polish military commanders met with the Serbian hussars of king Corvinus during the Silesian campaigns of 1470ties. They learned and by 1500 AD we find first units of Serbian hussars in the Polish Army. By 1505 first Polish knights joined these newly appearing type of cavalry, thus our Polish hussars had been born :)
Here you can find two images of future winged hussars from the beginning of the century and more typical image of a parade-attired hussar from the second half of the same century. As you can see they started as a very light, estradiota type cavalry, and by the second half they were already moving towards more medium or even heavier cavalry, with Turkish helmet known as shiszak, curved sabre, Balkan (Serbian) shield, long lance painted and gilded ( Renaissance fashion) but yet empty inside to compensate for the tremendous length of this weapon - up to 6,3m (21 feet).
Horses, stallions or geldings, are bitted with curb-bits, ridden in rather shorter Turkish or even Eurasian steppe fashion - very similar to the Spanish la gineta - with long spurs and wider stirrups. Ornate horse harness is a must and a long Oriental carpet like shabraque or czaprak (from Turkish language) covers horse's back. The pennon seen here -of the early Serbian hussar - is small, the later hussar has quite a large pennon but soon their pennons would grow up to 2,7 m ( 9 feet) in length... The second rider has a large peacock feathers bunch on top of his shishak but our and Hungarian future hussars will be covered with eagle wings, ostrich feathers, wild animal skins and other wild beast symbolic imagery going back to the ancient Eurasian steppe traditions. Then add tuck ( koncerz, panzersrecher, estock), mace, pair of pistols, war-hammer or war-ax (in the ancient Eurasian steppe tradition going back to the Scyhtians-Saka) and armour, and we will see fully developed winged hussar.


Samik said...

Hello Dariusz ,
first and foremost thanks for another intriguing blog post.
I would like to ask what is the story behind those beautiful images (date , author , country of origin+are the hussars on the left hand side Serbs?)and if
there is a chance of seeing them in higher resolution ? Thanks

Dario T. W. said...

hey Samik,
the first image was painted circa 1520 - and can be found in the Austrian Museum in Graz, Austria - it was painted by someone from so called Danube School. I called them Serbian because they do look very similar to the hussars in the Polish painting of the Battle of Orsha AD 1514 (Polish National Museum, Warsaw). The shields especially look like the surviving late XV and early XV centuries early shields, a little different form mid and later 16th century shields.
The second images is most likely of a Hungarian hussar - can be found in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna ( a bit different though, I removed the coat of arms and a footman) it is titled Sigismundus Elsassar, and it was etched and its print painted around 1582 as a commemoration of the Hussar Tournament organized by the archduke Ferdinand of Tirol. Proof of how popular hussars had become in Central Europe (worth noting that His Royal Majesty Stephen Bathory, the hussar-king, was the ruler of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at that time, and he secured great victories over the Muscovite Ivan the Terrible. Almost 10 years earlier, the best Polish Renaissance poet Jan Kochanowski wore complete hussar outfit when welcoming Henry Valois to Cracow and the Polish throne - I will write about that parade one day. Obviously not only Serbians were hussaras, could have been Albanians and Croats as well, but in the Kingdom of Hungary records for the late XV and early XVI century they always talk about Serbian hussar units within troops stationed on the Hungarian line of fortresses along the frontier with Ottoman Turks. Croats and Hungarians became hussars under the Serbian tutelage, I think, like it happened in Poland.

Samik said...

Hi Dario once again , I have found an interesting hungarian coat of arms from 1466 (!) that supposably belongs to a hussar noble. Unfortunately I dont read/understand hungarian and google-translate is quite cryptic. Anyway enjoy

p.s: note the sabres which interestingly look quite different from the ottoman weapons (different crossguard and most importantly the presence of a brass/gilded pommel, basicaly a handle that you would find even on straight swords like schiavonesca from that period , albiet on that particular sabre its canted)

Dario T. W. said...

Hey Samik,

very interesting coat of arms - and unusual!
There is old Hungarian article written by Zoltan Toth titled 'A Husarok eredeterol' ("On the Origin of the Hussars) of 1934 that perhpas went deeper into the Serbs, Serbian Despotate, Croatian cavalry and Hungarian horsemen of the XV century (from the Hungarian point of view).
But in the records of the early XVI century Hungarian Kingdom on the border with the Ottomans (Transylvania, Lower Parts, and Croatia)there are different types of cavalry - Serbian hussars, heavy cavalry and Hungarian voyniks (Ottomans had voynuks).
Now Serbian, mostly peasants ans small nobility, were running away form he Turks and in exchange for military duty ( being warriors - vojniks) had been entering the Hungarian service since the king Sigismund's reign. From the begining they were serving as light cavalry and they were called hussars (Serbian for marauders).
Polish white arms authorities say that as far as the sabres the Hungarians had already sword-like cross-guards on their sabres in the XIV century, along with the steppe or 'curved' ones ones. In Poland most early sabre sources come in form of many iconographic depictions and names appearing in the muster rolls or written depictions, from mid XV century onward.
In the near future I will write a number of posts on the white arms of the hussars...

Samik said...

Hey Dario ,

I am very much looking forward to your article on those weapons. Also dont hesitate to put links/references on those earlier XVcentury polish and hungarian sabres. Dont forget that the area of balkans and south-eastern parts of hungarian kingdom were still populated by people of turkic stock like Cumanians(Kipcak/Kunó) which probably manufactured their own sabres. This illuminated 14thcentury chronicle with Lajos the great pretty much sums it up , with both men-at-arms and "cuman" nobleman as Lajos’ vassals/commanders. On a side note , I have recently read a couple of general sources on Serbian history and what suprised me was that during Stefan Lazarevic reign, (who became a vassal to Bayezid after Kosovo battle)his (i presume) knightly forces participated in Nicopolis and also at Ankara under the banner of Ottomans. It seems that Serbs (already having a reputation as knightly cavalry, that fought various balkan factions and their nomadic auxilliaries)gathered quite a number of experiences (whlist serving alongside Turks , and fighting both western crusaders and Tamerlane forces). That got me thinking if those exploits werent a significant factor that produced the infamous "Rac" hussar. But thats just my speculations :)

Cheers and best wishes from Slovakia!

Dario T. W. said...

sorry for this long delay
my friend Radek just sent me the 'lost' copy of this scholarly article on the Serbians in the Polish armies in the XV-XVI centuries so I will write more about this subject, one or two drawings included. Thanks for the image of Lajos the great :)