>>>>>>>>The Fourteenth Century AD, part 1. (Mircea the Elder)
In the reign of Mircea the Elder, considered one of the most important rulers of Wallachia during the Middle Ages (1386-1418), Romania saw stability brought to Wallachia—from the Carpathian Mountains in the North, along to the Danube in the South. This was the largest territory the Wallachian people had ever yet ruled over; in what are today known as the ‘Iron Gates’, on the Danube to the west, across along to the ‘Black Sea,’ in the East.
Mircea the Elder, sometimes referred to by historians as ‘Mircea the Great,’ gave trade privileges to the merchants of nearby Poland and Lithuania, and minted a silver currency which circulated widely (also used by neighboring countries, as well as widely within Romania itself). Mircea the Elder reformed important alliances which would be long-lasting, including that of the king of Hungary, Sigismund of Luxembourg, who he could later rely on for the common struggle against the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. With these improved economic and diplomatic policies, Mircea the Elder was able to afford to expand his military power. The citadels on the Danube, as well as “the great army” (made up of townspeople and peasants) had been fortified and strengthened under his supervision.
In 1396 a Crusade was started by Hungary’s monarch. The Ottomans were victorious over this Crusade, ending Hungary’s campaign against them in victory at the battle of Nicopolis. The next year, in 1397, Mircea the Elder defeats Vlad the Usurper with help of his Hungarian allies, stops another Ottoman expedition that crossed the Danube, and then finally in 1400 AD defeats yet another expedition of Turks.
The Ottoman Empire would soon afterward enter into a period of Anarchy. Mircea the Elder would use this time to organize another offensive with the Hungarians as allies, and lead a campaign against the Turks in the beginning years of the 15th Century. Shortly after this, near the end of Mircea the Elder’s reign, the Ottoman’s would sign a peace treaty with him.
However, despite his future victory over the Ottoman Turks, Mircea the Elder had to retreat to Hungary for a time…during which the Turks installed Vlad Uzurpatorul to the throne of Wallachia.
The king promised the Saxon traders of Transylvania that if Walachia becomes his possession he reduces the dues. On the contrary, in an order give to the landlord of Orsova in 1382 through which he was obliged to forbid any foreign trader to enter Wallachia with merchandise and to keep guard of the border “day and night” reporting everything that happened.
The Conflict in Transylvania
Transylvania means “the land beyond the forests.” Many living in Romania at the time were shepherds, herding their flock between the mountains and the lowlands. They initially enjoyed a special agreement that they would only be induced to pay taxes on their sheep, but the commoners who moved into royal or private estates quickly lost their liberties…
In 1370 Burghers, regarded as peasants by the bishops of Transylvania and the abbots of Kolozsmonostor Abbey, were forced to “pay the ninth” which was a seigneurial tax, on their vineyards until 1409. The merchants from many Transylvanian towns were exempted from internal levies, but the noblemen often ignored that privilege, forcing the merchants to pay duties while traveling across their domains.
The Hungarians and Saxons adhered to Roman Catholicism, and the Diocese of Transylvania included most of the province. The Saxons of southern Transylvania were subject to a different archbishop, however. In 1378, shortly before the Ciompi Rebellion occurs in Florence, the Great Schism of the West begins, eventually leading to three simultaneous popes.
In 1421, with the rise of the Ottoman Empire, one of the first major military campaigns by the Ottoman military was engaged in the invasion into Transylvanian parts of the kingdom of Hungary, the invading forces entering in from the region of Wallachia.
The Saxons and others living in the border region tried to defend themselves, but were heavily outnumbered by the intruders. Their leadership had not been able to act promptly, because he was involved in the Hussite Wars and had recently inherited the Bohemian throne. Left alone, the Saxon Burzenland, as well as others in the border region, were ravaged.
In defense of an ally, fighting south of the Danube, Mircea the Elder had brought the Wallachians into conflict with the Turks, and thus the Ottoman Empire. He would eventually manage to throw the Ottomans out of the country, particularly after the Battle of Rovine, in 1394, where desperate tactics were employed in order to beat an army nearly four times in size. The raucous strategy to be used against this invading man named Beyazid I, ‘The Thunderbolt,’ included small localized attacks and retreats, which is what is now called ‘guerrilla war’ tactics. They attempted to cut off supplies where they could and starve out their enemy. The two armies clashed on forested and swampy terrain, which kept ‘The Thunderbolt’ from properly spreading his forces.
The House of Basarab
A Romanian family which had an important role in establishing the Principality of Wallachia, was established in 1310. After 1436 the house was split by the conflict between ‘The House of Danesti’ and ‘The House of Draculesti,’ both of which claiming legitimacy.
The Mongol forces at the beginning of the Century had begun to develop into a sedentary rather than a nomadic culture. Sarai Berqe began evolving into a prosperous metropolis. It became one of the largest cities of the Medieval world, with about 600,000 inhabitants.
The Mongols clung for a time to their traditional animist or shamanic beliefs, until one of the Khans adopted Islam as the state religion.
Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongols, enjoyed a rare and mild time period in the usually cold, parched steppes of Central Asia—the mildest and wettest conditions in more than a millennium, which is believed to be the reason behind the rapid increase in the number of war horses and other livestock, which significantly enhanced Mongol military strength.
Genghis Khan introduced many innovative ways of organizing his army, dividing it into decimal subsections, and he was known for rewarding those who had been loyal to him—and placed them in high positions. Even though many of them had come from low-ranking clans, Genghis put them as heads of army units and households. He assigned relatively few of his own family members as heads of such units. He forbade the selling of women, theft, fighting among the Mongols, and the hunting of animals during the breeding season. Prior to the three Western Khanates’ adoption of Islam, Genghis Khan and a number of his Yuan successors placed restrictions on religious practices that they saw as alien. Referring to the conquered subjects as “our slaves,” Genghis Khan demanded they no longer be able to refuse food and drink, and imposed restrictions on slaughter.
Known during his childhood as ‘Temujin,’ Genghis Khan was the son of a Mongol chieftain. As a young man he was helped along and rose to power by working closely with Toghrul Khan, and quickly went to battle with the most powerful Mongol leader at the time, Wang Khan. After this war, ‘Temujin’ gave himself the name of Genghis Khan.
During his reign he forbade looting of his enemies without permission, and he implemented a policy of sharing spoils with his warriors and their families instead of giving it all to the aristocrats. The first conflict and infighting was cowed in 1206 by Ghengis Khan, which had arisen over these policies the Khan had enacted, and the reaction his aristocratic uncles had to them. These uncles started to regard him not as a leader but as an insolent usurper.
During the reign of Genghis Khan the Mongols suffered occasional defeats when a less skilled general would be in command. The Mongol forces were defeated at a battle in around 1216, another at the battle of Parwan in 1221, and again at a battle in 1230. In each case, the Mongols returned shortly after with a much larger army, and would invariably be victorious, behind one of the more experienced generals. The first time the Mongols would not immediately return to avenge a defeat would be in 1260, at a battle in Galilee known as ‘The Battle of Ain Jalut,’ which could be attributed to the death of a Khan, infighting of the leadership.
A report reached Western Europe that the new leadership, ‘Toqta,’ was highly favorable to Christians. He showed religious favor to men of all faiths, though he preferred Muslims. Toqta died while crossing the Volga in 1313. The Mongol Empire existed during the 13th and 14th Century, and was the largest contiguous land empire in history. The Mongols emerged from the unification of several nomadic tribes under the leadership of Genghis Khan, born in 1162 and died in 1227. The empire grew rapidly under his rule and that of his descendants, who sent invading armies of future Mongols out in every direction.
The Golden Horde
The population of the Golden Horde was largely a mixture of Turks and Mongols who adopted Islam later, along with Slavs, people from the Caucasus, although the majority of the horde were Turkic. The Golden Horde’s elites were descended from four major Mongol clans. Their supreme ruler was the Khan.
The Golden Horde
A new Khan of the Golden Horde was enthroned in 1258. In 1259 he launched savage attacks on Lithuania and Poland. He demanded the submission of the Hungarian monarch, as well as the French King Louis IX, 1259-1260. His assault in Prussia at this time inflicted heavy losses in the Teutonic Order.
Lineage of Mircea the Elder
Afterward in Romania, within the lineage of rulership of Wallachia, the illegitimate son of Mircea the Elder would come to power. His son was born just at the tail end of the 14th Century, in 1395. At first, he settled into the nearby area of Transylvania, allowed to do so by the will of Sigismund of Luxembourg, whose court he had studied during youth.
Sigismund also inducted the son of Mircea the Elder into a fraternal order, to which he was attributed his famous monicker that would adorn and accompany his name from then onward: Vlad II—‘The Dragon.’
The Son of the Dragon
Vlad III Dracula, better known as ‘Vlad The Impaler,’ was ruler of Wallachia on-and-off from 1448-1476. In his reign he was under constant threat of attack from both the Ottoman and Hungarian forces.
During an infamous retreat from Ottoman forces, Vlad Dracula had the bodies of his enemies impaled on large spikes in the field surrounding his country. This crude strategy ensured his survival after defeat, however, as the Ottoman forces returned home after seeing the grotesque scene Vlad Dracula had prepared for them.
Vlad Dracula had been captured in by the Hungarians in 1462, and imprisoned in a fortress in Budapest.
Vladislav II was ruler of Wallachia who died in 1456. He was ruler on and off from 1448-48 and again from 48-56. The most accepted view is that Vladislav II assassinated the father of Vlad III Dracula, and was subsequently placed on the throne by John Hunyadi. He was an Orthodox Christian, and predecessor to Vlad the Impaler.
It is not known if Vladislav II was invited to take part in the Battle of Kosovo (1448) or not, but it is certain that he didn’t send any troops in aid, and as a result John Hunyadi took back the Transylvanian possessions in 1452.
Part of John Hunyadi’s Transylvania, Brasov county, was put under an embargo for all Wallachian trade which Vladislav enacted in retaliation to Hunyadi. However, in 1455, after the people of Brasov county had been informed that the embargo would be lifted, Vladislav seized back Transylvanian possessions and attacked a fortress, burning a few Saxon villages in the process. In response, John Hunyadi would give Vlad III Dracula …
In 1456 Vlad III Dracula killed Vladislav II in hand-to-hand combat. He was buried at the Dealu Monastery.
Vladislav founded the Snagov Monastery in 1453 where a wooden sculpted door was preserved and later exhibited in Bucharest.
Vlad III Dracula and his younger brother Radu, were held as hostages in 1442 by the Ottoman Empire. Vlad’s father had left them in order to secure loyalty, but he and Vlad’s eldest brother, Mircea the Younger, were murdered when Hungary entered Wallachia in 1447, led by John Hunyadi who was then regent-governor of Hungary. John Hunyadi then installed Vladislav II as new leader during that time. Hunyadi and Vladislav launched into a campaign together against the Ottomans in 1448. Vlad had broken into Wallachia with Ottoman support in October, but when Vladislav II returned Vlad was forced to seek refuge in the Ottoman Empire.
Mircea the Elder is the first in the region to deal with slaves, giving 300 Gypsy dwellings to a monastery in 1388.
Although Vlad III (or 2nd?) had been a supporter of the Eastern Orthodox Church, his house would later become Catholic.
Törzburg in German, Bran Castle is a fortress on the Transylvanian side of the boarder with Wallachia. Although many castles of the time belonged to members of nobility, it has been established that Bran Castle was built almost exclusively for fortification and protection against German colonists in Transylvania. It is believed that the castle was held briefly by Mircea the Elder, during whose period the customs point was established. At some point Bran Castle belonged to the Hungarian kings, but due to the failure of King Vladislas II to repay loans, the city was regained by its former owners of the fortress in 1533.
the king of Hungary allowed the Saxons to begin construction, on their own expense and labor force, of the stone castle in 1377, and the settlement of Bran began to develop nearby. Later on, in 1438, the castle Bran would be used in defense against the Ottoman Empire, and later became a customs post on the mountain pass between Transylvania and Wallachia.
In 1283 there were rumors that the Khan was mentally ill. The next year Hungary was invaded. While successful in subduing Slovakia, their forces got stuck north of the Carpathian Mountains. Because of this frustration, the soldiers sacked nearby Galicia and Volynia, to vent their frustration. In 1286 they attacked Poland and ravaged the country. Later, their armies would turn their attention to Caffa and Soldaia, looting both cities at about 1257.
1st Century AD, part 2.
(Claudius the God)
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