After conquering much of the Balkans, the people of Hungary knew that it was only a matter of time before they, too, would be attacked by the Ottomans. The Ottoman conquest had reached as far as Hungary during the reign of Bayezid I (1389-1403) and is recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History during 1402. Over the years, Hungary had to defend itself against the unrelenting Ottoman attacks until its capital, Buda, finally fell in 1541.
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The Conquest of Hungary
In 1366, a desperate John V Palaiologos came to Hungary. His goal was to ask the help of King Louis I against the Ottomans who had started to expand from their beylik in Anatolia. No help came after this appeal. The Byzantine territories and Balkan states rapidly fell to the Turks soon after. In 1395, the Turkish Sultan Bayezid I attacked Mircea, the voivode (governor) of Wallachia (a vassal state of Hungary). Mircea and his troops were defeated by the Turks, and he had to flee Wallachia to survive.
Hungary was one of the biggest and strongest Christian kingdoms in eastern Europe at that time. It was also the gateway into central and northern Europe. The Hungarian king Sigismund knew that the Turks would cross into their territory soon. In 1396, he was forced to seek the help of the Pope in Rome (as well as the antipope in Avignon) who then issued a papal bull for another Crusade. French and Hungarian knights fought the Turks in the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, but the Crusaders were slaughtered. King Sigismund of Hungary only escaped the battle by crossing the Danube on a boat.
From then on, the Ottomans controlled the area on the southern bank of the Danube. In the years that followed, they crossed the river and started to launch raids into Hungary itself. The great Turkish sultan Bayezid was captured in 1402 by Timur. His death the following year plunged the Turks into civil war. The Turks recovered from disaster in 1413, and the empire continued to expand as the years passed. In 1427, King Sigismund captured Belgrade after the Turks attacked Wallachia and Serbia. The Turks also took the fortress of Golubac on the Danube in 1428. A peace treaty was signed by both sides in 1428, but it expired in 1431.
The Battle of Varna
The Hungarian king Wladyslaw, Serbian despot George Brankovic, and John Hunyadi of Transylvania signed a 10-year peace treaty with the Turkish Sultan Murad in 1444 (Peace of Szeged). The Hungarians themselves broke this treaty when they launched another Crusade in 1444. On the 18th of September 1444, the Hungarian army marched into the city of Varna on the coast of the Black Sea.
Murad had retired some months before and passed his throne to his teenage son Mehmed II. The Janissaries (Turkish elite soldiers) were beginning to rebel against the young Mehmed, so Murad came out of retirement two years later and led the Ottoman Army to counter the Crusaders at Varna. The two armies met at the Battle of Varna on November 10, 1444. King Wladyslaw was killed during the battle. His soldiers completely lost heart and fled when they saw that he was dead. Those who could not escape were slaughtered. The battle resulted in another victory for the Ottomans.
John Hunyadi and the governor of Wallachia launched another attack on the Ottomans in 1445, but their armies were also defeated. In 1448, another Hungarian army led by John Hunyadi was crushed by the Ottomans in the Second Battle of Kosovo. John Hunyadi, now Hungary’s regent, signed a peace treaty with Sultan Mehmed II in 1451. He, however, continued the resistance against the Turks until his death in 1456.
John’s son Matthias Corvinus succeeded his father in 1458. By that time, however, the Turks had conquered Constantinople from the Byzantines. Just like his father, Matthias resisted the Turks and attacked Ottoman-held Bosnia where he defeated them. He died in 1490, and the conflicts between the Turks and Hungarians continued.
In 1521, the Ottomans led by Suleyman the Magnificent took Belgrade on the Danube so that they were now free to push further into Hungarian territory. On August 29, 1526, Suleyman and the Turks fought King Louis II and his Hungarian troops in the Battle of Mohacs. King Louis II died in the battle, and his soldiers either fled in order to survive or were killed in battle with the king. The Ottomans followed up this victory with the siege of the Hungarian city of Buda (present-day Budapest) in the same year. They finally captured Buda in 1541 and ruled it for the next 150 years.
Picture By Cristofano dell’Altissimo – Sakıp Sabancı Museum website:Embedding web page: http://muze.sabanciuniv.edu/exhibition/exhibition.php?lngExhibitionID=79&bytSectionID=2&bytLanguageID=2Image: http://muze.sabanciuniv.edu/ssm/userfiles/Image/SSM/english/exhibitions/2008/medicis/highlights/big/medicis_big_02.jpg, Public Domain, Link
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. New York: Basic Books, 2006.
Fleet, Kate. The New Cambridge History of Islam: The Western Islamic World, Eleventh to Eighteenth Centuries. Edited by Maribel Fierro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Mikaberidze, Alexander. Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO Interactive, 2011.
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