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Battle of Keresztes
Part of the Long War (Ottoman wars)
Battle of Mezokeresztes 1596.jpg
Date October 24-26, 1596
Location Mezőkeresztes (Haçova in Turkish), northern Hungary
Result Decisive Ottoman victory
Ottoman Empire[1]
Crimean Khanate
Habsburg Austria
Holy Roman Empire
claimed Kingdom of Hungary [2]
Polish cavalry[3]
Papal State
Walloon and French mercenaries
Mehmed III
Damat İbrahim Pasha Grand Vizier
Archduke Maximilian
Sigismund of Transylvania
100,000[4] Turks, and Tatar ~90,000
including ~5,000 cavalry
97 cannon
Casualties and losses
~20-30,000[5][6] ~12,000-[7]+30,000[8]

The Battle of Keresztes or Battle of Mezokeresztes (Turkish: Haçova Muharebesi) took place on October 24–26, 1596, between a combined Habsburg-Transylvanian force and the Ottoman Empire, near the village of Mezőkeresztes (or in Turkish Haçova) in northern Hungary. The battle ended in an unexpected Ottoman victory. Lord Kinross said of the battle that had the Turks been defeated, they would have lost Bulgaria and part of Hungary.



On 23 June 1594 an Ottoman Army marched from the capital city of Istanbul, part of what the Ottomans called the Hungarian Campaign. Commanded by Sultan Mehmed III, the army marched through Edirne, Filibe (now known as Plovdiv), Sofia and Nis and arrived at Belgrade on August 9. On August 20 the army crossed the River Sava by bridge and entered the Austrian territory of Siren. A war council at Slankamen Castle was called, and it was decided that they would conduct a siege on the Hungarian fort of Eger (Erlau). The fort controlled the communication routes between Habsburg, Austria and Transylvania which were in revolt against the Ottoman suzerainty.

However, news soon arrived that the Austrians had besieged and taken over the Castle of Hatvan and had killed all Turks there, including the women and the children. The Ottoman Army started its siege of the fort of Eger (Erlau) on the 21st September 1596, and by October 12 the castle capitulated. As a retaliation to the Austrian Hatvan castle killings, the defenders of the castle were all executed. Sultan Mehmed III performed his Friday prayers at the new mosque, converted from the city's cathedral.

Not long after, Ottoman command got the report that a mixed army of Austrians and Transylvanians was advancing towards the Ottoman expeditionary force. A war council was conducted under Grand Vizier Damat Ibrahim Pasha. It was decided that the Ottoman Army should march out of the Erlau castle so as to meet the Austrians at a suitable battle terrain. The Sultan was of the opinion that the Ottoman army should disengage and return to Istanbul; it was with great difficulty that he was persuaded to engage the enemy forces.


The Ottoman army marched through several passageways through the marshy terrain and reached Haçova (in Turkish means Plain of the Cross, in Hungarian Keresztes), exhausted after a long siege and a hard, long march. The two armies faced each other in the plains of Haçova (in Hungarian Mezőkeresztes). The Austrian-Transylvanian army, under the joint command ofArchduke Maximillian III of Austria and King Sigismund Bathory of Transylvania, was in position in fortified trenches. When the Ottoman army attacked the Austrian trenches, the Battle of Haçova started and lasted two full days, from October 25 to the 26st of 1596. Early firearms (cannons, rifles) were used extensively in the battle. The Austrians, being entrenched around the old ruined church, succeeded in driving back the Ottoman assaults with a barrage of cannon and musket.

By the second day of battle the Ottoman Army appeared to have been defeated. According to the 17th Century Ottoman historian İbrahim Peçevi:

"The Christians broke through the Ottoman army, but the soldiers of the Islam had not yet felt the defeat. Then, they started to plunder and taking of booty at the command headquarters of the Ottomans. Under a few flags, a large group of Christian soldiers attacked the tent where the chests of gold money of the Ottoman Exchequer were kept. They killed and otherwise eliminated the Janissary and household cavalry soldiers guarding the State Treasury. The Christian soldiers got on the Treasury chests of gold coin and put up their flags of cross over them and started to dance around them."[9]

Commander Sultan Mehmed III wanted to flee from the battlefield. However, first he asked of the opinion of his tutor, the high cleric Hoca Sadeddin Efendi, "Effendi what is to be the remedy and action to be taken after this?" The reply of Hoca Sadeddin Efendi was, "My Sultan what is necessary is that you must be staying constant and steadfast at this place of battle. The state of the fighting requires this." Taking heed, Sultan Mehmed III put on his shoulder the mantle of the Prophet Mohammad; had the holy Prophet's Flag furled and had a rug put under the flag and sat there, trying with great difficulty to keep calm, true and constant, according to his tutor's advice.[9]

The famous 17th century Ottoman chronicler Mustafa Naima relates the second half of the battle. The fighting intensified, coming within the vicinity of the Imperial Majesty's Tent. The viziers and the teachers at the Palace Pages School had formed a wall of flesh around the Sultan's person. Meanwhile, the Austrian army's soldiers disengaged, in search of booty and plunder instead of continuing the engagement. The Ottoman horse groomers, cooks, tent makers, camels minders attacked back on the plunderers with whatever arms they could find, including cooks' spoons, blocks of wood, hammers for tent making, adzes, and axes for cutting wood. The Austrians were surprised and retreated in confusion. The cries of "the Christian enemy is fleeing" were heard by the Ottoman troops still fighting on the frontline, what seemed a losing battle. The boost of morale allowed them to recover the battle. With a major action from the artillery, the Ottoman forces started another attack on the Austrians across the front and outflanked the Austrian-Transylvanian army, routing them.[10]


Soon after victory, Mehmed III appointed Cigalazade Yusuf Sinan Pasha as the new Grand Vizier. He sent an imperial victory proclamation to Istanbul giving the news of the conquering of Egri (Erlau) Castle and the victory at the Battle of Haçova (Keresztes). This reached Istanbul in October and there were public celebrations and public meetings organized in the city. During these celebrations, four galleys full of state procured sugar from Egypt arrived at Istanbul harbor, which added "sweetness" to the news of a military victory. Mehmed III was awarded the epithet of 'Conqueror of Egri'.

The Sultan's army marched for a month, returning to Istanbul victorious. With the army in place, a great victory procession was organized. A victory procession and many accompanying spectacles were carried out. The poets of Istanbul wrote special works about the victory. In the streets and markets of the city, town-criers were sent to announce that there will be bedecking of the streets of the city. The warehouses and stores were all decorated with 'valuable cloths'. This display of colour all across the city is described in a poem by the poet [Kemal]:

"All the shops of the city became colored due to conquerors wishes
Each of which were decorated as if it were the kerchief of the sweetheart”


  1. ^ Henry Smith William, The Historians' History of the World p.439
  2. ^ S.J.Shaw (1976) p.102: In 1541 Ottoman Empire annexed Hungary as the Buda Province and ruled it until 1682 (p.214) when Imre Thököly was recognized as the King of Hungary, Austrian Habsburgs also lay claim to the throne of Hungary.
  3. ^ In the Long War few thousand Cossacks and Polish soldier were in the Austrian, Hungarian and Transylvanian army. Ervin Liptay, Military history of Hungary, Zrínyi Military Publisher, 1985. ISBN 9633263379
  4. ^ S.J.Shaw(1976) p.185
  5. ^ Ágnes Várkonyi: Age of Reform's, 2004. (Megújulások kora), 27. page.
  6. ^ History of Hungary 1526-1686
  7. ^ Ágnes Várkonyi: Age of Reform's, 2004. (Megújulások kora), p.27. p(Hungarian)
  8. ^ Richard Hodges, "Last-minute Turkish Victory", History Today Vol.46 No.10 pp.35 [1]
  9. ^ a b Translated from Turkish. Reference: Peçevi Ibrahim Efendi (ed. Bekir Sıtkı Baykal), Peçevi Tarihi (History of Peçevi) Vol.II, Ankara:Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı Yayınları 1999 ISBN: 975-17-1109-6 and also another edition Ibrahim Pecevi, (ed. Murat Uraz) Pecevi Tarihi (History of Peçevi) Vol.II, Istanbul:Nesriyat Yurdu, 1968-69
  10. ^ The original history book of Mustafa Naima, in duplicated manuscript form, was called Ravzat el-huseyin fi hulusat ahbar el-hafikeyn (The garden of al-Husayn: Being the choicest of the news of the east and west). It was translated into English in 1733 and it was among the first books printed in Turkish Ottoman script. References here are from the modern new Turkish script edition: Mustafa Naima (ed. Zuhuri Danisman), Naima Tarihi VI Cilt, Istanbul:Zuhuri Danisman Yayinevi, 1967

External links

  • [2] Article in History Today, "Last-minute Turkish victory at Keresztes".
  • Battle of Mezőkeresztes (Hungarian)
  • Sakaoglu, Necdet [1999], Bu Mulkun Sultanlari (Sultans of this realm), Istanbul:Oglak. ISBN:9753292996. (Turkish)
  • Shaw, Stanford J. [1976] History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Vol.1 Empire of the Gazis, Cambridge University Press. ISBN:0525291631.



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