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Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe

VII: The Ottoman Turks and the Crusades, 1329-1451,   pp. 222-275 PDF (24.1 MB)

Page 252

Byzantine-Hungarian alliance was signed in Buda in February 1396 and Venice
was informed about it in March. 
 Without this Balkan background the crusade of Nicopolis cannot be adequately
explained. Western participation in the crusade appears to be grossly exaggerated
in western accounts. The crusaders from western Europe, "une multitude de
chevaliers sans experience, sans ordre,"8° was apparently quite a small
contingent, and yet they intended "to conquer the whole of Turkey and march
into the empire of Persia, . . . the kingdom of Syria, and the Holy Land
of Jerusalem". 
 Viad of Wallachia, an Ottoman vassal, was attacked from the north by Stephen
Lackovich, the voivode of Transylvania, but the Serbs under Stephen Lazarevich
joined Bayazid's army. The Ottoman strategy was to delay the advance of the
crusaders by resisting them in the fortified cities, in order to give the
sultan, who was at the head of his army besieging Constantinople, time to
gather his forces. The crusaders met resistance at Vidin and Rahova in late
August and were held up by a stiff defense at the stronghold of Nicopolis
(September 8-10). Bayazid surprised the crusaders at Nicopolis, and the ensuing
pitched battle ended in a complete victory for the sultan (September 25,
1396),81 who won fame throughout Islam as a ghazi. 
 Sigismund, Philibert of Naillac (soon to be grand master of the Hospitallers),
and a few other leaders escaped down the Danube in a small boat, and John
of Nevers and several other captive nobles were held for ransom, but most
of the crusaders who survived the battle were enslaved or slaughtered by
the infuriated sultan. The shocked reaction of western Europe to this disaster
led to disillusion with the crusade idea and refusal to participate in similar
expeditions for nearly half a century. 
 Venice took part in the crusade, but the small Venetian fleet of four galleys
under Thomas Mocenigo, captain of the Gulf, was instructed not to engage
in military operations beyond the northern Aegean and to stay with the members
of the Aegean league — Rhodes, Chios, and Lemnos. By his naval preparations
at Gallipoli and strict ban on wheat export to Venice, Bayazid had taken
measures against the republic.82 
 80. lorga, Histoire des roumaines, III (Bucharest, 1937), 362. 
 81. See the discussion of the size of the crusader army in Setton, The Papacy,
I, 351—353. DelbrUck's estimate of ten thousand for the Ottoman army
is confirmed by the Ottoman anonymous (Paris 1047), fols. 22r_22'~~: "upon
the news of the invasion Bayazid hurried to Nicopolis taking with him an
army of ten thousand select troops." Each man had a pair of horses to go
at maximum speed. At Tirnovo Rumelian forces joined the sultan. For details
of the battle see Setton, The Papacy, I, 353-355. 
 82. Silberschmidt, op. cit., pp. 158—160. 

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