Battle of Keresztes

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Battle of Keresztes
Part of the Long War (Ottoman wars)
Battle of Mezőkeresztes 1596.jpg
Battle of Keresztes, Ottoman miniature.
Date24–26 October 1596
Mezőkeresztes (Turkish: Haçova), northern Hungary
Result Decisive Ottoman victory[3]
Ottoman Empire[1]
Gerae-tamga.svg Crimean Khanate
 Holy Roman Empire
Coat of arms of Transylvania.svg Transylvania
Coa Hungary Country History (14th century).svg Kingdom of Hungary
 Papal States
Walloon and French mercenaries
Polish cavalry[2]
Commanders and leaders
Mehmed III
Damat İbrahim Pasha
Maximilian III
Sigismund Báthory
80,000 – 100,000 men
100 cannons

40,000 – 50,000 men
30–300 cannons[4][5][6]

Holy Roman Empire 14,000
Coa Hungary Country History (14th century).svg 13,000 light cavalry
Coat of arms of Transylvania.svg 10,000
3,000 reiters
Casualties and losses
20,000 – 30,000 12,000 – 30,000

The Battle of Keresztes (Also known as the Battle of Mezőkeresztes) (Turkish: Haçova Muharebesi) took place on 24–26 October 1596. It was fought between a combined Habsburg-Transylvanian force and the Ottoman Empire near the village of Mezőkeresztes (Turkish: Haçova) in northern Hungary. The Ottomans routed the Habsburg-led army but Ottoman casualties were too high for them to pursue.[4]


On 23 June 1596, an Ottoman Army marched from the city of Istanbul. Commanded by Sultan Mehmed III, the army marched through Edirne, Filibe (now known as Plovdiv), Sofia and Niš to arrive at Belgrade on 9 August. On 20 August, the army crossed the River Sava by bridge and entered the Austrian territory of Siren. A war council was called at Slankamen Castle, and it was decided that they would begin a siege on the Hungarian fort of Eger (Erlau). The fort controlled the communication routes between Habsburg Austria and Transylvania, all of whom were in revolt against the Ottoman suzerainty.

However, news soon arrived that the Austrians had besieged and succeeded in taking over the Castle of Hatvan and had killed all the Ottomans housed there, including the women and children. The Ottoman Army started a siege on the fort of Eger on 21 September 1596, and by 12 October the castle had capitulated. As a retaliation to the Hatvan castle massacre, the defenders of this castle were all executed.

Not long after, Ottoman command received the report that a mixed army of Austrians and Transylvanians were 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 thought 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 most realistic troop strength figures seem to be 40,000–50,000 for the Christian and 80,000–100,000 for the Muslim army.[4][6][7] The Christian army had 10,000 Austrians, 4,000 Germans, 3,000 reiters, 13,000 Hungarian light cavalry and 10,000 Transylvanians, plus 15 other European countries for a total of 40,000 men.[8]


The Ottoman army marched through several passageways of marshy terrain and reached Haçova (Turkish meaning: Plain of the Cross), exhausted after a long siege and a hard, long march. The two armies faced each other on the plains of Haçova (Hungarian: Mezőkeresztes). The Austrian-Transylvanian army, under the joint command of Archduke Maximillian III of Austria and prince Sigismund Bathory of Transylvania, was in position in fortified trenches. When the Ottoman army attacked the Austrian trenches, the Battle of Haçova commenced and continued for two days, from 25–26 October 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 fire from muskets and 100 cannon.[4]

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 for the opinion of his tutor, the high cleric Hoca Sadeddin Efendi, Efendi told the Sultan that he should continue the battle till the end. Heeding this advice, Sultan Mehmed III ordered that the battle should continue.[9]

On the second day of the battle, the fighting intensified. Troops from the Austrian army had reached the Sultan's tent, which was surrounded by the viziers and the teachers at the Palace Pages School for protection. While some troops were trying to enter the Sultan's tent, the other 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 retaliated against 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 what seemed like a losing battle on the frontline. 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][4]


The allegory of the battle of Mezőkeresztes, 1603–1604, by Hans von Aachen.

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 Eger (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 the streets of the city would be decorated. 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”


The Christians lost 12,000, 23,000 or 30,000 men, while the Ottomans suffered 20,000–30,000 casualties.[11][4][8][12][13][14]


  1. ^ Henry Smith William, The Historians' History of the World p.439
  2. ^ 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 963-326-337-9
  3. ^ Kissling, Hans Joachim, The last great Muslim empires: history of the Muslim world, (Markus Weiner Publishing, 1969), 35.
  4. ^ a b c d e f A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East, Spencer C. Tucker, 2009, p.547
  5. ^ Attila Weiszhár -Balázs Weiszhár : Csaták kislexikona (Small lexicon of the Battles), Maecenas Publisher 2000. ISBN 963-645-080-3
  6. ^ a b The Encyclopaedia of Islam Vol 6 Mahk-Mid p. 1030
  7. ^ S.J.Shaw(1976) p.185
  8. ^ a b Clodfelter 2017, p. 27.
  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 Ottoman Turkish 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
  11. ^ Ágnes Várkonyi: Age of Reform's, 2004. (Megújulások kora), p.27. p(Hungarian)
  12. ^ Kohn, Dictionary of wars, 47.
  13. ^ Attila Weiszhár-Balázs Weiszhár: Csaták kislexikona, Maecenas Könyvkiadó 2000. ISBN 963-645-080-3
  14. ^ History of Hungary 1526-1686


  • Clodfelter, M. (2017). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492-2015 (4th ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0786474707.
  • George C. Kohn, Dictionary of wars, Infobase Publishing, 2007
  • [1] 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 975-329-299-6. (Turkish)
  • Shaw, Stanford J. [1976] History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Vol.1 Empire of the Gazis, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-29163-1.