Thursday, December 15, 2022

Today in History: Steve and the Crow

The hinterlands of southeastern Europe in the mid-to-late 15th Century weren't likely to get top billing in your Western History class.

This was the time when the Wars of the Roses were popping off in Britain, which hogs the attention of Anglophones and Anglophiles. Meanwhile Henry in Portugal was still hiring navigators, Gutenberg was printing, and Ferdinand and Isabella got hitched to unite their kingdoms preparatory to wrapping up the Reconquista.

Whatever attention I've paid to goings-on in southeastern Europe at the time mostly involved the Ottomans continuing their conquest of the remains of the Byzantine Empire (1461 is when the Empire of Trebizond, the last intact Byzantine rump state, fell.) Oh, and that Dracula guy was doing his thing in the Carpathians.

Anyway, on this date in December of 1467, we had the Battle of Baia.

The King of Hungary, Matthias Corvinus (which means Matthew the Crow) was Dracula's cousin, and he was pissed about the Moldavians claiming a port on the lower Danube which he felt should belong to Hungary. So like any good medieval king, he invaded Moldavia with the intent of stomping them until they gave it back.

Moldavia was run by a Prince (or Voivode as they're called in those parts) known to history as Stephen III the Great. Considering that most voivodes of Moldavia didn't hold the job long enough to be promoted above probationary fry cook in a fast food joint, Steve’s 47-year tenure on the throne probably qualified him for the title of "the Great". Seriously, take Stephen Trey's numbers out of the accounting and the average 15th Century Prince of Moldavia probably had a reign measured in months.

So Stephen rounds up his army and heads out to confront Matt the Crow, who was holed up behind field fortifications in the town of Baia.

Despite being outnumbered, Stephen's forces dismounted and attacked from multiple directions, using torches to set the buildings and fortifications ablaze. The situation devolved into street fighting in the dark, with people hacking each other to bits by the light of the burning town.

Both sides claimed victory and made off with enough loot stripped from the other side's corpses to back their claims to the folks back home, but when all was said and done, the Hungarians left, carrying a wounded Matt the Crow with them. Baia remained Moldavian turf and the Danubian port of Chilia* was still in Moldavian hands until the Ottoman Turks conquered it in 1484.

*The Ottmans briefly lost it to the Russians in 1790, but the Russians had to give it back following a treaty, and then...well, you know how things go in that corner of the world. It's prudent to keep lots of flags in your basement depending on whose tanks are rolling down the street that day.