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An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 2
by Ian Heath


From the mid-14th century onwards many figures of this general appearance, both cavalry and infantry, are to be found in Italian pictures, since it was from that time (1348) that Hungarian armies and individual Hungarian mercenaries began to appear in large numbers in Italy. This particular figure, based on several different frescoes, is fairly certainly a Szekler since we know that of the 3 levels of military service owed by the Szekler community the lowest called for the service of light-armed infantry. Alternatively he may be a jobádgy, i.e. the holder of a 'serf-lot', many of whom were so impoverished by the late-14th/early-15th century that they performed their requisite military service on foot. He wears a cap virtually identical to that of 86, plus quilted body-armour that tallies closely with a description given by Villani of Hungarian troops campaigning in North Italy in 1356, where he says their armour generally comprised farsetti (short, padded leather corselets) which they seemingly wore 2 or 3 at a time; certainly the figure depicted here wears 2. 89a and b show 2 versions of a variant type of Hungarian cap that frequently appears in Italian pictures of the 1350s-1360s.

His arms comprise a sabre and a large composite bow, the characteristic weapons of a jobbágy. Bertrandon de la Brocquiere reported that Hungarians, Austrians and Bohemians all used bows 'like those of the Turks, but not so good nor so strong; and they do not use them so well as they [the Turks] do. The Hungarians pull the string with 3 fingers, and the Turks with the thumb and ring.'
[Based on the Guard House Frescos, Sabbionara Castle at Avio, Trentino, North-Eastern Italy, c.1340]

Next: 90. HUNGARIAN FOOT-SOLDIER c. 1380 in Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 2 by Ian Heath

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