He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting. (Job 39:21-25)
The Mongol invasion of Europe in the 13th century involved the destruction of East Slavic principalities, such as Kiev andVladimir, the invasion of the Kingdom of Hungary (in the Battle of Mohi) and fragmentation of Poland (in the Battle of Legnica). The operations were masterminded by General Subutai and commanded by Batu Khan and Kadan, both grandsons of Genghis Khan. As a result of the successful invasions, many of the conquered territories would become part of the Golden Horde empire.
Historians regard the Mongol raids and invasions as some of the deadliest conflicts in human history up through that period. Brian Landers argues that, "One empire in particular exceeded any that had gone before, and crossed from Asia into Europe in an orgy of violence and destruction. The Mongols brought terror to Europe on a scale not seen again until the twentieth century." Diana Lary contends that the Mongol invasions induced population displacement "on a scale never seen before," particularly in central Asia and eastern Europe. She adds, "the impending arrival of the Mongol hordes spread terror and panic."
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.(Psalms 20:7-8)
Ögedei Khan ordered Batu Khan to conquer Russia in 1235. The main force, headed by Jochi's sons, and their cousins, Möngke Khan and Güyük Khan, arrived at Ryazan in December 1237. Ryazan refused to surrender, and the Mongols sacked it and then stormed Suzdalia. Many Rus' armies were defeated; Grand Prince Yuri was killed on the Sit River (March 4, 1238). Major cities such as Vladimir, Torzhok, and Kozelsk were captured.
Afterward, the Mongols turned their attention to the steppe, crushing the Kypchaks and the Alans and sacking Crimea. Batu reappeared in Russia in 1239, sacking Pereyaslavl and Chernihiv. Most of the Russian princes fled when it became clear resistance was futile. The Mongols sacked Kiev on December 6, 1240 and conquered Galich and Volodymyr-Volynskyi. Batu sent a small detachment to probe the Poles before passing on to Central Europe. One column was routed by the Poles while the other defeated the Polish army and returned.
The Mongols had acquired Chinese gunpowder, which they deployed in battle during the invasion of Europe to great success
The Mongols invaded Central Europe with three armies. One army defeated an alliance which included forces from fragmented Poland and members of various Christian military orders, led by Henry II the Pious, Duke of Silesia in the battle of Legnica. A second army crossed the Carpathian mountains and a third followed the Danube. The armies re-grouped and crushed Hungary in 1241, defeating the Hungarian army at the Battle of Mohi on April 11, 1241. The devastating Mongol invasion killed half of Hungary's then-population. The armies swept the plains of Hungary over the summer and in the spring of 1242, regained impetus and extended their control into Austria and Dalmatia and Moravia. The Great Khan had, however, died in December 1241, and on hearing the news, all the "Princes of the Blood" of Genghis Khan went back to Mongolia to elect the new Khan.
Henry II the Pious who lost his life at the battle of Legnica, 19th-century painting by Jan Matejko.
After sacking Kiev, Batu Khan sent a smaller group of troops to Poland, destroying Lublin and defeating an inferior Polish army. Other elements—not part of the main Mongol force—saw difficulty near the Polish-Galich border. As for Poland, the Mongols were just passing through and the efforts of king Wenceslas amounted to little in Mongol strategic considerations.
The Mongols at Liegnitz display the head of King Henry II of Duchy of Silesia.
The Mongols then reached Polaniec on the Czarna Hańczawhere they set up camp. There, the Voivodeattacked them with the remaining Cracovian knights, which were few in number, but determined to vanquish the invader or die. Surprise gave the Poles an initial advantage and they managed to kill many Mongol soldiers. When the invaders realized the actual numerical weakness of the Poles, they regrouped, broke through the Polish ranks and defeated them. During the fighting, many Polish prisoners of war found ways to escape and hide in the nearby woods. The Polish defeat was partly influenced by the initially successful Polish knights having been distracted by looting.
The attack on Europe was planned and executed by Subutai, who achieved perhaps his most lasting fame with his victories there. Having devastated the various Russian principalities, he sent spies into Poland and Hungary, and as far as eastern Austria, in preparation for an attack into the heartland of Europe. Having a clear picture of the European kingdoms, he prepared an attack nominally commanded by Batu Khan and two other familial-related princes. Batu Khan, son of Jochi, was the overall leader, but Subutai was the strategist and commander in the field, and as such, was present in both the northern and southern campaigns against Russian principalities. He also commanded the central column that moved against Hungary. While Kadan's northern force won the Battle of Legnica and Güyük's army triumphed in Transylvania, Subutai was waiting for them on the Hungarian plain. The newly reunited army then withdrew to the Sajo River where they inflicted a decisive defeat on King Béla IV of Hungary at the Battle of Mohi. Again, Subutai masterminded the operation, and it would prove one of his greatest victories.
Invasion of the Kingdom of Hungary
Further information: Battle of Mohi
The Mongolian army was based upon light cavalry. One of the major light cavalry tactics was to suddenly rush the enemy position. However, if the enemy held or re-formed, light cavalry was insufficient to achieve a victory. Another significant tactic was to feign retreat, in which the light cavalry would attack the enemy and then withdraw, apparently fleeing. The enemy would ideally pursue and become disorganized, leaving themselves open to attack by units hidden in reserve. The light cavalry would then reform and attack the flanks or rear of the enemy forces. In the late 11th century, the majority of the Hungarian army consisted of mounted sergeants (heavy knights) and infantry. The Hungarian allies, some of whom still utilized the light cavalry combat style, included the Cumans, who had settled down in Hungary not long before the Mongol invasion. They were tasked with providing the light cavalry force in the Hungarian army. However, the Hungarians accused the Cumans of being Mongol spies due to Mongolian tactics of using Cuman forces. After a bloody fight, the Hungarians killed Kuthen (the Cuman Leader) and his bodyguards; the remaining Cumans fled to the Balkans. After the Mongol invasion, Béla IV of Hungary recalled the Cumans to Hungary to repopulate settlements devastated by war. The nomadic Cumans subsequently settled throughout theGreat Hungarian Plain. The Cumans were violent against local people and their nomadic lifestyle was hurtful for the Hungarian peasants but the king favoured the Cumans.
Around 1241, the Kingdom of Hungary was much like any other feudal kingdom of Europe: although the throne was still inherited by Árpád's successors, the king's authority and power was greatly curtailed. Rich magnates cared less about the national security of the whole kingdom than about petty feudal quarrels with their fellow landlords. The Golden Bull of 1222 issued by King Andrew II authorized magnates to rebel against the king in some circumstances, and made him only 'primus inter pares'—first among equals. Béla IV tried to restore the king's former authority and power, without much success.
The Hungarians had first learned about the Mongol threat in 1229, when King Andrew granted asylum to some fleeing Russianboyars. Some Magyars, left behind during the main migration to the Pannonian basin, still lived on the banks of the upper Volga (It is believed by some that the descendants of this group are the modern-day Bashkirs, although this people now speaks a Turkiclanguage, not Magyar.). In 1237 a Dominican friar, Julianus, set off on an expedition to lead them back, and was sent back to King Béla with a letter from Batu Khan. In this letter, Khan called upon the Hungarian king to surrender his kingdom unconditionally to the Tatar forces or face complete destruction. Béla did not reply, and two more messages were later delivered to Hungary. The first, in 1239, was sent by the defeated Cuman tribes, who asked for and received asylum in Hungary. The second was sent in February 1241 by the defeated Polish princes.
Only then did King Béla call upon his magnates to join his army in defense of the country. He also asked the papacy and the Western European rulers for help. Foreign help came in the form of a small knight-detachment under the leadership of Frederick, Prince of Austria, but it was too small to change the outcome of the campaign. The majority of the Hungarian magnates also did not realize the urgency of the matter. Some may have hoped that a defeat of the royal army would force Béla to discontinue his centralization efforts and thus strengthen their own power.
Although the Mongol danger was real and imminent, Hungary was not prepared to deal with it; in the minds of a people who had lived free from nomadic invasions for the last few hundred years, an invasion seemed impossible, and Hungary was no longer a predominantly soldier population. Only rich nobles were trained as heavy-armored cavalry. The Hungarians had long since forgotten the light-cavalry strategy and tactics of their ancestors, which were similar to those now used by the Mongols, as well as by their predecessors, the Huns.
The Hungarian army (some 60,000 on the eve of the Battle of Mohi) was made up of individual knights with tactical knowledge, discipline, and talented commanders. Because his army was not experienced in nomadic warfare, King Béla welcomed the Cuman King Kuthen (also known as Kotony) and his fighters. However, the Cuman invitation proved detrimental as Batu Khan justified his invasion of Hungary as Béla giving asylum to the Cumans, a group Batu Khan regarded as rebels and traitors to the Mongol Empire. After rumors began to circulate in Hungary that the Cumans were agents of the Mongols, some hot-headed Hungarians attacked the Cuman camp and killed Kotony. This led the enraged Cumans to ride south, looting, ravaging the countryside, and slaughtering the unsuspecting Magyar population. The Austrian troops retreated to Austria shortly thereafter to "enlist more Western help." The Hungarians now stood alone in the defense of their country.
Battle of Mohi in a Medieval-era depiction
The Hungarian army arrived and encamped at the Hernád riveron April 10, 1241 without having been directly challenged by the Mongols. The Mongols began their attack the next night; quickly it was clear the Hungarians were lost. While the king escaped with the help of his bodyguard, the remaining Hungarian army was mercilessly killed by the Mongols or drowned in the river as they attempted escape. The Mongols now systematically occupied the Great Hungarian Plains, the slopes of the northern Carpathian Mountains, and Transylvania. Where they found local resistance, they ruthlessly killed the population. Where the locale offered no resistance, they forced the men into servitude in the Mongol army. Still, tens of thousands avoided Mongol domination by taking refuge behind the walls of the few existingfortresses or by hiding in the forests or large marshes along the rivers. The Mongols, instead of leaving the defenseless and helpless people and continuing their campaign through Pannonia to Western Europe, spent the entire summer and fall securing and pacifying the occupied territories. Then during the winter, contrary to the traditional strategy of nomadic armies which started campaigns only in spring-time, they crossed the Danube and continued their systematic occupation, including Pannonia. They eventually reached the Austrian borders and the Adriatic shores in Dalmatia. The Mongols appointed a darughachi in Hungary and minted coins in the name of Khagan.According to Michael Prawdin, the country of Béla was assigned to Orda by Batu as an appanage. At least 20%-40% of the population died, by slaughter or epidemic. Rogerius of Apulia, an Italian monk and chronicler who witnessed and survived the invasion, pointed out not only the genocidal element of the occupation, but also that the Mongols especially "found pleasure" in humiliating local women. But while the Mongols claimed control of Hungary, they could not occupy fortified cities such as Fehérvár, Esztergom, Veszprém, Tihany, Győr, Pannonhalma,Moson, Sopron, Vasvár, Újhely, Zala, Léka, Pozsony, Nyitra, Komárom, Fülek and Abaújvár. Learning from this lesson, fortresses came to play a significant role in Hungary. King Béla IV rebuilt the country and invested in fortifications. Facing a shortage of money, he welcomed the settlement of Jewish families, investors, and tradesmen, granting them citizenship rights. The King also welcomed tens of thousands of Kun (Cumans) who had fled the country before the invasion. Chinese fire arrows were deployed by Mongols against Buda in December 25, 1241, which they overran.
During the spring of 1242, Ögedei Khan died at the age of fifty-six after a binge of drinking during a hunting trip. Batu Khan, who was one of the contenders to the imperial throne, returned at once with his armies to Asia, leaving the whole of Eastern Europe depopulated and in ruins (before withdrawal, Batu Khan ordered wholesale execution of prisoners). But because of his withdrawal, Western Europe escaped unscathed.
Some Hungarian historiansclaim that Hungary's long resistance against the Mongols actually saved Western Europe, though many Western European historians reject this interpretationThey point out that the Mongols evacuated Hungary of their own free will, and that Western Europe avoided Mongol attacks due to the sudden death of Ögedei Khan, not by the endeavor of the Hungarians. Other European and American historians have questioned whether the Mongols would have been able to, or even wished to, continue their invasion into Europe west of the Hungarian plain at all,given the logistical situation in Europe and their need to keep large number of horses in the field to retain their strategic mobility.
The Mongolian invasion taught the Magyars a simple lesson: although the Mongols had destroyed the countryside, the forts and fortified cities had survived. To improve their defense capabilities for the future, they had to build forts, not only on the borders but also inside the country. During the remaining decades of the 13th century and throughout the 14th century, the kings donated more and more royal land to the magnates with the condition that they build forts and ensure their defenses.
Invasion of the Kingdom of Croatia
At Klis Fortress the Mongols experienced defeat in 1242.
During the Middle Ages, the Kingdom of Croatia was in a personal union with the Kingdom of Hungary, with Béla IV as a king.
When routed on the banks of the Sajo River in 1241 by the Mongols, Béla IV fled to today's Zagreb in Croatia. Batu sent a few tumens (roughly 20,000 men at arms) under Khadan in pursuit of Bela. The major objective was not the conquest but the capture of the Arpad king. The poorly fortified Zagreb was unable to resist the invasion and was destroyed, its cathedral burned by Mongols.In preparation for a second invasion,Gradec was granted a royal charter or Golden Bull of 1242 by King Béla IV, after which citizens of Zagreb engaged in building defensive walls and towers around their settlement.
The Mongols' pursuit of Béla IV continued from Zagreb through Pannonia to Dalmatia. While in pursuit, the Mongols under the leadership ofKadan (Qadan) suffered a major defeat at Klis Fortress in Croatia in March 1242.The Mongols pursued Béla IV from town to town in Dalmatia, while Croatian nobility and Dalmatian towns such as Trogir and Rab helped Béla IV to escape. After their defeat against the Croatian soldiers, the Mongols retreated and Béla IV was awarded Croatian towns and nobility. Only the city of Split did not aid Béla IV in his escape from the Mongols. Some historians claim that the mountainous terrain of Croatian Dalmatia was fatal for the Mongols because of the great losses they suffered from Croat ambushes set up in mountain passes. Most historians claim that the death of Ögedei Khan (Croatian: Ogotaj) was the primary reason for retreat. In any case, though much of Croatia was plundered and destroyed, long-term occupation was unsuccessful.
Saint Margaret (January 27, 1242 – January 18, 1271), a daughter of Béla IV and Maria Laskarina, was born in Klis Fortress during the Mongol invasion of Hungary-Croatia in 1242.
Impact on Romanian principalities
The 1241 Mongol invasion first affected Moldavia and Wallachia (situated east of the Carpathians). Tens of thousands of Wallachians and Moldavians lost their lives defending their territories from the Golden Horde. Crops and goods plundered from Wallachian settlements seem to have been a primary supply source for the Golden Horde. The invaders killed up to half of the population and burned down most of their settlements, thus destroying much of the cultural and economic records from that period. Neither Wallachians nor the army of Hungary offered much resistance against the Mongols.The swiftness of the invasion took many by surprise and forced them to retreat and hide in forests and the enclosed valleys of the Carpathians. In the end, however, the main target of the invasion was the Kingdom of Hungary.
European tactics against Mongols
The traditional European method of warfare of melee combat between knights ended in catastrophe when it was deployed against the Mongol forces as the Mongols were able to keep a distance and advance with superior number. The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 29 says that "Employed against the Mongol invaders of Europe, knightly warfare failed even more disastrously for the Poles at Legnica and the Hungarians at Mohi in 1241. Feudal Europe was saved from sharing the fate of China and Muscovy not by its tactical prowess but by the unexpected death of the Mongols' supreme ruler, Ögedei, and the subsequent eastward retreat of his armies."
The Mongols destroyed an army of Germans, French, and Poles numbering 30,000 at the Battle of Legnica, slaughtering nearly 25,000. After that, other German cities quickly capitulated.
Mongol diffusion of Chinese gunpowder to Europe
Several sources mention Chinese firearms and gunpowder weapons being deployed by the Mongols against European forces at the Battle of Mohi in various forms, including bombs hurled via catapult.Professor Kenneth Warren Chase credits the Mongols for introducing into Europe gunpowder and its associated weaponry.
A later fabricated legend arose in Europe about a nonexistent Berthold Schwarz who consorted with Satan, claimed that he invented the gun, whilst it was the Mongols who spread it to Europe in reality.
End of the Mongol advance
But Asia too was marching against the West. At one moment it had seemed as if all Europe would succumb to a terrible menace looming up from the East. Heathen Mongol hordes from the heart of Asia, formidable horsemen armed with bows, had rapidly swept over Russia, Poland, Hungary, and in 1241 inflicted simultaneous crushing defeats upon the Germans near Breslau and upon European cavalry near Buda. Germany and Austria at least lay at their mercy. Providentially in this year the Great Khan died in Mongolia; the Mongol leaders hastened back the thousands of miles to Karakorum, their capital, to elect his successor, and Western Europe escaped.