Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Teutonic Order in Hungary and Transylvania


A more detaled map of Burzenland, with exact places where Teutonic Order's strongholds and towns were established (and the list of their names). During their relatively short presence in Burzenland (just 15 years), the Teutonic Order managed to establish 27 towns and strongholds:

The Teutonic Order already had experience of operating on another frontier within the non-Christian world, having served in early 13th-century Hungary. At this time Hungary was a rapidly evolving military state, with Magyar tribal armies who had created the state in the 10th century supported by nomadic or semi-nomadic refugees from the Eurasian steppes. But Hungarian kings also encouraged 'Westerners' to settle, to bolster the feudal army that they were creating. Since the mid-12th century Germans had also been encouraged to colonize south-eastern Transylvania, a rather primitive and almost autonomous region in what is now eastern Hungary and western Rumania.

Quite who inhabited Transylvania when King Andrew II of Hungary invited in the Teutonic Knights is still a matter of heated and all too often nationalistic debate. The normal Rumanian view is that the Vlachs, Latin-Rumanian speaking ancestors of the Wallachians and others, had been there since Roman times. Others maintain that the Vlachs migrated from farther south to live alongside Magyar-Hungarians, German settlers and others. Meanwhile, the population of neighbouring Wallachia was remarkably mixed during this period, consisting of Vlachs, Slavs and Turks, both Pecheneg and Kipchaq. Between Transylvania and Wallachia rose the Carpathian Mountains which are, even today, amongst the wildest and least developed parts of Europe. Until the area was overrun by the Mongols in 1241, the politically and militarily dominant Kipchaq Turks - known to most medieval Europeans as Cumans - lived amongst Vlachs, who were tribally organized and almost as nomadic but largely Orthodox Christian. Christianity was also spreading amongst the Kipchaqs.

The Teutonic Knights arrived in this racially and religiously diverse Transylvania only seven years after the Fourth Crusade (1201-04) had conquered the Byzantine capital of Constantinople in 1204, raising hopes that a 'Latin' or Catholic 'Empire of Romania' (not to be confused with the modern state of Rumania) could be established in its stead. Perhaps King Andrew saw this volatile situation as an opportunity to back the still relatively minor Teutonic Order in preference to the wealthy and powerful Templars and Hospitallers. Having been invited into the small but strategically sensitive Burzenland or Terra Borza, the Teutonic Knights were encouraged to take control of the mountain passes and establish some sense of authority. Unfortunately, the Teutonic Knights exceeded their jurisdiction by erecting stone rather than timber fortifications. This action implied a more permanent military presence, a threatening prospect to King Andrew who was also facing resistance from a powerful group of his own barons. In 1225 he expelled the Teutonic Knights and although the German Order felt that it had been ill-used, it had learned that to establish a territorial powerbase of its own it needed new territory which it had conquered for the Church and itself.

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