George Castriota Scanderbeg book

The resistance to Islamic expansion into Europe led by George Castriota Scanderbeg from 1443 to 1468 was one of the most remarkable military achievements of the fifteenth century. Despite this, General James Wolfe, hero of the French and Indian War, commented: “There is an abundance of military knowledge to be picked out of the lives of Gustav Adolphus and Charles XII, King of Sweden, and of Zisca the Bohemian; and if a tolerable account could be got of the exploits of Scanderbeg, it would be inestimable; for he excels all the officers, ancient and modern, in the conduct of a small defensive army. I met with him in the Turkish History, but nowhere else.” Wolfe’s remark about Scanderbeg recognizes the historical importance of the Albanian struggle against the Ottomans in the fifteenth century. Since his complaint over two and a half centuries ago that he could only find mention of Scanderbeg in Richard Knolles’ The Generall Historie of the Turkes, there has been much literature, in many languages, written on the subject.
The resistance led by Scanderbeg has often been viewed as an almost miraculous feat. Writing of Scanderbeg in 1905, William J. Armstrong said, “the exploits even of the renowned paladins of the crusades, whether Godfrey or Tancred or Richard or Raymond, pale to insignificance by similar comparison. Only the legendary feats of King Arthur and his knights, or of the Guardsmen of Dumas suggest a parallel of wondrous achievement.” Though not all writers have accorded to Scanderbeg the same type of mythical glorification bestowed upon him by Armstrong, historians have generally portrayed him as a Christian hero par excellence. There have even been efforts to canonize him. He has retained an image similar to Saint George or the Archangel Michael, a militant fighter for Christendom, a leader of a holy crusade against the Turkish Infidels.
To commemorate the 500th anniversary of Scanderbeg’s death in 1968, Pope Paul VI declared: “This Holy See is pleased to join in the praise of this man of great nobility, a faithful son of the Church and a son whom sovereign pontiffs before us have praised possibly more glowingly than any other man of his time. For twenty-five years, he saved his country from the assault of enemies. He defended his country threatened by the greatest danger, at the head of an army which the rampart and defense of Christianity.”
The image of Scanderbeg took on an additional aspect as Albanian historiography developed along with the national movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Scanderbeg assumed the role of a national hero. The Albanian Orthodox Bishop and historian Fan Noli clearly expressed this sentiment, writing: “In 1912 Ismail Kemal raised the flag of Scanderbeg in Valona when he declared Albanian independence. Scanderbeg was our inspiration in those first arduous years during the birth pangs and growing pains of Albania. He has inspired our poets, historians, and sculptors. And he still inspires us. Sometimes I wonder whether there is any other living man who is alive today as he is!”
Yet to understand the man and the movement he led it is necessary to go beyond the constraints of nationalism and religious or political ideology. It is essential not only to understand the external factors affecting the Albanian resistance, namely Ottoman and Venetian imperialism, but to analyze its internal dynamics as well. To do this, it must be considered in light of the political, social, and economic crisis which occurred throughout Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as Islam encroached upon Europe and the peoples of southeastern Europe bore the brunt of the struggle to defend Christianity. Only in this way can the historical significance of Scanderbeg’s accomplishments be fully appreciated, and the successes and failures of the Albanian resistance understood. As the 550th anniversary of the death of the great hero approaches in 2018 a new study coming from Histria Books takes a fresh look at the remarkable achievements of George Castriota Scanderbeg and the Albanian people in defending Western Civilization.

17 November 1476, Târgoviște

Cârstian, pârcălab [governor] of Târgoviște, to the officials of Brașov.

To you my beloved friends, I give news that the fortress of Bucharest was won this past Saturday [16 November]. Therefore, I ask you to give praise to the Almighty God with organs, songs, and bells, as we have done in our country which is also yours. And you must know that the boyars of all the country have sworn allegiance to Vlad vodă [Dracula]. Also, I ask you to send to us two carpenters, and each of them must have three apprentices who can help them. And they will be given a sum of money and they will be treated well with food and drink; as a matter of fact, they will come only to Târgoviște to build a house. I have written this letter at the request of Vlad vodă and all of you must trust the messenger who brings this letter. Written at Târgoviște, the Sunday after this victory, in the year of our Lord 1476.

Cârstian, pârcălab [governor] of Târgoviște. Your faithful servant in all.

Source: Ioan Bogdan, ed., Documente privitoare la relațiile Țării Românești cu Brașovul și cu Țara Ungurească în sec. XV și XVI (București, 1905), pp. 357-358.



11 February 1462, Giurgiu

Vlad Dracula, prince of Wallachia, to Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary

Your Royal Highness and our most gracious Lord. In another letter, I wrote to Your Majesty how the Turks, the cruelest enemies of the Cross of Christ, have sent their highest-ranking messengers to convince us not to keep the peace and the agreements that we made with Your Majesty, and not to celebrate the wedding [Vlad had agreed to marry a relative of Matthias Corvinus], and to join with them alone and to go to the Porte of the Turkish Sultan, that is to say to his Court. And if we fail to give up the peace, the agreements, and the wedding with Your Majesty, the Turks will not keep the peace with us either. They also sent an important advisor of the Turkish Sultan, named Hamza-beg of Nicopolis, to settle border questions at the Danube, but with the intent that, if that Hamza-beg could bring us, by using tricks or promises, or some other means, to the Porte, fine, but if he could not, he was to capture us and bring us there. But, by the grace of God, while we were going to that border, we found out about their deceit, and trickery, and it was us who captured that Hamza-beg, in the Land and in the Turkish Country, near the fortress that is called Giurgiu; the Turks opened the gates of the fortress at the shouts of our men, thinking that only their men would get inside, but ours, mixing together with them, entered and conquered the fortress, which we burned down immediately. And we killed the men and women, old and young, who lived in the area of Oblucița and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea, to Rahova, which is near Chilia, down to the villages of Samovit and Ghigen [the Bulgarian Ghighiul], 23,884 Turks and Bulgarians in all, not including those who were burned in their houses and whose heads were not presented to our officials. Your Majesty should know that we have done all we could, for the time being, to harm those who kept urging us to leave the Christians and to take their side. Therefore, Your Majesty should know that we have broken our peace with them, not for our own benefit, but for the honor of Your Majesty and the Holy Crown of Your Majesty, and for the preservation of Christianity and the strengthening of the Catholic faith. Seeing what we did to them, they left the quarrels and fights they had up to now in other places, including the country and Holy Crown of Your Majesty, as well as all other places, and they threw all of their strength against us. When the weather permits, that is to say in the spring, they will come with evil intentions and with all their power. But they have no crossing points, because we burned all of them, except for Vidin, and destroyed them, and made them barren. Because they cannot harm us too much at the crossing point at Vidin, they should want to bring their ships from Constantinople and Galipoli, across the sea, to the Danube. Therefore, Your Majesty, gracious lord, if it is Your Majesty’s desire to fight against them, then gather all of your country and all of the fighting men, both cavalry and infantry, and bring them to our Wallachia, and be so kind as to fight against them [the Turks] here. But Your Majesty, if you don’t want to come yourself, then please send your whole army to Your Majesty’s Transylvanian lands, beginning with St. George’s Day [23 April]. If Your Majesty does not want to give your whole army, then send only what you desire, at least from Transylvania and the Saxons. But, if Your Majesty wants to give us assistance, then please do not delay, but tell us truly the thoughts of Your Majesty. Our man, who brings you this letter, this time do not detain him, please, Your Majesty, but send him back to me soon and quickly. Because by no means do we want to leave unfinished what we began, but to follow this through to the end. Because we will not flee before their savagery, but by all of the Christians, and if he will kindly lend his ear to the prayers of his poor subjects and grants us victory over the Infidels, the enemies of the Cross of Christ, it will be the greatest honor, benefit, and spiritual help for Your Majesty, the Holy Crown of Your Majesty, and for all true Christians. Because we will not flee before their savagery, but by all means we will fight with them. And if, God forbid, it ends badly for us, and our little country is lost, Your Majesty will not benefit from this either, because it will be a loss for all Christianity. And so, you must believe what our man, Radu Farma, will tell you, just as if we were speaking directly to Your Majesty. From the fortress of Giurgiu, 11 February 1462.

[There follows a list of the places and number of people killed in Dracula’s attack against the Turks during the winter of 1461-1462]

First, in the places called Oblucița and Novoselo there were killed 1,350; and 6,840 at Dârstor, Cartal, and Dridopotrom (?); likewise, 343 at Orșova, and 840 were killed at Vectrem (?); 630 were killed at Turtucaia; likewise, 210 were killed at Marotin; 6,414 were killed at Giurgiu on both sides of the river, and the fortress on the Danube was conquered and taken. The commander of the fortress [the subasha] was killed, and Hamza-beg was captured there, and the commander of Nicopolis, the son of Firuz-beg, was also captured and beheaded; and of the Turks stationed at Nicopolis, all of the most important were killed with him. Likewise, 384 were killed at Turnu, Batin, and Novigrad; at Siștov and in two other villages near it 410 were killed; likewise, the crossing point at Nicopolis was burned and completely destroyed, the same at Samnovit; and at Ghighen 1,138 were killed; at Rahova 1,460 were killed, and, likewise, the crossing point was completely burned, and Neagoe was appointed captain there by Prince Vlad. Likewise, at the above places where there were crossing points, they were burned and destroyed, the people, men, women, children, and babies were all killed, and in all these places nothing remained. And in the above are included only those whose heads or signs were brought to our officials who were everywhere; but those who were not presented to them, or who were burned in their houses, could not be counted, because there were so many.

Source: Nicolae Iorga, Scrisori de boieri, scrisori de domni, 2nd ed. (Vălenii-de-Munte, 1925), pp. 166-170; and Ioan Bogdan, Vlad Țepeș și narațiunile germane și rusești asupra lui (București, 1896), pp. 76-82.

8 November 1476, Târgoviște

Vlad Dracula, Prince of Wallachia, to the officials of Brașov.

I Vlad, voievod and Prince. My Majesty writes to my faithful and good, sweet, and honest friends of My Majesty to the county and the councilors of Brașov. Herewith I give you news that I have overthrown our foe Laiotă, who fled to the Turks. Thus, God has given you a free path. Come with bread and goods, and you will eat, now that God has given us a single country. And all that the servant of My Majesty, jupan [Lord] Ratundul, tells you, you must believe, as they are the true words of My Majesty. They are no different. Written on 8 November at Târgoviște.

Source: Ioan Bogdan, ed., Documente privitoare la relațiile Țării Românești cu Brașovul și cu Țara Ungurească în sec. XV și XVI (București, 1905), pp. 97-98.

10 September 1456, Târgoviște

Vlad Dracula, prince of Wallachia, to the officials of Brașov.

You brethren, friends, and neighbors who are truly loved. Herewith we let you know, as we did before, that a messenger from the Turks has now come to us. You should understand well and keep in mind our former agreements for brotherhood and peace; what we said at that time, now and always from the depth of our heart, we will adhere to. As we do our best and work hard on our behalf, even more so we want to work hard on your behalf. Now the time and the appointed hour about which we spoke before has arrived: the Turks intend to put great burdens, almost impossible to bear, upon our shoulders, forcing us to bow down before them. It is not for us or ours that they put such a great burden, but for you and yours; the Turks do this to humiliate us. As far as we ourselves are concerned, we could have made peace, but on account of you and yours we cannot make pace with the Turks because they wish to pass through our country to attack and plunder you; in addition, they force us to work against the Catholic faith and against you. But our strong desire is never to do anything bad against you and we will never be separated from you willingly, as we have told you, as we are sworn to be your faithful brothers and friends. This is why we have retained the Turkish messenger until you receive this news. You can judge for yourselves that when a man or a Prince is strong and powerful, he can make peace as he wants to; but when he is weak, a stronger one will come and do what wants to him. This is why, herewith, we ask all of you, with sincerity, that when you read this, immediately send, for our good and for yours, without hesitation, 200 or 100 or 50 chosen men to help us by next Sunday. When the Turks see the power of the Hungarians they will be softer and we will tell them that more men will come. And thus, we will be able to arrange our affairs and yours in a good manner, until we receive orders from his majesty, the King. As I have told you, for your and our well-being and defense, hurry as quickly as you can because, we swear before God, that we are thinking more of your welfare and security than of ours. And you should think about what we and ours deserve in fairness and in honor, as there may be some people who think badly of us and who are working against is [referring to exiles, especially Dan, brother of Vladislav II, who was plotting against Dracula]. You should be enemies of such men, as we are toward your enemies; do to them what we are now doing for you. Târgoviște, the Friday after St. Mary’s Day [10 September], in the year of our Lord 1456.

Vlad, prince of Wallachia, and ruler of Făgăraș.

Your brother and friend in all.

Source: Nicolae Iorga, Scrisori de boieri, scrisori de domni, 2nd ed. (Vălenii-de-Munte, 1925), pp. 164-165.

31 October 1448, Târgoviște

Vlad Dracula, prince of Wallachia, to the officials of Brașov.

We give you news that Mr. Nicolae from Ocna of Sibiu writes to us and asks us to be so kind as to come to him until John [Hunyadi], the Royal Governor of Hungary, returns from the war. We are unable to do this because an emissary from Nicopolis came to us this past Tuesday [29 October] and said with great certainty that Murad, the Turkish Sultan, made war for three days against John [Hunyadi] the Governor, and that on the last day he [Hunyadi] formed a circle with his caravan, then the Sultan himself went down among the janissaries and they attacked this caravan, broke through the lines, and defeated and killed them. If we come now to him, the Turks could come and kill both you and us. Therefore, we ask you to have patience until we see what has happened to John [Hunyadi]. We don’t even know if he is alive. If he returns from the war, we will meet him and we will make peace with him. But if you will be our enemies now, and if something happens, you will have sinned and you will have to answer for it before God. Written at Târgoviște the day before All Saints’ Day [31 October] in the year of our Lord 1448.

Vlad, voievod of Wallachia, your brother in all.

To the officials of Brașov, our most loved brothers and friends.


Source: Nicolae Iorga, Scrisori de boieri, scrisori de domni, 3rd ed. (Vălenii-de-Munte, 1931), pp. 160-161. Iorga mistakenly attributes this letter to Vladislav II.

20 September 1459 (6968), Bucharest

Vlad III Dracula, prince of Wallachia grants Andrei and his sons lands in Poiana of Stev and in Ponor, exempting them from taxes and special services. This is the first document known to have been issued in Bucharest.

By the grace of God, I Vlad, voievod and prince, son of the great Vlad voievod, ruler and lord of all Wallachia, and of Amlaș and Făgăraș, by my grace, willingly, with a pure hart, I have granted this most beautiful and honest gift, this deed by my authority, to Andrei and his sons to have as theirs Poiana of Stev, and of Iova, and of Drag, and of…, and to have the third of Ponor which used to belong to Sipin, and the third of Ponor and the estate of Petre of Ponor because they brought the third from Petre for 12 florins. And they gave to my court a horse.

And if one of them will die, the land will remain with the others, without any taxes. And again, to Andrei and his children over a fourth of Ponor.

All of this is to be their land and to be inherited by their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, without any taxes such as for sheep, pigs, water, and wine, or any special services, such as cutting hay, trees, etc., that is to say all services great and small. And no one should dare cause any trouble for them, no clerk or tax collector, and none of the boyars or servants of my realm, because whoever dares to harm them will be severely punished.

In addition, after my death, whoever the Lord god grants the throne of Wallachia, whether it be one of my sons or relatives, or for our sins, one of another family, if he will strengthen , protect, and renew this deed of mine, may God grant him His support; but if he will not renew and strengthen it and ruins and destroys it, let God destroy and kill him, in body in this world, and in spirit in the hereafter he will be in the company of Judas and of Cain, and of all the others to whom it was said: his blood be on them and on their children as it is and will be, forever and ever, Amen.

Witnesses: jupan Dragomir Țacal, jupan Voico Dobrița, jupan Stan vornic, jupan Stepan Turcul, jupan Oprea, jupan… and Bratul from Milcov, and Moldovean spătar, and Iova vistier, and …spătar, and Tocsaba stolnic, Stoica paharnic, Gherghina comis…

Written in the fortress of Bucharest on 20 September 1459 (6968).

I Vlad voievod, by the grace of God, Prince.

Source: Documenta Romaniae Historica, B. Țara Românească, Volumul I (1247-1500). București: Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1966. Doc. 118, pp. 203-204.

1 April 1551 (7059), Bucharest

Mircea Ciobanul, Prince of Wallachia, confirms possession of the villages of Glodul and Hințea to the monastery of Govora (extract).

…In the time of Vlad voievod Țepeș there was a boyar called Albul cel Mare who took the above-mentioned villages [Glodul and Hințea] by force, and also devastated the holy monastery [Govora]. It remained so devastated until the time when the Lord God gave the throne to my father Radu voievod cel Bun, the son of Vlad voievod Călugarul [the document later describes the gifts bestowed to the monastery of Govora by Radu cel Bun]. In the days of Vlad voievod Țepeș, this boyar, Albul cel Mare, tried to take the throne from him, but Vlad voievod went with his army against him and caught him, together with his whole family. When Vlad Voievod saw the holy monastery devastated, he granted these villages, Glodul and Hințea, to it…

Source: Documente privind istoria României, veacul XVI, B. Țara Românească, vol. III (1551-1570). București: Editura Academiei Republicii Populare Române, 1952, p. 4.

7 October 1476 (6985), Brașov

Vlad Dracula to the officials of Brașov.

With faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I Vlad voievod, by the grace of God, Prince of all Wallachia, My Majesty gives this order to the honest, faithful, and good friends of My Majesty, to the county, to the twelve councilors, and to all other citizens of the great fortress of Brașov, and to all of my good friends in all of Bârsa County, great and small: that they should benefit according to the old settlement, as it was in earlier days, in the time of the great Mircea voievod, until the days of My Majesty’s father, the great Vlad voievod, and then also during my reign. In the same manner, My Majesty orders that from now on things will be according to the old settlement; that from now on the scale that was will no longer be in my country, but every man will be free and able to trade, to buy, and to sell without a scale. And again, regarding wax, My Majesty has allowed people to be free to buy in all the markets, regions, and places in my country, as it was in the old agreement, as well as during my reign, so it will be henceforth, as long as My Majesty is alive, they will be free to buy all that they need and want. And again, with regard to customs, as it was in the old settlement, and in the days of my former reign, so it will be now and henceforth, in the markets in my country, and in the customs houses in the countryside: they will pay fair customs, as they paid in the beginning and in the days of my reign, and no one should ever dare to establish higher customs taxes, neither the governors in the cities, nor the vornics [administrative officials for domestic affairs], nor the customs officials in the cities, or in the customs houses in the countryside, or at the Danube, nor anyone else among My Majesty’s high officials and servants. If anyone should not respect the old settlement and would take more than what is written in this decree of My Majesty, they will receive the wrath of My Majesty. It cannot be different, according to the order of My Majesty. Written on 7 October, in the great fortress of Brașov, in the year 1476 (6985).

Source: Ioan Bogdan, ed., Documente privitoare la relațiile Țării Românești cu Brașovul și cu Țara Ungurească în sec. XV și XVI (București, 1905), pp. 95-97.