Siege of Eger (1552)

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Siege of Eger
Part of the Ottoman wars in Europe and Ottoman-Hungarian Wars
Szekely, Bertalan - The Women of Eger - Google Art Project.jpg
Women of Eger Bertalan Székely
Eger, Northern Hungary
Result Hungarian victory
Osmanli-devleti-nisani-yeni.png Ottoman Empire Armoiries Hongrie ancien.svg Hungarian defenders
Commanders and leaders
Osmanli-devleti-nisani-yeni.png Ahmed Pasha
Osmanli-devleti-nisani-yeni.png Hadım Ali Pasha of Buda  [ tr ]
Osmanli-devleti-nisani-yeni.png Sokollu Mehmed Pasha
Armoiries Hongrie ancien.svg István Dobó
Modern estimates 35-40,000 men [1] [2] (Gárdonyi's data: 150,000 and 200,000 [3] is romantic exaggeration) Approx 2,100-2,300 [4]
Casualties and losses
Unknown 300-400 killed
Eger Castle in the 16th century Eger G Hoefnagel.jpg
Eger Castle in the 16th century
Walls of Eger Castle Eger-castle.jpg
Walls of Eger Castle
Siege of Eger Castle Vizkelety Bela Eger var ostroma 1552-ben.jpg
Siege of Eger Castle

The Siege of Eger occurred during the 16th century Ottoman Wars in Europe. In 1552 the forces of the Ottoman Empire led by Kara Ahmed Pasha laid siege to the Castle of Eger, located in the northern part of the Kingdom of Hungary, but the defenders led by István Dobó repelled the attacks and defended the castle. The siege has become an emblem of national defense and patriotic heroism in Hungary.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as Rome (Rûm), and known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was thoroughly Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Kara Ahmed Pasha was an Ottoman statesman of Albanian origin. He was Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire between 1553 and 1555.

István Dobó Baron and soldier from Hungary

Baron István Dobó de Ruszka (c. 1502 - Szerednye was a Hungarian soldier, best known as the successful defender of Eger against the Ottomans in 1552. Dobó was a member of the Hungarian land-owning nobility, with holdings in northern Hungary. In the dynastic succession struggles after the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Dobó was consistently on the side of the Habsburg King Ferdinand I rather than that of John Zápolya.



Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent commenced his expansion of the empire in 1520 after the reign of Selim I. He began assaults against Hungarian- and Austrian- influenced territories, invading Hungarian soil in 1526. The Hungarian army was crushed at the Battle of Mohács and the way was paved for an attack on the Danube Basin. The battle also brought about the death of the King of Hungary and Bohemia, Louis II, leading to a disputed claim for the throne. Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I succeeded to the Bohemian throne but was challenged to the Hungarian throne by the pretender John Zápolya, whose claim was backed by nobles and the Sultan. The power struggle continued beyond John's death in 1540 when his son John II Sigismund Zápolya succeeded to the throne. It was not resolved until he renounced the throne in 1570, when he was succeeded by Maximilian I.

Sultan noble title with several historical meanings

Sultan is a position with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", derived from the verbal noun سلطة sulṭah, meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who claimed almost full sovereignty in practical terms, albeit without claiming the overall caliphate, or to refer to a powerful governor of a province within the caliphate. The adjective form of the word is "sultanic", and the dynasty and lands ruled by a sultan are referred to as a sultanate.

Suleiman the Magnificent Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Suleiman I, commonly known as Suleiman the Magnificent in the West and Kanunî Sultan Süleyman in his realm, was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 until his death in 1566. Under his administration, the Ottoman state ruled over at least 25 million people.

Selim I Ottoman sultan

Selim I , known as Selim the Grim or Selim the Resolute, was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1512 to 1520. His reign is notable for the enormous expansion of the Empire, particularly his conquest between 1516 and 1517 of the entire Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, which included all of the Levant, Hejaz, Tihamah, and Egypt itself. On the eve of his death in 1520, the Ottoman Empire spanned about 576,900 sq mi (1,494,000 km2), having grown by seventy percent during Selim's reign.

The Ottomans met resistance during the Siege of Güns (Kőszeg) in 1532, where a force of 800 men [5] under Nikola Jurišić managed to hold back the Ottoman armies. However, this only delayed their campaign by 25 days, and they continued to close in on Buda, finally occupying the capital in 1541. Buda became the seat of Ottoman rule in the area, with the Ottoman-supported John II governing the occupied territories.

Siege of Güns

The Siege of Kőszeg or Siege of Güns was a siege of Kőszeg in the Kingdom of Hungary within the Habsburg Empire, that took place in 1532. In the siege, the defending forces of the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy under the leadership of Croatian Captain Nikola Jurišić, defended the small border fort of Kőszeg with only 700–800 Croatian soldiers, with no cannons and few guns. The defenders prevented the advance of the Ottoman army of 120,000–200,000 toward Vienna, under the leadership of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha.

Buda Western Historical Part of Budapest

Buda was the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Hungary and since 1873 has been the western part of the Hungarian capital Budapest, on the west bank of the Danube. Buda comprises a third of Budapest’s total territory and is in fact mostly wooded. Landmarks include Buda Castle, the Citadella, and President of Hungary's residence Sándor Palace.

The loss of Christian forts at Temesvár and Szolnok in 1552 were blamed on mercenary soldiers within the Hungarian ranks. [6] When the Turks turned their attention to the northern Hungarian town of Eger in the same year, few expected the defenders to put up much resistance, particularly as the two great armies of the Ottoman lords Ahmed and Ali, which had crushed all opposition previously, united before Eger.

Szolnok City with county rights in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok, Hungary

Szolnok is the county seat of Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county in central Hungary. Its location on the banks of the Tisza river, at the heart of the Great Hungarian Plain, has made it an important cultural and economic crossroads for centuries.

Eger City with county rights in Heves, Hungary

Eger is the county seat of Heves, and the second largest city in Northern Hungary. Eger is best known for its castle, thermal baths, baroque buildings, the northernmost Ottoman minaret, dishes and red wines. Its population according to the census of 2011 makes it the 19th largest centre of population in Hungary. The town is located on the Eger Stream, on the hills of the Bükk Mountains.

Eger was an important stronghold and key to the defense of the remainder of Hungarian soil. North of Eger lay the poorly reinforced city of Kassa (present-day Košice), the center of an important region of mines and associated mints, which provided the Hungarian kingdom with large amounts of quality silver and gold coinage. Besides allowing a takeover of that revenue source, the fall of Eger would also enable the Ottoman Empire to secure an alternate logistic and troop route for further westward military expansion, possibly allowing the Turks to lay sieges to Vienna more frequently.

Košice City in Slovakia

Košice is the largest city in eastern Slovakia. It is situated on the river Hornád at the eastern reaches of the Slovak Ore Mountains, near the border with Hungary. With a population of approximately 240,000 Košice is the second largest city in Slovakia after the capital Bratislava.

Vienna Capital of Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today it is the second largest German-speaking city after Berlin and just before Hamburg. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.


The Castle of Eger is located east of the town on a hillside. Its actual location was not ideal from a military point of view--it overlooks only the southern and western parts of the walled town--but it had the advantage over the Ottoman forces as it provided excellent locations for gun positions. The castle comprised an inner and outer fortress with a gate tower to the southeast and six bastions on the walls: the Earth Bastion and Prison Bastion to the northwest, Sándor Bastion on the north wall, Bolyky Bastion on the northeast corner, Bebek Bastion on the eastern corner of the outer fortress and the Dobó Bastion on the western wall. The Varkoch gate sat on the southern wall of the inner fortress, while a further bastion, Church Bastion, lay at the center of the wall separating the two parts of the fortress.

Town settlement that is bigger than a village but smaller than a city

A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages but smaller than cities, though the criteria to distinguish them vary considerably between different parts of the world.

The fortress of Eger was built on the ruins of an earlier stone fort, which replaced an ancient earthen encampment, possibly erected by the Huns. This made Eger's foundations stronger than usual and greatly hindered the work of Ottoman miners. As was usual during sieges at that time, both the attackers and the defenders tried to dig tunnels under the walls and plant gunpowder charges to either open gaps into the fortress or destroy the attacker's trenches. None of these attempts were successful during the siege of Eger.


Old Hungarian data and Gárdonyi's estimate of the size of the Ottoman Army amount to 150-200,000 men. In reality, the Ottoman army numbered 35-40,000 men from the Rumelian army (and an Anatolian contingent) and the troops of Ahmed Pasha from Buda. [7]

The Ottomans had 16 zarbuzans (very large siege cannons) as well as 150 medium and smaller pieces of artillery and 2000 camels, which proved to be highly useful in the collection and transportation of wood to the site used for the construction of temporary siege platforms. The defenders had six large and about a dozen smaller cannons and about 300 trench guns with ample supplies of ammunition.

Despite the difference in troop numbers, Eger's strong walls and the high morale of its defenders allowed the fortress to withstand five major assaults and continuous cannon fire (excluding the ones stuck in the walls of the stronghold, almost 12,000 cannonballs landed inside the fortress before the siege ended).

The fortress was defended by 2,100-2,300 people, a mixture of professional soldiers, peasants and a few dozen women. The defenders were commanded by István Dobó and his deputy István Mekcsey, who had assumed command in 1549. Among the approximately 1,530 combat-ready personnel there were only a handful of foreign mercenaries: Dobó had hired six cannonmasters from Germany in order to make the most efficient use of Eger's artillery. Another noted officer, famous in Hungarian literature and folklore, was Gergely Bornemissza. He commanded a detachment of 250 Hungarian infantry; however, it was his skill with explosives that was to make this young officer's name. During the siege Bornemissza devised primitive but lethal grenades and powderkeg-sized bombs to use against the attackers as well as a water-mill wheel packed with gunpowder which he rolled into the Ottoman ranks. His secret lay in the gunpowder not simply exploding but sparking even more fire. He loaded these weapons with oil, sulfur and flint in order to shower the enemy with burning missiles.

The Ottomans had expected an easy victory, but the bravery of the castle's defenders, as well as Dobó's inspired leadership, resulted in their repelling repeated Ottoman assaults. Even after the storage tower containing 24 metric tons of black gunpowder exploded and caused extensive structural damage, the invaders still could not find a way into the castle compound. After 39 days of bloody, brutal and intense fighting the Ottoman Army withdrew, beaten and humiliated. The defenders' losses amounted to about one-third of their ranks, including those killed and permanently maimed in combat. Dobó lost both of his squires.

According to modern historical research, several external factors contributed to the defenders' success. There was significant in-fighting between the two Ottoman leaders, Pasha Ali and Pasha Ahmed. Ahmed was the senior and contributed twice as many troops to the united army, but Ali showed more strategic talent and proved his skill in artillery, badly damaging the castle walls with his battery of just four large siege guns. During the siege the Ottoman army ran out of gunpowder and cannonballs (which were carved out of marble) at least twice, limiting Ahmed's use of heavy artillery for a week or more. The end of autumn arrived earlier than usual with heavy rain and freezing nighttime temperatures. Reduced rice rations and allegations of corruption among the officers caused discontent among the Ottoman troops. Despite the failure at Eger, the Ottomans had no reason to lament the campaign of 1552, for they had taken Veszprém, Timișoara, Szolnok and Lipova as well as some 25 Hungarian strongholds. [8]

After the victory Dobó and his officers resigned, in order to protest King Ferdinand's refusal to contribute any material help to the defense. Gergely Bornemissza was appointed to take over command of the fortress. He was later ambushed, captured and hanged by the Ottomans. The fortress of Eger remained defiant of Ottoman attacks until 1596 when 7,000 defenders, mostly foreign mercenaries, capitulated to Ottoman forces personally commanded by the Sultan, Mehmed III. The town remained in Ottoman hands for 91 years.

Eger has become an emblem of national defense, a symbol of patriotic heroism and the superiority of a national army over an unmotivated foreign mercenary force.

In art and literature

Earliest records of the siege were recorded by the chronicler Sebestyén Tinódi Lantos in 1554 who wrote musical verses of the exploits of the people of Eger.

It was not until the 19th century that the siege was seized upon by Hungarian writers as the basis of fictional accounts. The first was the poem Eger by Mihály Vörösmarty in 1827.

The most famous account was by author Géza Gárdonyi who wrote his popular 1899 historical novel Egri csillagok about the events of this period. It chronicles the events leading up to and including the siege and tells the tale of Gergely Bornemissza, as well as Captain Dobó, and his co-commander István Mekcsey. During the 1960s the novel was adapted into a feature-length film, which is still regularly shown on Hungarian television.

Bertalan Székely's painting Az Egri Nők (Women of Eger) depicts the defense of the fortress, especially by the womenfolk, and hangs in the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest.

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  1. László Markó: A Magyar Állam főméltóságai, 1999. ISBN   963-548-961-7
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  5. Çiçek,, Kemal; Ercüment Kuran; Nejat Göyünç; İlber Ortaylı (2000). The Great Ottoman-Turkish Civilisation (3 ed.). University of Michigan: Yeni Türkiye, 2000 Item notes.
  6. Fallon, Steve; Neal Bedford (2003). Hungary (4 ed.). Lonely Planet. p. 331. ISBN   9781740591522.
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  8. The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571, Kenneth Meyer Setton, page 585, 1984