Michael the Brave
Michael the Brave (Romanian: Mihai Viteazu(l) pronounced [miˈhaj
viˈte̯azu(l)] or Mihai Bravu pronounced [miˈhaj ˈbravu],
Hungarian: Vitéz Mihály; 1558 – 9 August 1601) was the Prince of
Wallachia (as Michael II, 1593–1601), Prince of
Moldavia (1600) and
de facto ruler of
Transylvania (1599–1600). He is considered one of
Romania's greatest national heroes, and he is seen by Romanian
historiography as the first author of Romanian unity.
His rule over
Wallachia began in the autumn of 1593. Two years later,
war with the Ottomans began, a conflict in which the Prince fought the
Battle of Călugăreni, considered one of the most important battles
of his reign. Although the Wallachians emerged victorious from the
battle, Michael was forced to retreat with his troops and wait for aid
from his allies, Prince
Sigismund Báthory of
Transylvania and Holy
Roman Emperor Rudolf II. The war continued until a peace finally
emerged in January 1597, but this lasted for only a year and a half.
Peace was again reached in late 1599, when Michael was unable to
continue the war due to lack of support from his allies.
In 1599, Michael won the
Battle of Șelimbăr
Battle of Șelimbăr and soon entered Alba
Iulia, becoming the imperial governor (i.e. de facto ruler) of
Transylvania. A few months later, Michael's troops invaded Moldavia
and reached its capital, Iaşi. The Moldavian leader Ieremia Movilă
Poland and Michael was declared Prince of Moldavia. Michael
kept the control of all three provinces for less than a year before
the nobles of
Transylvania and certain boyars in
Wallachia rose against him in a series of revolts. Thereafter, Michael
allied with the Imperial General
Giorgio Basta and defeated an
uprising of the
Hungarian nobility at Gurăslău in Transylvania.
Immediately after this victory, Rudolf ordered the assassination of
Michael, an action carried out on 9 August 1601 by Basta's men.
1 Early life
5 Last victory and the assassination
11 External links
Michael was born under the family name of Pătraşcu. In 1601, during
a stay in Prague, he was portrayed by the painter Aegidius Sadeler,
who mentioned on the portrait the words aetatis XLIII ("in the 43rd
year of life"), which indicates 1558 as the year of Michael's birth.
Very little is known about his childhood and early years as an adult.
He is argued by most historians to have been the illegitimate son of
Wallachian Prince Pătraşcu cel Bun, (Pătrașcu the Good) of the
Drăculeşti branch of the House of Basarab, while others believe he
merely invented his descent in order to justify his rule. His
mother was Theodora Kantakouzene, a member of the Kantakouzenoi, a
noble family present in
Wallachia and Moldavia, and allegedly
descended from the
Byzantine Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos.
Michael's political rise was quite spectacular, as he became the Ban
Mehedinţi in 1588, stolnic at the court of
Mihnea Turcitul by the
end of 1588, and
Ban of Craiova
Ban of Craiova in 1593 – during the rule of
Alexandru cel Rău. The latter had him swear before 12 boyars that he
was not of princely descent. Still, in May 1593 conflict did break
out between Alexandru and Michael, who was forced to flee to
Transylvania. He was accompanied by his half-brother Radu Florescu,
Radu Buzescu and several other supporters. After spending two weeks at
the court of Sigismund Báthory, he left for Constantinople, where
with help from his cousin Andronikos Kantakouzenos (the eldest son of
Michael "Şeytanoğlu" Kantakouzenos) and Patriarch Jeremiah II he
negotiated Ottoman support for his accession to the Wallachian throne.
He was supported by the English ambassador in the Ottoman capital,
Edward Barton, and aided by a loan of 200,000 florins. Michael was
invested Prince by Sultan
Murad III in September 1593 and started his
effective rule on 11 October. He was considered a traitor as he had
been forced to purchase the title of Domnitor (ruler).
Wallachia in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Wallachia
Engraving of Michael the Brave
Not long after Michael became Prince of Wallachia, he turned against
the Ottoman Empire. The next year he joined the Christian alliance of
European powers formed by
Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII against the Turks, and
signed treaties with his neighbours:
Sigismund Báthory of
Aron Tiranul of
Moldavia and the Holy Roman Emperor,
Rudolf II (see Holy League of Pope Clement VIII). He started a
campaign against the Turks in the autumn of 1594, conquering several
citadels near the Danube, including Giurgiu, Brăila, Hârşova, and
Silistra, while his Moldavian allies defeated the Turks in
other parts of Moldavia. Mihai continued his attacks deep within
the Ottoman Empire, taking the forts of Nicopolis, Ribnic, and
Chilia and even reaching as far as Adrianople.
Sigismund Báthory staged an elaborate plot and had Aaron the
Tyrant, voivode of Moldavia, removed from power. István Jósika
(Báthory's chancellor and an ethnic Romanian)
masterminded the operation.
Ștefan Răzvan arrested Aron on charges
of treason on the night of 24 April (5 May) and sent him to the
Transylvanian capital at
Alba Iulia (Gyulafehérvár) with his family
and treasure. Aron would die poisoned by the end of May in the castle
of Vinc. Sigismund was forced to justify his actions before the
European powers, since Aron had played an active role in the
anti-Ottoman coalition. Later on, in the same city of Alba Iulia,
Wallachian boyars signed a treaty with Sigismund on Michael's behalf.
From the point of view of Wallachian internal politics, the Treaty of
Alba Iulia officialized what could be called a boyar regime,
reinforcing the already important political power of the noble elite.
According to the treaty, a council of 12 great boyars was to take part
alongside the voivode in the executive rule of the country.
Michael the Brave, early 20th-century mural painting
Boyars could no longer be executed without the knowledge and approval
of the Transylvanian Prince and, if convicted for treason, their
fortunes could no longer be confiscated. Apparently Michael was
displeased with the final form of the treaty negotiated by his envoys,
but was forced to comply. Prince Michael said in a conversation with
the Polish envoy Lubieniecki: … they did not proceed as stated
in their instructions but as their own good required and obtained
privileges for themselves. He would try to avoid the obligations
imposed on him for the rest of his reign.
During his reign, Michael relied heavily on the loyalty and support of
a group of Oltenian lords, the most important of whom were Buzescu
Brothers (Romanian: Fraţii Buzeşti) and his own relatives on his
mother's side, the Cantacuzinos. He consequently protected their
interests throughout his reign; for example, he passed a law binding
serfs to lands owned by aristocrats. From the standpoint of
religious jurisdiction, the Treaty of
Alba Iulia had another important
consequence: it placed all the
Eastern Orthodox bishops in
Transylvania under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Seat of
A contemporary illustration of
Michael the Brave
Michael the Brave defeating the Turks
Târgovişte in October 1595
A depiction of Michael the Brave defeating the Turks
Giurgiu in October 1595, first published in 1596
During this period, the Ottoman army, based in Ruse, was preparing to
Danube and undertake a major attack. Michael was quickly
forced to retreat and the Ottoman forces started to cross the Danube
on 4 August 1595. As his army was outnumbered, Michael avoided
carrying the battle in open field, and decided to give battle on a
marshy field located near the village of Călugăreni on the Neajlov
Battle of Călugăreni
Battle of Călugăreni started on 13 August and Michael
defeated the Ottoman army led by Sinan Pasha. Despite the victory,
he retreated to his winter camp in Stoieneşti because he had too few
troops to mount a full-scale war against the remaining Ottoman forces.
He subsequently joined forces with Sigismund Báthory's 40,000-man
army (led by István Bocskay) and counterattacked the Ottomans,
freeing the towns of
Târgovişte (8 October),
Bucharest (12 October)
and Brăila, temporarily removing
Wallachia from Ottoman suzerainty.
The fight against the Ottomans continued in 1596 when Michael made
several incursions south of the
Danube at Vidin, Pleven, Nicopolis,
and Babadag, where he was assisted by the local
Bulgarians during the
First Tarnovo Uprising.
During late 1596, Michael was faced with an unexpected attack from the
Tatars, who had destroyed the towns of
Bucharest and Buzău. By the
time Michael gathered his army to counterattack, the Tatars had
speedily retreated and so no battle was fought. Michael was determined
to continue the war against the Ottomans, but he was prevented because
he lacked support from
Sigismund Báthory and Rudolf II. On 7 January
1597 Hasan Pasha declared the independence of
Michael's rule, but Michael knew that this was only an attempt to
divert him from preparing for another future attack. Michael again
requested Rudolf II's support and Rudolf finally agreed to send
financial assistance to the Wallachian ruler. On 9 June 1598 a formal
treaty was reached between Michael and Rudolf II. According to the
treaty, the Austrian ruler would give
Wallachia sufficient money to
maintain a 5,000-man army, as well as armaments and supplies.
Shortly after the treaty was signed, the war with the Ottomans resumed
and Michael besieged Nicopolis on 10 September 1598 and took control
of Vidin. The war with the Ottomans continued until 26 June 1599, when
Michael, lacking the resources and support to continue prosecuting the
war, signed a peace treaty.
Transylvania in the Middle Ages and Early Modern
The three principalities under Michael's authority, May – September
Székelys bring the head of cardinal
Andrew Báthory to Michael the
Brave after the Battle of Şelimbăr
In April 1598, Sigismund resigned as Prince of
Transylvania in favor
of the Holy Roman Emperor,
Rudolf II (who was also the King of
Hungary); reversed his decision in October 1598; and then resigned
again in favor of Cardinal Andrew Báthory, his cousin. Báthory
had strong ties to the Polish chancellor and hetman
Jan Zamoyski and
Transylvania under the influence of the King of Poland,
Sigismund III Vasa. He was also a trusted ally of the new Moldavian
Prince Ieremia Movilă, one of Michael's greatest enemies. Movilă
had deposed Ştefan Rǎzvan with the help of Polish hetman Jan
Zamoyski in August 1595.
Having to face this new threat, Michael asked Emperor Rudolf to become
the sovereign of Wallachia. On 25 September (5 October) Báthory
issued an ultimatum demanding that Michael abandon his throne.
Michael decided to attack
Andrew Cardinal Báthory
Andrew Cardinal Báthory immediately to
prevent invasion. He would later describe the events:
I rose with my country, my children, taking my wife and everything I
had and with my army [marched into Transylvania] so that the foe
should not crush me here.
Târgovişte on 2 October, and 9 by October he had reached
Prejmer in southern Transylvania, where he met envoys from the city of
Braşov. Sparing the city, he moved on to Cârţa where he joined
forces with the Székelys.
Michael the Brave
Michael the Brave entering Alba Iulia
On 18 October Michael won a decisive victory against the army of
Andrew Báthory at the Battle of Şelimbăr, giving
him control of Transylvania. As he retreated from the battle, Andrew
Báthory was killed by anti-Báthory
Székely on 3 November near
Sândominic and Michael gave him a princely burial in the Roman
Catholic Cathedral of Alba Iulia. With his enemy dead, Michael
entered the Transylvanian capital at
Alba Iulia and received the keys
to the fortress from Bishop Demeter Naprágyi, later depicted as a
seminal event in Romanian historiography. Historian István
Szamosközy, keeper of the Archives at the time, recorded the event in
great detail. He also wrote that two days before the Diet met on 10
October, Transylvanian nobles elected Michael the voivode as Prince of
Transylvania. As the Diet was assembled, Michael demanded that the
estates swear loyalty to Emperor Rudolf, then to himself and thirdly
to his son. Even if he was recognized by the Transylvanian diet as
only imperial governor subject to the Holy Roman Emperor, he was
nonetheless ruler of Transylvania.
Michael the Brave
Michael the Brave at Alba Iulia, portrait by Mișu Popp
Transylvania Michael used the following signature on official
documents: Michael Valachiae Transalpinae Woivoda, Sacrae Caesareae
Regiae Majestatis Consiliarius per Transylvaniam Locumtenens, cis
transylvaniam partium eius super exercitu Generalis Capitaneus".
("Michael, voivode of Wallachia, the councillor of His Majesty the
Emperor and the King, his deputy in
Transylvania and General Captain
of his troops from Transylvania.")
When Michael entered Transylvania, he did not immediately free or
grant rights to the Romanian inhabitants, who were primarily peasants
but, nevertheless, constituted a significant proportion[notes 1] of
the population. Michael demonstrated his support by upholding the
Union of the Three Nations, which recognized only the traditional
rights and privileges of the Hungarians, Székelys and Saxons, but he
didn't recognize the rights of the Romanians. There is no
evidence that Michael wanted Transylvania's Romanians to play a
political role. Indeed, while he brought some of his
Wallachian aides to Transylvania, he also invited some Székelys and
other Transylvanian Hungarians to assist in the administration of
Wallachia, where he wished to transplant Transylvania's far more
advanced feudal system.
Michael began negotiating with the Emperor over his official position
in Transylvania. The latter wanted the principality under direct
Imperial rule with Michael acting as governor. The Wallachian voivode,
on the other hand, wanted the title of Prince of
himself and equally claimed the
Partium region. Michael was,
nevertheless, willing to acknowledge
See also: Moldavian Magnate Wars
Michael the Brave
Michael the Brave and his daughter Florica at Rudolf's court (detail
of a contemporary painting)
The Moldavian Prince
Ieremia Movilă had been an old enemy of Michael,
Andrew Báthory to send Michael the ultimatum demanding
his abdication. His brother, Simion Movilă, claimed the
Wallachian throne for himself and had used the title of
1595. Aware of the threat the Movilăs represented, Michael had
created the Banate of
Brăila in July 1598 and the new ban
was charged of keeping an alert eye on Moldavian, Tatar and Cossack
moves, although Michael had been planning a Moldavian campaign for
Chancellor Jan Zamoyski
On 28 February 1600 Michael met with Polish envoys in Braşov. He was
willing to recognise the Polish King as his sovereign in exchange for
the crown of
Moldavia and the recognition of his male heirs'
hereditary right over the three principalities, Transylvania, Moldavia
and Wallachia. This did not significantly delay his attack however; on
14 April 1600 Michael's troops entered
Moldavia on multiple routes,
the Prince himself leading the main thrust to Trotuş and Roman.
He reached the capital of
Iaşi on 6 May. The garrison surrendered the
citadel the next day and Michael's forces caught up with the fleeing
Ieremia Movilă, who was saved from being captured only by the
sacrifice of his rear-guard. Movilă took refuge in the castle of
Khotyn together with his family, a handful of faithful boyars and the
former Transylvanian Prince, Sigismund Báthory. The Moldavian
soldiers in the castle deserted, leaving a small Polish contingent as
sole defenders. Under the cover of dark, sometime before 11 June,
Movilă managed to sneak out of the walls and across the Dniester to
hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski's camp.
Neighboring states were alarmed by this upsetting of the balance of
power, especially the
Hungarian nobility in Transylvania, who rose
against Michael in rebellion. With the help of Basta, they defeated
Michael at the Battle of Mirăslău, forcing the prince to leave
Transylvania together with his remaining loyal troops. A Polish
army led by
Jan Zamoyski drove the Wallachians from
defeated Michael at Năieni, Ceptura, and Bucov (Battle of the
Teleajăn River). The Polish army also entered eastern
Simion Movilă as ruler. Forces loyal to Michael remained
only in Oltenia.
Last victory and the assassination
Michael defeating the
Hungarian nobility in Battle of Guruslău, 1601
The assassination of
Michael the Brave
Michael the Brave at Câmpia Turzii, 1601
Michael asked again for assistance from Emperor Rudolf during a visit
Prague between 23 February and 5 March 1601, which was granted when
the emperor heard that General
Giorgio Basta had lost control of
Transylvania to the
Hungarian nobility led by Sigismund Báthory, who
accepted Ottoman protection. Meanwhile, forces loyal to Michael in
Wallachia led by his son, Nicolae Pătrașcu, drove
Simion Movilă out
Moldavia and prepared to reenter Transylvania. Michael, allied with
Basta, defeated the Hungarian army in Battle of Guruslău. A few days
later Basta, who sought to control
Transylvania himself, executed the
assassination of Michael by the order of the
Habsburg Emperor; it took
Câmpia Turzii on 9 August 1601. According to Romanian
historian Constantin C. Giurescu:
Never in Romanian history was a moment of such highness and glory so
closely followed by bitter failure.
The rule of Michael the Brave, with its break with Ottoman rule, tense
relations with other European powers and the leadership of the three
states, was considered in later periods as the precursor of a modern
Romania, a thesis which was argued with noted intensity by Nicolae
Bălcescu. This theory became a point of reference for nationalists,
as well as a catalyst for various Romanian forces to achieve a single
Romanian state. To Romanian Romantic nationalists, he was
regarded as one of Romania's greatest national heroes.
Theodor Aman (1874)
The prince began to be perceived as a unifier towards the middle of
the 19th century. Such an interpretation is completely lacking in the
historiography of the 17th-century chroniclers, and even in that of
Transylvanian School around 1800. What they emphasized, apart from
the exceptional personality of Michael himself, were the idea of
Christendom and his close relations with Emperor Rudolf. The
conqueror's ambition is likewise frequently cited as a motivation for
his action, occupying in the interpretative schema the place that was
later to be occupied by the Romanian idea.
In the writings of the Moldavian chronicler Miron Costin, Michael the
Brave appears in the role of conqueror of
Transylvania and Moldavia,
"the cause of much spilling of blood among Christians", and not even
highly appreciated by his own Wallachians: "The Wallachians became
tired of the warful rule of
The perspective of the Wallachians themselves is to be found in The
History of the Princes of Wallachia, attributed to the chronicler Radu
Popescu (1655–1729), which bundles together all Michael's
adversaries without distinction. Romanians and foreigners alike: "He
subjected the Turks, the Moldavians, and the Hungarians to his rule,
as if they were his asses." The picturesque flavor of the expression
serves only to confirm the absence of any Romanian idea.
Michael the Brave
Michael the Brave and his troops, 19th-century painting by Gheorghe
Samuil Micu, a member of the
Transylvanian School said in his work
Short Explanation of the History of the Romanians (written in the
1790s): "In the year 1593, Michael, who is called the Brave, succeeded
to the lordship of Wallachia. He was a great warrior, who fought the
Turks and defeated the Transylvanians. And he took
gave it to Emperor Rudolf".
Petre P. Panaitescu
Petre P. Panaitescu states that in Mihai's time, the concept of the
Romanian nation and the desire for unification did not yet
exist.[verification needed] A. D. Xenopol firmly states the
absence of any national element in Michael's politics, holding that
Michael's lack of desire to join the principalities' administrations
proved his actions were not motivated by any such concept.
Mihai Viteazul, a commune in Cluj County, was named after Michael the
Brave. Michael is also commemorated by the monks of the Athonite
Simonopetra Monastery for his great contributions in the form of land
and money to rebuilding the monastery that had been destroyed by a
Mihai Viteazul, a film by Sergiu Nicolaescu, a famous Romanian film
director, is a representation of the life of the Wallachian ruler and
his will to unite the three Romanian principalities (Wallachia,
Moldavia, and Transylvania) as one domain.
The Order of Michael the Brave, Romania's highest military decoration,
was named after Michael.
Mihai Viteazul's name and portrait appear on at least two Romanian
coins: 5 Lei 1991, which only 3 pieces of this type were minted and
the coin was not entered into circulation, and on 100 Lei, which
circulated through the 1990s.
Michael the Brave
Michael the Brave during his personal union of Wallachia,
Moldavia and Transylvania
The seal comprises the coats of arms of Moldavia, Wallachia, and
Transylvania: in the middle, on a shield the Moldavian urus, above
Wallachian eagle between sun and moon holding cross in beak, below
Transylvanian coat of arms: two meeting, standing lions supporting a
sword, treading on seven mountains. The Moldavian shield is held by
two crowned figures.
There are two inscriptions on the seal. First, circular, in Slavonic
Romanian Cyrillic alphabet
Romanian Cyrillic alphabet "IO MIHAILI UGROVLAHISCOI VOEVOD
ARDEALSCOI MOLD ZEMLI", meaning "Io Michael Wallachian
Transylvanian and Moldavian Lands". Second, placed along a circular
arc separating the Wallachian coat from the rest of the heraldic
composition, "I ML BJE MLRDIE", could be translated "Through The Very
Grace of God".
^ ~60% in 1600 according to George W. White and ~28.4% in 1595
according to Károly Kocsis & Eszter Kocsisné Hodosi
^ "Târgul de Floci, locul unde s-a născut Mihai Viteazul". Adevărul
(in Romanian). 22 July 2011.
^ Kemp, Arthur (May 2008). "Jihad: Islam's 1,300 Year War Against
Western Civilisation". ISBN 978-1-4092-0502-9.
Piotr S. Wandycz (2001). The Price of Freedom: A History of East
Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present. p. 63.
^ Giurescu, p. 180.; Iorga.
^ According to the 18th-century chronicle of Radu Popescu.
^  Archived April 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Giurescu, p. 182.
^ Giurescu, p. 183.
^ Coln, Emporungen so sich in Konigereich Ungarn, auch in Siebenburgen
Moldau, in der der bergischen Walachay und anderen Oerten zugetragen
^ Marco Venier, correspondence with the Doge of Venice, 16 July 1595
^ C. Rezachevici – "Legenda şi substratul ei istoric"
^ a b c Giurescu, p. 186.
^ Panaitescu; Bolovan.
^ Giurescu, p. 189.
^ Giurescu, p. 190.
^ Giurescu, p. 191.
^ a b c Giurescu, p. 193.
^ Giurescu, p. 192.
^ a b Giurescu, p. 194.
^ Helen Matau Powell. Matau Family History & Related Lineages:
With a Brief History of Romania. University of Wisconsin – Madison,
Gateway Press, 2002.
^ Giurescu, p. 195.
^ Giurescu, p. 196.
^ "History of
Transylvania by Akadémiai Kiadó". Mek.oszk.hu.
^ George W. White (2000). Nationalism and Territory: Constructing
Group Identity in Southeastern Europe. Rowman & Littlefield.
^ Károly Kocsis, Eszter Kocsisné Hodosi, Ethnic Geography of the
Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Basin, Simon Publications LLC,
1998, p. 102 (Table 19)
^ Giurescu, p. 196–97.
^ a b c Giurescu, p. 198.
^ a b Giurescu, p. 199.
^ Giurescu, p. 201.
^ a b Giurescu, p. 200.
^ Giurescu, p. 201–05.
^ Giurescu, p. 211–13.
^ George W. White, Nationalism and territory: constructing group
identity in Southeastern Europe, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, p.
^ Original text: "Sa urise muntenilor cu domniia lui Mihai-voda, totii
cu osti si razboaie." (in Romanian)
^ Boia, Lucian. History and myth in Romanian consciousness.
^ Petre Panaitescu – Mihai Viteazul, Bucureşti, 1936
^ Boia 1997, p. 133
^ Ordinul Mihai Viteazul, ww2awards.com, Retrieved 10 April 2008
^ The 100 Lei of 1992 and 1993 are listed as KM # 111 of Krause
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Mihai Viteazul (category)
Mihai I of Wallachia
House of Basarab
Died: 1601 9 August
Alexandru cel Rău
Prince of Wallachia
Prince of Moldavia
Notes and references
1. Regnal Chronologies
ISNI: 0000 0000 9689 6788