What was the Battle of Posada (1330)?

Introduction

The Battle of Posada (09 November 1330 to 12 November 1330) was fought between Basarab I of Wallachia and Charles I of Hungary (also known as Charles Robert).

The small Wallachian army led by Basarab, formed of cavalry and foot archers, as well as local peasants, managed to ambush and defeat the 30,000-strong Hungarian army, in a mountainous region near the border between Oltenia and Severin.

The battle resulted in a major Wallachian victory and disaster for Charles Robert, becoming a turning point in the politics of Hungary, which had to abandon its hopes of extending the kingdom to the Black Sea. For Wallachia, the victory meant an increase in morale and the further evolution of the independent state.

Background

Some historians claim that the Cumans aided the Wallachians in the battle. Still in the Hungarian army there was a substantial Cuman-Hungarian contingent so this variant is very improbable. In 1324, Wallachia was a vassal of Hungary, and Robert referred to Basarab as “our Transalpine Voivode”.

The war started with encouragement from the Voivode of Transylvania and a certain Dionisie, who later bore the title Ban of Severin. In 1330, Robert captured the long disputed Wallachian citadel of Severin and handed it to the Transylvanian Voivode.

Basarab sent envoys who asked for the hostilities to cease, and in return offered to pay 7,000 marks in silver, submit the fortress of Severin to Robert, and send his own son as hostage. According to the Viennese Illuminated Chronicle, a contemporary account, Robert said about Basarab: “He is the shepherd of my sheep, and I will take him out of his mountains, dragging him by his beard.” Another account writes that Robert said that: “…he will drag the Voivode from his cottage, as would any driver his oxen or shepherd his sheep.”

The King’s councillors begged him to accept the offer or give a milder reply, but he refused and led his 30,000-strong army deeper into Wallachia “without proper supplies or adequate reconnaissance”. Basarab was unable to stand a battle in the open field against a large army, due to the poor state of his troops, and he decided to retreat somewhere into the Transylvanian Alps.

Robert entered Curtea de Argeș, the main city of the Wallachian state. He realised that Basarab had fled into the mountains and decided to give chase.

The Battle

The location of the battle is still debated among historians. One theory gives the location of the battle at Loviştea, in some mountain gorges, in the valley of Olt, Transylvania. However, Romanian historian Neagu Djuvara denies this and states that the location of the battle was somewhere at the border between Oltenia and Severin.

The Wallachian army, led by Basarab himself, probably numbered less than 10,000 men and consisted of cavalry, infantry archers, and some locally recruited peasants. When Robert saw his best knights being killed, without being able to fight back, while the escape routes were blocked by the Wallachian cavalry, he gave his royal robes and insignia to one of his captains – “who dies under a hail of arrows and stones” – and, with a few loyal subjects, made a difficult escape to Visegrád “clad in dirty civilian clothes”.

Robert later recounted in detail, in a charter of 13 December 1335, how one “Nicholas, son of Radoslav”, saved his life by defending him from the swords of five Wallachian warriors, giving him enough time to escape. Most of the Hungarian army – which included many nobles – was destroyed; among the casualties were the Voivode of Transylvania and the priest who accompanied the king.

Aftermath and Legacy

The victory represented the survival of the Wallachian state, as well as the beginning of a period of tense relations between Basarab and the Kingdom of Hungary, which lasted until 1344, when Basarab sent his son Alexandru in order to re-establish a relationship between the two states.

Because of its large financial power, the Kingdom of Hungary quickly rebuilt its army and found itself in conflict with the Holy Roman Empire in 1337. However, the Hungarian king maintained a de jure suzerainty over Wallachia until the diplomatic disputes had been resolved.

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