Friday 12 April 2013

Men of Yore: Stephen III (the Great) of Moldavia

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form.  Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards.  We, as men, are the frontiersmen/the vanguard, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

It is also partly intended to show images, be they paintings, statues or photographs of the countenances of men of yore.  Because, quite frankly, many men wear the countenances of women these days: smiling, smirking, cooing, rolling their eyes, looking smug etc.  It's a sign of the times, and by showing some images of men from the past, I hope to show some modern men why looking surly, frowning and giving hard-ball stares at people is something to do, something to practise.

Stephen the III of Moldavia

Stephen III of Moldavia (also known as Stefan the Great, Romanian: Ștefan cel Mare, pronounced [ʃteˈfan t͡ʃel ˈmare] or Ștefan cel Mare și Sfânt, "Stefan the Great and Holy"; 1433 – July 2, 1504) was Prince of Moldavia between 1457 and 1504 and the most prominent representative of the House of Mușat.
During his reign, he strengthened Moldavia and maintained its independence against the ambitions of Hungary, Poland, and the Ottoman Empire, which all sought to subdue the land. Stephen achieved fame in Europe for his long resistance against the Ottomans. He was victorious in 46 of his 48 battles, and was one of the first to gain a decisive victory over the Ottomans at the Battle of Vaslui, after which Pope Sixtus IV deemed him verus christianae fidei athleta (true Champion of Christian Faith). He was a man of religion and displayed his piety when he paid the debt of Mount Athos to the Porte, ensuring the continuity of Athos as an autonomous monastical community.

Early life and rise to power
Stephen was born in Borzești and was a member of the ruling House of Mușat. His father Bogdan II had ruled Moldavia for two years (1449 to 1451) before being killed in a stealthy raid led by Stephen's uncle, Petru Aron. Bogdan II was attending a wedding of one of his boyars – who apparently was in collusion with Petru Aron – and the surprise was complete. Stephen barely escaped with his life, but his father was captured and beheaded on the spot by his stepbrother Petru Aron. Between 1451 and 1457, Moldavia was in turmoil from the civil war between Petru Aron and Alexăndrel – a nephew of Alexander the Good.
Following the outbreak of the conflict, Stephen took refuge in Transylvania, seeking the protection of military commander John Hunyadi. After that, he moved to the court of his first cousin Vlad III Dracula and, in 1457, managed to receive 6,000 horsemen as military assistance, putting them to use in a victorious battle against Petru Aron at Doljești, near Roman. Following another lost battle at Orbic, Aron fled to Poland, while Stephen was crowned Prince. Two years later, he led an incursion into Poland in search of Aron, but was met with resistance. Instead, a treaty was signed between Moldavia and Poland, through which Stephen recognized King Kazimierz IV Jagiellon as his suzerain, while Aron was banned from entering Moldavia.

Menaced by powerful neighbours, he successfully repelled an invasion by the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus, defeating him in the Battle of Baia (in 1467), crushed an invading Tatar force at Lipnic and invaded Wallachia in 1471 (the latter had by then succumbed to Ottoman power and had become its vassal). When the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II launched a retaliatory attack on Moldavia, Stephen defeated the invaders at the Battle of Vaslui in 1475, a victory which temporarily halted the Turkish advance.
Stephen's search for European assistance against the Turks met with little success, even though he had "cut off the pagan's right hand" – as he put it in a letter.
From 1484[..]Stephen had to face not only new Turkish onslaughts which he defeated again on November 16, 1485 at Catlabuga Lake and at Șcheia on the Siret River in March 1486, but also the Polish designs on Moldavian independence. Finally on August 20, 1503[1] he concluded a treaty with Sultan Beyazid II that preserved Moldavia's self-rule, at the cost of an annual tribute to the Turks.

From the 16th century on, the Principality of Moldavia would spend three hundred years as an Ottoman vassal. In his late years, he dealt successfully with a Polish invasion, defeating the Poles at the Battle of the Cosmin Forest.
It is said that he built 44 churches and monasteries (see List of churches established by Stephen III of Moldavia), one for each battle that he won (44 out of a total of 48).

Another of the national heroes from the Balkans who fought for their countrymen despite the almost overwhelming forces against them.  In the case of Stephen the Great, he faced attack from not only the Turks but also the Poles, and managed to fend them off both for a time.

It seems a recurring theme from the Balkans during the Turkish invasions of the 15th century: Christian Kings requested help from other kings in Christendom, but no-one answered their call.  It was the same in the Iberian peninsula aswell: Spain and Portugal both invaded, no Christian countries helped them, so they helped themselves.  As the saying goes 'Blood is thicker than water', and if history teaches us anything thicker than the bible too.  Remember, Stephen was aided by, and aided his cousin Vlad of Wallachia.  So much for the marvels of Christendom.

Check out some of the other entries from the 'Men of Yore' series:
George Petrovich (Black George)
Vlad II, Prince of Wallachia
King Alfred, the Great
John MacDouall Stuart
Robert Owen
Richard Trevithick
Wyatt Earp
William 'Wild Bill' Cody
Andrew Carnegie
Duke of Viseu (Henry the Navigator)
Meriwether Lewis
Arthur Schopenhauer
Theodore Roosevelt
Rudolph Diesel
John Snow
Ludwig van Beethoven
Henry Ford
George Custer


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