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Nicopolis, Battle of


Subject History » Military History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631168485.1994.x


(25 September 1396) Realizing the Ottoman danger to Hungary, King Sigismund, who was also Count of Luxembourg and Elector of Brandenburg, appealed to Western sovereigns to mount a crusade. Supported by Pope Boniface IX, Sigismund was able to secure a substantial force of French knights commanded by the Count of Nevers, the son of Duke Philip of Burgundy. English, Poles, Germans, Italians, Hungarians, Wallachians and Knights Hospitallers from the island of Rhodes also answered the papal summons. Venice provided shipping. The French contingent was the largest, about 1,000 knights with 1,500 additional troops, and the whole army numbered around 10,000 horsemen. By the time they reached Nicopolis, casualties and garrison duties had reduced this total to c .7,500. The Crusaders marched along the Danube, supplied by a river flotilla. Sigismund talked of freeing the Balkans from the Turk and even of retaking the Holy Land. The army crossed the Danube at the Iron Gate and advanced into Bulgaria taking towns and cities in an effort to draw Sultan Bayazid I (1389–1403) away from his positions near Constantinople. Vidin surrendered without delay and Rahowa after just five days, but Nicopolis was still holding out after sixteen days when the presence of an Ottoman relief army was noticed. Bayazid had marched so rapidly to Nicopolis that he had taken the Crusaders completely by surprise. Bayazid's ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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