King Michael’s Uprising Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Michael the Brave’s uprising put an end to the harsh political and economic domination of the Ottoman Empire. The final goal was to unite three principalities, Walachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania, in an anti-Ottoman block, and ultimately to preserve their autonomous status as states under Ottoman suzerainty.

Summary of Event

At the end of the sixteenth century, the Habsburg monarchy, Poland, and the Ottoman Empire clashed in a conflict designed to win control over the Romanian principalities. The intention of the Habsburgs was to recover first Transylvania Transylvania and then the other two autonomous principalities, Walachia Walachia and Moldavia Moldavia (or Moldova). Their plans for political expansion in this region were opposed by Poland’s aspirations for expansion toward the Black Sea. Ottoman Empire;Michael the Brave’s uprising against Michael the Brave Rudolf II Zamoyski, Jan Báthory, Sigismund Báthory, Sigismund Rudolf II (Holy Roman Emperor) Aaron the Tyrant Răzvan, Ştefan Zamoyski, Jan Răzvan, Ştefan Movilă, Ieremia Sŏnjo Báthory, Andre Movilă, Simion Michael the Brave

During the last decades of the sixteenth century, the political and economic situation of Walachia had worsened mainly as a result of the increasing financial and material demands of the Ottomans. Walachian princes were often deposed, leading to political instability. The right of the estates to elect their own prince was drastically diminished, with appointments being made by the Ottomans in Constantinople. The throne was in fact bought for huge, borrowed sums whose repayment caused mounting financial pressures. Economy;Walachia A great number of Levantine creditors, connected to the interests of the Ottomans, settled in the Walachian principality, where they acquired real estate. Many of them succeeded in penetrating government offices. This development triggered a xenophobic reaction among the autochthonous boyars and ultimately prompted a movement to end this unbearable situation. At the beginning of Michael the Brave’s reign in 1593, therefore, Walachia was on the brink of rebellion.

The external political context of the uprising was dominated by the efforts of the Papacy to form an anti-Ottoman alliance comprising Austria and the Italian dukedoms of Ferrara, Tuscany, and Mantua. Poland and England, however, were reluctant to join. Austria played the leading role in the coalition, and in February, 1594, Sigismund Báthory, prince of Transylvania, joined the anti-Ottoman coalition by signing a treaty with Emperor Rudolf II. His role was to attract Moldavia and Walachia into the anti-Ottoman coalition. Thus, in August, 1594, the prince of Moldavia, Aaron the Tyrant (also known as Aron the Terrible), signed a treaty of alliance with Rudolf and recognized the suzerainty of Sigismund Báthory in Moldavia. In September, Michael the Brave entered an alliance with Sigismund. In this way, the three principalities formed an anti-Ottoman political bloc that prepared for the war.

Michael the Brave started the uprising on October 13, 1594, by slaughtering the Levantine creditors and an Ottoman military unit in Bucharest. He then attacked and destroyed Ottoman towns and strongholds situated near the Danube. At the same time, Aaron the Tyrant launched a similar attack against the Ottoman garrison of Tighina (Bender). Under these conditions, the Ottomans halted their war against the Habsburgs in Austria to suppress the rebellion of the principalities. In April, 1595, Sigismund Báthory arrested Aaron the Tyrant and replaced him with Ştefan Răzvan.

In May, a delegation of boyars representing the estates of Walachia signed a treaty in Alba Iulia that recognized Sigismund as ruler of Walachia, which was to be governed by a council of twelve boyars. Michael was limited to the role of a lieutenant of Sigismund Báthory. The prince of Moldavia signed a similar treaty in June. Through these political maneuvers, Sigismund became the suzerain of the other two principalities. His political ambitions were limited, however, by the aspirations of the Habsburgs, who considered Sigismund their vassal. However, Poland’s aspirations to acquire Moldavia were thwarted, and in the summer the chancellor Jan Zamoyski invaded the principality, putting Ieremia Movilă (or Moghila) on the throne.

Also in the summer of 1595, the Ottomans decided to suppress the rebellion and to transform the principalities into Ottoman provinces. The main battle took place on August 23 at Călugăreni Călugăreni, Battle of (1595)[Calugareni, Battle of (1595)] . Michael’s army was overwhelmed and forced to withdraw to the north, where he waited for reinforcements from Transylvania. In September, the Ottomans occupied the country and began to transform the churches into mosques. Starting in October, the united forces of the three principalities won victories and forced the Ottoman army to retreat beyond the Danube. Despite this success, the anti-Ottoman alliance of the three principalities dissolved later that fall, when Poland signed a treaty with the Ottomans recognizing its influence in Moldavia through the reign of its puppet, Ieremia Movilă.

In 1596, Michael successfully resisted the attacks of the Ottoman forces and repelled an expedition of Crimean Tatars, although Sigismund and the Habsburgs were defeated at Timiṣoara, Eger, and Mezŏkerezstes. Although victorious in Hungary, the Ottomans decided to make peace with the Austrians, and at the end of 1596, they recognized Michael as prince of Walachia. In January of 1597, he entered direct negotiations with Emperor Rudolf II, who promised him subsidies for four thousand soldiers. In December, 1597, Sigismund Báthory signed a treaty through which Transylvania was relinquished to Rudolf II, and in April, 1598, he departed the principality. In June, Rudolf became the suzerain of Walachia and recognized Michael’s rule and his family’s hereditary rights to the throne. Very soon, however, Sigismund Báthory again abdicated (March, 1599) in favor of his cousin, Cardinal Andrew Báthory, who represented the interests of Poland. The Ottomans recognized Andrew as prince of Transylvania and allowed Poland to pursue its own policy in Transylvania and Walachia, anticipating in this way a war between Poland and Austria.

The changes in the political situation in Transylvania created a dangerous situation for Michael, whose throne was threatened from the north. Indeed, Andrew Báthory expressed his intention to oust Michael and give the throne of Walachia to Simion Movilă, the brother of the prince of Moldavia. In June, 1599, Michael announced to the Habsburgs his intention of overthrowing Andrew Báthory and requested their help. A Walachian army crossed the Carpathian Mountains and defeated the army of Andrew on October 28 at Şelimbăr. In May, 1600, Michael conquered Moldavia. Nevertheless, the Transylvanian nobility rebelled and defeated him in September at Mirăslău. A Polish army led by Chancellor Jan Zamoyski marched into Walachia, defeated Michael, and gave the throne to Simion Movilă. In this way, in a very short time, Michael the Brave managed to unite the three principalities under a unique political authority during the course of the anti-Ottoman war.

Significance

Michael the Brave’s uprising against the Ottomans began in a favorable international context although it was provoked by the aggravation of the Ottoman domination. The three principalities Walachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania were first united politically by Sigismund Báthory to resist the Ottoman threat. Michael nourished the same intentions through 1598-1599 and, at least for a short time, was able to realize this plan.

The main achievement of the uprising consisted of the relaxation of the Ottoman demands and in the preservation of Walachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania as autonomous states. In the nineteenth century this achievement and Michael’s victories against the Ottomans won him the status of a national hero as the first unifier of what is today Romania.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Andreescu, Ştefan. “Some Reflections on Michael the Brave’s Denominational Policy.” In Ethnicity and Religion in Central and Eastern Europe, edited by Maria Craciun and Ovidiu Ghitta. Cluj, Romania: Cluj University Press, 1995. This article deals with the policy toward the Catholic and Protestant churches.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Andreescu, Ştefan. Studii cu privire la Mihai Viteazu, 1593-1601. Vol. 3 in Restitutio Daciae. Bucharest: Editura Albatros, 1997. For the serious scholar, this is the most comprehensive study of the reign of Michael the Brave. Available only in Romanian.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Prodan, David. Supplex Libellus Valachorum: Or, The Political Struggle of the Romanians in Transylvania During the Eighteenth Century. Bucharest, Romania: Publishing House of the Academy, 1971. One chapter of this work deals with the rule of Michael the Brave in Transylvania in 1599-1600 and with his attitude toward the Transylvanian estates and the Romanian population from the principality.

Apr. 14, 1457-July 2, 1504: Reign of Stephen the Great

Nov., 1575: Stephen Báthory Becomes King of Poland

1576-1612: Reign of Rudolf II

1593-1606: Ottoman-Austrian War

Categories: History Content