Page 359 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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represented in the light and experience of the end of 15th century.
The influence of later epochs can be eliminated, if the researcher limits himself conscientiously to the most an- cient sources, from 1400 or 1402, which were created in the world in which the battle took place. By such a self- limitation, the researcher will free himself from many pic- turesque details, but the few important ones will be reli- able. The analysis of the sources from the first decade after the battle are not insignificant, but as they are of a general character, they will satisfy only a distant perspective; they will give only an outline of the event, placed in a wider con- text; losses will be noticed only when we try o examine the battle closely, trying to conjure up its drama and richness of detail.
Completely reliable and authenticated facts are the time and place of the battle: the day of Saint Vitus (Vidovdan), june 15th, 1389; that part of the Kosovo field where Murad’s turbe (tomb) is placed, the place where Murad’s entrails had been buried, and which remained marked constantly, although the present monuments dates from a later peri- od. as “Murad’s grave,” the turbe is marked in 16th century maps. The other object, the “great marble column,” built on the spot where Prince Lazar was caught, is not preserved on the field.
The majority of contemporary and most ancient sourc- es put the battle into the framework of the war between the Serbian Prince Lazar and the Ottoman emir Murad. Some rhetorically colored texts tell of the battle between the Christians and Moslem infidels, but one letter from the Bosnian King Tvrtko i (1353–1391) sent to the Municipality of Trogir on 1st august, 1389, and the answer from Florence to the letter of the same King (October 20th, 1389), reveal that King Tvrtko had informed his friends and allies, that he had defeated “the Son of Satan and a servant” of Murad. a detachment of the Bosnian King, without doubt, took part in the Kosovo battle. Some of his warriors were kited there, the others were taken prisoners and transferred to Turkey, and their families, helped by the Dubrovnik go- betweens, did their best to free them. The explanations for these certainly authentic letters, in which Prince Lazar was not mentioned, and the number of Serbian casualties was minimized, can be found in Tvrtko’s legislative principles. in 1377 he himself: as the heir of his oldest ancestors— “Serbian Lords,” had himself been crowned by “a double crown” as “Stefan, the King of Serbs in Bosnia, the littoral Hinterland and Western areas” and saw himself in the role of the Serbian ruler, on the throne of the Nemanjić, who— long ago “ruled the empire” and then “moved to Heaven.” His real power was limited to the inherited Bosnia and the Nemanjić territories gained in 1373, 1377, and 1385; in the territories of Prince Lazar and Vuk Branković, he did not have any power, but, he had been accepted, certainly, as a high rank ally because of his King’s title. So, he did not with- out reason represent himself as a Serbian ruler, as he had
The Kosovo Field, june 15, 1389
been one—by his detachment represented in Kosovo—but the basic perspective of his share in these affairs has been altered. it is also positive that Vuk Branković, in whose ter- ritory the battle took place, took part in it. On the Ottoman side, there was Murad along with his two sons, one of whom was killed in the battle with his father, according to the most ancient reports. The Sultan was followed by vassals, those from the South-Slav and Byzantian areas, but their names were not mentioned till the end of 14th century.
For the study of the circumstances under which the Kosovo battle took place, the very important fact is that Murad did not possess common frontiers with territories of Prince Lazar and Vuk Branković, and that he was sepa- rated from them by the belt of territories of his vassals in Bulgaria, South-eastern Serbia and Macedonia. That is why the territories of Prince Lazar and Vuk could not come di- rectly under the rule of the Ottoman government, while the territories of Dragaš or Vukašin’s sons were not trans- formed into Ottoman sanjaks, in 1395. On the other hand, the rulers of Hungary, Bohemia, Germany and some oth- ers, could not enter the Christian camp, as later Ottoman sources revealed, for Tvrtko i was, at that time, in severe dispute with the Hungarian King-Siegmund of Luxemburg (1387–1437). Tvrtko supported the King’s rebels, conquered parts of Croatia, and managed to subjugate Dalmatian towns. in his negotiations with Split, he allowed it to be the last of the towns to surrender to his power, and it was done on the same, St. Vitus Day, in 1389. On the other hand, King Siegmund decided on the month of july, of the same year, for gathering an army against the Bosnian ruler. in the sum- mer of 1389, Tvrtko and his allies fell between two fires, and the practical realities of this situation are rather re- mote from the romantic view of sacrifices for the defense of europe.
Restricting research to the most ancient sources does not help too much in efforts to establish the number of warriors in the Kosovo battle. a contemporary, French knight Philipe Mesiere, in his epistle written after the Nikop- olis battle, in 1396–97, wrote that both the Turks and Prince Lazar had lost 20.000 soldiers. Being aware of the disabil- ity of people in the Middle ages to estimate approximately at least the number of soldiers, animals, goods or money, we must be very suspicious of Mesiere’s information. in some later sources, even greater exaggerations can be found: that there were a hundred thousand Serbs, and three hun- dred thousand Turks. The official data on military power, from the middle and the second half of 15th century, might give a somewhat realistic appraisal and approximate scale of values. From one, frequently checked document on the military power and Sultan’s incomes dating from the peri- od of Murad’s great-grandson, a great conqueror Mehmed ii (around 1475), we know that the Sultan, from the euro- pean part of the territory—an area that was much larger than that of the countries of those who directly, as vassals, took part in the Kosovo battle, could raise 20.800 cavalry-

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