Tuesday 25 June 2024

The Army of Transylvania 1613–1690

The Army of Transylvania 1613-1690; War and military organisation from the ‘golden age’ o the Principality to the Habsburg conquest is the second book by Florin Nicolae Ardelean on the Transylvanian state between 1541 and 1690. Volume 1 covered the emergence of an independent Transylvania (notionally vassals of the Ottomans a high degree of autonomy was allowed in internal matters) up to 1613. This volume, as the title suggests, takes us through to almost the end of the seventeenth century, during which time the state had been caught between two warring empires (Habsburg and Ottoman), become involved in the Thirty Years’ War as an ally of Sweden and France, and was ultimately taken over by the Habsburg through a mix of diplomacy and military action.

The book benefits from a significant number of largely contemporary black and white illustrations, although there are a few depicting surviving items of weaponry and armour. As we have come to expect, there is the usual eight pages of dazzlingly beautiful colour plates, all specially commissioned and painted by a very talented artist Catalin Draghici. They depict the different types of soldiers to be found with an army of the Principality at this time and all of whom look like they mean business!

The narrative begins with a broad overview of the Principality and its rulers during the seventeenth century, with due recognition to social, economic and military developments. The analysis of the army and its organisation is clearly written and s a fascinating insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the military system, as is the following chapter covering the state’s fortifications, artillery and garrisons found within the Principality. What we are given is a comprehensive guide to the military machine that existed, seemingly almost permanently on a war footing.

The final chapter describes the military campaigns, battles and sieges that took place throughout the century, by a large well equipped and well led army. This was quite a complex period, but the narrative is something I became engrossed in. Led by dynamic rulers, Transylvania was allied to Sweden and France during the Thirty Years’ War against their Habsburg neighbours. A further alliance with Sweden, the Cossacks, Moldavia and Wallachia against the Polish and Lithuanian Commonwealth ended in the total destruction of the army and capture by the Tartars, and hard on the heels of this disaster, a devastating invasion by the Ottomans laid waste the whole country. The author’s description of these campaigns makes for very interesting reading and paves the way for the telling of the desperate and ultimately doomed battle for survival by the Principality, ending with its conquest by the Habsburgs in 1690.

Like his earlier work, the author has provided us with a magnificent description of the golden age of the Principality of Transylvania in the first half of the seventeenth century, but also of its decline and conquest. The history of late medieval and Renaissance Eastern Europe is a fascinating and colourful period of history, and one not often found in such detail in English. This really is a tremendous book and one for enthusiasts of Eastern European history in whatever context that may take.

ISBN 978-1-804513-49-1 soft cover 149 pages


  1. Oh dear, it looks like more of my money should be going to Helion.
    Thanks for the review,

  2. Good review and I will be purchasing a copy as it look really interesting.