Suleyman’s progress to Hungary (1526)
In 1520, a hardly 26-year-old young man ascended to the throne of the Ottoman Empire. In the European courts, Suleyman I was reported that he preferred arts to wars. Nobody suspected that following his ideal, Alexander the Great’s example, the conquest of the whole world was before his eyes and his first target would be the Kingdom of Hungary tired of the decade-long warfare. The sultan ordered the army to prepare for the offensive right after his coming to power, and, on 29 August 1521, is troops captured Belgrade, the key of the country. The news of the Christian defeat created a panic similar to the one caused by the fall of Constantinople in 1453. From that time on, they only hoped in Hungary that Suleyman’s attention would turn to other affairs or a Christian coalition grand enough would gather round the country.
Early in 1526, it became obvious that the Hungarian military command had to hold up the Ottoman attack on their own. Suleyman left for Hungary on 23 April, commanding an army of 60,000, and he arrived at Belgrade, at the border, on 30 June. After crossing the Drava, he occupied Petervaradin, then continued his march along the River Danube.
Miklós Zrínyi came a long way from the castle of Zrin on the river Una to Szigetvár in Transdanubia. A descendant of an ancient family of counts, the young aristocrat first made his name known at the 1529 siege of Vienna. As a reward for his military successes and his loyalty to Ferdinand of Habsburg he was elevated to the rank of Ban of Croatia-Slavonia in 1542. In the decade and a half that followed all tasks and burdens of border defence in Croatia and Slavonia rested on his shoulders. It was in his time that the string of frontier castles across the centre of Slavonia was constructed, with Koprivnica and Ðurđevac at its easternmost section. The Turkish soldiers holding Virovitica castle, which fell in 1552 came to be the most determined enemies of Zrínyi’s men, with deadly fights taking place between them on a daily basis. Zrínyi’s hinterland from 1546 was the Mura river region and Čakovec: supplies to frontier castles were regularly launched from there. Zrínyi became captain of Szigetvár in 1561, and captain general of Transdanubia in 1563. This meant he was responsible for the defence of southern Transdanubia. He fortified Legrád and Csurgó, and provided continuous protection to the people of Babócsa, Barcs and Berzence. Zrínyi’s and Suleyman’s roads crossed at Szigetvár in 1566, and although the castle fell, victory remained with the Hungarian.