Zsigmond Báthori, Michael the Brave, and Giorgio Basta

No one in Hungary since King Matthias had managed to consolidate central power as effectively as did Transylvania's rulers. This fact goes a long way toward explaining how that small state, threatened from two directions, could survive a succession of crises; and how a Hungarian social entity could make its culture flourish again and remain an actor on the international stage.

There was only one flaw in this generally positive record: the excessive concentration of power in the hands of the ruling prince. With their jurisdiction ill-defined, high state officials were not so much decision-makers as advisers to the prince and agents of his will. Such subservience depended on the presence of a capable and determined ruler; a weakening of the latter's authority could have potentially disastrous consequences.

Between 1581 and 1586, the government of Transylvania was firmly in the hands of Stephen Báthori, King of Poland. The aristocrats who acceded to power after his death were no better than second-rate civil servants. János Ghiczy, who was appointed governor in 1585, found himself at odds with Zsigmond Báthori's ambitious relatives. Led by István Bocskai, the latter quarrelled constantly with officials of the Kovacsóczy chancellery, people who had acquired a humanistic outlook in Padua. The feudal estates, after thirty years of obedient quiescence, realized that this discord at the apex of power could serve their particular interests. When the diet was convened in October 1588 to enthrone the 16-year-old Zsigmond Báthori, it dug in its heels and demanded that the Jesuits be expelled. Young Zsigmond was a fervid Catholic, and his father- {1-744.} confessor was the Spanish Jesuit Alfonso Carillo. He rejected the demand, whereupon the diet dispersed without having accomplished its appointed task.

A tug-of-war followed between the prince and the emboldened feudal estates. Zsigmond Báthori and his chancellery had little leverage at their disposal: other members of the Báthori family controlled the principal crown estates, and both Boldizsár Báthori and the younger István Báthori, captains respectively of Várad and Fogaras, were jealous of their cousin's power. When the diet reconvened in December 1588, the prince was compelled to ban the Jesuits in exchange for recognition of his majority. The aging Ghiczy resigned and died soon afterwards.

The victory of the feudal estates spurred the prince's power-hungry relatives into action. In 1590, the oldest of them, Boldizsár Báthori, began to forge links with opposition forces led by the Kendi family. Successive diets whittled away at the powers of the ruling prince. A bill, enacted in November 1591, prescribed that on issues of national importance, the prince had to follow the rulings of his council. Smelling danger, the chancellery tried to retaliate; it proposed to Zsigmond that it mediate a reconciliation with Boldizsár, or, alternatively, arrange the latter's assassination. By coming forward with a proposal rather than a fait accompli, the chancellery's officials revealed their major weakness: they were incapable of taking initiatives. Nor did the prince's reaction bode well for the future: frightened by the proposal (and allegedly on Carillo's advice), he revealed the plan to Boldizsár. The latter promptly arranged for the murder of two chancellery officials, Pál Gyulay, the prince's scholarly personal secretary, and János Gálfi, Zsigmond's onetime tutor and manager of Stephen Báthori's 'election' in 1581. The prince remained silent.

Following these events, which all occurred in the autumn of 1592, Chancellor Kovacsóczy lost confidence in his ruler and made overtures to the opposition. He was married to Sándor Kendi's {1-745.} daughter, whose sister had just been wed by Boldizsár Báthori. Thus the feudal estates, the chancellery, and the core of the Báthori family combined forces against the prince.

However, Zsigmond Báthori had some potential supporters. Ignoring the last wish of King Stephen, the Polish diet had elected as king not his nephew but the Swedish monarch Sigismund III. When the Habsburgs tried to impose their rule over Poland, the late king's Transylvanian troops helped the Poles to repel this threat, then headed back to Transylvania. There they were garrisoned in frontier fortresses, and their commanders naturally established close relations with the castellans and other local aristocrats. The most important of these was the prince's uncle, István Bocskai. When young Zsigmond turned to Bocskai for help, the latter was ready to seize the opportunity.

The changes that came in 1593 confirmed Stephen Báthori's wisdom in treating the Ottomans with great circumspection. After twenty-five years of relative peace, the Ottoman Empire went once again on the offensive in Hungary. Emperor Rudolph received promises of assistance not only from his German lands but also from Spain, Venice, and the Pope.

The 21-year-old, Jesuit-educated Zsigmond Báthori saw a ray of hope: perhaps he could participate in the expulsion of the Ottomans and realize the goals that Hungarians had dreamt of for fifty years. He won the enthusiastic support of soldiers who had participated in Stephen Báthori's victorious battles and of those who had knowledge of the great king's anti-Ottoman schemes. Zsigmond convoked the Transylvanian diet, which duly approved his proposal to prepare for war, but only on conditions that further limited the prince's powers. Thus in the fall of 1593, a new tax (kalongyapénz) was imposed; the revenues were to be handled by the treasurer of the feudal estates, who was none other than Gábor Kendi. The following spring, the military units were kept separate from the prince's army.

{1-746.} Somewhat unexpectedly, the Christian armies in Hungary earned a series of victories over the Ottomans in late 1593 and early 1594. Zsigmond Báthori's enthusiasm grew by leaps and bounds. Father Carillo conveyed alliance proposals, first to Rome, then to Rudolph's court at Prague, and found a ready welcome in both places. The Pope promptly dispatched a nuncio to Transylvania, and the pact was sealed at Gyulafehérvár in February 1594. Transylvania, announced Zsigmond, would adhere to the Holy League. A few weeks later, the governor (bán) of Lugos, György Palatics, launched an assault on the Turkish vilayet of Temes.

This bold stroke was rather deceptive, for it was executed on a unilateral decision of the prince and lacked the backing of the diet and the feudal estates. Chancellor Kovacsóczy remained wedded to the traditional, Turkish-oriented policy, as did most of Transylvania' aristocrats, who were unable to forget the events of the 1550s. Their reservations found justification in the fact that the Habsburgs, despite all the promises of help, went to war with insufficient forces. Contributions came only from the German Empire, then in a phase of disintegration, from a papacy weakened by the Reformation, and from the Republic of Venice. Other European countries remained neutral, and the chancellor of neighbouring Poland, Jan Zamoyski, preferred to nurture cordial relations with the Sublime Porte.

Despite the early military successes in Hungary, the majority of delegates to the diet that convened on 12 May 1594 at Torda remained opposed to the war. Ignoring the advice of Bocskai and other military leaders, the diet rejected the prince's proposal, and the latter was prevented by the 1591 law from acting independently. The diet named two opposition figures, Boldizsár Báthori and János Gerendy, to command and manage the finances of the feudal estates' army set up in February. Left to his own devices, Governor Palatics suffered a defeat at the hands of the Ottomans, and the local Serbs who had rallied to him lost their faith in Transylvania.

{1-747.} Meanwhile, in Habsburg Hungary, the Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha led a successful counter-attack against the Christians' armies. What's more, Tartar raiders reappeared on the Great Plain and the borders of Transylvania. Bocskai, who had been promoted to the captaincy of Várad, had to rush to the aid of Ferenc Geszty's beleaguered garrison at Déva. When, on 1 July, at Gyulafehérvár, Zsigmond tried once again to obtain the support of the diet, the opposition put on a show of armed force and rammed through a resolution to stay out of the war.

The prince momentarily gave up. After declaring that he would abdicate and hand over power to Boldizsár Báthori, he headed for the Hungarian border. Stunned by this unexpected turn of events, his opponents spent weeks debating how to reorganize Transylvania's government. They seemed oblivious to the fact that while the prince had departed, the pro-war faction continued to exist.

Zsigmond Báthori did not leave the principality, but halted in Kővár. As soon the Tartar threat waned, Bocskai, Geszty, and the captain of Huszt, Gáspár Kornis, hurried to his side and persuaded him to change his mind. At the end of July, the prince issued a proclamation that he would return. The Kendi brothers, Boldizsár Báthori, and the chancellery's officials kowtowed and saw no reason to stay away from the meeting of the diet called for August 20. The Prince entered Kolozsvár at the head of Bocskai's troops and forced the diet to declare war on the Ottomans. Urged on by his officers, Zsigmond proceeded on 28 August to have the opposition leaders arrested. Sándor Kendi and his younger brother, Gábor, were beheaded along with three other councillors. The imprisoned Boldizsár Báthori, Farkas Kovacsóczy, and Ferenc Kendi were garrotted on 11 September.

The war-party now stood unopposed, and the confiscated wealth of the late dissenters could be applied to the needs of the army. The autumn was too short to launch a major military campaign, {1-748.} and a raid on Facset, in the Temesköz, ended badly. However, Bocskai travelled to the Prague court and there, on 28 January 1595, a treaty of alliance was signed between Transylvania and the Habsburg Empire; this was the first occasion that the Habsburgs recognized Báthori's title of prince (princeps). A second agreement, signed in March, sealed the betrothal of Archduchess Maria Christierna to Prince Zsigmond.

Soon afterwards, the Transylvanian army launched a two-pronged offensive. Between June and October, forces commanded by the governor of Karánsebes, György Borbély, reoccupied Tótvárad, Facset, Solymos, Lippa, Arad, Világos, Borosjenő, and all the forts in the area. The prince himself led the bulk of the army southward to drive the Ottomans from Wallachia.

Since October 1593, that Romanian principality had been ruled by the voivode Michael, who later came to be known as Michael the Brave (in Romanian, Mihai Viteazul). Wallachia had been for decades a vassal state of the Porte. Its voivodes acted essentially as proconsuls for the Ottomans; far from being able to confront the latter, they were obliged to provide military assistance. The shift in Transylvanian policy created conditions similar to those before 1526: Hungarian, or, more precisely, Transylvanian support could help to counteract the power of the sultan. Moreover, unlike most of his predecessors, the voivode Michael was prepared to take bold action. Around the middle of 1594, he concluded a secret pact with Zsigmond Báthori. In November, assisted by Székely soldiers, Michael turned on the Ottomans, attacking their strongholds along the Danube from Vidin to Brăila. Moldavia's voivode, Aron Tiranul, promptly joined the Transylvanian alliance and attacked the Ottomans in the Danube Delta.

By the end of 1594, Grand Vizier Sinan had largely succeeded in stabilizing the Hungarian front. The following summer, he had to set off on another mission. Istanbul relied heavily on Wallachia for its food supply, and Michael's rebellion had brought it close to famine. Sinan marched off at the head of a 40,000-strong army to {1-749.} restore order in the Romanian principalities. Meanwhile, first Wallachia (on May 20), then Moldavia (on July 3) had acknowledged the suzerainty of Prince Zsigmond, who was therefore obligated to protect his new vassals. Voivode Michael disposed of no more than 17,000 troops, including a strong Székely contingent. On 23 August, at Călugăreni, he managed to halt Sinan Pasha's advance, but superior numbers soon forced him to withdraw into the Carpathians, with his army reduced to 8,000 men.

At summer's end, Zsigmond Báthori intensified his preparations for war. He had recently wed Maria Christierna, but it appears that the wedding night turned into a fiasco, prompting the broken-hearted prince to seek solace in military glory. The prince's own army, the feudal estates' units, and the detachments sent by the Habsburgs and the new voivode of Moldavia, Ştefan Răzvan, added up to only 16,000 soldiers. Zsigmond therefore called on the Székelys, who had been driven into servitude some twenty-five years earlier. Some 15,000 Székelys assembled at the military encampment near Feketehalom and, on September 15, the prince gave in to their demand that he restore their liberties. Báthori must have felt vindicated in making this risky concession when, a few days after the formal document was issued, an additional 8,000 Székelys arrived at the camp. The commander-in-chief, Bocskai, soon issued an order to march, and in October an army of close to 40,000 men crossed the border near Brassó to link up with Voivode Michael. On October 18, they recaptured Tîrgovişte from the Ottomans. Two days later, Sinan Pasha pulled out of Bucharest, but Bocskai and Michael caught up with his retreating army at Giurgiu, on the Danube. The main Turkish force managed to cross the river, but the garrison and the rear-guard units were slaughtered. By October 29, Wallachia was once again free of the Ottomans.

The war took a favourable turn in Hungary as well, for Christian forces recaptured Visegrád, Vác, and Esztergom. Zsigmond, however, could not have been wholly satisfied with the fruits of victory. As a reward for Michael's military contribution, he {1-750.} had to release the Wallachian voivode from vassalage. As for Moldavia's ruler, when Stephen returned home from the battle of Giurgiu, he was murdered on orders of a rival, the Polish-backed Ieremia Movilă, and the latter took over as voivode.

Zsigmond faced a bigger problem at home, and one for which he was largely responsible. The liberation of the Székelys clashed with the interests of Transylvanian nobles (who thereby lost many villeins) and ran counter to the ineluctable disintegration of traditional Székely society. Perhaps the prince never had any intention of making the change permanent; in any case, after perfunctory talks, he rescinded the decree in early 1596.

Having given their blood for freedom, the Székelys were embittered by the prince's volte-face and girded for an 'offensive'. Zsigmond and his main adviser, Bocskai, had anticipated this reaction and, just before Lent 1596, they dispatched troops to the Székelyföld. The revolt was nipped in the bud, and with such appalling cruelty — including impalement, hanging, and mutilation — that ordinary Székelys developed an abiding hatred for the prince and the entire Báthori dynasty. No longer could Zsigmond count on them to fight the Ottomans; his attempt in early summer to recapture Temesvár ended in failure.

That fall, the Christian armies suffered a series of major defeats in Habsburg Hungary. The earlier setbacks and the famine in Istanbul had spurred into action the new sultan, Mohammed III, who personally led an army into Hungary. On 13 October, the mercenary garrison of Eger ignored the protests of the castellan, Pál Nyáry, and surrendered that key stronghold. A relief force of Habsburg and Transylvanian troops arrived with some delay, only to be defeated at Mezőkeresztes in a bitter battle that lasted four days, from October 23 to 26. A disillusioned Zsigmond repaired back to Transylvania, apprehending perhaps that henceforth the war would turn into a costly stalemate. Accompanied by Bocskai, he travelled to Prague in January 1597 for talks with the court. Zsigmond raised the possibility of his abdication, but the court had {1-751.} not given up hope of military victory and tried to dissuade the prince. In the event, the year brought little cause for optimism; a Transylvanian offensive in the Temesköz was once again repulsed, and a military stalemate marked the front in Transdanubia.

Zsigmond's irrevocable decision to abdicate was conveyed to Prague by Father Carillo, and an agreement was concluded on 23 December. Emperor Rudolph assented to the prince's divorce from Maria Christierna, granted him an annuity as well as the duchies of Oppeln and Ratibor, and promised to obtain for Zsigmond a cardinal's hat.

In April 1598, the emperor's commissioners — István Szuhay, Miklós Istvánffy, and Bartholomeus Pezzen — took charge of Transylvania and the Partium. István Bocskai had the principality's soldiers swear allegiance to the emperor, and Zsigmond Báthori set off for Silesia.

As in 1551, the transfer of power did not go smoothly. Military reverses had rekindled the pro-Turkish tendency in Transylvania, and the new chancellor, István Jósika, adopted this orientation. His intrigues were exposed, and he was put under arrest, but the leading proponent of war, Bocskai, was dismissed from his post of army commander.

Offended by this demotion, Bocskai urged his onetime ruler to return to Transylvania. Zsigmond was as unhappy with his status at Oppeln and Ratibor as Isabella had been in the 1550s. Responding to Bocskai's entreaties, he set off in total secrecy and reached Kolozsvár on 20 August 1598. Bocskai was reinstated as army commander, replacing Gáspár Kornis; Chancellor Jósika was executed; and the imperial commissioners were sent home. Transylvania was once again ruled by Zsigmond Báthori.

The Prague court refused to ratify this change, and, in the autumn of 1598, the Ottomans laid siege to Várad, the gate to Transylvania. The fortress still had its imperial garrison, which Bocskai reinforced with some Transylvanian units. After a protracted struggle, the defenders, who were under the command of {1-752.} Pál Nyáry (of Eger fame), drove off the Ottomans. Paradoxically, Transylvania had been preserved from the Ottomans by another hostile power, but that did not alter the fact that the principality was caught between two millstones. Dire necessity drove Báthori to parley with the Ottomans, but when this failed, he was persuaded by Father Carillo to seek a rapprochement with the Poles. Chancellor Zamoyski responded readily to the overture. The agreement, sealed on 17 March 1599, provided for Zsigmond to abdicate (for the third time!) and hand over power to his cousin, Cardinal András Báthori, freshly arrived from Poland.

Transylvania thus fell into Poland's sphere of influence. This shift carried one clear benefit: both Cracow and its ally, Moldavia's voivode Ieremia Movilă, interceded for András Báthori in Istanbul. However, this transfer of power was no more trouble-free than the preceding one. Bocskai withdrew to his domain in the region east of the Tisza and proceeded to assemble a new army. Emperor Rudolph armed an expeditionary force, commanded by Giorgio Basta, to bring Transylvania back to the fold. Both were beaten to the punch by Wallachia's Voivode Michael, who, on 5 October 1599, marched on the principality.

Michael the Brave had good reason to act promptly. He had fought bravely against the Ottomans, and although, in 1598, he signed a treaty of peace with the latter, both sides knew that the issue was far from settled. When Transylvania fell under the influence of Poland, which preserved normal relations with the Porte, a hostile ring closed around Wallachia. Only the Habsburgs were prepared to ally themselves with voivode Michael. The treaty, signed in Prague on 9 June 1598, made Wallachia a vassal state; in exchange, the emperor undertook to cover the cost of providing five thousand mercenaries to the Romanian principality. The voivode, as befits a good general, wanted to secure a land link to his ally. With Emperor Rudolph's assent, he launched an attack on Transylvania.

{1-753.} Many Székelys rallied to Michael, and his army had grown to over 20,000 men when, on 28 October 1599, he engaged the forces of Gáspár Kornis, András Báthori's military commander, at the village of Sellenberk, near Szeben. The battle ended in Michael's favour. On November 3, the cardinal-prince, on his way to safe haven in Poland, was killed in the Székelyföld.

Voivode Michael marched into Gyulafehérvár on November 1. The Transylvanian diet, which convened there at the end of the month, dutifully bowed to the conqueror and acknowledged him as imperial governor. This was the first time that the state of Transylvania had a Romanian ruler. Wallachian boyars were given functions — rather ill-defined — in the government. The bán Mihalcea acted as governor when Michael had to be absent from the country. For a time, András Báthori's chancellor, Bishop Demeter Napragi, remained at his post; when he resigned, Michael did not name a successor but left matters in the hands of the secretary, János Jacobinus. At the same time, Michael gave freer rein to his Wallachian chancellor, the logofet Teodosie. The important post of court-marshal was assigned to a boyar, Stoica, who thereby gained influence over the administration of state finances. The Transylvanian army's command was held at first by István Csáky, then, after he changed sides, by András Barcsai. The Székely troops, and, of course, the Romanian ones belonged to separate command. The administration of each district in the counties and seats was placed under the supervision of a Romanian captain. The Greek Orthodox denomination was given official recognition, a status withdrawn from the Calvinists and Unitarians, and Orthodox priests were taken out of the ranks of villeins. Villages were ordered to allow Romanian shepherds to graze their flocks on fallow land.

On the other hand, there is no evidence that Michael wanted Transylvania's Romanians to play a political role. Indeed, while he brought some of his Wallachian aides to Transylvania, he also invited {1-754.} some Székelys and other Transylvanian Hungarians to assist in the administration of Wallachia, where he wished to transplant Transylvania's far more advanced feudal system. Initially, Michael made an effort in Transylvania to win over the traditional feudal estates. Several leading figures, political and military, were drawn to his court: Csáky, Barcsai, Napragi, and even Gáspár Kornis, Farkas Kornis, and Mózes Székely. The voivode consulted the diet, which met three times (including the initial session at Gyulafehérvár) over the short lifespan of his rule. The Székelys, having recovered their liberties, rewarded Michael with their loyalty; and he had such faith in them that he did not bother to appoint Romanian captains for their districts.

Yet Michael failed to entrench his rule. The majority of Hungarian nobles were alienated by his early concessions to the Székelys, and for two reasons. One was that they suffered material losses as a result of the liberation of Székely villeins. The other was that the Székelys, giving vent to their pent-up resentment, seized the opportunity to take bloody revenge — not sparing even women and children — on all those implicated in their suppression in 1596.

The hostility to Michael was also fed by hefty tax increases. The basic state tax, which had stood at 3 forints per household for decades, shot up to 16 forints by late 1600; and towns were obliged to make loans to the state. The money was needed mainly to cover military expenses: as mistrust turned to mounting hostility, the voivode could only sustain his rule by the threat of force. Financial support from the emperor ceased as soon as it became clear that Michael had no intention of allowing Transylvania to be controlled by Prague, and when he laid claim to the Partium, which had passed under Habsburg rule. The mercenaries cost Michael close to 100,000 forints a month, and neither Wallachia nor Transylvania could generate sufficient revenues. To forestall collapse, Michael launched in May 1600 a surprise attack on Moldavia and expelled the pro-Polish voivode, Ieremia Movilă. But the booty from that impoverished country could delay the crises for {1-755.} only a few weeks; by the end of the summer, most of the victorious troops had to resort to looting to sustain themselves. The peasants, Hungarian and Romanian alike, tried to resist, and thereby incurred even more vicious reprisals — the most notorious of which was the bloodbath perpetrated on 6 August 1600 at Bánffyhunyad. The outrages incited Transylvanian nobles to mount a counter-action, and the leader of the resistance movement, István Csáky, turned for help to Giorgio Basta.

A Habsburg army entered Transylvania and, aided by the local rebels, defeated Michael's forces in a battle at Miriszló on 18 September 1600. The majority of Székelys had remained loyal to Michael and, indeed, accounted for the larger part of his army, but others had changed sides and joined Basta. Mihály fled to Wallachia, only to face a revolt of the boyars, who, with Turkish and Polish support, had invited Simion Movilă to be their new voivode. On 15 November, Michael suffered another defeat in a battle by the Argeş River. Forced once again to flee, he reached the imperial court at Prague on 12 January 1601.

Meanwhile, in late October 1600, Transylvania's three 'nations' had sworn allegiance to Emperor Rudolph. Basta promptly revoked the act that had restored Székely liberties and exiled István Bocskai, whose wealth and independence made him dangerous. Like Michael, the distinguished general sought refuge in Prague, but he soon retired in disgust to his domain in Bihar county.

Now it was the turn of General Basta's ill-paid mercenaries to torment Transylvania's people. Their depredations, which spread to the edge of the Great Plain, acquired appalling proportions. Among the Christians, the most brutal were the hajdú troops, mostly uprooted peasants who applied to their former fellows the cruelty that they had suffered and learned from the soldiers. On the Turkish side, the worst atrocities were perpetrated by the Tartars and other soldiers of fortune. Observing the meaningless bloodbath, and counting on the mutual exhaustion of the protagonists, Chancellor {1-756.} Jan Zamoyski tried to draw Transylvania back into Poland's sphere of influence. Zsigmond Báthori was ready and willing to serve this end, and the feudal estates followed István Csáky's advice to invite the return of their onetime prince. Basta and his troops left Transylvania without a fight, and, in February 1601, Zsigmond reclaimed the princely throne.

However, Prague was not ready to give up. Basta's army was re-organized, and the former voivode Michael was assigned to help. On 3 August, at Goroszló, Báthori suffered defeat and was put to flight. Two weeks later, Michael was murdered by Walloon officers of Basta's army. Transylvania fell once again into Habsburg hands, and the conquerors wrought death and devastation. An eyewitness, István Szamosközy (who also used the name Pál Enyedi), recorded that 'the peasantry sought refuge deep in the woods, the hills, the mountains, where they suffered great deprivation. But even the forests could not offer adequate hiding place; they were hunted down, tormented, branded with red-hot irons, ropes were tightened around their heads until the eyes popped out, many were hung by their hair and burned to death, children were burned in front of their mothers, and I will not detail what atrocities they perpetrated upon the women.'[15]15. Quoted in Imre Mikó, Erdélyi történeti adatok, I (Historical Data on Transylvania) (Kolozsvár, 1855), p. 187. Nor were aristocrats spared in the manhunt; one of the victims was Gáspár Kornis.

A ray of hope pierced through the darkness of despair when the persistent Zsigmond Báthori made a fourth attempt to regain control of Transylvania, this time with the help of Turkish and Tartar troops. Basta once again withdrew without a fight, his troops carrying on with the pillage as they left the country. They left behind Tartar marauders and the plague. Zsigmond was appalled at the consequences of his latest initiative. A few months later, he suffered a breakdown and departed from his devastated country, never to return. He died in exile in Prague, in 1613.

The news of Zsigmond's departure prompted Basta to change course again. The beleaguered Transylvanians marshalled an army, {1-757.} but it was soundly defeated at Tövis on 2 July 1602. The looting and killing that followed were now explicitly construed as reprisals, and the conquerors, for good measure, began to persecute Protestants. The feudal estates made one last attempt to defy the odds. Mózes Székely was a general who had once served Stephen Báthori and who had distinguished himself in recent battles. In April 1603, he called upon the assistance of Turkish and Tartar auxiliaries to launch a revolt against the emperor. Basta's army was routed, and their commander was trapped in besieged Szamosújvár. On May 8, Mózes Székely assumed the title of prince.

But the pendulum swung back, perhaps even more quickly than on earlier occasions. The depredations of the Tartars had utterly demoralized the peasantry. The Székelys, for their part, refused to back a man who claimed to be a successor to the Báthori dynasty. That spring, Wallachia's new voivode, Radul (Radu Şerban) had gone to war against the Ottomans; to protect his rear, he launched an attack on Transylvania. Most of the Székelys rallied to Radul, and on 17 July, near Brassó, Mózes Székely lost the battle, and his life.

Basta returned, and the emperor's authority was firmly reimposed, but Transylvania was being bled white. The population, already dispossessed, was decimated by epidemics and famine. Food and draught animals became exceedingly scarce. When Basta left Transylvania in early 1604, he could be confident that no one had the strength left to rebel.