The Battle of Mohacs took place in 1526 between the Ottoman Empire and the Hungarian Empire. It is one of the most important battles in western history. It’s outcome decided the fate of Europe, especially Eastern Europe, down to the present day. Color the Battle of Mohacs Map and then talk about the events leading up to the battle and the major people involved while you put the people and battles in the “windows” of the map.
First color the map so each country stands out. Make sure to point out where the Mediterranean Sea is so the kids don’t color it by accident. Or you can have them color the sea first to avoid confusion.
After the map is colored, cut the side of the map with the colored images off the rest of it. Then cut out each of the dotted flaps using a utility knife or the sharp edge of scissors. Leave the flap of paper attached on one side. Cut out and glue each of the pictures of people and battles behind the flaps (numbers next to the pictures correspond to numbers on the flaps) as you read the information below about the events surrounding the Battle of Mohacs.
Be sure to leave white paper space around each picture so you have a space to place your glue. When you open the flap you should see your pictures inside, not glued to the flap, but the flap revealing the picture.
Events Surrounding the Battle of Mohacs
The paragraphs below are numbered and the numbers correspond to the numbered images and flaps in the map activity.
1. In 1490 King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary died. He had been very harsh and heavy-handed with his nobles and they decide this was the perfect opportunity to put in someone more amenable. So they install Vladislaus II of Bohemia on the throne. Bohemia and Hungary are separate kingdoms, united politically during this period. Vladislaus had a nickname of “Dobze”, which means good or okay, because he signed everything that was handed him and said yes to every request made. He was a puppet of the nobles. Under his rule the bureaucracy was dissolved and the taxes were stopped. Border towns, forts and castles went un-garrisoned as the soldiers were unpaid and the walls began to crumble with no one to maintain them.
2. In 1514 the peasants of Hungary revolted led by a man called Dozsa. The peasant revolt was brutally put down by the nobility, but the country was left even weaker with no loyalty and no protections for the people and no order or stability.
3. In 1521 Nandorfehervar castle (modern day Belgrade) in the south fell to the Ottomans. This was the last stronghold left on the southern border and now the country was wide open to the Ottomans. After the town fell the king called for the nobles to bring troops to relieve and retake the town, but the nobles did not respond. Eventually the king did gather an army of 60,000 troops, but no one remembered to gather any food so the army quickly dissolved and no effort was made to retake the castle.
4. In 1522 King Louis II of Hungary married a Hapsburg princess, Mary. The Ottomans feared a unity between the Habsburgs and the Hungarians. This caused the Ottomans to act.
5. Back in 1520 Suleiman had risen to be sultan of the Ottomans. He had worked to secure a peace treaty with Louis II but Louis refused. In light of the condition of Hungary at this time it seems incomprehensible. But perhaps he refused to make treaty with Muslims or perhaps he thought he could still beat the Ottomans as Hungary had formerly been very powerful. Or perhaps he saw no other options and knew a peace treaty would just delay the inevitable.
6. In 1525 the French King Francis I was defeated and captured in battle by the Hapsburgs who forced him to sign a treaty. Francis knew the only power left strong enough to take on the Hapsburgs was the Ottomans. So he made an alliance with them which lasted for three hundred years. The rest of Europe was horrified that a Christian king would make treaty with a Muslim sultan against another Christian king. Francis encouraged Suleiman to attack the Hapsburgs but to get there Suleiman would have to go through Hungary.
7. In 1526 Suleiman entered Hungary with his troops. The Hungarian army, only about half the size of the Ottoman army met Suleiman at a marshy field near the town of Mohacs. The Hungarians could have waited for reinforcements but they didn’t. They could have attacked the tired Ottomans as soon as they arrived at the field, but they didn’t, waiting instead for the Ottomans to prepare themselves, as this was the chivalrous thing to do. The Hungarians could have chosen better ground where their chief weapon, the heavy cavalry, could operate, but they chose marshy ground that hampered their movements. In a few hours the Hungarians were defeated. Almost all the leadership of Hungary died that day, including the king who drowned while retreating across a river. The Hungarians who were captured were executed.
This was the end of a unified Hungary. It was divided between the Hapsburg and the Ottomans and they battled over it for the next two hundred years. This struggle, along with periodic revolts, meant that Hungary was a continual battleground. Suleiman spent the rest of his life trying to solidify his hold on Hungary, eventually dying there of natural causes during a battle. Hungary would not be an independent nation again until after WWI.
- The Ottomans certainly didn’t care much for the Hungarians, but they also didn’t execute the captured soldiers purely out of cruelty. They were in enemy territory, expecting further attacks from a nation that until very recently had been very strong, attacks that never came, and they knew they could not feed those captured. They also couldn’t let them go. It was brutal, but practical, to execute the enemy.
- Suleiman is known as “the magnificent” in the west, but in Turkey he is known as “the lawgiver.” Find out why.
- The Battle of Mohacs completely shaped modern Eastern European history. Hundreds of years of unrest and war left the region stripped and helpless before the Nazi’s and the Soviets, and unstable enough that the Rule of Law has not been able to prevent atrocities.
- Hungary didn’t do the Ottomans any good either. It was more bother than it was worth and probably weakened the Ottomans who made enemies in Europe and expended resources and blood holding the region. The one who really benefited was the crafty Francis I of France. He spent nothing and stayed nicely at home and set the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans at each others throats. Think about how “diplomacy” can be used as a weapon.
- Use a globe to point out where these locations are. Review the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa and the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
- This map activity and tons of other cool stuff can be found in Unit 3-2 of the Layers of Learning Curriculum.