Short history of Hungarian (incl. mongolian) archery


Nearly similar recurve bow has been used mongolian, turks (ottomans) and hungarians. The basin of all those races is eastern.

To be very precise, there are small differencies in bows. Link to Kassai


That notice brings you in front of idea that this same recurved bow type must have been used also by the finns, when they first came in to Finland region. When and why they started to use long bow instead their old type is interesting question. One reason might have been it, that the wood material in mongolian bows, could have broken in dry and cold winter.


The Trojan war


...Winter now drew on, and since this has never been a battle season among civilised nations, the Greeks spent it enlarging their camp and practising archery...


Philoctetes, who had a bow and arrows of Heracles, challenged Paris to a combat in archery. The first arrow he shot went wide, the second pierced Paris's bow-hand, the third blinded his right eye, and the fourth struck his ankle, wounding him mortally.

Magyar viseletek története: Table 2

Ancient scythian and szarmatian clothes


Pictures 1-3, drawing of Nemes Mihaly: Hungarian "jazigok" clothes and veapons, in the second century Traianus statues.


Thousand years of the hungarian art of war:

10th century


Universally from the european armies:

The army which consisted of from two to three hundred knights was considered a huge army, and frequently included all of the available cavalry soldiers of an entire kingdom. "Many of the battles of this period were no more than short skirmishes between small bodies of armoured knights" Since christian kingdoms now fought against each other, the rules of war were prescribed by the Church to make it more humane. The use of armoured knights in a phalanx or square formation, as a closed tactical unit, was prohibited. The wars were simplified into duels where "the object was to unhorse the opponent rather than slay him" Servants were not allowed to participate in the attacks. Their duty was to help their lord to arm and to mount his horse, and to defend him if he fell from the saddle. The use of missiles, bows and arrows was also outlawed by the church as "unfit for christians".


These small knight-armies could not match the savage Viking armies. The Normans did not obey the rules of chivalry. In combat they sought and often obtained the complete annihilation of their enemies.



Magyars main occupation was animal husbandry, especially horse-breeding. Their horses, relatively small but very strong, had great speed and stamina. Each soldier had 3 or 4 horses, riding them in turn so as not to overtire any of them. The use of stirrups - unknown in the western cavalries - made it easy for them to make sudden stops, turns and starts, individually or in formation.


To maintain the advantage of speed by not overloading their horses, they used only very light protective armor: mail shirt, hard leather helmet, and their hair (braided into two ponytails on each side of their necks to protect the main arteries). Their armorers manufactured their slightly bent sabers, short spears and hatchets, while each fighter made his own bow and arrows. They could hit a target with deadly accuracy as individual archers, yet they preferred to shover the enemy with arrows in the form of modern salvos. Still, naturally inferior as they were to a heavily-armored knight-army attacking in phalanx formation, especially in hand-to-hand combat, they kept their distance from the heavily armored cavalrymen until the phalanx broke up under a shover of arrows or because of the terrain. Only did they try to overpower the individual knights, attacking them at once from every direction.


After the year 900, almost every year magyars led a raid against the West, Italy, or the Balkans. They also participated in ten larger campaigns in which 8000 to 10000 cavalrymen were involved. Only twice did they suffer a defeat. The Hungarians were becoming known in the Rhine and Moselle Valleys in Germany, in Belgium and in the Loire and Rhone Valleys in France. In 937, they crossed the Alps from France to Italy and raided as far as Otranto in the South. Their troops galloped under the walls of Constantinopole in 942.



The hungarians through the contemporary historians:


"The magyars are brave, handsome, and prestigous. their cloth is made of woven silk, and their weapons are silver plated and lustrous." Gurdezi


"Their weapons include the sword, armor, bow, and halberd; thus in battle, most magyars will carry two weapons, the halberd hung upright on a shoulder, and a bow in hand, using each by turns; however, when taken into pursuit, the bow is the weapon of choice. In addition to the warriors themselves, the horse of the distinguished warrior is also, fitted with armor in the front. Great effort and diligent practise is exercised in tarining mounted archers."..This magyar nation, replete with men of the independent spirit, is lavishly espressive in riches and pomp and practices chivalry and fairness with its enemies... The magyars perform work and tolls with dignity, tolerating searing heat and chilling frost alike. For the most part, the magyars keep a distance in battle, and ambush along with feigned retreat to surround  the enemy. Once the enemy is put to flight, a relentles pursuit is engaged superseding all else." VI. Bölcs Leo



Attack against Augusta (Augsburg) 955

Hungarian illuminated chronicle:Dezsö Dercsenyi.


...When the greater part of the Emperor Otto's army moved tovards the Rhine, the Hungarians surrounded them in the fields, and with their arrows they first killed their horses and throughout a whole day they did not allow them either to stay or to flee. At last, since they were unable to move, they gave themselves up, and the Hungarians exchanged these captives for their comrades who had been taken prisoner at Ratispona...


King of Teutons, Henry III, attack in to Hungary 1050

Hungarian illuminated chronicle:Dezsö Dercsenyi.


...the Emperor was in mortal distress and his whole army together with the horses and the beasts of burden was in danger of perishing miserably from starvation. Moreover every night the Hungarians and Bisseni (nomadic Turkic people; whom served as a frontier defence force) harried them fiercely; they killed them with poisoned arrows, and stretching ropes between their tents they snared them as they went about their work. For fear of the rain of arrows which shovered upon them and destroyed them the Teutons dug themselves into the ground and made a shelter with their shields, and there they lay, the living with the dead in their graves....


Battle of Kerlés, 1068

Hungarian illuminated chronicle:Dezsö Dercsenyi.


...the Comans had now taken up their position on the summit of the mountain, but the more brave and bold of the archers came half-way down the slope in order that they might prevent the Hungarians from climbing the mountain. They began to rain down thick showers and tempest of arrows upon the cohorts of the King and the Duke. But some of the most renowned soldiers among the Hungarians rushed upon the archers, and many of them they killed upon the flank of the mountain; very few of them, lashing their horses with their bows, were able to make their way up to their comrades. King Salomon was possessed with an audacity of fury, and by an ascent so steep that he had almost to crawl he climbed up with his men towards the pagans, who poured down upon him a heavy rain of arrows. Duke Geysa, who was ever prudent, climbed by an easier slope and attacked the Comans with arrows. HIs brother Ladislaus at the first charge killed four of the bravest of the pagans and was gravely wounded with an arrow by the fifth, but him also he soon killed. By divine mercy he himself was quickly healed of his wound. The wretched pagans fledunder the terrible blows of death dealt by the Hungarians...


13th century

The mongol invasion


The royal hungarian army. maintained by the king, was supported by the treasury. The army was made up of free Hungarians who served in return for small land donations or for direct money payments for themselves and their descendants during their lifetimes. THey served in the forts of the borderlands. THe troops of the royal army were Western-type heavy-armored cavalry soldiers. A smaller part of the royal army were was made up of light cavalrymen from contingents of newly immigrated Petcheneg, Cuman and other nomadic tribes.

The other army under the kings command was the national army. In wartime, but only in case of national emergency, the king had the right to mobilize the entire male population.

Hungary was not prepared into mongol invasion. The population was no longer soldier population. Only the rich nobles were trained as heavy-armored cavalry. The Hungarians had long since forgotten the lightcavalry strategy and tactics of their ancestors, which were almost the same as those now used by the Mongols. The Hungarian army was made of brave individual knights without tactical knowlwedge, discipline or talented, expert commanders.

It can safely be said that King Belas decision to confront alone the overhelming Mongolian forces saved Europe from being overrun in 1241 by the barbarian armies of Batu Khan.



Johannes de Plano Carpini: History of Mongols:


- Men does not do anything- except arrows and a little bit of taking care of their stock. Instead they hunt and practise shooting with bow. All tartars are scilled archers, including small and grownups. Boys start to ride horse at age of two to three...

...Also girls and women ride. We saw also them to carry bows and quivers.


- All tartars have atleast following weapons: Two- three bows, or atleast one good bow, three big quivers full of arrows, war-axe and ropes for pulling the besiege machines. Richer men have also sharp edged, little curved swords (sabble), which blade cuts only with one edge. They also have shielded horse, legshields, helmet and brestplate.

- Some tartars have spears which have hook on the end, that they try to use to pull rider down from the saddle. The lenght of their arrows is: two foots, one palm, and two finger wide. And because the foot length wariation, I will present foot length geometrically: thumb wide is the lenght of two barley grain, and sixteen thumb wides is the length of the geometrical foot. (here described mongol arrows legth has propably been about 75 cm).

- Arrow points were very sharp and cutted from both of the edges like a two edged sword. Tartars carry always a file in the quiver pocket, to sharpen their arrows. Arrow points have finger long tail, wich they attach in to wooden part.

- To shoot birds, animals and unarmed people they use three finger wide arrow points. It is true that they have also many other kind of arrows to shoot birds and animals.



Picture: Nemes Mihaly

Magyar viseletek története: Table 7

Hun - avarian clothes


Hun hero. (Reconstruated)


Jan Guillou: Riket vid vägens slut

1207 Danish army attacked in to Gothia.


The longbowmen was used first time in battle. Over 3000 slaves, freemen and peasants came with their own bows. Longbowmen were used tho shoot three salvos of arrows in against of the heavycavalry. These salvos destroyed nearly entirely Danish heavycavalry.


As a warbooty gothians got much new information:

- Danes had new mailshirts, made from metalpaltes, instead of rings. It was hard to get penetrated, even with a sharp pointed arrow,  such a mail.

- They also had warhammers, with hammer in the other side and long spike in the other side. Such a hammer could easily make a hole in to any helmet.

- Danes had also a light one-hand crossbow, for the use of lightcavalry. The strenghts of the weapon was big enough, that arrow could penetrate through every mail.


Henrikin Liivinmaan kronikka

1184-1227 German crusaders conquered Lettland and Estonia.


The german warmachine, which core was formed by, "swordknights" - professional soldiers - showed its superiority with its new tactical knowledge, better weapons and other machines. For the development of those things has been gained experiense in the crusaides to the Holy land. Knights used in closecombat, spears, sword and shield, which were known also of defenders. Decisive advantage for the knights was instead of that crosbows (ballista), 'cause defenders used until 1223 only normal bows.


Vladimir prince of Polotski, sieges castle of Holm

In the battles which took many days, also the russians, whom didn´t know the use of ballista, wounded many germans who were on garrison. Russians collected big amounts of wood and tried to burn the castle. But the work was wasted, as many of them killed wounded by the ballista, while they gathered woods.


Magyar viseletek története: Table 62

Hungarian clothes at the period of Jagellons


Picture 10, drawing of Nemes Mihaly: Magyar hero. Dürer Albert as in the unprinted 1517 drawing. (Original was in the possession of Pulszky Károly.)

The duke of Burgundy´s archer bodyguard (15 th century)

Medieval military costume: Gerry Embleton


At this time it was fashionable to have bodyguards of archers, both for protection and display. The burgundian dukes lavished gifts on their bodyguard archers - not entirely unselfishly. The 40 archiers de corps under their two captains waited ready and mounted to accompany him whenever he moved quarters; they surrounded their master wherever he vent, day and night, and stood between him and the assassin's knife.

They were to practise with their bows whenever possible, and the ducal artillery accounts mention bows, shooting gloves and bracers for them. They acted like a modern president's motorcycle outriders, and also at times acted as 'police', going without their bows to control over-enthusiastic crowds.



15 th century english soldiers

Medieval military costume: Gerry Embleton


The three great victories over the French - Crecy (1345), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415) - made the English archer a legend.





Magyar viseletek története: Nemes-Nagy-Tompos. ISBN 963 85528 3 2


Hungarian illuminated chronicle:Dezsö Dercsenyi. ISBN 0-8008-4015-1


Mongolien historia: Johannes de Plano Carpini. ISBN 951-662-873-7


Riket vid vägens slut: Jan Guillou. Not directly word to word


Thousand years of the hungarian art of war:




Medieval military costume: Gerry Embleton. ISBN 1 86126 371 6


Henrikin Liivinmaan kronikka: Kahlos & Sarasti-Wilenius. ISBN 951-746-521-1