Baroque Macedonia and the Macedonian Revolts/Chapter 3 : The gathering of troops

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Chapter 3[edit | edit source]

The gathering of troops

The Macedonians had also attempted a revolt back in the mid 16th century and this was one of the very first revolts ever to occur. The local uprising took place in 1564, it began in the Mariovo region and spread to the Prilep plains and from there to the town of Prilep. Known as the Mariovo and Prilep revolt, it is unknown why this revolt began, but it is clear that three peasants and two priests from the Mariovo district started it. No sooner had the trouble started when the Sultan, through a decree dated October 3, 1564, ordered that the leaders of the revolt be put to death while the followers were to be sent to serve as oarsmen on Turkish galleys. Before the decree could be enforced, however the perpetrators fled causing the Sultan to order another decree for their capture. The Mariovo and Prilep rebellion was one that was unsuccessful and the rebellion was suppressed by the Ottoman troops. Prilep soon became a place known for demonstrations, when the Ottoman court ruled in favour of a Pasha in a dispute with the peasants. According to a document dated December 1565 a revolt broke out inside the town of Prilep. The situation began when the Prilep court, in settling a dispute between the peasants and Mustafa Pasha, ruled in favour of the Pasha. Later the news hit the streets and more than a thousand rebels from the surrounding villages, armed with garden shovels, and long barrelled muskets assembled and stormed the court. It is unknown how this situation or incident ended. As explained previously the peasants eventually had no chance in further causing trouble as the large Ottoman forces greatly enforced order upon the peasant rebels.

According to historical sources General Piccolomini was currently in the town of Nis, Ottoman Serbia, he arrived there on the 24th of September, 1689 in the early hours of the morning. With him was also the Austrian commander, Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden. Accompanying the two commanders was Pavle Nestorović who was a Serbian commander that assisted Piccolomini, during the capture of Nis. Nis was a quite town located in the southern part of Ottoman Serbia, it had a garrison of approximately 40,000 soldiers or most likely over 40,000. Louis William had a total of about 16,000 troops, most of them were Austrian however there were also Serbian troops. When Louis William learned that there were no Ottoman defence positions on Vinik he ordered Pavle to attack. Eventually Pavle was successful and the Battle of Nis ended with an Austrian victory. Pavle was promoted and later Louis William had decided to leave for Vidin while Piccolomini was left to keep an eye on Nis. The next month Piccolomini left for Ottoman Macedonia, and when this happened the Ottoman troops once again gained possession of the Sanjak of Nis.

A Macedonian soldier or rebel holding a heavy musket, circa 1610.

A cartographic map of Central Europe, circa 1806.

On the right we see a photo of a Macedonian rebel holding a heavy musket. These types of guns were very popular during the first half of the 17th century. A musket is a muzzle-loaded long gun that appeared as a smoothbore weapon in the early 16th century, at first as a heavier variant of the arquebus capable of penetrating heavy armor if fired correctly. Distinguished features of a heavy musket was a very long barrel, the reason for this extremely long barrel was to gain a good or reasonable range. Evidence of the musket as a type of firearm does not appear until 1521, the long-barreled, musket-caliber weapons had been in use as wall-defense weapons in Europe and in other continents. By 1650 the heavy musket eventually become obsolete due to its size and weight, as a result of this the musket was improved. By 1690 the wearing of knights armor dramatically decreased, this was probably due to the increased power of certain types of guns.

There are two sources regarding the arrival of Silvio Piccolomini to the city of Uskup (Skopje). General Piccolomini arrived in Uskup in late October, 1689. One historical source explains that when General Piccolomini entered Uskup he was greeted by the people of Uskup, and there was also a fanfare playing at the time, while the other historical source explains that when he arrived to the city, the city was most likely abandoned and there was only a few people. When General Piccolomini set out from the Habsburg Empire he had a total of 4,000 soldiers most of them were cavalry, after the battle of Nis, his armies were reduced as some of them were killed in action or were injured and had to remain behind. Overall his armies now were a small number, and this greatly affected his abilities to guard or even defend a large city such as Uskup.

With General Piccolomini in Uskup, what happened to the Ottoman garrison that was stationed in Uskup ? Did they withdraw from the city of Uskup after witnessing the Austrian armies entering the city, or was the city unguarded and no Ottoman troops were positioned within the streets of Uskup ? These are just some questions that have puzzled the Macedonian historians. The answer to this question is that there were no Ottoman soldiers stationed within Uskup (Skopje) at the time, because if there was then a fierce battle would break out. There was no armed conflict between the Ottoman troops and the Austrian cavalry units within Uskup.

While staying in Skopje, Piccolomini started feeling very ill. He was unaware that he had contracted some form of disease. According to historical accounts, Piccolomini had cholera and his health was beginning to deteriorate. Piccolomini had the following symtoms : diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and discoloration of the skin. It is unclear how Piccolomini contracted cholera, it was most likely through the drinking of contaminated water or the eating of food that was contaminated with the bacterium. Back in the late 17th Century (1601-1700) the medical knowledge relating to cholera was limited, doctors were uncertain as to what caused the disease, and their current medicines provided no relief or prevention from the bacterium.

Piccolomini was beginning to feel very weak due to the cholera, on the 26th of October, 1689 he ordered his armies to burn the city of Skopje. His troops placed gunpowder all around some of the buildings within the centre of Skopje and a fire was started. The Skopje fire of 1689 lasted two whole days, burning much of the wooden structures and buildings. The fire later spread towards the Jewish quarter of the city, the Jewish synagogue and a Jewish church was completely destroyed in the fire. However many of the stone buildings remained, but were blackened by the raging fire. Due to General Piccolomini's health he had decided to disband from his armies, heading to Ottoman Albania.

General Piccolomini's reason for going to Ottoman Albania was so that he can board a ship and head back to Austria. In the cartographic map of Europe which is shown on the right, the Habsburg Empire also known as the Imperial Austrian Empire had access to the adriatic sea. It was a small region just north of Ottoman Bosnia where Austria had a number of ports, here the galleons would arrive and unload. The prospects for Austrian arms in Macedonia and Albania looked promising, but a few days later Piccolomini died of the plague and his successor duke Georg Christian Von Holstein was unable to capitalize on the so called " Karposh Uprising " of the Christian peasantry which broke out in Macedonia at about this time.[1] Eventually assistance from the Austrian armies ended and the continuation of the Karposh uprising went until December, 1689.

  1. Atlas of Southeast Europe : Geopolitics and History. Volume 1: 1521-1699, Author : Hans H.A Hotte. p.15 2015