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The Strange Siege of Nagy Ida September 12, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

This is a cute little Weird War story. Beach doesn’t expect it is true as it conforms rather well to several Roma stereotypes. Though knowing humanity’s potential for stupidity… Well, let’s say that anything is possible.

In the year 1557, during the troubles in Zapoly, the castle of Nagy Ida, in the county of Abaujvar, was in danger of being besieged and taken by the Imperial troops. Francis von Perenyi, who had the command, being short of men, was obliged to have recourse to the Gypsies, of whom he collected a thousand. These he stationed behind the entrenchments, while he reserved his own men to garrison the citadel. The Gypsies supported the attack with so much resolution, and returned the fire of the enemy with such alacrity, that the assailants — little suspecting who were the defendants — were compelled to retreat.

So far so good. The gypsies have distinguished themselves – though note the implication that they were poor soldiers. However, now their showiness gets the upper hand with tragic and unlooked for consequences.

…the Gypsies, elated with victory, immediately crept out of their holes, and cried after [the retreating enemy]: ‘Go and be hanged, you rascals! And [you should] thank God that we had no more powder and shot, or we would have played the devil with you!’ ‘What!’ they exclaimed, bearing in mind the proverb: ‘You can drive fifty Gypsies before you with a wet rag,’ ‘What! are you the heroes? ‘and, so saying, the besiegers immediately wheeled about, and, sword in hand, drove the black crew back to their works, entered them along with them, and in a few minutes totally routed them.

In other accounts we learn that everyone of the gypsy defenders were killed on the spot. Many years after this account Walter Starkie wrote, in his book, Raggle Taggle that:

To commemorate this sad defeat the Gypsy musicians composed a lament to be sung on the anniversary of the day whenever they were together far from the busnó

It was as much a gypsy as a gajao legend then. Beach is completely out of his depth with sixteenth-century central Europe, particularly where Hungarian is involved. It would be fun though to track down this legend and learn its earliest attestation. Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Any assistance gratefully received. He also can’t resist recalling the fantastic and unfortunately fictitious battle of Karansebes with gypsy protagonists.