20. Holding Back the Turks
Matthias was crowned only five years after the Ottoman Turks had conquered Constantinople and ended the Byzantine Empire, so military matters were a priority for him. The Turks, brimming with confidence, turned their attention to Hungary. Against all precedent, Matthias taxed Hungary’s nobles, and ignoring their howls of protest, used the funds to recruit 30,000 mercenaries, mainly from Germany, Poland, Bohemia, and Serbia, and after 1480, from Hungary.
They were organized into a combined arms mix of light infantry operating around a base of heavily armored infantry, and supplemented by even more heavily armored knights. In a pioneering innovation that took advantage of recent firearms developments, every fourth soldier was armed with an arquebus. Matthias’ mercenaries, who came to be known as the “Black Army”, became a formidable force that dominated Central Europe and the Balkans, and held back the Ottomans for decades.