All writers on the Hussite wars agree that these wars were the result of three causes, the antagonism of the Bohemians to the Church of Rome, the revival of the Slavic national feeling, and the rise of the democratic spirit which is, to a greater or lesser extent, evident in many European countries at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Where these writers differ widely is in their opinion as to the relative importance which should be attributed to each of these causes. The contemporary chroniclers, who hardly deserve the name of historians, have, both in their Latin and in their Bohemian writings, considered the Hussite movement mainly from the point of view of religious controversy; only occasional remarks indicate how great the racial antagonism was at that period, and how strongly democratic, and for a short time even communistic theories influenced the Bohemian people.

That the contemporary writers should have laid so great a stress on the religious controversies is natural, if we consider that the immediate cause of the national uprising was the execution of Hus. The first manifestation of opposition to King Sigismund, the famed “protestatio Bohemorum,” which was signed by the principal Bohemian nobles, refers exclusively to the life and the doctrine of Hus. The revival of the feeling of solidarity between the different branches of the Slavic race undoubtedly played a considerable part in the determined resistance which the Bohemians offered to the attacks of vastly superior armies of Germans. As will be noted later, this motive appears on several occasions in the slight fragments of Žižka’s writings that have been preserved. It can be stated generally that the beginning of the fifteenth century is notable as producing a strong reaction on the part of the Slavic race, which, since the time of Charles the Great, had constantly receded before the Teutonic aggression. The first symptom of the Slavic revival was the great victory which the Poles obtained over the Knights of the Teutonic Order at Tannenberg in 1410. According to a well authenticated tradition, Žižka took part in this great battle, and Hus, in a letter which has been preserved,[1] congratulated the King of Poland on his victory. It was in consequence of this feeling of solidarity between the different branches of the Slavic race that Poland generally favoured the Hussite cause. The unswerving fidelity to the Church of Rome, which was frequently disadvantageous to Poland, and contributed considerably to the final downfall of that country, however, prevented the Slavs of Poland from rendering sufficient aid to their Bohemian kinsmen. It should also be mentioned that at this period the revival of the Slavic national spirit extended even to already semi-Germanised lands, such as Mecklenburg and Pomerania.

The third principal motive of the Hussite movement was the awakening of the democratic spirit, which we find in other countries as well as in Bohemia at this time. In consequence of this spirit the Bohemians after their brilliant victories—whose fame soon spread over all Europe—found many friends, even in traditionally hostile Germany and in distant France. It was, no doubt, the fear that this democratic movement might extend to their states which induced the European princes to use their influence on Rome for the purpose of conciliating the Bohemians. In close connection with this democratic feeling we find among the Hussites a strong movement in favour of the emancipation of women. The Czech women of this period not only showed interest in the religious and political struggles, but they also exercised a considerable influence on the councils of the nation. Some even laid down their lives for the creed of their country.

The faithful friends and adherents of Hus in Prague had, of course, anxiously and feverishly followed the development of the tragedy of Constance, which ended in the condemnation and execution of the Bohemian divine. The letters addressed “to the whole Bohemian nation” and “to the faithful Bohemians,”[2] written by Hus during the last weeks of his life, soon reached Prague, and were read out from the pulpits of the churches. When the fatal news of the death of Hus became known, an ominous silence at first prevailed. Then general lamentation arose and loud indignation was expressed. All saw that a death-struggle was imminent, but the statement of some writers hostile to the Hussite cause that attacks were at this moment made on Roman Catholic priests is unfounded. The people crowded to the churches, and with the musical instinct innate in the Bohemian nation hymns in honour of the new martyr were improvised and sung. Pictures were carried through the market-place representing on one side Christ riding on a mule and followed by the barefooted apostles, on the other the Pope and the cardinals riding richly caparisoned war-horses. The women of Prague, who had from the first shown great interest in the cause of Church reform, and who had always venerated the saintly Hus,[3] inveighed strongly against the treachery of Rome. The ladies of the court of Queen Sophia—whose confessor Hus had been—were foremost in expressing their grief and indignation.[4] Even the Queen’s generally apathetic consort, King Venceslas, expressed disapproval. “He (Hus) should not have been executed, as he had a letter of safe conduct,” the King is reported to have said. Both Venceslas and his courtiers were greatly irritated by the conduct of the Bohemian clergy, whose complaints and depositions had largely contributed to the condemnation of Hus. The movement caused by the execution of Hus, though it had a somewhat revolutionary character, was, therefore, not at first anti-dynastic, as it was favoured by the Queen and the ladies of her court, and at least not discountenanced by the King.

On the other hand, the secession of the Bohemian people from the Church of Rome became complete. This was mainly due to the general consent to the custom of receiving Communion in the two kinds, Utraquism, as it was generally called. Towards the end of his life Hus had maintained the necessity of Communion in the two kinds. He had at Constance written a tract in defence of this practice as well as a letter[5] in which he warmly upheld it. After the death of Hus, Utraquism became one of the fundamental doctrines of his adherents. I have in other works[6] attempted to state the reasons why the Bohemians attached such great importance to this tenet. This can to a great extent be explained by the strongly anti-clerical feeling that was at that time almost general among the Czechs. They resented the claim of superiority over all laymen which Bohemian priests—often very unworthy priests—raised, and they resented their attempt to administer Communion in what the Bohemians considered an “incomplete” form. Though recent research has proved that all traces of Communion in the two kinds, as it had been established when Cyrillus and Methodius introduced Christianity into Moravia and Bohemia, had long disappeared in Bohemia, a sentimental recollection of the Eastern Church, to which the “apostles of the Slavs” belonged, may still have influenced the people.

It is at any rate certain that the practice of receiving the Sacrament in the two kinds soon became the characteristic article of faith to which all Bohemian friends of Church reform conformed. The chalice became their emblem, and the whole national party was soon known as that of the Utraquists. The two parties into which the Bohemian nobility divided are by the contemporary chroniclers always described as the lords “sub Utraque” and the lords “sub una.” These distinctions, indeed, continued up to the time of the suppression of religious liberty in Bohemia in 1620.

The Bohemians, full of zeal for the doctrine of Utraquism, soon began to expel from their churches those priests—they were not numerous—who refused to administer the Sacrament in the now established fashion, and acts of violence began to take place. The nobles “sub Utraque” also now expelled from their estates those priests who refused to conform to Utraquism. Soon after Hus’s death violent letters were sent from Constance to Bohemia, accusing the inhabitants of that country of being heretics. A letter addressed to King Venceslas by Bishop John of Litomyšle,[7] though it was of a somewhat conciliatory character, greatly irritated the Bohemians, who knew that Bishop John had been one of the principal instigators of the trial and execution of Hus. The vast estates of the very wealthy prelate were seized by the neighbouring Utraquist nobles. On July 26, 1417, the Council of Constance addressed to the nobles and knights of Bohemia and to the citizens of the three towns of Prague[8] a somewhat menacing letter. After having severely censured the deeds of John Hus and Jerome, “those most wicked men, so dangerous to the Church, who had followed Wycliffe in many of his most damnable tenets,” the letter ended by stating that should the Bohemians audaciously attempt to oppose in any way the Council’s sentence on Hus, which was most pleasing to God and most salutary for the whole Christian people, and should they persist in their damnable heresy, or in any way aid or abet it, then, besides the Divine punishment, which they should certainly expect, the Council would proceed against them in the deserved manner according to the canonical regulations, so that such a punishment should be a useful warning to others.

This letter, which contained no reference whatever to Church reform, the cause which Hus had always had most at heart, and which had at first been considered one of the principal tasks of the Council, caused great indignation among the Bohemians. It appeared to them that their choice lay between unconditional surrender to Rome or a call to arms. It was not for a moment doubtful what their decision would be. The powerful Bohemian nobles who at this moment appear as the leaders of the people had, during the reign of the weak King Venceslas, obtained an almost independent position, and they bitterly resented the interference of foreigners in the affairs of their country. Bohemia was at that moment intellectually more advanced than Germany, and many of its nobles, though they were brave warriors, felt a genuine interest in religious questions, and had anxiously hoped for the very necessary reform of the Church. Some of the nobles and knights, particularly those connected with the court, had known Hus personally and had greatly admired his saintly character. The treacherous conduct of King Sigismund—whose letter of safe conduct had guaranteed to Hus the right to be judged in his own country and by his own countrymen—was resented by the whole Bohemian nation. Some of the nobles already opposed the eventual succession to the Bohemian throne of Sigismund, whose brother, King Venceslas, was childless. On the other hand, Sigismund made no attempt to conceal his opinion of the religious views held by the great majority of the Bohemians. In a letter[9] which he sent to his brother Venceslas on December 4, 1417, he wrote: “We cannot consider thee as our beloved brother if thou doest not, as did our ancestors, exterminate all heretics,” and further on, “Let every Bohemian, German and Latin, know that we can hardly await the day when I shall drown all Wycliffites and Hussites.”

In the last months of his life the weak King Venceslas entirely abandoned the cause of Church reform and endeavoured to stem the Hussite movement. This, as was inevitable, precipitated the course of events. Venceslas issued a decree, declaring that all parish priests whom the Utraquists had expelled from their parishes because they refused to administer Communion in the two kinds should be allowed to return. On the other hand, the Utraquist services were in future to be permitted in three of the Prague churches, and all Utraquist priests not belonging to these churches were to leave Prague. They suffered many indignities at the hand of the Germans of Prague, who had almost all remained faithful to the Church of Rome. Many of these priests fled to the country districts, where they continued to preach and to administer the Sacrament according to the rites of what soon began to be called the Bohemian Church. The priests who had been expelled from Prague mostly sought refuge in the southern districts of Bohemia, where, being deprived of churches, they generally preached, celebrated mass and administered the Sacrament in the open air. The movement spread rapidly, and large crowds flocked to the meeting-places, not only from all parts of Bohemia, but also from the neighbouring districts of Moravia. One of the favourite meeting-places was a hill near the small town of Ústi on the Luznice, to which they gave the biblical name of Tábor—a name which they afterwards transferred to the neighbouring hill of Hradiste, where they founded the still existing town of Tábor. Lawrence of Březova thus describes[10] one of the early meetings of the Hussites: “In the year of the Lord 1419,” he writes, “the evangelical priests who favoured Master John Hus and administered the Sacrament to the people in the two kinds, and who were called Wycliffites or Hussites, carried the Sacrament in procession, and assembled a large multitude of people of both sexes from all parts of Bohemia, from towns and villages, on a hill near the castle of Bechyn, to which they gave the name of Tábor. They here administered the Eucharist with great reverence to the people, particularly on feast-days, as their rivals[11] did not permit the people to communicate in this fashion in the neighbouring churches. On the day of St. Mary Magdalene[12] a large multitude of people of both sexes and many children assembled on this hill from all parts of the kingdom, and more than 40,000 people very reverently communicated in both kinds according to the tradition of Christ and the custom and observance of the primitive Church. On account of this, Venceslas, King of Bohemia, became very uneasy, fearing that he would be driven from his royal throne, and dreading that his place would be taken by Nicholas of Hus,[13] whom he had shortly before banished from Prague; for Nicholas had, near [the church of] St. Apollinaris, when surrounded by a large crowd of people, who were, however, unarmed, spoken to the multitude in favour of the right of both adult people and children to receive freely Communion in the two kinds.”

It is a proof of the strong Hussite sympathies that prevailed at the court of King Venceslas, that even after their sovereign had abandoned the cause of Church reform many of those who were nearest to him continued to favour the national cause. Nicholas of Hus, who has just been mentioned, had been a member of the royal court, but having been banished from that court because of his Utraquist or Calixtine views, he soon became one of the leaders of the national party. Whether Březova’s statement that Nicholas of Hus aimed at obtaining possession of the Bohemian throne has any foundation cannot, in the absence of sufficient evidence, be ascertained. It is, however, certain that these popular meetings, one of which Březova has described, were not entirely confined to religious practices, but that men such as Nicholas of Hus and Žižka used the opportunity afforded by these vast gatherings for the purpose of giving a certain military training to the numerous peasants, farmers and townsmen who assembled on these occasions. It is more than probable that at the meeting on July 22 the leaders of the people determined soon to march on Prague, should the King continue to be obdurate. It is certain that the nationalists determined that their next meeting should take place at Prague on the day of St. Venceslas (September 28).

Events at Prague, however, before that date brought on the inevitable crisis, and Žižka first appears in the records of the Hussite wars only a few days after the great meeting on the Tábor hill. It has already been mentioned that King Venceslas had limited the Utraquist religious services in Prague to three churches, excluding the Hussites from all the others. This naturally caused great indignation among the citizens, and the Roman Catholic priests and monks who had been expelled from Prague shortly after the death of Hus, but who had now returned, were on several occasions attacked by the people. In consequence of this popular feeling the few Utraquist priests who had remained in Prague soon obtained great influence over the citizens. The most prominent of these priests was John of Zělivo (or Seclau), parish priest at St. Mary-of-the-Snow. On July 30 John preached at his parish church, narrating, as was his custom, his various Apocalyptic visions. He strongly denounced King Sigismund, whom he described as the dragon of the Revelation. The citizens of Prague, who, at that period, following the example of Hus, were deeply imbued with biblical study, were greatly impressed by Zělivo’s fervent and eloquent sermon. After its conclusion the priest led the citizens in procession through the streets, carrying before them the Sacrament in a monstrance, as the Bohemian priests had now begun to do. When the procession passed the town-hall of the New Town[14] they met with a very ungracious reception. Zělivo begged the town-councillors to release some Utraquists who had, because of their faith, been imprisoned in the townhall. The priest and his followers were, however, received with derision by the town-councillors, who appeared at the windows, and stones were thrown at the procession. One of the stones struck Priest John, who was carrying the monstrance, and the infuriated people immediately attempted to storm the town-hall. They found a leader in John Žižka of Trocnov, who, like Nicholas of Hus, had formerly been a member of the royal court.[15] Directed by him the citizens forced open the gates of the building, which had been hurriedly barred. Then, entering the council-chamber, they threw the councillors from the windows. Those who survived the fall were killed by the crowd which had assembled below.

The name of Žižka, the hero of the Hussite wars, will, of course, recur constantly in these pages, but though his fame really dates from a somewhat later occurrence, it may be well to refer here already to the early history of the great warrior. The family of the Žižka’s of Trocnov, who belonged to the lower nobility or rather gentry of Southern Bohemia, owned a farm and some land at Trocnov near Budějovice.[16] Even the recent careful researches concerning Žižka’s ancestry have met with little success. The name of Žižka first occurs in an official document of the year 1378; it is, however, doubtful whether the person referred to is John. It seems, indeed, probable that John Žižka of Trocnov was not born much before the year 1378, as he died in 1424, when still in the full strength of manhood. Of his relations also little is known, though we find a casual mention of his brother and his nephew in the chronicles of the Hussite wars. The many strange tales told of the birth and early youth of Žižka[17] must be considered as purely legendary. It is certain that John Žižka played a considerable part in the guerilla warfare between King Venceslas and the great Bohemian nobles, which continued almost without interruption during the early part of the King’s reign. Žižka took the side of the King in these struggles, which were mainly caused by the dislike the nobles felt for the democratic tendency of their sovereign. Among these powerful antagonists of Venceslas were the nobles of the Rosenberg family, some of whose estates were situated near Trocnov. It is probable that it was during a skirmish between the King’s soldiers and those of the Rosenberg faction which took place during these wars that Žižka lost the use of one eye. Though very probable, it is not certain that Žižka, fighting on the side of the Poles, took part in the great battle of Tannenberg. Polish as well as Bohemian chroniclers mention his presence, and it was natural that tradition should connect the great Slavic warrior with this first manifestation of the Slavic reaction of the fifteenth century. It is at any rate certain that Žižka was, at the beginning of the Hussite troubles, a member of the royal house-hold—no doubt in recognition of the services which he had rendered to King Venceslas during the civil wars at the beginning of his reign. It is evident that Žižka was from the first a firm defender of the national or Utraquist cause, and he was one of those who took part in the popular meetings, at which armed resistance against the adherents of the Church of Rome was first planned. It is certain that Žižka was from the first a fervent believer in the tenets of the Hussite Church, as they were afterwards formulated in the so-called “articles of Prague,” and later in the “compacts.” As one of the royal courtiers he accompanied Queen Sophia when she attended the sermons of Hus, her confessor, in the Bethlehem Chapel.[18] According to a very ancient and not improbable tradition, Žižka was personally acquainted with Hus. It is certain that he felt the death of the Bohemian divine more deeply than most of the other members of the royal court. It is stated that King Venceslas, noticing one day at court that Žižka appeared melancholy and absorbed in thought, inquired what was the cause of his depression. Žižka answered, “How can I be gay, when our trusted leaders and the faithful preachers of the law of the Lord are, by order of infidel priests, undeservedly and unjustly condemned to the flames?” The King answered, “What can we do? If you know any way to do so, righten it yourself; we shall be pleased.” Žižka now considered himself authorised to defend his country against its enemies.

The defenestration at the town-hall of the new city of Prague first gave the Hussite movement a revolutionary and, indeed, anti-dynastic character. It is almost certain that the attack on the town-hall had been planned by John of Zělivo, who had acquired almost unlimited influence over the people, to force the hand of the more moderate Calixtines, who still hoped that, through the influence of the good Queen Sophia, Venceslas would again become favourable to the Utraquist cause. The anti-dynastic character of the Hussite movement became more pronounced after the death of King Venceslas, which followed the riots at Prague at a very short interval. The King was then residing at his castle of Kunratic near Prague. On receiving the news of the events in that city he was immediately seized by an apoplectic fit. Infuriated against the ohemians, he, after having slightly recovered, wrote to his brother Sigismund, begging him to march to his aid with an army to exterminate all heretics. Only a few days later a second apoplectic fit, on August 16, ended his life. Though the democratic tendencies of King Venceslas and the favour he showed to his Slavic and, for a time also, to his Hussite subjects have caused him often to be judged more severely than he deserves, he was certainly quite unfit to rule a turbulent country, such as Bohemia then was, at one of the most critical moments of its history.

As Venceslas had died childless, his brother Sigismund was now the rightful heir to the Bohemian throne. The state of public opinion in the country, however, rendered it impossible for him to be recognised by the people as their sovereign. When Sigismund permitted—and, indeed, abetted—the execution of Hus at Constance, he practically abdicated the Bohemian throne, though, after twenty-four years of sanguinary civil war, he finally reigned as King of Bohemia for one brief year. The vindictiveness of the Bohemians was proportionate to the strength of their devotion to Hus. Even the more moderate Hussites, such as Žižka, who was by no means on principle opposed to monarchy, abandoned their usual moderation when it was even suggested that the Bohemians should enter into negotiations with Sigismund. To the more advanced Hussites, whose leader was then John of Zělivo, Sigismund was the dragon of the Apocalypse, the murderer of the saint. Sigismund, on his part, as already stated, did not attempt to conceal his detestation of the Hussites, and, indeed, of all Bohemians.

It is not, under these circumstances, surprising that the immediate consequence of Venceslas’s death was renewed and more serious rioting in Prague and other Bohemian cities. The counsels of the extreme party for a time prevailed, and the movement assumed an iconoclastic character. Several churches in Prague were destroyed, as well as the monastery of the Carthusian monks. These monks had incurred the special displeasure of the people, as they had spoken disparagingly of Communion in the two kinds, and had loudly expressed their approval of the execution of Hus. The Carthusians had been informed of the intended attack and had removed most of their treasures, but their monastery was destroyed, and many statues and pictures perished. The Roman Catholic priests and monks, who had returned to Prague during the last months of the reign of Venceslas, were again obliged to leave the city. It isa proof of the strongly puritanic character of the Hussite movement that the people, together with the churches and monasteries, destroyed also all the houses of ill-fame in the city.

Quiet returned to Prague for a short time when the widowed Queen Sophia assumed the regency. Her great sympathy for the Hussite cause was well known, and she had even risked the penalty of excommunication by the ardour with which she protested against the execution of Hus. King Sigismund at the moment raised no objection to the establishment of a regency. He was then in Hungary preparing for war against the Turks, and well knew that it was impossible for him to proceed to Bohemia. Very shortly after the death of Venceslas, probably before the end of August, the leading Utraquist knights and nobles, and some of the prominent citizens belonging to the national party, met at Prague. A message was sent to King Sigismund at Buda in Hungary inviting him to Bohemia, but at the same time formulating certain demands, which mainly referred to matters of religion. They claimed the right to maintain freely the law and word of God according to the teaching of Hus, and also the right to receive the Sacrament in the two kinds. They further demanded that it should be forbidden to call Hus and Jerome heretics. The designation of heretic always deeply offended the Bohemians, who maintained that they were members of the universal Church. The Bohemians further asked Sigismund to use his influence with the Pope to induce him to permit Communion in the two kinds in Bohemia, and finally demanded that very severe measures should be taken to check the simony and evil living that were then very prevalent among the Bohemian clergy. The citizens of Prague added several other demands. They begged the King to condone the recent riots and to grant his sanction to the election of the new town-councillors, whom they had, during the disturbances, chosen illegally, that is, without requesting the approval of their sovereign. They lastly begged that the houses of ill-fame that had been destroyed should not be rebuilt. The King’s answer was a short and evasive one. He promised to maintain the ancient privileges of Bohemia, and stated that he could give no decisive answer with regard to Communion in the two kinds till he had returned to Bohemia and consulted the nobles and the clergy of the country. The conciliatory attempt of the Utraquist nobles, who had limited their demands to the right of communicating in the two kinds and to the King’s consent to regulations which would have checked simony and the immorality of the clergy, had thus failed, as attempts at mediation on the part of moderate men in a time of revolution generally do. Both the Romanists and the Utraquists very soon resumed hostilities.

The more advanced Hussites—who soon became known as the Táborites—had from the first placed no faith in the attempted mediation. Their meetings, therefore, continued. On September 30 a large meeting took place at a spot known as “at the crossways” (“U Křižku”) near Benešov, and not far from Prague; it had evidently been chosen for the purpose of facilitating the attendance of the Praguers, many of whom were, no doubt, expected. The meeting was a very orderly one. Several sermons were preached, one by Venceslas Koranda, parish priest of Plzeň, afterwards one of the most famous Hussite divines, and many received the Sacrament in the two kinds. No one was allowed to carry arms, and private property was rigidly respected. When a poor peasant complained that his field had been injured by the crowd which had crossed it, one of the leaders immediately collected sufficient money to repair the damage done. The numerous priests who were present engaged in theological discussions, and it is probable that the theological affirmations afterwards known as the “articles of Prague” were drawn up on this occasion,[19] though negotiations on these points had taken place previously, and the articles were only officially published in 1420. There is no doubt that the military leaders, who were well acquainted with King Sigismund’s intentions, also met in council. They probably thought that, in view of the inevitable war, it would be well to obtain possession of the capital as soon as possible. Prague was then, as it is now, the only large city in Bohemia, and it holds in that country a predominant position, which can be compared only to that of Paris in France. It was therefore decided that the next meeting of the nationalists should be held at Prague on November 10.

Even before that day great excitement prevailed in the capital. It was known that several of the nobles who sided with King Sigismund were determined to attack the Utraquists on their march. The preacher, Koranda, entreated the people not to desist from their intent; in the then customary language he declared that the vineyard of the Lord was beginning to blossom, but that the goats wished to gnaw at it; therefore should the faithful carry with them for its defence not sticks but arms.[20] Several skirmishes, in which the Hussites were victorious, took place before they arrived at Prague. News of these skirmishes, or at least of the intention of the Romanist nobles to attack the Hussites on their march, reached Prague already, on November 4, and street-fighting immediately began. The priest Ambrose, formerly parish priest of Králové Hradec (Königgrätz), exhorted the people to attack the royal castle on the Hradčany hill. The bells of all the church steeples of Prague were rung, and large masses of Utraquists, led by Nicholas of Hus and Žižka of Trocnov, crossing the bridge of Prague, attacked the royal troops, which occupied the Malá Strana at the foot of the Hradčany. After a prolonged and very sanguinary contest the Hussites remained victorious, and the royalists were obliged to evacuate the Malá Strana—part of which was burnt down—and retire to the strongly fortified Hradčany castle. The victory was principally due to Žižka, and it was here that his brilliant career as leader of the Bohemian people may be considered to have begun.[21]

Almost at the same time as the Utraquists had resumed hostilities the Roman party began to attack them in various parts of Bohemia. Troubles first broke out at Kutna Hora (Kuttenberg), then the great mining city of Bohemia. They are thus described by Lawrence of Březova, almost our only contemporary authority. “At this time,” he writes, “the faithful Bohemians, both priests and laymen, who favoured Communion in the two kinds and reverently partook of it, and who deeply deplored the unjust death of John Hus, of sacred memory—who had perished by a terrible death because the perverse clergy of the kingdom of Bohemia and the margraviate of Moravia, principally the bishops, canons, abbots and parish priests, who had not been able to suffer hissermons, in which he denounced their pride, simony and avarice . . . had, by the aid of gifts of money, procured false witnesses against him, and had been abetted by the Hungarian King Sigismund—these faithful Bohemians, I say, suffered many troubles, tribulations, annoyances and vexations from the enemies of truth and the blasphemers who robbed them, and tortured them by cruel imprisonment, hunger, thirst and death.[22] For the enemies of the truth pursued the clerics and laymen who were zealous for the chalice, through various parts of the kingdom, and delivered them over to the miners [of Kutna Hora], and sold some men to them; these miners, who were Germans, and cruel persecutors of the Bohemians, and particularly of those who loved the teaching of Christ, with much blasphemy tortured them, and inhumanly threw them, particularly at time of night, into the deepest pits and shafts—some still alive, and others after they had decapitated them; and they did this principally at the shaft near the church of St. Martin, beyond the Kouřim gate, calling this shaft Tábor;[23] and so great was the vast cruelty of the miners against the faithful Christians who were zealous for God’s law, that during a brief time more than 1,600 men who were in favour of sacred Communion with the chalice were miserably murdered by them and thrown into the shaft, when the executioners had become weary of murdering. But assuredly this inhuman raging against the faithful of Christ was followed by Divine vengeance; for after two years this mining city was, in punishment of the murder of many faithful there, thoroughly destroyed and consumed by fire.” When we read this page and many similar ones we understand why the Hussites—though their antagonists far surpassed them in cruelty—sometimes acted with great ferocity during the Hussite wars.

The severe fighting which took place at Prague, during which the entire Malá Strana and numerous buildings in other parts of the city were burnt down, caused many Utraquists— and particularly the nobles who adhered to that party, who, from dynastic, or rather feudal motives, were reluctant to oppose the legitimate sovereign—to again attempt the hopeless task of reconciling King Sigismund with the Bohemian nation. Through the intervention of Lord Čěnek of Wartenberg, acting for Queen Sophia, who, though she had left Prague, was still considered as regent, an armistice was concluded on November 13, which was to continue up to the end of April 1420. The Queen and the lords who sided with her promised to maintain, as far as it was in their power, the right of preaching freely and of receiving Communion in the two kinds. The Praguers, on the other hand, agreed to surrender to the royal troops the castle of the Vyšehrad, of which they had obtained possession during the recent fights, and they also promised to prevent all further destruction of churches and monuments.

Sigismund did not sanction this agreement, and the Táborite party, rightly distrusting his future intentions, refused to accept the armistice. Žižka, now the recognised leader of the Táborites, determined to leave Prague with his men, and to march into South-Western Bohemia. As for a short time no events of importance occurred in Prague, it is more interesting to follow Žižka and his Táborites. They first marched to Plzeň (Pilsen), on the advice of Koranda, a priest of that city, whose name has already been mentioned.[24] Koranda—wrongly, as afterwards became obvious—believed that the inhabitants of Plzeň were almost entirely favourable to the Hussite cause. Žižka was, no doubt, more influenced by the fact that Plzeň was at that time strongly fortified. The fortified places and castles in Bohemia were then still almost all in the possession of the royalists, and Žižka sought at Plzeň what he afterwards found at Tábor—a fortified centre for the military community of which he had become the head. It is one of history’s ironies that Plzeň, first chosen as the centre of the Hussite party, should, in the later period of the war, have become the stronghold of the Roman party, and that the unsuccessful siege of Plzeň should have been the immediate cause of the downfall of the Táborites.

Žižka and his followers arrived safely at Plzeň, and he, by a successful sortie, dispersed the royal troops, who were preparing to besiege the city. Yet Žižka’s stay at Plzeň did not last long. Some of the most enthusiastic Táborites had—as will be mentioned presently—founded a new city, or rather military camp on a hill, to which they gave the name of Tábor, situated close to Ústi, where the early meetings of the Hussites had been held. Žižka, who had found that the inhabitants of Plzeň were not as largely favourable to his cause as he had been led to believe, sent part of his troops to the help of the new settlers at Tábor, which his military genius had, perhaps, already selected as his future stronghold. After the departure of part of his army Žižka’s position at Tábor became a difficult one. The partisans of Sigismund and the Roman Church were numerous in the city, and streetfights between them and Žižka’s soldiers constantly occurred. About this time Lord Venceslas of Duba, chamberlain of King Sigismund, issued a proclamation[25] in which he, in the name of his sovereign, called on all nobles, knights and citizens to pay a special tax for the purpose of equipping an army which was to extirpate all heretics. It was well understood that this army was to attack,at Plzeň, Žižka, whom the royalists rightly considered their most dangerous enemy. Under the circumstances Žižka decided to conclude a truce with his enemies. Through the medium of envoys of the city of Prague, who visited Žižka at Plzeň, an agreement was made, according to which Žižka was to evacuate Plzeň, on condition that the citizens who wished to communicate in the two kinds should be allowed to do so—a promise that was not kept—and that Žižka and his forces should be allowed to march unhindered to Tábor. He then surrendered the city to Venceslas of Duba and started on his march. He had only four hundred warriors, twelve equipped wagons and nine horsemen, but was accompanied by several priests, among them Koranda, who no longer considered himself safe at Plzeň, and many women and children. The Hussite women were, however, by no means to be considered as mere encumbrances. The women who accompanied the Hussite armies were very fervent Utraquists, who sometimes fought in the battles “for the law of God,” to use the then general designation. On the occasion of Žižka’s march to Tábor they appear to have acted only as nurses. Žižka was not fated to march unopposed to Tábor. Several lords of the Roman party, of whom the most important were Lord Peter Konopišt of Sternberg, and Lord Nicholas Divucek, mintmaster of Kutna Hora—that great centre of the royalist party—had, by order of King Sigismund, marched to Plzeň to reinforce the besiegers of the city. On hearing of the truce they rightly or wrongly[26] declared that they were not bound by it. They determined to intercept Žižka’s army on the march. The danger was indeed great. The royalist nobles were at the last moment joined by Lord Hanuš of Kolowrat and by the grandmaster of the order of the Knights of Strakonic. The accounts as to the number of their soldiers vary from 2,000 to 8,000;[27] they were all mounted, and, wearing full armour, were known as the “iron knights,” and greatly feared by the Bohemians. They had just obtained possession of the Utraquist town of Pisek, where Žižka had intended to halt to obtain supplies and perhaps reinforcements. He certainly did not—at least at this early period of the war—wish to encounter a force so greatly superior to his own. He therefore attempted to move his men as quickly as was possible and to avoid a battle. The large number of women and children who accompanied his army, however, rendered this very difficult. As soon as Žižka saw that an encounter with the enemy was inevitable, he began, with his customary energy and resourcefulness, to prepare his defence. He took up his position on a steep hill inaccessible to mounted men, and protected on one side by a steep dike. In this position, close to a mill in the neighbourhood of the village of Sudoměř he hurriedly formed his armed wagons in “ lager,” to use the modern South African expression, placing the priests, women and children in the centre, while the warriors manned the “iron-clad” wagons. The royalists had previously declared that they would not be obliged to fight, as they would merely have to ride down the Hussites and crush them under the hoofs of their horses. When, contrary to their expectation, they were obliged to dismount, they none the less bravely advanced, and their attack began about midday on March 25, 1420. The Hussites defended themselves with heroic bravery, and considering the smallness of the forces engaged, the engagement was a very bloody one. Lord Břenek of Skála, one of the Hussite leaders, was killed, and one of the leaders of the partisans of Sigismund died of the wounds received on this occasion. At nightfall the royalists retired, and Žižka’s band encamped on the battlefield that night; this was at that period the traditional fashion of claiming the victory. The impression produced by the victory of Sudoměř—which may be called Žižka’s first considerable deed of arms—was very great in Bohemia, and many legends connected with it afterwards sprung up. The sun, it was said, set that evening earlier than is usual in Bohemia in March. The pious Hussites attributed this to the intervention of Providence. A contemporary chronicler writes:[28] “Many among the people said that God had been with him [Žižka], and that this miracle had occurred: when it was still early, it appeared as if it were eventide; the sun vanished behind a hill, as if it wished to separate [the combatants], and immediately deep darkness descended on the battlefield, so that no man knew how to strike at another. When the enemies saw this, many voices among them said: ‘My lance does not stab them, my sword does not strike them, my gun does not reach them;’ and then they retreated in various directions with much shame and great losses.” In consequence of his victory at Sudoměř the fame of Žižka, who here first proved his military genius and his talent as a tactician, spread widely in Bohemia. The contemporary chroniclers, therefore, devote more attention to Žižka’s first successful skirmish in the Malá Strana at Prague and his victory at Sudoměř than the importance of these engagements, if we consider the number of the combatants, would warrant.[29] We have, indeed, more information concerning these events than we have about more considerable battles at a later period of the war. Among the many writers who have described the skirmish at Sudoměř, Æneas Sylvius deserves mention, as his florid and picturesque, though absolutely unreliable, work did duty as the standard work on the Hussite wars for centuries. He tells us that Žižka ordered the Hussite women to spread out their long veils on the ground, so that the spurs of the attacking dismounted horsemen should be caught in them.[30]

Žižka, though his popularity among the Bohemians had previously already been very great, here for the first time appears as a military leader, in fact as one of the not very numerous great generals known to history. The new system of warfare, which rendered the Hussites invincible for a considerable time, was so entirely his work that Dr. Toman—to whose book I must here acknowledge my indebtedness—rightly states that the terms Hussite system of warfare or Žižka’s system of warfare are identical. It may, therefore, on the occasion of his first considerable victory, be well to refer briefly to this system. The subject is by no means easy, as the contemporary chroniclers—principally interested in religious controversies—devote comparatively little attention to warlike events, and are also often inaccurate. They frequently exaggerated the forces of the enemy, while stating that the small armies of the Bohemians were even less numerous than was actually the case; they thus wished to render yet more miraculous those victories which they always attributed to the direct intervention of Providence. Among the earliest leaders of the Hussites were several priests, such as John of Zělivo, Koranda of Plzeň, Ambrose of Králové Hradec, and others. As learning was in those days confined almost entirely to the priesthood, it has been conjectured that these priests instructed the people to fight according to the system of the ancients, a conjecture which is confirmed by the words of a contemporary chronicler.[31] Dr. Toman has even ventured a turther conjecture. He suggests that some of the Hussite leaders, perhaps Žižka himself, were acquainted with the work of Vegetius, Epitome rei militaris.[32]

The beginning of the Hussite wars coincides with the time when fire-arms had attained such a degree of development that their judicious use had begun to have tactical importance. The use of fire-arms is first mentioned on the occasion of a skirmish between the soldiers of Archbishop Jenštein of Prague and those of Lord John Čuch of Zasada in 1384.[33] During the street-fighting in Prague after the death of King Venceslas hand-guns or muskets were already used. It was, however, to Žižka that the development of the Bohemian artillery at this period is entirely due.[34] The war-wagons or carts, which will be mentioned presently, were armed with small field-pieces, which could be transported with great rapidity, and which were immediately in position when the enemies attacked the Hussite camps. Closely connected with Žižka’s improvements in the use of artillery was his system of forming his troops within the hradba vozova or lager-fort, which was defended in every direction by armed wagons. The wagons or carts were not, indeed, entirely Žižka’s invention, but he first used them as an important feature in warfare. They were generally covered with steel or iron (ironclad, to use a modern expression), and carried a few small field-pieces. On the march not only the warriors, but also the women, children and priests, found room in these movable forts. Through the genius of Žižka these wagons played so great a part in the Hussite war that towards the end of that war the German enemies, though not very successfully, began to adopt the system. At the beginning of the battles the Hussites used their well-served artillery against the enemies, till they were weakened and discouraged; they then issued from their wagons and attacked them. In case of a defeat the rows of wagons formed a strong and secure place of refuge. Žižka’s battles were almost always fought against an overwhelmingly superior enemy, and his tactics were, therefore, generally defensive. It has often been stated, on the always doubtful authority of Æneas Sylvius, that Žižka’s columns of wagons were sometimes used to attack the enemy.[35] This would have been practically impossible, and the statement may be considered as untrue. Žižka’s wagon-drivers soon became very experienced in this manner of warfare, which was favoured by the topographical condition of Bohemia, whose vast plains then, as now, were little intersected by fences and ditches. The “lager,” in more recent times a feature in South African warfare, was adopted under similar topographical conditions.

One of the strongest proofs of Žižka’s military talents consists in the manner in which he succeeded in forming an almost invincible army out of the peasants and townsmen, almost all unused to warfare, who flocked to his standards. A flail mounted with iron, a club or a short spear, were the only arms with which Žižka’s men were acquainted, and these rough arms, under Žižka’s skilful guidance, and carried away by their religious and national enthusiasm, they used most valiantly. It was for Žižka, perhaps, an even more difficult task to train his men to use skilfully the hand-guns and field-guns, whose superiority to the fire-arms of the enemies so greatly contributed to his victories. It is at the present moment a somewhat unfashionable theory that a people can, under the influence of extreme national or religious enthusiasm, defeat skilled soldiers after having received only a brief training. Yet this proved true during the Hussite wars, as it did during the wars of the French Revolution three and a half centuries later. There is also another analogy between the two cases. Žižka—differing herein from Julius Cæsar and Oliver Cromwell—had been a warrior from his earliest youth; according to some accounts he is stated to have been present at skirmishes which took place when he was only sixteen years old. Similarly, Nicholas of Hus, Krušina of Lichtenburg, Kolda of Žampach, and other knights whose names will appear in these pages, had received the usual knightly military training. Their part at the opening of the Hussite wars was, therefore, not dissimilar from that of the former French officers of the regular army who did so much to train and discipline the revolutionary forces. The thorough knowledge of the knightly system of warfare possessed by Žižka and his comrades no doubt greatly helped them in devising the best manner in which lightly equipped infantry could meet the attack of horsemen in heavy armour, who—as at Sudoměř—generally formed a large part of the Romanist forces.

It should here be mentioned that in the last years of the fourteenth century a movement antagonistic to the extreme preponderance of the nobility and knighthood had already begun to arise. This movement had already tended to democratise the system of warfare. In 1386 Swiss peasants had defeated the chivalry led by an Austrian archduke, and during the reign of Venceslas the townsmen of Southern Germany had formed confederacies which had sometimes successfully resisted the forces of the German nobles.

A circumstance which greatly contributed to the victories of the Hussites was the almost incredible rapidity with which Žižka and his successors were able to move their armies. Thus, when in 1420 the Táborites hurriedly marched to Prague to aid the citizens of that town, the whole force of 9,000 soldiers, with the women, children and priests, arrived at the capital on the evening of the second day of their march. They marched, indeed, along level roads through the central plain of Bohemia; yet, if we consider the slowness of mediæval armies—the German armies during the Hussite wars are an instance—this exploit appears truly admirable. This extraordinary rapidity greatly surprised the Germans and often caused them anxiety. A contemporary German chronicler[36] writes: “Whatever military enterprises the Bohemians undertake they carry out with great rapidity.”

Very characteristic of the Hussite armies, at least while they were commanded by Žižka, is the very severe—puritanic, as we may call it—discipline which he maintained in his camps at a period when almost every licence was granted to soldiers. Žižka’s regulations of war[37] bear witness to his severity, and also to the somewhat democratic manner in which he enforced the same discipline on all, irrespective of all differences of social rank. He allowed no idle or disreputable people in his camps. The women who followed his armies—where alone they were safe from the cruelty and violence of the royal soldiers—were employed as nurses or cooks, and sometimes even took part in the battles. Even the boys who accompanied their parents on the marches were taught to hurl stones from a sling, and soon became very skilful in the use of these arms. Lawrence of Březova calls them “garciones quos fundibularios seu praczatas[38] vulgari bohemico nuncupant.

I have, in several previous works, referred to the utterly unjust manner in which Žižka has been judged by most historians. Even Protestant writers, though approving of the cause for which he fought, have described him as a ferocious, cruel and savage fanatic, whilst to Roman Catholic writers he has appeared as a bloodthirsty murderer and robber, a mediæval communist and anarchist. The Hussite wars were certainly waged with terrible cruelty on both sides, but now that we have more extensive knowledge of those times than was formerly the case, no unprejudiced person can deny that the atrocities committed by the Hungarian and German so-called “crusaders” were far more heinous than any act of cruelty ever committed by a Hussite. The crusaders undoubtedly aimed at the complete extermination of the Czech population of Bohemia, whom they wrongly believed to be all Utraquists. They therefore murdered all, without distinction of age or sex. “They were determined to let no heretic live,” as a contemporary chronicler writes. The Hussites almost always spared children and women, and those who suffered most from their cruelty were priests and monks, whom they considered responsible for the murder of Hus, as they termed it. It is, of course, impossible to deny that Žižka was cruel; no Hussite general could be otherwise; but he at least on one occasion severely blamed his men for unnecessary cruelty, and he sometimes, on the advice of others, withdrew cruel orders which he had given. Thus the learned Jesuit Balbinus, whom no one will accuse of partiality for Žižka, states[39] that when Žižka occupied the abbey of Sezemic, near Chrudim, he ordered twelve nuns who had been found there to be drowned in the Elbe; but on some of the soldiers of the Praguers—the moderate Utraquists, whose centre was Prague—pleading for them they were spared, and conducted to a convent of their order at Králové Hradec.

The true character of Žižka appears very clearly from his few letters which have fortunately reached us. One of these letters, though written only in September 1422, may well be quoted here already. The citizens of Domážlice (Tauss) had joined the national party, and greatly feared to be attacked by the Germans. The situation of the city, very near the Bavarian frontier and in a district partly inhabited by Germans, exposed them to such attacks, and they applied to Žižka for help. Žižka sent the following reply:

To the brave captains and citizens of the town of Domážlice, my dear brethren.

“ May God grant you to return to your fervour, as at first,[40] that you may first do brave deeds. Dear brethren in God, I beg you, for the sake of the Lord God, to remain in the fear of God, as His most beloved sons, and not to complain if He chastises you. Remembering the Founder of our faith, our Lord Jesus Christ, you will defend yourselves bravely against the wrongs which these Germans endeavour to inflict on you. You will thus follow the example of the ancient Bohemians, who valiantly using their lances, defended both God’s cause and their own. And we, dear brethren, seeking the law of God and the good of the commonwealth, will strive that every one of our men who is able to wield a club or even to hurl a stone should march to your aid.

“And therefore, dear brethren, be it known to you that we are collecting our men from all parts of the country against these enemies and devastators of the Bohemian land. Therefore instruct your priests that they may, when preaching, call the people to arms against Antichrist. Let it also be proclaimed in the market-place that all, both young and old, must keep watch and ward at all hours.

“And we, God willing, shall be shortly with you; have bread, beer, fodder for the horses ready, and all weapons of war; for, indeed, it is time (to march), not only against the internal enemies, but also against the foreigners. Remember your first campaign, when you fought bravely, humble men against the great, few against many, unclothed[41] against men in armour. For the arm of God has not been shortened. Therefore trust in God and be ready. May the Lord God grant you strength.

John Žižka of the Chalice,
“In the hope of God leader of the men of Tábor.”[42]

We meet with ideas similar to those contained in this and other letters of Žižka, as well as in his regulations of war, in a famous Hussite war-song, “All ye Warriors of God,”[43] often called the Bohemian Marseillaise, and it has been suggested that Žižka was its author; this is, however, doubtful. Before ending this brief note on Žižka, I must lay stress on the absolute purity of his life; he strictly conformed to the severe rules which he enforced on others. Equally notable is his entire integrity. A poor man at the beginning of the Hussite wars, he died a poor man in 1424. Even if we reject the high-coloured accounts of Æneas Sylvius concerning the offers made to Žižka by King Sigismund, very large bribes were certainly offered to him, and it would also have been easy to him to enrich himself at a moment when so many estates of Romanist nobles and houses of German citizens of Prague became ownerless. The only token of gratitude which Žižka accepted from his countrymen was a small castle, or rather fort, to which he gave the name of Chalice. This designation, which was sacred to him as a fervent Calixtine, he always added to his signature during the last years of his life.

It has already been mentioned that Žižka encamped on the battlefield on the evening of his victory at Sudoměř. On the following morning he crossed the river Vltava (Moldau), and then established his lager near the castle of Ujezd. Some of the men of Tábor met him here, and on March 27 or 28 Žižka and his victorious warriors were received with great rejoicing when they entered the newly-founded stronghold. The foundation of the new Tábor had taken place some time before Žižka’s arrival there. The small town of Ústi was near the castle of Kozi Hradek, where Hus had stayed during his exile from Prague,[44] and the first meetings of the Hussites, as already mentioned, had taken place in this neighbourhood. The town of Ústi had gradually become a centre of the more advanced Church reformers. These men, whose enthusiasm had from the first led them to judge King Sigismund more severely but also more correctly than others did, foresaw that Bohemia would soon be attacked by vast hostile armies, and they therefore did not consider the position of Ústi sufficiently strong. They determined to obtain possession of the neighbouring hill called “Hradište,” strongly situated on what may almost be called a peninsula surrounded by a small lake, to which the Hussite gave the biblical name of Jordan, and the small Košin stream which connects the Jordan lake with the Lužnice river, which flows through the valley at the foot of the steep hill “Hradište,” which was to become the new Tábor.[45] The priest Vaněk and another ecclesiastic in minor orders named Hromadka,[46] led some of their adherents to Hradište, of which they obtained possession after very slight resistance, and the whole religious community of Ústi was soon gathered together in this new and stronger place of refuge. Hromadka, who for a time appears to have acted as leader, informed Žižka of the foundation of this new settlement and asked for aid, which—as already mentioned—was given to him.

On arriving at Tábor, Žižka immediately assumed supreme command, and it was here also that he first had the opportunity of organising an armed force, whose religious enthusiasm rendered them capable of the most brilliant deeds of arms, and who, certain that they were fighting for the law of God, did not know fear. This religious enthusiasm gave them the strength not only to fight courageously, but also—perhaps a more difficult task—to submit to the military training on which Žižka insisted. This was, indeed, particularly necessary at a moment when numerous peasants from all parts of Bohemia flocked to Žižka’s standards. These men had not even that slight experience of warfare which Žižka’s earliest companions had acquired during the street-fighting in Prague, the defence of Plzeň and the skirmish of Sudoměř. Žižka had not to wait long for an opportunity to try the mettle of his new soldiers. Nicholas Divuček, one of his antagonists at Sudoměř, on his return to Kutna Hora, marched through the small town of Ožic, situated about two German miles from Tábor. Žižka attacked and defeated him on April 5, 1420, and made a considerable number of prisoners. It was agreed to exchange these for the few Táborites who had been made prisoners at Sudoměř. Žižka thus saved them from the terrible death that awaited them at Kutna Hora. Only a few days later Žižka led his troops to the attack of the castle of Sedlec, the owner of which, Lord Ulrick of Ústi, was one of the nobles opposed to the national cause; he had cruelly persecuted some of the Hussites who had settled on his estates. The castle was stormed, and Ulrick and all his followers were killed. The Hussites, with strange cruelty, spared the six bravest warriors, and offered his life to the one of them who would consent to decapitate his five comrades.[47] A man named Pinta agreed to do this, and henceforth joined the Hussite armies.

An important task which Žižka undertook shortly after his arrival at Tábor was the fortification of his new stronghold. By his order the whole circumference of the city was surrounded by two strong walls, and a fosse was dug, which could be crossed only by drawbridges in the one direction in which the city is easily accessible from the surrounding plain. The city had at first been a mere encampment, but houses rapidly sprang up. The centre of the town was the market-place, which played the part of a forum or agora. The narrow streets leading to it were built in a winding and irregular fashion, thus rendering the access to the centre of the city very difficult; this was a matter of considerable importance at a time when street-fighting was very frequent. It was also necessary to establish at Tábor what may be called a provisional government. Four captains of the people were therefore chosen. Though their authority appears to have been equal, we find Nicholas of Hus mentioned as first of them. Žižka, who well knew the necessity of concord, in view of powerful enemies, wished to conciliate a very ambitious man, who had organised the first meetings of the people, and who had thrown down his gauntlet to the Roman party before any other Bohemian knight had done so. The second captain was Žižka, and the others were Zbyněk of Buchov and Chval of Machovic. The Táborites were thus thoroughly prepared for the bloody struggle which they considered inevitable.

  1. It is printed in my Master John Hus, pp. 306–307.
  2. See my Life and Times of Master John Hus, pp. 263–276.
  3. See my Master John Hus, p. 302.
  4. Palacký quotes a contemporary strongly anti-Hussite document, which violently attacks the ladies of Queen Sophia’s court. One of them, the Lady Anna of Mochov, is described as “sævissima Jezabel.”
  5. Letter to the priest Havlik, printed in Palacký’s Documenta Mag. Johannis Hus, p. 128.
  6. Particularly in my Master John Hus, pp. 56–62, 266–267.
  7. See my Master John Hus, p. 337.
  8. The city of Prague then comprised three distinct municipalities, the Old Town, the New Town, and the “Small Side” (Malá Strana).
  9. Printed in German translation by Höfler, Geschichtsschreiber der Hussitischen Bewegung in Böhemen, Vol. II. pp. 252–254.
  10. Březova’s Chronicle, pp. 344–345 of Professor Goll’s edition.
  11. i. e. the priests of the Roman Church.
  12. 2 july 22.
  13. A courtier of King Venceslas. He was not, as has often been wrongly stated, a relation of John Hus.
  14. In the present Karlovo náměsti. See my Prague (“Mediæval Towns” series).
  15. Lawrence of Březova, in whose work he is first mentioned on this occasion calls him “regis Bohemiæ familiarem.”
  16. In German, “Budweis.”
  17. Thus it was said that Žižka was born in a forest during a great storm, and that at the beginning of the Hussite wars he swore, standing under the oak tree under which he was born, to revenge the death of Hus. This legend has been chosen by the German poet Lenau as the subject of one of his finest poems. A recently deceased friend who was interested in Bohemia translated this poem into English. Though the translation by no means does justice to the beauty of the original, I have thought it worth while to publish it as an Appendix to this work.
  18. See my Master John Hus, pp. 74–76, 161, 300.
  19. This now appears to me most probable, though Dr. Dvorský places the date of the “articles” as far back as 1417. See my Master John Hus, p. 343, n. 1, also my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, p. 128, n. 1.
  20. As already noted, the Hussites at their earlier meetings assembled unarmed, carrying only cudgels.
  21. We read in the “Scriptores rerum Bohemicarum” (Vol. III. p. 32), “The Bohemians occupied the end of the bridge on the side of the Malá Strana, and here Žižka became famous among the people, for here he first began to fight. The Chronica Universitatis Pragensis (p. 581 of Professor Goll’s edition) states: “Item Pragenses spoliaverunt civitatem minorem Pragensem, et ibi Žižka cepit capitaneatum."
  22. In spite of its formidable length, I have translated this period literally, as it gives a good idea of Březova’s style.
  23. Of course an allusion to the meeting-place of the Hussites.
  24. Before the appearance of Palacký’s work, when the only records of Bohemia consisted in myths and legends, we were told that Žižka marched to Plzeň because it was one of the five “cities of refuge” or “holy cities,” and because it was called “the City of the Sun.” Those interested in such matters will find these visionary ideas expounded in George Sand’s quaint biography, or rather historical romance, entitled Jean Zyska, pp. 78–79.
  25. Printed in Palacký, Urkundliche Beiträge zur Geschichte der Hussitenkriege, Vol. I. pp. 21–22.
  26. This matter has led to much controversy.
  27. Accounts concerning the number of the royalist forces vary greatly; it is certain that the Hussite chroniclers often exaggerated the numbers of the hostile armies.
  28. Scriptores rerum Bohemicarum,” Vol. III. p. 34.
  29. Toman, Husitske Válečnictoi (Hussite Warfare), pp. 9–10.
  30. [Žižka] “ut ergo desilire ab equis adversarii, mulieres quæ de more exercitum sequebantur projicere pepla in terram jussit, quibus implicati per calcaria eques prius extincti sunt, quam pedes expedire valerent” (Æneas Sylvius, De Bohemorum origine, chap. xl).
  31. Nicholas of Pelhřimov writes (Höfler, Geschichtsschreiber der Hussitenkriege): “bellum [of the Hussites] cum magna fuit erectum diligentia et exemplo ac regulis antiquorum bonorum bellatorum roboratum atque circumstantio natum per præfatos Pragenses magistros ac sacerdotes regni Bohemiæ qui tunc et ab initio dicto cum populo laborarunt. Quamvis heic sub tempore hoc bellum per multos, qui se ipsis fraudulenter cum aliis applicarunt intentionibus in magnas versum erat deordinationes semper contra propositum atque intentionem fidelium qui pro illo dicto bono se fideliter et catholice opposuerunt.” Nicholas of Pelhřimov (see my Master John Hus, pp. 359–363) was bishop of the Táborites, but belonged to the moderate fraction of that party, as appears from the last words I have quoted.
  32. The military maxims contained in this work were considered the foundation of military learning from the time of William of Orange to that of Frederick the Great, and even earlier, if we accept Dr. Toman’s conjecture. Dr. Toman has with great industry selected a considerable number of passages from the book of Vegetius, and attributed the tactics of Žižka on certain occasions to their influence. I must refer those interested in this matter to Dr. Toman’s work.
  33. See my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, p. 86, n. 2.
  34. Captain C. F. Atkinson writes very truly in the National Encyclopædia under “Artillery”: “The introduction of field artillery may be attributed to John Žižka.”
  35. This statement is contained also in the earlier editions of my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch.
  36. G. Fabricii Ordo stirpis Saxonicæ (quoted by Dr. Toman).
  37. I have printed this interesting document as an Appendix to this work.
  38. Prak” signifies a “sling” in Bohemian.
  39. Balbinus, S.J., Miscellanea historica regni Bohemici, Lib. IV. p. 144.
  40. i. e. when they first joined the national party.
  41. i. e. without armour.
  42. I have borrowed this translation from my History of Bohemian Literature.
  43. I have translated part of this song in my History of Bohemian Literature.
  44. See my Master John Hus, pp. 167–176.
  45. For a good description of Tábor, see Professor Karel Thir, Hradiště hory Tabor.
  46. Březova calls him “campanator.” He was an acolyte ordained to the fourth of minor orders. These men were at that time often employed as bell-ringers in churches.
  47. Readers of Balzac will be remiaded of his tale entitled El Verdugo.