Attila Zsoldos: The Siege of Codlea (p. 5-21)

The history of the dynasty of the Árpáds was frequently disturbed by armed conflicts between the members of the royal family. The last of these clashes took place in 1264-1265 between King Béla IV (1235-1270) and his elder son, Prince Stephen, the future Stephen V (1270-1272), who governed Transylvania from 1260. The present study scrutinizes the turning point of the civil war which broke out in December 1264 between king Béla IV and Stephen, the junior king (iunior rex), represented by the siege of the castle of Codlea (Feketehalom/Zeiden). Zsoldos makes an attempt to reconstruct the events of this siege, based on the information related in several of our sources. In the introduction of the study, the author discusses the antecedents of the conflict. Because none of the parties involved in the conflict truly wished reconciliation, the clash had been transformed into a real civil war. At the beginning, the war seemed to favour Stephen, but Zsoldos points out that this situation soon became critical. The junior king was abandoned, one by one, by his people, and together with a few loyal followers he was forced to remain in the castle of Codlea. In the author's view this moment represents a turn of events which needs further explanation. Choosing the castle of Codlea as his refuge, Prince Stephen shows military wisdom. In the summer of 1263, a smaller Tatar intrusion ravaged the Transylvanian border, as a consequence of which this castle from the border was strengthened. Thus, the well equipped castle of Codlea, being in good condition, proved to be a proper shelter for the junior king and his company. Analyzing the documents recording the gifts given in return for the services carried out during the war, Zsoldos managed to identify thirty-eight people who took part in the defense of Codlea. Taking into consideration the modest size of the castle and confronting it with the written sources, the author shows that it is likely that it would not have accommodated a larger number of people. The most important part of Zsoldos' study is that concerning the prosopographical analysis of the thirty-eight identified defenders of Codlea. At the end of the account of the lives of those few men to whose loyalty the junior king entrusted his life, Zsoldos reaches several conclusions concerning their geographical origin, the social distribution of the defenders, the functions which they held at court and in the army of Prince Stephen. The author shows that although we do not know much about the siege itself, the victory of the junior king had important consequences. Victory saved Stephen from failure and gave him back his freedom of action, so later he rightfully considered this battle as a remarkable victory.

Zsoldos' study about the siege of Codlea could be inserted in his sphere of interests concerning the conflict between King Béla IV and Stephen, his elder son, the junior king. The study is not only a description of the siege, but a presentation of the causes which led to the battle, a prosopographical analysis of the defenders, and a proper placing of the siege of Codlea in the whole picture of the civil war.