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Battle of Lechfeld

From Academic Kids

Perhaps the defining event for holding off the incursions of the Magyars into Central Europe, the Battle of Lechfeld (10 August 955) was a decisive victory of the forces of Otto the Great, King of the Germans, over the Magyar leaders, the harka (military leader) Bulcsú and the chieftains Lél (Lehel) and Súr. Located northwest of Augsburg, the Lechfeld is the flood plain that lies along the Lech River.

The battle culminated many decades of Magyar raiding parties, which had formerly thrown into sharp relief the inability of the later Carolingian kings of Germany to demonstrate that they were more than kings in name. But the Magyars' use of siege engines against the walls of Augsburg on August 8 – 9 demonstrated a partial adoption of advanced western techniques of war; a successful siege of Augsburg would open a new and fearful phase of the conflict, where walled cities would no longer be safe.

Otto "pitched his camp in the territory of the city of Augsburg and joined there the forces of Henry the Liudolfing, duke of Bavaria, who was himself lying mortally ill nearby, and by duke Conrad with a large following of Franconian knights. Conrad's unexpected arrival so encouraged the warriors that they wished to attack the enemy immediately." the chronicler Widukind of Corvey reported [1] (http://college.hmco.com/history/west/mosaic/chapter5/source259.html). Conrad's arrival was particularly heartening because the exiled duke of Lotharingia and Otto's son-in-law, had recently thrown in his lot with the Magyars, but now returned to fight under Otto; in the ensuing battle he lost his life. A legion of Suabians were commanded by duke Burchard, who had married Hedwig, the daughter of Henry, the brother of Otto. Also among those fighting under Otto was Boleslav I of Bohemia.

With his in-laws and allies, Otto had managed to gather around him approximately 10,000 heavy cavalry ("eight legions in all" being Widukind's figure), in order to fight against the 50,000 or so Magyar light cavalry, according to chroniclers: modern historians assess the forces at figures that range as low as about a tenth of these figures. After Otto approached the Magyar force, their horsemen crossed the Lech unexpectedly; he was suddenly outflanked by a number of Magyar cavalry, so that his smaller force was caught in between two much larger forces, which should have led to his encirclement and defeat. However the flanking Magyar force dismounted to loot the German baggage train. Consequently Otto was able to send part of his force to sweep over these dismounted troops, resulting in their annihilation.

With this accomplished his combined force charged at the Magyar line. Despite a volley of arrows from the Magyars (which were mainly deflected by the German shields), Otto's army smashed into the Magyar line, and began to sweep over it. Bulcsú attempted to feign retreat with part of his force, in an attempt to tempt Otto's men to break their line in pursuit, but it was to no avail. The German line maintained its form, and routed the Magyars from the field, spending the next couple of days maintaining its order and methodically pursuing the Magyars in their rout, rather than dispersing jubilantly, as German forces had been wont to do [2] (http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/mil/html/mh_028900_lechfeldbatt.htm) "Some of the enemy sought refuge in near-by villages, their horses being worn out; these were surrounded and burnt to death within the walls" . The captured Magyars were either executed, or sent back to their ruling prince, Taksony missing their ears and noses; on their return the Hungarian dukes Lél, Bulcsú and Sur, who were not Árpáds, were executed. "Never was so bloody a victory gained over so savage a people," was Widukind's conclusion.

On the field of battle the great German lords raised Otto on their shields in the Germanic manner, and proclaimed him Emperor. A few years later, on the strength of it, Otto went to Rome and had himself crowned emperor by the pope. The Magyars retreated to the Carpathian Basin, where they settled into a more agricultural way of life and were eventually Christianized. There was no further threat to Europe from the Eurasian steppes until the Mongols.

Source

fr:Bataille du Lechfeld nl:Slag op het Lechveld pl:Bitwa nad rzeką Lech

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