Bear with us as we go back through ancient FencingClassics postings to bring them into a standard usable format.
For some reason, “Skanderbeg” continues to be a popular search term that leads people to this site. The following translation of a 17th-century German text might explain why…
The Amberger Collection contains many, many items that are somehow related to fencing and swordplay, but lack their original context. This page, for example, was lifted from an unidentified 17th-century German chronicle.
It details the main events at the Ottoman court right before 1439.
One text segment is of particular interest to aficionados of sword fighting: The passage introduces “Georgius Castriotus, whom the Turks call Skanderbeg“ and a “wonderous fight at the Court of the Grand Turk Amurathis”, which occurred when Skanderbeg was 21 years old. Since the Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg was born May 6, 1405, this would place the event squarely in 1436.
The account of this gladiatorial exhibition provides enough detail for an experienced martial artist to reconstruct the key actions with reasonable accuracy. Like many fights to the deaths, the action is swift, simple, and universal: One attack, one parry with the left hand (probably with a simultaneous step forward with the left foot, off the line of engagement, to gain the opponent’s outside. Then one counter to the neck—a basic technique you will find in Talhoffer, Christmann, or your introductory course of aiki-bokken at the local Y: The 18th-century German masters called it “Circulieren” after the Pass.
“A man from Tartary came to Adrianopolis, who advertised himself as the greatest of all fencers and challenged the entire Ottoman court, if there were someone who would fight him for life and body.
“This was the manner of fight: Each was to appear naked, with only the modesty covered, and try his luck with just the drawn sword, without shield or targe. When the Turks heard this foolish creature, nobody felt like taking him up on it, and there was much laughing that this braggart was to make off with the prize uncontested. To counter this, Amurathis brought forth royal rewards, to see if he couldn’t move someone to venture a round with the Tartar.
“But this cruel type of fighting with naked body surpassed even the preciousness of the reward. As this stranger was about to reach for the treasure, Georgius Castriotus stepped forth and called, ‘Halt, Tartar! You shall not have these jewels without blood. You will have to kill me for them first. Know that you have found the man you have been looking for.’
“And thus they were both brought before Amuranthis, and the place of combat was determined. When they had removed all their clothes, even the shirts, two sabers of equal length and weight were handed to them.
“The Tartar struck first at his opponent. Skanderbeg struck his attack aside with his left hand, with his right he cut his throat and neck half through, so that the Tartar fell dead to the floor. Then he severed the neck entirely and took the head and carried it, naked and splattered with the blood of his enemy, to King Amuranthis. The royal reward was his, and Amuranthis praised his fortitude and that he had preserved the honor of the court.”