The Capture and Trade of Captives by Hungarian Soldiers during István Koháry’s General-Captaincy in Szécsény and Fiľakovo


The trade of captives was part of everyday life on the Ottoman-Hungarian borderland during the 17th century. Despite the peace between the Habsburgs and Ottomans in the years 1606–1663, frequent looting expeditions and constant skirmishes occurred between the two empires. The local trade of captives also flourished, which included raiding expeditions for the sole purpose of acquiring captives, negotiations regarding ransom and standards for keeping and redeeming captives. Interest was so great on both sides such that in the 17th century, an extensive system of customs and unwritten rules existed, largely accepted by both Ottoman and Hungarian rulers. The focus of this article is on the involvement of Hungarian soldiers in the field of captive trading during the time of the general captainships of István I. Koháry Cases examined concern primarily the garrisons of Fiľakovo, Szécsény, Balassagyarmat and to a lesser extent, other surrounding castles, all sourced from the fund of the Koháry family archive located in the Banská Bystrica State Archive. Attention is centered on cases where people were taken captive from the ranks of the civilian population (mostly subjects of Ottomans), and not explicitly Ottoman soldiers or dignitaries. The aim here is a study of the behavior of soldiers towards the general population in the abovementioned territories, and an observation of the application of specific customs connected with the trade of captives in practice.