The Battle of Brenta 899 AD

100
3


This video is sponsored by Squarespace. It’s late October of the year 898. A couple of hundred light riders roam through the Lombardian countryside plundering crops and valuables. Their distinct clothing, scant leather armour, and extraordinary equestrian skills, most notably their proficiency at horse archery, brings both the fear and attention of the local nobility. A new era in warfare within Europe has just begun. It is late autumn of the year 898. After twelve years of political games, armed conflicts and fortuitous deaths, margrave Berengar of Friuli enters the city of Pavia, bearing the Iron Crown of Lombardy upon his head. From that moment he became the sole, uncontested ruler of the Kingdom of Italy. Berengar’s success was possible thanks to the death of Ratold, illegitimate son of Arnulf, King of East Francia and Holy Roman Emperor, who had sent his son to rule Italy in his stead. Upon hearing the news of Berengar’s coronation, Arnulf considered reclaiming the lost kingdom. In truth, consideration was about the most Arnulf was capable of in late 898, due to the recent stroke he had suffered. Not to mention the plethora of other medical conditions that plagued his attempts to effectively rule his own domain, let alone attend to matters of foreign affairs. Berengar was well aware of this, and plotted against Arnulf, whom he deemed unworthy of the imperial title and saw himself as a better fit on the imperial throne, being the legitimate descendant of Charlemagne on his mother’s side. Yet Berengar had to put his high hopes aside at least for a while, as his newly acquired kingdom was riddled with problems. Apart from weak central authority, Berengar was concerned over groups of light riders, roaming freely across the Padan Plain, deftly avoiding bigger cities and fortifications. They seemed to be gone by the beginning of winter, but at least Berengar learned of the origin of these unwanted guests. His scouts reported that they were Magyars, a semi-nomadic people that recently crossed the Carpathian Mountains and occupied the Pannonian Basin, causing disturbances within Great Moravia and the frontier marches of East Francia. While their true goals in Italy are the subject of debate, as they had never been seen in the region before, it is plausible, that some of the Magyar chieftains were allied to Arnulf, who sought military assistance against Berengar’s rule in Italy. Unbeknownst to Berengar, these seemingly inconsequential raids were in fact thorough reconnaissance of his domain by the Hungarian riders, who attained invaluable details of the populace, landscape, strongpoints, composition of enemy troops and even possible battlefields. In late spring of 899, when Berengar was deeply embroiled in domestic disputes, a substantial Magyar force, consisting of around 5,000 riders rode around the fortified city of Aquileia unhindered and entered Northern Italy, raiding the countryside and attacking any undefended town or settlement. Upon hearing the dreadful news, King Berengar, though undoubtedly surprised by the invasion, remained level-headed and requested all his subjects to provide military support to repel the invaders. Despite his relatively weak position, the response of his retainers was swift and in unity. In the matter of a few months Berengar was able to amass a 15,000 strong army, determined to push back the enemy. These numbers alone gave Berengar a solid boost to his already bolstered confidence which, perhaps, lead to the Hungarian invaders not being confronted immediately after the Italian army was assembled. The role of underdog played well for the Magyar leaders, who had enough time to cease their plunder and gather at a meeting point in unison, luring the Italian army to attack them. But as soon as Berengar’s troops closed their distance to the Hungarian’s position, the Magyars evaded battle, riding to the East. This was a relatively easy ploy as Italian heavy cavalry, supplemented by infantry units, was simply not as manoeuvrable as the Hungarian light mounted units. Moving in such a pattern, both armies eventually reached their first major obstacle – the river Brenta. The Magyar units, though visibly tired, managed to swiftly cross the river and set a camp on the Eastern side to feast and replenish their energy. By this time, Berengar was growing frustrated, following an enemy who constantly refused to engage in battle, but at least he had all of the invaders in one place. Upon reaching the river, he ordered to pitch tents on the Western side, as crossing the river post-haste with his heavy units was deemed unwise and risky. Soon Berengar received Hungarian envoys, who pleaded mercy and agreed to leave Italy, though it was quite obvious that Berengar was in no mood to spare them his retribution, given the recent desolation of his lands by the Magyars. These talks unsurprisingly led nowhere, but the Magyars had their own intentions to buy time and foster a low level of vigilance among Berengar’s ranks. This they achieved, as for the next couple of days, unthreatened by their enemy, the Italian troops relaxed within the camp falling into drinking and feasting. But the heady times were to be soberly cut short. On the morning of the 24th of September, Berengar’s army was slowly rousing, grooming horses and preparing first meals. Strangely enough, the Hungarian camp on the other side of the river was not as busy as usual. But before anyone in the Italian camp could realise the terrible truth, the river valley trembled with the sound of thousands of hoofbeats, as the Magyar light cavalry appeared on all sides and rushed to attack the camp. During the night, the majority of the Hungarian cavalry left the camp and crossed the Brenta river through fords away from Berengar’s eyes and launched a bold attack from all sides. A rain of arrows, released in full gallop fell upon the disorientated men in the camp. Though Berengar’s encampment was well fortified, almost no one was able to reach their positions in time to mount any kind of defence against the Magyar storm. Soon, more and more Hungarian riders broke into the camp, slaughtering every man unable to flee or hide. The only reasonable decision for any defender to make, in such a position, was to run as fast as they could. In less than a matter of an hour several thousand of Berengar’s men lay dead, mercilessly killed by the Magyars. It was an utter disaster for Berengar, who managed to narrowly escape the bloodshed by disguising himself as an ordinary soldier and fleeing to safety. He was the first European ruler to experience a new type of warfare brought from the East by the Hungarians, who excelled in horse archery, ambushes, feigned retreats and the art of deception. In the wake of the battle, the entire North of Italy was at the mercy of the Hungarian chieftains, who decided to spent the mild winter there, attacking undefended towns and monasteries, taking a great toll on the Italian economy. Upon their departure in the spring of the year 900, the Magyars signed a peace treaty with Berengar, who agreed to pay a yearly tribute in exchange for the raids to abate. Though the Hungarians wreaked havoc throughout Europe for the next fifty years, Berengar quickly learned from his mistakes, conceding to the military prowess of his erstwhile enemies, and wisely using the Magyars to help in his upcoming struggle for the imperial throne. This video is sponsored by SquareSpace. Need an all-in-one platform to build awesome websites with tons functionality, then SquareSpace is what you’re after. With great features such as: Vibrant and versatile design via Modern Templates, meaning that your site will look amazing on any browser or device. Template Switching so if there’s more than one template that you like you can incorporate many into one site. And let’s not forget the most powerful weapon in your SquareSpace arsenal, the Integrated Analytics providing detailed reports on your sites activities. Click on the link in the discretion below, visit squarespace.com/bazbattles and not only will you be supporting our channel but you will save 10% on your first site-content purchase. Building a web presence is made easy thanks to SquareSpace!

100 COMMENTS

  1. wait, so how are the Hungarians different from the Huns or the Mongols? even the Romans in the east were using Horse archers a lot by this time :/

  2. I live in Italy, in the city of Padua near the river Brenta. Not that it matters, but it's kinda cool to see the place where I live featured in one of your videos 😀 Here, a lot of cool battles where fought also during the XIII-XIV century

  3. Nice video! I would just like to point out that the Magyars had formed a so-called 'Steppe State' and had supra-tribal offices. All our contemporary sources as well as the archaeology shows clearly that this was the case. They always prepared their attacks diplomatically and there are sources on their alliance with Arnulf. Before that, they had allied with Byzantium (893/4) the Moravians (880) and the Franks against the Moravians. They were very pragmatic with their alliances, and probably would never have launched major campaigns had not the East Franks tried to eradicate them in 907. Cheers!

  4. Theatricality and deception and powerful agents to the uninitiated, Berengar. And btw this period is called "Time of Adventures" by the magyars

  5. this was not a conqueror campaign but the target was the sack of the city like during the Roman empire age and on this age Venice was still at embrional status could not oppose much resistance

  6. For fucks sake stop using the word "Magyar" you are rapeing it with your shitty pronounciation.
    Pls use the therm hungarian instead it will be better for everyone

  7. It is funny that the times hungarians spent in europe before they sattled down, we call "the age of adventuring" everybody else calls it pillaging. 🙂

  8. LOL Hungarians looking for some SeaHorses so they could plunder even in the seas. Magyars became my top 1 horse nomads after this

  9. Here is a r method of how patched leather could help the horse cross the river. I believe it was passed from the far east. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9JdSK_j-ao

  10. It's always extremely difficult to follow the next installment or the next battle in chronological order

    Maybe leave a link in each video description????????

  11. It amazes me that despite thousands of years separating us, there still exists detailed records of two opposing armies and their intricate movements in war.

  12. Before Arnulf became a king of Holly Roman Empire he was a king of Slovenians (Carantanians) and he attacked Slovaks. With the help of Magyar they defeated Slovaks and push them north.

  13. He was the first European ruler to experience this? So the eastern slavs, which held 1/5th of Europe and had been fighting these types of raids were not Europeans? Hmmm, how about the southern slavs, Bulgars? Surely the Byzantines? Or does Europe now start in Italy/Germany?

  14. These Italian soldiers that Berengar had were useless. He maybe an astute politician but he is no proper battlefield commander. Typical of Dark age kings that have little or no training. They learn by experience as they go along

  15. Sir our enemy is far more manouverable than us and could attack or retreat at any moment, we should remain vigilant
    NAH BOYS WHOS GOT THE WINE?!

  16. I am not convinced that it is fair to characterize what the Magyars were doing as a "new" form of warfare. Horse archers had been in Europe before in the form of the Huns and the Avars at least and there were records of these. However, it could be said that the Lombards at this particular time were not practiced in fighting against them even if the more educated among them might have been aware of them.

  17. Great video, although the Romans fighting the Huns centuries earlier if not the Parthians demonstrated this style of mobile mounted warfare to the West, with fake retreats and expert horseback archery. The Magyars simply renewed the presence of this type of steppe nomadic style combat in Europe after the Huns and for that matter Scythians.

  18. See? The hungarian army wasn't always famous about losing all the important battles. You only have to go back 1 120 years cries backwards on a horse

  19. You should break down some modern battles.

    Ie Desert Storm.

    I find the way you break stuff down extremely interesting and engaging

  20. Man keep up with the good job, i love your videos. Could you please continue a little more with Shogun videos theres still a rebellion over there. Thank you

  21. Although they were very long, could you do videos about battles in the 1. and 2. WW ?(Stalingrad, D-Day/Omaha Beach, Verdun, Somé etc.)

  22. Hey Baz! I really enjoy your material and I appreciate all the research and work that you do. Could you do more modern battles, like WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm etc

  23. The Romans and Europeans really needed to learn how to scout. My god, it seems half of the battles ever lost were due to terrible leadership. Pay attention, always be ready.

  24. Always great work by Baz Battles. You have my utmost respect for continuing to produce awesome historical content that we would otherwise never be able to witness. myself and my other armchair historians/generals salute you sirs. Thank you.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here