The Trio – Alexander, Sangala and Jan Zizka

Posted in European History, India, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on January 21, 2009


Alexander’s retreating  armies saw a new way of chariot fighting at Sangala Battle as did Vatican – 1700 years later.

Roma-Gypsy Family With Varda Wagon & Bender Tents at Barnhurst, 1902. From the Boswell Collection.

Roma-Gypsy Family With Varda Wagon & Bender Tents at Barnhurst, 1902. From the Boswell Collection.

The barbarians came forth to fight with chariots lashed together, some of them were equipped with spears, others with lances, and they would jump nimbly from chariot to chariot whenever they wished to aid comrades, who were under pressure (from The History of Alexander, By Quintus Curtius Rufus, John Yardley, Waldemar Heckel)

From Alexander to Zizka

Now this is very interesting.

Some 1700 years later, during the Hussite wars, the Moravian armies under Jan Zizka, routed the combined armies of Prussia, Austria and various Catholic countries, commandeered by the Vatican. It was the Hussite Wars that started off the Reformation and Renaissance in Europe, from Moravia – now a part of modern Czechoslovakia.

The Taborites, one of the two factions (along with the Utraquists or the Calixtines) formed a front under Jan Zizka to take on the might of the Vatican. Zizka’s armies were made up by two factions – The Utraquists and the Taborites.

Zizka used a similar tactics – like what retreating armies of Alexander saw at Sangala. It was the Taborite use of wagons in war that was revolutionary in Europe – and the blind general, Jan Zizka defeated the combined armies of European Superpowers of his time. The Taborites used Wagenbergs, (fortified wagons).

Roma Gypsy wagon - Picture from UK c. 1910 (Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre of Gypsies).

Roma Gypsy wagon – Picture from UK c. 1910 (Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre of Gypsies).

Who were the Taborites? Moravians living in Tabors, were named Taborites – and a mountain on which they lived, was also known as the Tabor mountain. And what does Tabor mean?

Tabor, in various Eastern European languages meaning camp, tribe, community. In English Tabor means a drum – which comes from the drums used by the Taborites. Jan Zizka’s dying wish was that the combined Hussite armies would use his skin on a drum to lead the Czech armies against the Vatican.

Trust, Betrayal …

How did the alliance break?

The Utraquists, made a deal with the Vatican, called the “Compactata of Basle” (1433) – and betrayed the Taborites. The combined forces of the Utraquists and the Vatican waged war against the Taborites. This massacre called the Battle of Lipan /Lipany, on May 30th, 1434, ended the Taborite faction. Thousands were locked inside barns and huts – and burnt to death. And that was the end of the Hussite Wars and the challenge to the Church. But it broke the military might of the Church also.

Similarly, Jan Hus had earlier been invited to a meeting – was captured and burnt at the stake, under false promises. The Taborites on the other were different. When Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (later Pope Pius II) sought shelter with the Taborites, he was welcomed openly and warmly.

Interestingly, a 100 years later, the European persecution of the Roma Gypsies began in full earnest. And during WW2, the Vatican joined with the Nazi collaborators, the Ustashe,  to extort gold and the genocide against the Roma Gyspises.

Roma Gypsy wagon-houses at Tarnow Muzeum, Poland  |  Click for image.

Roma Gypsy wagon-houses at Tarnow Muzeum, Poland | Click for image.

Coming back …

Who were the major users of the wagons in Europe then (and now?) Answer – The Roma Gypsies.

Who were the people who could pose spiritual and ecclesiastical questions to the Vatican? Answer – The Gypsies, with their Indian heritage, were not not new to spiritual dialectics (contests, discourse and debates). For instance, Mani, and his adherents, an Indic teacher of Buddhist thought, known to Christians as Manichean thought, were the nightmare for Christianity till the 15th century. When Mani called for overthrow of slavery, the Vatican at the Council of Gangra, re-affirmed its faith in slavery. European minds were occupied with the questions raised by the Hussite reformers.

Some think they (the Waldensians) had held them for centuries; some think they had learned them recently from the Taborites. If scholars insist on this latter view, we are forced back on the further question: Where did the Taborites get their advanced opinions? If the Taborites taught the Waldenses, who taught the Taborites?

Who were the people who could help the persecuted Waldensians, the Bogomils, the Cathars to escape persecution and spread out across the Europe? Answer – The Roma Gypsies – in their wagons. The same Gypsies, had earlier pioneered the Troubadour culture in the Provence Region, which provoked the Albigensian Crusade by the Vatican.

Prokop Coat Of Arms

Prokop Coat Of Arms

And who was the King of the Taborites? Answer – An entire clan of leaders who called themselves as Prokop (The Shaven /Bald; The Little and The Great) were the military leaders of the Taborites.

The word and name Prokop have no meaning in any European language – except in Sanskrit, where it means vengeance, retribution, violent justice. But, this did not stop the cultural dacoity – and the name was  Hellenized to Procopius.

And where do the Roma Gypsies come from? Answer – India, where at the Battle of Sangala, 1700 years ago, Alexander’s retreating  armies, saw a new way of fighting from chariots- which the Vatican saw 1700 years later, again!

The Gypsy secret weapon

And gunpowder was the secret weapon that the Taborite Gypsy armies of Jan Zizka used, mounted on top of the wagons that cut enemy troops to size?

Gunpowder. And Gypsies?

At the end of the 19th century, this was still known. And an extract from that books goes onto trace the introduction of gunpowder to Europe.

Now, Mons is the capital of Hainault ; and the first people known to have used firearms in England were the Hainaulters. “In 1327 the English employed some Hainaulters, who used cannon for King Edward III against the Scotch.” Do these facts not suggest very strongly that the artillerymen among the Hainaulters were procured from one or other of the ” quartiers des Sarrazins ” of that province ? The connection between Edward III and Hainault was very close, for in the year following the arrival of the gunpowder-using Hainaulters, he married Philippa of Hainault. And, since he imported artillerymen from Hainault, it is quite likely that those “foreign traders,” who came to St. Giles’ Fair. Winchester, during his reign, selling ” brazen vessels of all kinds,” were really from Dinant, near Namur, as has been suggested. These people are cited by Mr. Groome {Gypsy Lore Journal, i. 50), as possible Gypsies ; if one grants that there were Gypsies in Belgium in the fourteenth century. For, of course, both of these suggestions are based upon that assumption. (from Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society by FRANZ VON MIKLOSICH).

But do Gypsies and war ever mix?

They have often been employed in military expeditions, but never as regular soldiers. In the Thirty Years’ War the Swedes had a body of them in the army ;  and the Danes had three companies of them at the siege of Hamburg, in 1686. They were chiefly employed in flying parties, to burn, plunder, or lay waste the enemy’s country. In two Hungarian regiments nearly every eighth man is a Gypsy. ((from Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society by FRANZ VON MIKLOSICH).

11 Responses

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  1. […] armored wagons, led by the Taborites, in offensive movements, broke through the enemy lines, firing as they rolled, cutting superior […]

  2. Kalidas said, on February 8, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Isn’t it strange that these people who were influenced by Indian learning were defeated by betrayal of their own, much as happened in so many places in India during Muslim invasions..

    Is there something in our blood that makes us more susceptible to change of loyalties??

    The mind shudders to think.. the hands tremble to write.

  3. Anuraag Sanghi said, on February 9, 2009 at 9:17 am

    The betrayal of the Taborites set back Europe by at least a 100 years. Yes, it was sad.

    What happened in India was different … the interesting aspect of the Western History is the Colonial device of the ‘divided Indians.’ This device overused the assumption that ‘Indians always lost because Indians were divided – look at Ambhi versus Porus, Jaichand versus Prithviraj Chauhan, Mir Jafar versus Nawab ud Dowlah, Tipu Sultan versus the Marathas, et al.’

    In a number of these cases, the fact are different. E.g. Ambhi was paid with 25 tons of gold for logistical services to Alexander’s army. Alexander Persian advisors warned that the biggest threat to his Persian conquests were the Indians. So, Alexander was (seemingly) on a trip to drum up alliances and treaties with Indians. His conquest of India the butt of much jokes and ridicule in Greece and Rome – and was disbelieved till at least the Middle Ages.

    Factually, The Invader-Islamic rule in India lasted for around 100-150 years. The Lodhis and Mughals were from Afghanistan – considered as a part of the Indian nation till about 100 years ago. Colonial history would like to delink Afghanistan from India – as the British could not conquer Afghanistan. The last main land ruler of Afghanistan was Ranjit Singh – in early 19th century.

  4. […] armored wagons, led by the Taborites, in offensive movements, broke through the enemy lines, firing as they rolled, cutting superior […]

  5. […] crime. They civilized (?) Europe. No less. A frugal Romani Gypsy […]

  6. […] From Rome we get a slave owning, loot-oriented, blood-thirsty line of rulers. An empire that gave birth to 1500 years of Church persecution. […]

  7. […] What could be more logical, when these Roma, […]

  8. Sita said, on February 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    In Italy Durga Puja is not allowed the persecution of Hindus is second nature for Rome while mosques and Muslims are given a great deal of respect (http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/letters/09/29/the-city-of-rome-did-not-allow-a-puja-to-be-held-there/)

    This is why I hear from non South Asian men or others “Muslims ruled India for 1000 years” when in fact they only ruled parts of India for about 100 years. I am not sure killing 60 million Hindus counts as ruling India nor taking thousands of Hindus as slaves to Afghan Kusht mountains counts either (Hindu skulls make up this area). There is a brotherhood among Abrahamic faith though Muslims helped Christians in Jewish holocaust.

  9. answertoyourquestion said, on August 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    do the gypsies know their greatness.
    i think piligrim’s progress(by john bunyan) was also written by gypsy influence. i knew it when i was young. i heard the title and that it was an allegory. i thought this is so indian.
    allegories in spirituality. that is common in india.

  10. Shankara (@Sshankara) said, on August 3, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Since Gypsies are ethnic Jats, they are given to warfare like fish is to swimming. Jats make excellent soliders.

  11. JBYoung said, on October 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    This is amazing. I have been reading extensively on the Taborites and their way of fighting and living lately and have come to speculate that there may be some kinship with the Gypsies. Jan Zizka was well traveled and had come into contact with many cultures of the area (he had fought with a mixed army of Poles, Lithuanians, Russians, Cossacks and Tatars at Grunwald). He seemed to have had a gift for picking up whatever would help him, and so did his men. We forget how much was going against the Hussites. It really was “against all.” The thoughts going through those peoples’ minds, that they had forsaken the cosmos of the old world and would be standing against its ugliest wrath, must have been terrifying and liberating beyond imagination. I would say that this act was more groundbreaking even than the French Revolution of ’89. These underdogs of underdogs had to find a way of living and fighting that was entirely new and unknown: unknown to their enemies, but native to their way of life. Everything was up for grabs.

    Zizka was a great commander because he, unlike so many of the idiots who lead armies at the time, understood the minds of his men and took the peasant way of life into account. While other “chivalrous” leaders were riding their own peasant hirelings down to charge the enemy, Zizka was outfitting his peasants to defeat whole armies of knights. But I do believe he did so because he knew he had to. The grand scheme of modernity and do-or-die reality came to a crossroads with the Taborites.

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