(please note: I will make jokes but it’s all historically accurate)
Let me begin with a summary of Romania’s history:
And Moldova since it’s basically the same until 1812:
Both of these videos briefly mention Stephen the Great (and Vlad the Impaler, his cousin by the way. Yes, they were cousins. Not only that, but Vlad the Impaler helped Stephen the Great get his throne & Stephen the Great helped Vlad the Impaler get his throne during his last/third reign, by helped I mean literally being with them in the army).
As the not clickbait title says, he fought a total of 48 battles during his lifetime, and won 46.
As a Romanian, I know that Vlad the Impaler is far far far far more popular, because cruelty and all that. But by all objective accounts I think Stephen the Great was a better… everything.
He ruled for 47 years, Vlad the Impaler ruled for 8 years (all his reigns combined). He defeated all his neighbours at different points: Ottomans, Wallachians (but not during Vlad’s reign), Hungarians, Poles (yes, Battle of the Cosmin Forest) and Tattars.
And unlike Vlad the Impaler (if you watched the Netflix show Mehmed vs Vlad you know what I’m talking about), unlike his cousin, when Mehmed II the Conqueror invaded Moldavia he failed to capture it.
But enough of the main events, let’s make a summary of his life, and why I think he objectively deserves to have a campaign, yes I’m Romanian so I’m biased but let me tell you about him and you be the judge:
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that if Stephen the Great would have been born the prince of a greater country he would have been the next Caesar. His only fault was that unlike Vlad the Impaler he was pretty much his polar opposite, a very religious and pious person, the Pope even named him “Champion of Christ” despite being Orthodox.
Oh yeah, and his most badass moment: he sent a letter to all European powers asking them to start a new Crusade against the Ottomans in the name of Christianity (he sent it to the king of France & England as well, all Christian leaders of Europe), but only 2.000 Szekely answered because they were too busy fighting each other.
Where as Vlad the Impaler was a sadist, Stephen the Great was a religious zealot (the man would build 1 church at the site of each victorious battle after the battle to thank God, this is not a legend, the churches exist to this day and the writing makes it very clear).
I’m not a religious person, but man Stephen the Great was overkill.
And while we’re at it. May I suggest a Romanian/Vlach civilization? At this point, I don’t care about the specifics, many better suited people made suggestions about it, I would just like to be able to play as the Romanians in Age of Empires 2.
Anyway, his life & his help from his polar opposite cousin Vlad the Impaler
As I said, Stephen the Great is less popular than his cousin in international history, because being a religious man is less cool than impaling the opposition, but by the end of this I think you will agree with me that he was his superior in so many ways. Just not marketing. Hard to beat the Vampire brand.
Stephen the Great was the Prince of Moldavia. He was to become the ruler of Moldavia. But his uncle had other plans. His uncle killed his father in 1451 and took his throne. His only 2 real choices being decapitation or fleeing, Stephen (soon to become the Great but I’ll refer to him as the Great from now on) fled to Hungary. From Hungary, he joined the army of his cousin, yes Vlad the Impaler, and helped Vlad the Impaler take his 2nd reign in Wallachia in 1456.
In return, Vlad the Impaler returned the favor. Vlad the Impaler invaded Moldavia with an army against Stephen the Great’s uncle. Who was defeated and Stephen the Great finally took his father’s throne.
Fun epic so far? the revenge trope. But it gets better.
A new ruler right? well, Wallachia and Moldavia were the pawns of 3 great powers: Ottomans, Hungarians and Poles. Stephen the Great picked the Poles and in 1459 he decided to become a Polish ###### (all 3 of them were very insistent so he had to accept to one or risk being invaded, #MedievalLife), this infuriated King Matthias of Hungary, who felt offended and invaded Moldavia.
You know how I told you that Stephen the Great won 46 out of 48 battles? yeah, the battles with the Hungarians are not one of them. Despite the Poles not offering any support (only nominal ######### the Moldavians under Stephen the Great knocked the heck out of them at the Battle of Baia.
Oh yes, the Moldavians were always outnumbered. They were outnumbered in every battle being a small nation so I’m just going to say it now and know that it applies for all battles I’m going to mention. Don’t worry, I’m not going to mention all 48 of them, only the most important ones (and the 2 defeats, sorry Stephen, people tend to remember you for your failure not your succes, you’re the unliving proof of that).
Not only Stephen the Great beat the Hungarians at the Battle of Baia, but after their victory they advanced and attacked Transylvania. He kept sacking Transylvania until 1469 until King Matthias signed a peace treaty so he would stop and accepted Polish suveranity over Moldavia (remember, the Poles didn’t move 1 finger).
In the meantime, Vlad the Impaler lost the throne of Wallachia to his younger brother, Radu the Handsome in 1462 (watch the Netflix series Mehmed vs Vlad to catch up), Stephen the Great knew that a war with the Ottomans was imminent, and he tried to take Chilia fortress and failed. This was his first fail 1/2. I hope we won’t see this battle in the campaign, such an embarrassment to an otherwise good general. Hey, you can’t be top game all the time, right?
Anyway, he took Chilia in a 2nd attept 2 years later (see, it eventually worked!). The Ottomans were mad but chill, for the time being. In 1470, Stephen the Great attacked Radu the Handsome in Wallachia. In response, the Ottoman Empire sent the Tatars to invade Moldavia but Stephen the Great defeated them at Lipnic and returned to Wallachia to his original campaign. (a small distraction, the Tattars are no match for Stephen)
In 1474, Stephen the Great finally defeated Radu the Handsome who fled to the Ottoman Empire and placed Laiota Basarab as ruler of Wallachia (follow-up to the Netflix series, how long did Radu the Handsome last on the throne? Stephen the Great long)
But 2 years later Laiota Basarab switched sides (top 10 anime betryals). Stephen the Great thought he was going to be a loyal ally, like his cousin (who was at the time a prisoner of the Hungarians so he couldn’t count on him) but he wasn’t.
The same year Laiota Basarab switched sides, Mehmed II asked Stephen the Great to give up on Wallachia, give back Chilia and pay tribute to the Ottoman Empire (reasonable demands). Stephen the Great refused and war was on (grew cocky this big boy).
Mehmed II sent Suleiman Pasha and Laiota Basarab to deal with Stephen the Great. Who defeated them at the Battle of Vaslui in 1475.
And it is here that you have to see what Stephen the Great was all about:
I can’t pull this off in Age of Empires 2 let alone in real life.
It was after this battle that… can you guess it? what did he do after this great victory?
The letter. He sent letter to all European leaders to start a new Crusade against the Ottoman Empire.
You already know their reply from the introduction of this topic. Hooray to the Szekely, the only ones to actually respond. And they weren’t even a country, but warriors from Hungary. (the Szekely previously helped his uncle kill his father, but hey, details)
But one year later, in 1476, Mehmed II came personally to fight Stephen the Great with a much bigger army, he defeated Stephen the Great at the Battle of Valea Alba. However, unlike Vlad the Impaler’s failure, Mehmed II, the conqeror of Constantinople, couldn’t conquer Suceava, the capital of Moldova, he was unable to take Moldavia’s capital, Suceava and eventually retreated before suffering attrition (the game Stephen the Great was playing all along! the defeat at Valea Alba was just a ploy you see! Ok, no, he really messed up there, defeat 2/2 but sources say the Ottomans suffered “heavy” casualities despite not saying the actual numbers so cut the man some slack, there’s a reason he couldn’t take Suceava!; estimated numbers: 100.000 - 150.000 Ottomans; 10.000 - 30.000 Moldavians. So thank you. Don’t hold it against him).
Later the same year in 1476, the same year he was invaded but retreated by Mehmed II the Conqueror of Constantinopole, Stephen the Great invaded Wallachia from the east while his cousin Vlad the Impaler invaded Wallachia from the west (SPOILER: Vlad’s 3rd and final reign).
Laiota Basarab (the traitor, the backstabber, the top 10 anime betrayals guy!) fled to the Ottoman Empire, Vlad the Impaler was again ruler of Wallachia, Stephen the Great gave to Vlad 2.000 elite soldies as personal guard, but 2 months later Laiota Basarab returned with an Ottoman army and Vlad the Impaler was killed in battle. (noob! ez win, gg)
As for the war between Stephen the Great and the Ottoman Empire? oh yeah, the war lasted for 8 more years, but Stephen the Great being Stephen the Great he held on.
In 1484, the Ottomans eventually managed to reconquer Chilia (shameful display! Stephen the Great lost a battle for this!) and Cetatea Alba and incorporate them into the Ottoman Empire, then signed a peace treaty with Stephen the Great where he would have to pay tribute and become an Ottoman ####### (I mean, the man lasted all he could)
But then all changed when the fire nation attacked, I mean the Polish.
Being impressed by his victories over the Ottomans /sarcasm off; that earned him the title “Champion of Christ” from the Pope. In 1494, the Polish King John Albert planned a replacement of Stephen III with Sigismund, his younger brother.
In 1497, the Polish army marched in Moldavia under the pretext to release of Chilia and Cetatea Alba from the Ottoman Empire (we will avenge you Stephen, no worry, you can always count of Polish support, you are our ###### after all, are you not?). Then, John Albert suddently attacked Moldavia’s capital, Suceava, but was unable to take it (just like Mehmed the Conqueror, hah!) and eventually retreated.
On the way home, Stephen the Great attacked John Albert starting the Battle of Cosmin Forest heavly crippling the Polish army. And again, this being Moldavia, while being outnumbered.
But, just like Hungary before them after losing the battle of Baia, in 1948, Stephen the Great sent armies to loot and plunder Poland. In 1499, John Albert signed a peace treaty so he would stop looting and plundering Poland, the Polish suzeranity over Moldavia ended.
In 1500, Stephen the Great stopped paying tribute to the Ottoman Empire again, and joined the Venetian - Ottoman war (1499 - 1503) together with Hungary, he defeated the Ottoman army again, but he could not recapture Chilia or Cetatea Alba.
In 1502, the Tatars of the Great Horde invaded Moldavia but Stephen the Great defeated them with the support of the Crimean Tatars. (finally a top 10 anime betrayals that worked in his favor). In 1503, Hungary and Wallachia signed a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire and Stephen the Great again paid a yearly tribute to the Ottomans. He died in 1504 of poor health.
On his deathbed, he had urged his son and co-ruler, Bogdan, to continue to pay the tribute to the Sultan (not a noble ending for a warrior who spent his life fighting the Ottoman Empire, but historical accuracy forces me to mention this, who knows what his reasons were, maybe he thought that Moldavia had the best prosperity when not at war, maybe he thought that the Ottomans would one day rule Europe, or that his son was not good enough, nobody knows, but he said it, and I’ll say it. Oh yeah, he had plans to join an Anti-Ottoman Alliance before his death, so maybe he thought that his son wasn’t good enough, or nobody else could do it but him).
- Help Vlad the Impaler take his throne on Wallachia (2nd reign)
- Be helped by Vlad the Impaler take your throne from your uncle.
- Battle of Baia (Hungarians being bitter about accepting Polish suveranity)
- Fight Radu the Handsome (please mention the top 10 anime betryal)
- Battle of Vaslui (best defeat ever)
- Help put Vlad the Impaler back on the throne.
- Battle of Codrii Cosminului
- Final battle against the Tattars
I know that Age of Empire 2’s campaign usually take 5-6 scenarios, but tell me, which battle should I remove without removing an essential piece of information about Stephen the Great? I already removed a lot to narrow it down to 8.
Anyway, I hope you liked this summary.
If you are extra-interested:
By the way, this one is in Romanian but is made by one of the biggest historians in Romania, the branch of the Romanian Academy specialized in Vlad the Impaler, so you can’t get more serious historians than that. It has english subtitles (you can’t get more professional than that):
A video summary:
That’s it. Thank you for reading so far. The man ruled for 47 years and won 46 battles out of 48. What more is there to add?