The Silver Arrow

One of the most important battles in the history of the Romanian Country was the one in Rovine, which took place in the spring of 1395. At that time, Sultan Baiazid Ildîrîm (Baiazid the Flash) undertook a personal expedition to conquer the Romanian Country, but he was struck by the bravery and the intelligence of the soldiers of the ruler Mircea cel Bătrân. They harassed the army of the Turks, which they drew into a marshy area. There, with the advantage of their own land, the Romanians decimated the Turks with arrows and spears.

Old Serbian and Ragusan chronicles, but also Turkish documents of the time placed the battle from Rovine on the radius or near the city of Craiova today, where there was a “Swamp” (a marshy place). In fact, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city bears this name, reminiscent of the battle that took place there over 600 years ago. Since then, the legend “Silver Arrow” survived, collected by Alexandru Mitru.

According to the legend, in the time of Mircea cel Bătrân, western and southwestern Serbia had been transformed into sangeac (territorial division of a land ruled by a Pasha), Thessaly, Epirus, Albania and the Bulgarian monarchy had fallen, and from the famous Byzantine Empire had been left only Constantinople and distant Peloponnese. The creepy Ottoman ruling had settled for half a millennium. Now, Baiazid Ildîrîm dreamed of the Romanian Country and Transylvania, to turn them into Turkish territories rules by Pashas…

Self-possessed and a good connoisseur of the Turks, Mircea took all precautions to welcome the Sultan’s army. He destroyed the Turkish garrison at Cavarna and tried to supervise the Danube. He sheltered the women, children and the elderly in the mountains, he moved the cattle and grains, destroyed the villages and poisoned the wells in the way of the Turks.

As the nickname announced, Baiazid crossed the Danube in a flash, immediately marching on the forced march towards Mircea’s armies, for a quick conquest. But the count at home did not match that of Oltenia’s forests and marshes. The forests were dark and full of dangers. It was enough for a group of janissaries who went for food or hunting to never return. At every turn, the death was expecting the Turks, and Baiazid’s people felt haunted by a mysterious and bad omen. The walk was difficult for them, despite the Sultan’s desire to crush the Romanian troops. From all directions, trees fell or arrows flew, unexpected fires occurred or strange and frightening noises made their blood freeze in their veins. Turkish troops were becoming less, and more hungry and thirsty, and the enemy was still not showing, but on the contrary, he was drawing them into the depths of the forest.

Meanwhile, the Romanian ruler was researching the places around Craiova. Here he had seen a place where the riverbed narrowed, and the dangerous marshes were adjoining a broad plain, encircled by the woods dense like a brush. Here, in the place called Balta Verde, Mircea’s 8,000 soldiers were waiting for Baiazid’s 40,000 Turks and were training, sharpening their swords or spears or cutting their spears and arrows.

Among the Sultan’s janissaries were some 8,000 vassal soldiers from the regions across the Danube conquered by the Turks. Some of them were led by the Serbian prince Marko Kraljevic (The Prince), who was half Romanian and a good cousin with Mircea cel Bătrân. In their childhood years, Marko and Mircea were blood brothers, cutting each other’s right arm and sipping a drop of blood. At the same time, they had sworn that, if they were to lead the Serbian and Romanian lands, they would never raise armies against each other or support their enemies. Whoever would break the oath be killed with a silver arrow!

And here, now, Marko, the Prince, was coming with his body of armies with the Turkish army against his cousin and his blood brother. Of all the things that have happened since the Turks had crossed the Danube, this news was the saddest for Mircea.

Knowing of the blood connection between the two, Baiazid was intrigued to place Marko and his troops in the first line of the army that was to meet the Wallachians. Wanting to spare his cousin, but also to prevent unnecessary bloodshed, the voivode of the Romanian Country asks to meet Baiazid face to face before the fight. This moment was sublime described by the national poet of Romania, Mihai Eminescu, in his famous poem “Letter III”:

“At a sign the way is opened and approaches to the tent

An old man that is so simple, if is watched by speech or stand.

– You are Mircea?

– Yes your highness

– I have come for you to lean.

If you don’t, I’ll change your crown with a simple branch of spine.

– Any thoughts you have your greatness and in any way you came

As we are to stay in peace then I’m just saying well you came.

As regarding of the leaning, well your greatness, let’s excuse

For a little thing like that one now with army blame abuse?

Or you’d want to make returned as from now your acted way

That will be a sign for us all, so we’ll know that you are OK.

If is this case or the other, what is written for us all

We’ll be carrying with a good joy if peace is or if it’s war”.


Contemptuously, Baiazid refuses to allow his troops to turn back. As soon as Mircea regains his place at the head of his army, a ruthless battle begins, painted by the poet Mihai Eminescu:

“No sooner had he gone than mighty the commotion!

The forest rang with arms, and rumbled like the ocean,

Amidst the greenwood thousand heads with long and plaited hair,

And sev’ral thousands more besides that did bright helmets wear.

While wave on wave of cavalry over the plain did flood

Astride high prancing chargers, their stirrups carved of wood.

Thundering over the battered earth an avalanche they went,

Lances levelled to the charge and bows near double bent;

Till like a shower of shivering light that whistled through the air,

A storm of arrows leapt and sang and flew from everywhere:

A din of blows on armour dealt like rattling of hail,

The noise of hoof and sword and lance, the roar of battle gale.

Unheeded was the Emperor’s fury, lion-like his rage,

For hotter still about his troops the fight did deadly wage;


Unheeded did the green flame flutter o’er his stricken ranks

For mightily assailed in front, attacked on both their flanks,

The East’s entire battle host was scattered in the fray

And line on line of infantry mown down like summer hay.

A steady rain of arrows fell and sword blows did resound,

While riders dropped on every hand and dead bestrewed the ground.

Till, onset from all sides at once, helpless to fight or fly,

It seemed the very earth was doomed and fallen was the sky…

Mircea himself led on his men midst storm of battle lust

That came, and came, and came, that trod all in the dust;

Their cavalry undaunted, a wall of lances proud

Which through that pagan army streets of daylight ploughed

And laid to earth their thousands like sheaf of ripened corn,

High in the van of conquest Wallachia’s banner borne;

As deluge flung from heaven that burst upon the seas,

Till in an hour the heathen were chaff before the breeze

And from that hail of iron fast towards the Danube fled,

While gloriously behind them th’Romanian army spread.”


Legend says that during the fight, Mircea would have seen the Prince Marko in front of his troops.

– Marko, my cousing, are you still remembering our oath? asked Mircea.

– I do! Marko replied. But if I did not accompany Baiazid, my whole nation would have been slaughtered by the Sultan. But you are right to try to kill me, and I owe to defend myself.

– I will kill you so that no oath of faith and brotherhood will ever be violated and no other brave man like you will stop serving the enemy of the freedom of the people.

And Mircea put a silver arrow in the bow. And no matter how hard the Prince Marko was trying to defend himself with his shield, it was no longer possible. The silver arrow pierced his shield, entering the throat of the brave and unhappy Serbian prince.



·         Alexandru Mitru, “Craiova in legends and stories”. Sport-Turism Publishing House, 1978

·         “Battle of the Swamps”, 12 February 2019,