Żebracy: XV-wieczne bractwo żołnierskie i jego historiograficzne kreacje


Mateusz Goliński
University of Wrocław, Wrocław, Poland


soldier fraternities, mercenaries, late Middle Ages, Silesia, Lesser Poland



From the 1440s to the 1470s, the areas of Slovakia, Austria, Moravia, Silesia and the Lesser Poland region were affected by the activities of fraternities formed by mercenary soldiers. In an attempt to extort payment of outstanding wages, or in search of sources of income, soldiers organized themselves into unions that occupied fortresses, from where they carried out looting activities and collected tribute from the local population. „Brothers” also formed mercenary troops. The book analyzes source accounts of the group known by its Czech name as “žebráci”, or Polish “żebracy”, which literally means beggars. The name was not translated into Latin and German at the time, rendering in its original or distorted wording as “Zebraken.” This group was formed in 1457 by mercenaries who did not receive payment from the Polish king for their service in the war waged in Prussia and retreated to the borderlands of Lesser Poland and Silesia. Its name referred to the fortified camp near the village of Żebracze, where the fraternity was formed. It also included previously active bands of soldiers whose commanders were creditors of the Polish king. The origin of the soldiers varied according to the individual squads; their common language of communication was Czech. After the king settled his dues in 1459, the group’s subsequent fate remains unclear. At least a part of it settled in the eastern borderlands of Moravia and Silesia, from where it was used in warfare and robbery in Upper Silesia. Most likely, they did not move to the lands of the Kingdom of Hungary, although there were connections with troops operating in Slovakia. The name “żebracy” and its distortions were used exclusively in Silesia. Outside the region, the name was known through the diplomatic correspondence of the city of Wrocław, where by 1467 it was used to define the „brothers” who crossed from Austria to Moravia in 1466. Some of them took service with the Bohemian king and participated in the war in Silesia. Some settled in Slovakia, where the group was torn apart by the Hungarian king. In the 19th century, thanks to the edition of Peter Eschenloer’s Chronicle and František Palacký’s books, the name „Zebraken” became widespread in historiography, especially German, where it began to refer to the general phenomenon of the squad „brothers”. In turn, due to the dictionary meaning of the word „žebráci”, the group’s name aroused fascination in fiction writing. This was translated into 20th-century Slovak and Czech popular science writing regarding this part of the “brothers” who met a tragic fate at the hands of the Hungarian king in 1467.


  • Wprowadzenie .......... 7
  • Bandy żołnierskie w Polsce i domniemane bractwo z Żebracza (1455-1459) .......... 15
  • Wrocławianie i wykreowanie działalności „żebraków” w Austrii, na Morawach, Słowacji oraz Śląsku (1464-1468) .......... 109
  • Zamiast zakończenia: dalsze losy Mikołaja Świeborowskiego .......... 157


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October 31, 2023

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ISBN-13 (15)


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ISBN-13 (15)