I was reading my favorite writer's -- Sir Thomas Browne's -- Musaeum Clausum (1684+) in which he creates a museum of pictures and antiquities he would like to have. One item was:
34. A noble Picture of the famous Duel between Paul Manessi and Caragusa the Turk in the time of Amurath the Second; the Turkish Army and that of Scanderbeg looking on; wherein Manessi slew the Turk, cut off his Head and carried away the Spoils of his Body.He was thinking of a painting on the order of this, or this.
I sent this item to the Byzantine list and a couple of correspondents, and asked for help with the incident. One of my correspondents, Pavlos from London, immediately sent back a link to this passage from Knolles' History of the Turkes (1638). I have added some paragraphing.
* * * * *Mustapha [general of the Turks] having many times in vain sought to draw the garrison souldiers out of their trenches, by offering them many opportunities of advantage, and now out of hope that way to circumvent them, began to spoil and burn the country round about: but when he understood by his scouts of Scanderbegs comming, he speedily called together his army, and incamped within two miles of Scanderbegs camp, at a place called Oronoche, in the upper country of Dibra. Scanderbeg had there in his Camp, of the garrison soldiers and those he brought with him, 4000 horsmen and 2000 foot, all old expert souldiers, where after he had made his trenches strong, he left therein 300 of them, and brought the rest into the field in order of battell. Mustapha likewise on the other side likewise brought on in good order his army also. But whilst both armies thus stood ranged one within view of an other, expecting nothing but the signall of battell, suddenly a man at arms in gallant & rich furniture, issued out of the Turks army, into the midst of the plain betwixt both armies, and from thence with a loud voice challenged to fight hand to hand with any one of the Christian army: this Turk was called Caragusa.
At the first Scanderbegs souldiers upon this challenge stood still, one looking upon another; for as they were all ashamed to refuse so brave an offer, so the danger so suddenly offered staid every mans forwardnes for a while: until that one Paul Manessi, accounted the best man at arms in Scanderbegs army (upon whom every mans eye was now cast, as if hee had beene by name called out by the proud Challenger) not able longer to endure the Turks pride, with great courage and cheerful countenance came to Scanderbeg, requesting him that he might be the man to accept that challenge. Who greatly commended him, and willed him on Gods name to set forward, first to win honor to himself, and then to give example of his valor for all the rest of the army to follow. Paul staying a while, untill he had for that purpose most bravely armed himself, presently mounted to horse, and riding forth into the plain, called aloud unto the Turk, that he should make himselfe ready to fight. Whom Caragusa required to stay a while, that he might speak unto him a few words, indifferently concerning them both.
“The victory (said he) our force and fortune shall determin; but the conditions of the victory we are now to appoint our selves. If the Destinies have aßigned unto thee the honor of this day, I refuse not but that thou maist by law of arms, when I am overcome, carry away with thee my rich spoiles, and at thy pleasure dispose of my dead body. But if thou shalt fal under my hand, I require that I may have the same right and power over thy captive body; and that the Generals will grant, that no man shall move out of either army, to better the fortune of either of us in the time of the combat, or after.”
Whereunto Maneßi answered; “That he agreed to those conditions of the combat, which hee upon a needlesse feare had so required to be kept: saying, That where the fierce soul had yeelded, there of good right all the rest ought to be the Conquerors. And that therfore he should fight without fear of any more Enemies than himself, whom so soon as he had deprived of life, he should have free power to doe with his dead body what he would. Which if thou wouldst give (said he) to the tears of my fellow souldiers, yet would not worthy Scanderbeg suffer the carkasse of a vanquished coward to be brought backe againe into his Campe.”
Caragusa marvelled to heare his so brave resolution, and as it was thought repented him of his challenge. But after both the Generals had upon their honors confirmed the lawes of the combat before rehearsed, both the champions were left alone in the middest of the plain betwixt both armies, with all mens eies fixed upon them. Now both the Armies betwixt fear and hope, stood in great expectation of the event of the combat, presaging their own fortune in the fortune of their Champions. In which time they both having withdrawn themselves one from another a convenient distance, for the making of their course, and after with great violence running together, Caragusa was by Manessi at the first incounter struck through the head and slain. Maneßi alighting, disarmed the dead body & struck off his head; and so loded with the armor and head of the proud challenger, returned Victor of the Army, where he was joyfully received and brought to Scanderbeg, of whom he was there presently honorably both commended and rewarded.
Scanderbeg seeing his men by this good fortune of Maneßi, greatly encouraged, and the Turks as men dismaied with the death of their Champion, hanging their heads, like an invincible Captaine, himselfe set first forward toward the enemy, as it were in contempt of their multitude: and had charged them as they stood, before they had set one foot forward, had not Mustapha to incourage his soldiers, with certain disordred troups opposed himselfe against him; which the whole army seeing, faintly followed: but as they set forward with small courage, so were they at the first incounter easily driven to retire. Which when Mustapha say, he called earnestly upon them to follow him, and the more to encourage them by his own example, put spurs to his horse, and fiercely charged the front of Scanderbegs army, as one resolved either to gaine the victory, or there to die: after whom followed most of his principall captains of his army, which would not for shame forsake their Generall: thus by his valor the battell was for a while renewed. But Moses prevailing with great slaughter in one part of the Army, the Turks began to fly: in which flight Mustapha the Generall, with twelve others of the chiefe men in that army, were taken prisoners, but of the common souldiers few were saved.
There was slaine of the Turks army ten thousand, and fifteene ensignes taken; whereas of the Christians were slaine but three hundred. The Turks tents and campe, with all the wealth thereof, became a prey to Scanderbegs soldiers: wherewith although he had satisfied the desires of them all, yet to keep his old custom, he entred into the confines of Macedonia, and there burnt and spoiled all that he could. And afterward leaving a garrison of two thousand horsemen and a thousand foot for defence of his frontiers, returned again with the rest of his army to the siege of Dayna.