A battle against a prince and forty thieves – Anthony Jenkinson, 1558

Anthony Jenkinson, an English explorer, is known for the memoirs of his several expeditions to Russia. On his first expedition, Jenkinson sought to enter Russia by way of the Tatar lands north of the Caspian sea. He traveled in a caravan of mixed company, both Christian and Muslim. The caravan captured four suspicious men on horseback, who confessed, after being interrogated by the local Sultan, that they were part of a band of forty thieves led by a banished prince. The prince was lying in wait for the caravan three days ahead.

The Sultan granted eighty of his soldiers to the caravan for protection. After two days, upon finding signs that the bandits were near, the soldiers demanded payment to continue on. The caravan refused to meet their price and the soldiers declared that they would return home. Some of the Tatars in the group sacrificed sheep and to prophesy from their entrails, divining:

that wee should meete with enemies and theeves (to our great trouble) but should overcome them, to which sorcerie, I and my companie gave no credit, but wee found it true : for within three houres after that the souldiers departed from us, which was the fifteenth day of December, in the morning, wee escryed farre off divers horsemen which made towards us, and we (perceiving them to bee rovers) gathered ourselves together, being fortie of us well appointed, and able to fight, and wee made our prayers together every one after his Law, professing to live and dye one with another, and so prepared our selves. When the theeves were night unto us, wee perceived them to be in number thirtie seven men well armed, and appointed with bowes, arrowes, and swords, and the Captaine a Prince banished from his Countrey.

Hand-guns very profitable.

They willed us to yeeld our selves, or else to bee slaine, but wee defied them, wherewith they shot at us all at once, and we at them very hotly, and so continued our fight from morning untill two houres within night, divers men, horses and camels being wounded and slaine on both parts : and had it not beene for foure hand-guns, which I and my companie had and used, wee had been overcome and destroyed : for the theeves were better armed, and were also better Archers then wee ;But after we had slaine divers of their men and horses with our Guns, they durst not approach so nigh, which caused them to come to a truce with us untill the next morning, which wee accepted, and encamped our selves upon a hill, and made the fashion of a Castle, walling it about with packes of wares, and layd our Horses and Camels within the same, to save them from the shot of arrowes : and the theeves also incamped within an arrow shot of us, but they were betwixt us and the water, which was to our great discomfort, because neither we nor our Camels had drunke in two dayes before.

The next day, the thieves agreed to meet one of Jenkinson’s companions to negotiate. The thieves tortured the man and rode off with him. When the thieves returned, the caravan agreed to pay them off rather than fight another battle.

Jenkinson later befriended the King of Boghar, who sent a hundred men to kill or capture the thieves. Four thieves were brought back alive, two of them still “sore wounded” from the guns in the earlier battle.

One thought on “A battle against a prince and forty thieves – Anthony Jenkinson, 1558

  1. Checking back to find not one but three of your insightful and well-thought out articles makes it well worth the wait! Time for some reading 🙂


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