Surnamed: "The Great"
Parents: Bogdan II, voivode of Moldavia, and Oltea
Date of Birth: 1433
Royal House: Musat
Spouse: Evdokia, daughter of Alexander Oaleka, duke of Slutsk-Kapyl, and Sophia of Lithuania
Predecessor: Petru III
Reign: 1457 – 1504
Summary: Stefan's life was in peril almost from the time of his birth. His father was Bogdan II, the voivode (prince) of Moldavia for two years in the late 1440s. His uncle, Petru, killed his father in a raid and took the title voivode for himself. Moldavia, located in eastern Romania and Moldova, went into civil war for seven years between Petru III and Alexandrel, a nephew of an earlier voivode. Stefan, meanwhile, fled to neighboring Transylvania where he obtained protection from John Hunyadi. He then moved to the court of his cousin, Vlad III Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) in Wallachia where he was able to muster enough troops to raid Moldavia and depose his uncle, Petru. Petru fled to Poland and Stefan at last was crowned voivode. He later raided Poland to try and find Petru but instead signed a treaty of submission with Poland wherein Petru was forever banned from reentering Moldavia.
Stefan proved to be a very able and successful general. He repelled invasions from Hungary, Poland, and the Ottoman Empire continuously throughout his reign. In 1467, the Hungarian king invaded Moldavia and Stefan defeated him at the Battle of Baia. In 1471, he invaded Ottoman-occupied Wallachia and was successful in reclaiming some of the principality for the Christians. Sultan Mehmed II invaded in 1475 but at the Battle of Vaslui, not only were the Ottomans stopped, but they ceased incursions into Europe for a number of years. Stefan failed at the Battle of Valea Alba the next year against the Ottomans, but the Turks were unable to make any significant progress due to a plague in the Ottoman army. Still, the rest of Europe was comfortable just watching the Moldavians attack and counter attack. Stefan felt it his duty to restore Wallachia to Christians. He dealt in numerous uprisings and coups within the principality, eventually installing Vlad Calugarul, a brother of Vlad III, on the Wallachian throne and ensuring a Christian neighbor for the remainder of his reign. More warfare and problems with Poland resulted in a treaty with the Ottoman Empire signed in 1503 that preserved Moldavian independence at the expense of an annual tribute to the Turks. In his final year, he rebelled at Polish invasion and defeated them decisively at the Battle of the Cosmin Forest. At a skirmish in 1462, Stefan had wounded his leg. Over the succeeding forty years, numerous injuries would compound to make his led nearly useless. When gout set in, Stefan decided to cauterize his wound after advice from the Hungarian king and Venetian doge. Stefan died two days after the agonizingly painful surgery. His opposition to the Ottomans earned him a place in the Romanian Orthodox Church as a saint.
Date of Death: 2 July 1504
Successor: Bogdan III
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