And when you’ve lost the battle, like the Serbs had at Kosovo by that point, then the idea of doing the noble thing, sticking around to get wiped out, isn’t a very good idea. Unless you’re thinking about all the art that it’ll inspire: you know, sad songs, sad paintings, sad stories. The Serbs have lots of those, all about Kosovo, and all about how they got wiped out as the afternoon wore on. There’s a famous painting of a dead Serb warrior with this medieval hippie Serb girl weeping over him that kind of sums up the whole necrophilia thing here. I can see the appeal of it, probably way more than most Americans can, but I have to be honest: if it came to lying dead there and getting a kiss vs. having a Corvette and driving to Malibu with her—you know, both of us alive and all—I’ll take the Malibu option. (But since Malibu ain’t an option for me and for just about everyone else, all we’ve got is the 1389 option.)
What’s cooler are the funny lines the Serbs have their heroes saying to each other as they get slaughtered, like: "If every one of us turned into a grain of salt, we wouldn’t be enough to salt the Sultan’s dinner!" Ho-ho-ho, and now let’s politely get hacked to death.
The consolation prize in Kosovo was a kiss and a drink
But for a really pro-active, mentally healthy response to defeat, give me my all-time favorite Serb: Milos Obilic. Milos, a Serb warrior who saw his comrades slaughtered at Kosovo, didn’t just moan and groan in defeat. No, he took action. What happened was, when the Sultan, Murad came out of his pavilion to wander over the battlefield and gloat over all the dead Christians, Milos played dead. When the Sultan got within stabbin’ range, Milos jumped up and gave Murad the biggest, and last, surprise of his life. Yes, thanks to a Serb, Murad the First became the first and last Ottoman sultan to die on the battlefield. Sultans didn’t specialize in leading from the front.
What the Sultans did best, you can see from what happened when the Sultan’s son Bayezid heard that Daddy had been sliced ’n diced by a bad sport from the losing team. Bayezid, a born executive—God, I love this bit—Bayezid called his brother Yakub who was leading the other wing of the Ottoman Army: "Oh Yak-ky! Yak-ky little brother, palsy-walsy…could you just come on over here for a sec? Dad left me a message for you!"
Yakub came galloping over and Bayezid gave him the message: "The Sultan’s throne isn’t big enough for the two of us, so… Die you bastard, so I can be Sultan!" Of course Bayezid didn’t do the killing himself; Sultans don’t lower themselves to manual labor. He had some eunuch strangle his little bro. Killing your brothers; one of the seven habits of successful sultans, an Ottoman business management best seller.
The Serbs lost a huge number of men that day. So did the Ottomans, but they had a much bigger population to draw from. That allowed them to keep sending out more and bigger invasion forces. Even though the Serb nobles cut a deal at last, and stayed in power for another couple of generations, the whole of Serbia was inevitably absorbed into the Ottoman empire just around the time that the Turks finally took Constantinople.
By this time, the Austrians were terrified, and for good reason. One-hundred-and-fifty years later, the Ottoman armies surged all the way to the walls of Vienna. So the Austrians, like the cunning little cowards they’ve always been, established a couple of Serb preserves, like Roosevelt did with the buffalo, to make sure the Serbs didn’t go extinct… Real reason: so the Serbs could be their human buffer against an Ottoman attack.