The High Price of Glory

In the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth - XVII Century

(c) 2001 Szczepan Twardoch and Rick Orli


How much does it cost to outfit a typical small "poczet husarski" - a hussar ‘post’ of a ‘comrade’ and two retainers?

Prices below are in zl (zloty, pronounced 'zwoty'). What is that worth?  Its impossible to make a direct conversion to any modern currency - so the value of that information is comparative.  Looking at all that, I can make an approximation that the buying power of 1zl averages about   $100 US, ranging from $30-$300. 

It is worth noting as well that some things were not normally bought and sold, so the cash price is inflated due to an artificial scarcity.  (For example, real estate prices in downtown Tokyo in 1985 were so high that the land under a 10 foot square backyard garden would be 'worth' 1 million US dollars.  Except that it was not for sale.  The culture and legal system was such that no one sold land, so there was none to buy, at least not straight up for cash.)   Hussar horses were normally reared and trained by your own estate, by you, your relatives and servants.  In addition to having excellent bloodlines, they received 5 years of intensive training.  If misfortune deprived you of your own animals, you would go to your kin and neighbors for assistance.  Failing that, you might have to buy a horse for hard cash on the 'open market' and such a horse would be a rare find- since  no one sold their own horses for any price, except under unusual circumstances.

The yearly income from a village owned by a nobleman is 200-600zl. 

From Szczepan Twardoch, Source:

one good hussar's horse for a ‘Comrade’ (towarzysza- a Knight) - 800zl - could be twice that or more  for an exceptional animal.

two slightly lesser horses for the Comrade’s "retainers" (pocztowych) - 1000 zl (500 zl each one)

three good horses for riding - 150 zl, (3x50 zl)

one good horse for pulling a wagon (pociagowy) - 20 zl.

one tabor wagon (wóz) for one horse- 30 zl.

three hussar saddles "kulbaka" - 30zl, (3x10zl)

three normal saddles - 18zl, (3 x6)

three decorative "czaprak" horse blankets (3x10)

tent (namiot) - 10 zl

good hussar armor (zbroja) for comrade - 30 zl

2 slightly lessor armor for retainers - 40 zl (2x20)l

3 hussar sabers (szable) - 72zl (3x24)

3 estocks (koncerze) 12 zl (3x4)

6 pistols (pistoletów) - 30zl (6x5zl )

3 carbines or harquebuses (bandolety lub polhaki) 18zl (3x6)

1 musket to outfit the tabor wagon (a.k.a. 'wall gun' extra large caliber, 6 to 8 gauge (balls per pound of lead) - 8zl

3 good, padded (watowane) zupans - 18zl 3x6

3 delia (coats or good cloaks) 'delie lub dobre plaszcze' -28 zl 3x9

3 derka - blanket worn on shoulders, as extra protection from weather, also quite decorative. - 6zl (3x2 zl)

skin of panther/leopard or tiger (skóra lamparta lub tygrysa) for comrade - 40 zl


All Together: 2342zl

Plus ammunition, powder, tools (axe, bucket, shovel), food, boots,clothes etc. (amunicja, proch, narzedzia (siekiera, wiadro, rydel ), zapas zywnosci i obroku, buty do konnej jazdy, zapasowe ubrania )

Minimum 2500 zl. Total expense.   This expense is borne by the Comrade.  On active service, a part of this cost is recovered, but most likely less than half, overall.  After a successful campaign, the booty might be large enough to make up the deficit, and then some.

Generally the retainers were poor gentry, entirely beholden to the comrade for their position.  Sometimes, they might have been in other circumstances - such as an 18 year old cousin, son of a wealthy man, who would be a Comrade himself after a few years more training.  Such individuals would bear part of their own expenses.



Prices in public houses/pubs ("karczma"):

1 zl = 30 grosz

pitcher 'garniec' (about 1 gallon...3,77 liter) of poor beer (piwa)-3gr

(or 10 gallons for 1zl, retail price for one pitcher at a time at a pub. Most likely a small barrel of 10 gallons acquired wholesale would cost half that)

pitcher good beer - 5gr

one mug (kwaterka) of simple vodka - 3 gr

mug good vodka/liquor - 5 gr

Plate of "bigos" - 3gr

a plate of cereal with fat - 3gr

beer soup - 3 gr


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