BERLICHINGEN, GOETZ or Gottfried VON (1480-1562), German knight, was born at the castle of Jagsthausen now in Württemberg. In 1497 he entered the service of Frederick IV., margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and in 1498 fought for the emperor Maximilian I. in Burgundy, Lorraine and Brabant, and next year in Switzerland. About 1500 he raised a company of freelances, and at their head took part in various private wars. In 1505, whilst assisting Albert IV., duke of Bavaria, at the siege of Landshut, his right hand was shot away, and an iron one was substituted which is still shown at Jagsthausen. In spite of this "Goetz with the iron hand" continued his feuds, their motive being mainly booty and ransom. In 1512 an attack near Forchheim on some merchants returning from the great fair at Leipzig, caused him to be put under the ban of the empire by Maximilian, and he was only released from this in 1514 upon a promise to pay 14,000 gulden. In 1516 he made a raid into Hesse and captured Philip IV., count of Waldeck, whom he compelled to pay a ransom of 8400 gold gulden, and in 1518 was again placed under the ban. He fought for Ulrich I., duke of Württemberg, when he was attacked by the Swabian League in 1519, and after a spirited resistance was compelled, through want of ammunition and provisions, to surrender the town of Möckmuhl. In violation of the terms of the capitulation he was held prisoner, and handed over to the citizens of Heilbronn, but owing to the efforts of Sickingen and Georg von Frundsberg was released in 1522, upon paying 2000 gulden, and swearing not to take vengeance on the League. When the Peasants' War broke out in 1525 Goetz was compelled by the rebels of the Odenwald district to act as their leader. He accepted the position, according to his own account, partly because he had no choice, partly in the hope of curbing the excesses of the insurgents; but, finding himself in this respect powerless, after a month of nominal leadership, he took the first opportunity of escaping to his castle. For his part in the rebellion he was called to account before the diet of Speier, and on the 17th of October 1526 was acquitted by the imperial chamber. In spite of this the Swabian League seized the opportunity of paying off old scores against him. Lured to Augsburg, under promise of safe conduct, to clear himself of the charges made against him on behalf of the League, he was there treacherously seized on the 28th of November 1528, and kept a close prisoner for two years. In 1530 he was liberated on repeating his oath of 1522, and undertaking not to leave the neighbourhood of his castle of Hornberg on the Neckar. He appears to have remained there quietly until 1540 when the emperor Charles V. released him from his oath. In 1542 he fought against the Turks in Hungary, and in 1544 accompanied Charles when he invaded France. He returned to Hornberg, where he passed his time until his death on the 23rd of July 1562. He was twice married and left three daughters and seven sons. The counts von Berlichingen-Rossach, of Helmstadt near Heidelberg, one of the two surviving branches of the family, are his descendants. The other branch, that of the Freiherrn von Berlichingen-Jagsthausen, is descended from Goetz's brother Hans. "Goetz von Berlichingen" is the title of Goethe's play, which, published in 1773, marked an epoch in the history of German drama (see Goethe).
See R. Pallmann, Der historische Goetz von Berlichingen (Berlin, 1894); F.W.G. Graf von Berlichingen-Rossach, Geschichte des Ritters Goetz von Berlichingen und seiner Familie (Leipzig, 1861). Goetz's Autobiography, valuable as a record of his times, was first published by Pistorius at Nuremberg (1731), and again at Halle (1886).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)