Saturday, October 2, 2010

October 2, 1529 – Ottomans Storm Vienna

The army of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent arrived at the gates of Vienna September 27, 1529. Three years before, Suleiman had smashed the army of King Louis II of Hungary, conquering much of the land. Following the momentum, he raised an enlarged army and pressed toward Vienna and the Austrians. They set out in May, first reestablishing conquest in Hungary by seizing fortresses lost in the interim to Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria, who had been named king of Hungary after Louis's death under the might of Suleiman.

Most effective were Suleiman's large-caliber cannons, which he brought over miles of mountain roads. The rains were light, making for easy travel and minimal loss of men and camels from illness in soggy conditions. Buda, which had been softened by attack in 1526, was taken, and the army mopped up various defenders before turning to the Austrian border. It was a difficult march, but the soldiers looked forward to the great wealth to be plundered from the Habsburgs. The siege was laid, and the artillery gradually wore down the walls. Suleiman made attempts at mining and tunnels to break in sooner, but the defenders were ever-vigilant for the sound of rhythmic digging through the soil.

After days of heavy assault, the city wall was finally breached. The city had over twenty thousand defenders of German mercenaries, Spanish musketeers, and hastily armed and trained peasants. They fought bravely, but the 120,000 Ottomans outweighed them. After the breakthrough, the battle lasted a day, and then five days of pillaging stripped the city of anything of value. The rest of the fall was spent conquering as much of Habsburg land as Suleiman could claim before retiring the army for winter back to the reconstructing of Vienna.

The Christian Crowns of Europe recognized the danger that the Ottomans held. The Holy Roman Empire had long stood as a central ground of balance between them in their wars; now it was a border with an ever-growing enemy. Problems of protestantism and reformation had popped up through the likes of John Hus and Martin Luther, but minor religious differences could be set aside for a time while they suddenly faced a real possibility of Muslim invasion. Still, it would be almost another decade before the fear and wrath gained direction through an organization.

In 1537, Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa took the Venetian island stronghold at Corfu near Greece, proving that the Ottomans would push forward as their forces allowed. Appealing to Pope Paul III, a Holy League was created, establishing a navy of over 300 ships and, more importantly, a massive army to march from the Holy Roman Empire and down the Danube. Contributions came from the Republic of Venice, the Papal States, Naples, Sicily, Spain, all through the Germanies and Bavaria, Poland-Lithuania, and knights from the old orders of Malta and Teuton. The army marched, liberating Vienna, and Suleiman met it in battle at Buda.

In one of the most decisive battles of western history, the Ottomans were defeated. Through the 1540s and '50s, the new crusade would push through the Balkans, causing revolution among the Greeks and effectively pushing the Ottomans out of Europe by Suleiman's death in 1566. The lands would be divided among the participating crowns, creating a political union the Balkans that would prove even more disorganized than the Holy Roman Empire.

This expansion caused a surge of wealth into the Catholic states, combining with a flow of gold from the New World by Spain and Portugal's trade. Much of this fortune would be spent crushing the Protestant uprisings and checking the growth of Sweden as a power. Wars would then divide the nations, especially during the reign of Louis XIV of France. As the countries reorganized themselves, either putting down or supporting revolutions, Europe would eventually transform into a series of nation-states with nearly the whole continent tied together under the common mantle of Catholicism.

In reality, 1529 was a particularly rainy year. Suleiman would be forced to abandon his cannon and lose many men and camels to disease and exposure. Without the use of artillery, Vienna was unshakable, and more rains finally caused withdrawal on October 14, stemming the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into Europe for another century. A Holy League was organized in 1538 to attack Barbarossa, but the Christian fleet was soundly defeated. After the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the Europeans would recognize the threat of the Ottomans and create a Holy League to push them back into the Balkans, where the Ottoman Empire would rule until its decline in the nineteenth century.

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