by Baron Bodissey
September 11th, 1683, the day when an alliance of Christian armies led by Jan III Sobieski, the King of Poland, arrived at the Gates of Vienna.
The Ottoman Empire had been expanding into Europe ever since Constantinople fell to the Turks, and even before that.
Wherever the Muslim armies went, they plundered cities, took slaves, turned churches into mosques, and converted many thousands of Christian captives to Islam at the point of a sword.The Sultan’s armies overran Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia. They turned Protestant Hungary into a compliant vassal and made war repeatedly on Austria and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Ottomans had designs on Vienna, since the fall of the city would open the way into the heart of Austria and the rich principalities of southern Germany.
Having failed to take Vienna in the siege of 1529, the Turks prepared a second attempt in 1683. Under the leadership of the Grand Vizier, Pasha Kara Mustafa, and with their Tatar and Malaysian allies, they made their preparations and fought their way towards the capital, overrunning Austrian villages and smaller cities in their path and taking many captives. As the Muslim hordes approached Vienna, King Leopold fled west with most of the citizens, leaving a garrison of about 11,000 soldiers and 5,000 citizen volunteers to hold the city against the Turks.
The Viennese razed buildings in the area around the city walls in order to deny the enemy cover, and brought livestock and provender into the city to prepare for a siege.
On July 16th, 1683, the second siege of Vienna began. The tiny garrison in the city was no match for Kara Mustafa’s army of 140,000, but the Grand Vizier decided to starve the city into submission rather than attempt a frontal assault on its defenses.
When the King of Poland set off for Vienna in early September, the Viennese garrison was in desperate straits. The people of the city were starving, and the city had suffered serious damage from the Turkish bombardment.
It was then, at the last possible moment on the evening of September 11th, that Jan Sobieski arrived at a hill north of the city, leading a force of 40,000 Poles and their German and Austrian allies. The battle began soon afterwards, in the early morning hours of September 12th.
The battle was over in three hours. The King drove through the Turkish lines, and, seeing his success, the Vienna garrison sallied forth from the city and hit the Turks from the rear. Demoralized by these attacks and their failure to breach the wall, the Turks fled eastwards in haste, abandoning their tents, weapons, battle standards, provisions, and slaves.
The siege was broken and city was saved. Jan III Sobieski was received as the hero of Vienna. Though it was not evident at the time, the Ottoman tide had turned at the Gates of Vienna and was about to recede, beginning its long withdrawal through the Balkans and Greece into Asia Minor over the next two centuries.
Abridged for E.A. read it all here >>