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Thread: Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth

  1. #1
    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    03 Aug 03

    Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth

    Opening a thread on the army of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth

    Hussars -they formed the heavy cavalry of the Commonwealth during the 16th and 17th centuries.
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    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Poland during its heyday was heavily reliant on cavalry.

    Pancerni were a medium cavalry, equipped with bows or carbines, pistols, sabers, lancers and wore distinctive chain mail (at a time when it had fallen out of use in the west)...
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    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    Administrator Tarek Morgen's Avatar
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    08 Feb 07
    I am still hoping for a bigscreen adaption of Vienna 1683 just to see the Winged Hussars Charge.

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Best I can do....

    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Polish soldiers through the ages...
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    Last edited by troung; 27 Feb 10, at 00:45.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    More Hussars
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    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    The battle of Kircholm.One of the greatest victories of the Husaria,along with Klushino,Obertyn,second Hotin(Chocim) or Vienna.
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    Last edited by Mihais; 10 Mar 10, at 12:57.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Thanks for the picture!

    Hussars have become the symbol of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. They did have some very famous victories where small numbers of Hussars crushed pike and shot formations; though often times there is an explanation to those victories (half trained enemy units, mistakes and often writing out the contributions of infantry and artillery in the narrative). In ideal situations they did show they could smash enemy infantry; though as tactics changed the Hussars became dated.

    Poland failed to keep up with their enemies in terms of force development and funding for their forces and so fell behind.
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    Last edited by troung; 14 Mar 10, at 22:22.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    15 Apr 08
    The `Other' Winged Hussars…Of Lithuania ©2007
    By Rik Sulima-Suligowski Fox
    As published in `The White Eagle" Journal of The Polish Nobility
    Association Foundation Spring/Summer 2007 Issue.

    The history of the hussars as an identifiable military formation
    began in 1458 when Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, created
    special cavalry squadrons to safeguard the borders from Turkish
    incursions. The great magnates of Hungary supported the king's
    efforts by providing one fully armed hussar for every twenty men that
    they sent into the army. The hussars were introduced into the Polish-
    Lithuanian Commonwealth from Hungary by Stefan Batory, Prince of
    Transylvania, when he became the King of Poland and Grand Duke of
    Lithuania in 1576.
    Initially as his bodyguards, the hussars soon entered the regular
    forces. In eagerness, Batory hoped to liberate Hungary and
    especially, regain Lithuanian lands lost to Muscovy, but died in 1586
    (some speculate by poisoning), before fulfilling his plans. According
    to Brzezinski, in his Osprey publication, Polish Winged Hussar1576-
    1775, pg 6-7: "At the battle of Lubieszow / Liebschau (1577) during
    the Danzig rebellion, King Stefan Batory's heavy hussars immediately
    proved itself a battle winner(…)where 3,000 German Landsknechts were
    routed by the hussars, but only after they had been engaged
    frontally, by 600 Hungarian Haiduk infantry of the royal guard. He
    followed up with a series of victories over the Muscovite Russians
    (1579-82). Further successes came at Byczyna / Pitschen (1588),
    against a Hapsburg army and at Bukow / Bucou (1600), over the
    Moldavians. Hussars now formed 75 percent or more of the cavalry and
    seemed invincible on the eastern battlefield. Their greatest triumph
    was at a series of dramatic victories against overwhelming odds over
    the Swedes at Kokenhusen (1601), Weissenstein (1604), and Kircholm
    (1605), and against a Russo-Swedish force at Kluszyn / Klushino

    Batory's achievements included regaining Livonia from Ivan the
    Terrible, and the foundation of a Jesuit Academy, eventually becoming
    the University of Vilnius.
    When Batory assumed the throne, service in the Lithuanian cavalry
    had long been the established way of life for every bajoras, i.e.
    able-bodied males holding landed property. The Lithuanian Statute of
    1529 spelled out their traditional duties in the section dealing with
    state defense. We note that when the call-to-arms was issued, every
    bajoras was obligated to report to his local superior officer, called
    a veliavininkas (flag-bearer), on a good horse, carrying armor,
    helmet, and shield, armed with a sword and a lance. In 1528 the
    Lithuanian army raised 19,844 men; in 1567 the head count reached
    27,708 men. The smallest homesteads sent individual bajorai; the
    largest estates sent entire companies. The wealthiest families such
    as the Sapiega, (Sapieha), Pacas, (Pac), Radvilla (Radziwill),
    Chodkevicius (Chodkiewicz), had their own forces. Of the great
    magnate clans, only four were obligated to always be on guard,
    maintaining fortresses and personal armies. In 1601 the Polish-
    Lithuanian Sejm (Diet) stipulated that the Zamoyski's must have 200
    armed men on permanent duty; the Gonzaga-Myszkowski's, 150 armed men.
    The Ostrogski's in Poland, and the Radvila (Radziwill) family in
    Lithuania, were each required to maintain an army of six-thousand for
    the defense of the realm. Hussars were included in these numbers, but
    their exact part of the total is uncertain.
    The hussars, the most prestigious troops in the cavalry, became the
    service units of choice for the middle and high bajorai, the
    country's warrior class. Wages were a third higher for the elite
    hussars. Moreover, on completing a six-year stint of duty, the
    retired hussar could aspire to important positions in the civil
    service. Advancement in the state apparatus was quickest for those
    who had served in the front lines. Understandable, there was no
    shortage of volunteers from the Lithuanian cavalry, which provided
    the hussar units with a steady steam of well-trained lancers. Indeed,
    it was under `Piorun' (The Thunderbolt), as he was known, Jan Karol
    Chodkiewicz, whose Polish-Lithuanian Husaria cavalry who, (with the
    help of the artillery and infantry), used the tactical strategy
    learned of the Tatars, to beat back the Swedish army at Kircholm in
    The hussars could be useful off the battlefield. Take, for
    instance, the simmering feud between the Radvila and Chodkevicius
    families, which, in 1599 almost exploded into a bloody civil war. To
    show that they meant business, the Radvila faction occupied the
    streets of Vilnius with an army of several thousand led by a hundred
    hussars. Not at all intimidated, the Chodkevicius side responded by
    aiming two dozen cannons towards the Radvila mansion a few blocks
    away! Fortunately for everyone involved, the matter was peacefully
    resolved in court.

    Wars became deadlier than ever in the 17th Century, and required
    skilled, well-armed, and experienced soldiers. Most countries created
    permanent standing armies. Poland and Lithuania, however, resorted to
    mercenaries. In 1650-52, for instance, the Lithuanian army sought to
    hire fifteen-thousand professional soldiers; in 1654, the budget
    allocated funds for eighteen-thousand. Mercenaries responded from
    Germany, Holland, Sweden, Hungary, even Scotland and Wallachia
    (modern Romania). Hired individually, or as a full artillery battery,
    or as a score of infantry or pikemen, they brought the army to its
    full strength and did better against other professional soldiers. Yet
    according to Brzezinski, in comparison to the better-armed and
    equipped Polish hussars: "The conservative Lithuanians lagged behind,
    and Kitowicz notes that they continued to wear the old style saddle-
    mounted wings: `the Lithuanian hussars…after mounting the horse,
    fastened to the left side a huge wing made of ostrich feathers, which
    covered the whole side of the horse and the rider's leg to his
    Bajorai continued to fill the ranks of the Lithuanian cavalry,
    which generally numbered ten to twelve-thousand lancers, plus their
    attendants and servants. Troop call-up registers of the mid 17th
    century reveal how many men each part of the country was expected to
    raise. Zemaitija (Samogitia) had to provide one hussar for very fifty
    households, thereby sending three "flags" of these units, i.e. about
    three hundred hussars. The smaller Ukmerge region, by contrast, was
    to send only forty-two hussars. Not enough for a complete unit, these
    men would join another `flag', say, that from Upyte, with its one
    hundred forty-two hussars

    The armors and weaponry of the Lithuanian hussars were pretty much
    the same standard issue as used by the Polish husaria, give or take,
    and the tactical strategy as deployed by the Hetman or, field
    commanders, taught them to use many different styles, as learned from
    the various enemies they fought from the east and west. Add to this,
    the military science of Jan Tarnowski and the artillery wizardry of
    Kazimieras Semenavicius and it is no exaggeration to say that the
    experienced Polish and Lithuanian armies were steeped in the then,
    cutting-edge military know-how, which other countries began to study
    and learn from, in later centuries. Although the King of Poland was
    simultaneously the Grand Duke of Lithuania and the supreme commander
    of both distinct forces, the armies of Poland and Lithuania were
    separate, completely independent entities; Polish troops could not
    enter Lithuania without permission. Likewise for the Lithuanian army
    crossing into Poland, with each force led by its own Hetman, a name
    derived from the German Hauptman (or, Captain).
    Robert I. Frost states in his `The Northern Wars, 1558-
    1721': "Peter Englund begins his book Ofredsar, based on the
    experiences of the Swedish soldier, artist and diarist Erik Dahlberg
    in the 1640's and 1650's with a vivid description of the Battle of
    Warsaw (28-30 July 1656). In it he describes the charge of Aleksander
    Polubinski's hussars against the left wing of the Swedish and
    Brandenburg forces on the second day of the battle. He depicts in
    loving detail, their magnificent appearance, with long lances, their
    glistening helmets and breastplates, the tiger, leopard and lion
    skins worn by their officers, and their most famous accouterment: the
    eagle and heron feathers, mounted on wooden frames fixed to their
    backs, which rustled and fluttered when they charged (…) by the time
    the Poles launched Polubinski's hussars, the Swedish-Brandenburg
    allies had consolidated their position (…) The charge was launched
    not against the allied infantry in the center, but against the reiter
    units that flanked it. Although they suffered from infantry flanking
    fire, Polubinski's hussars smashed into the reiters, with the brunt
    of the impact-

    -absorbed by the Uppland and Smaland regiments. The hussars performed
    their primary task, breaking through the first line and penetrating
    into the second, where they were brought to a halt and forced back.
    The failure of the attack was due to the main problem that the
    initial attack was not followed up; John Casimir (not a great
    tactician), simply had too few hussars. A maximum of 800 took part
    in Polubinski's charge; it was not enough, and the pancerna cavalry
    in reserve did not press home the attack. Although the charge was
    truly heroic, Warsaw was lost to the Swedes, and the Ghost of
    Kircholm was put to rest."
    Despite an occasional defeat, the usually successful hussars
    remained a crack fighting force into the early years of the 18th
    century, especially at Berestechko, Chocim and Vienna, but their
    earlier successes led to some complacency. In fact, as Sobieski
    awaited the Lithuanian forces to join him in the Vienna campaign, for
    political reasons, the Lithuanians took their time in mobilizing, and
    mostly missed the glory of the battle. However, years later,
    arriving in Vilnius at the end of June, 1812, Napoleon lost little
    time in creating a provisional government and re-establishing the
    Army of Lithuania (…) Fifteen thousand men were then added to another
    twelve thousand Lithuanians who crossed the border between 1806 and
    1809 to join the Duchy of Warsaw's army. The Lithuanian infantry and
    cavalry units created by Napoleon were initially under his direct
    command and did not yet receive orders from the Polish general staff.
    Of the innumerable formations of Napoleon's Grand Armee we should
    take note of the prestigious Imperial Guard and its three, exclusive
    lancer regiments. Polish uhlans filled the 1st Regiment; Dutch "Red
    Lancers," the 2nd Regiment. The 3rd Light Lancer Regiment of the
    Imperial Guard was Lithuanian. This elite unit demonstrated
    Napoleon's high regard for the Lithuanian cavalry of old, spearheaded
    for two centuries by the magnificent `winged' hussars of Poland and

    © 2007 -Chev. Rik Sulima-Suligowski Fox-

    R.O.P., R.O.J., KCStS

    Source Bibliography:
    Zygas, Paul K., "Those Magnificent Men in their Winged Armor"
    Lithuanian Heritage Magazine, July/August 2000 Vol.7, N.4
    Brzezinski, Richard, Osprey Pub.2006, "Polish Winged Hussar, 1576-
    Frost, Robert I. "The Northern Wars, 1558-1721, Modern Wars in
    Perspective", Pub. Pearson Education Ltd., 2000
    Sikora, Radoslaw, "Lubieszow 17 IV 1577", Pub.inforteditions 2005
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

  10. #10
    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    15 Apr 08
    The unit itself did not really became obsolete.It was flexible enough to adapt to any opponent.Against the Tatars,for example,it relied heavily on musketry.Against the Swedes it cooperated whenever possible with kozacy(later Pancerni).These advanced against the defending infantry through gaps in the hussars line and fired salvos sideways(against those that would bear the hussars charge)then pulled back.Not that they weren't capable of breaking infantry on themselves.However in the 18th century the internal anarchy began to take its toll on discipline,moral and funding.So the unit turned into a parade outfit.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

  11. #11
    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    I really don't remember where I found this article.I'm quite sure it was on the web and had no copywright.It studies how the Commonwealth and their art of war influenced the reforms of Gustav Adolf,as well providing an account of the campaigns.Officer of Engineers will like in particular the battle of Gniew.
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    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Great finds.
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    Last edited by troung; 18 Mar 10, at 01:10.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    The most infamous cavalry from the Commonwealth... the Lisowczycy...
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    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    A Self Important Senior Contributor troung's Avatar
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    Foreign Style Cavalry

    Dragoons and Reiters

    "The dragoons also formed part of the foreign section. They were identical to the infantry except they travelled on horseback and so were especially useful in support of the cavalry when it carried out quick incursions and raids."

    "The word rajtar is Polish for reiter and was used to cover Western style, pistol armed cavalry, whether mercenary, German or Polish. Their dress and equipment was imported from Germany, but they used shallower formations of four ranks and did not use the caracole. Though this section was called foreign the vast majority of the troops were Polish."

    "Dragoons were widely employed especially in the open plains of the South where mobility was so important. They remained mounted infantry up until the late 17th century. Dragoon units varied from 200-600 men, although some, such as Czarniecki's, Bockuma's and Potocki's regiments, were up to 1,000 men strong. They carried lighter muskets than the infantry as well as sabres and axes. The dragoons were Sobieski's favourite troops and he often wore their uniform, he also sometimes led them on foot into battle, such as at Chocim (1673)."
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    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    Turning the Ottoman Tide - John III Sobieski at Vienna 1683

    By Anthony Pagden | MHQ | Single Page | 11 comments | Print This Post | Email This Post
    Turning the Ottoman Tide – John III Sobieski at Vienna 1683 HistoryNet

    By the end of the fourteenth century, Byzantium lacked any strategic importance and certainly represented no threat to the ambitions of the resurgent Ottoman Empire. Constantine's great city, and what little remained of the crumbling Byzantine Empire, had never fully recovered from the Latin occupation from 1204 to 1261.

    Despite its dilapidated condition, Constantinople was still the "Golden Apple," the capital of the ancient Roman Empire. Muslims and Christians alike reckoned it to be the greatest power the world had ever known. For the Ottoman ruler Mehmed II, it was the most treasured prize of all, whose possession would make him master of the world. Constantinople was the capital of the oikoumene, the "inhabited world," over which Mehmed, the Amir al-Mu'minin, "Commander of the Faithful," and his descendents would soon rule until the end of creation.
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    On April 5, 1453, Mehmed's army reached the outer walls of the city. His forces, according to the Venetian merchant Nicolò Barbaro, who saw them arrive, numbered some one hundred sixty thousand. Other accounts, all of them Christian, put the figure anywhere between two and four hundred thousand. Most were Muslims, marshaled from all over the empire, but their ranks were swollen by others in the expectation of rich pickings: Latins, a large contingent of Serbs, even some Greeks.

    Inside Constantinople a state of terror now reigned. The able-bodied male population of the city numbered some thirty thousand, but the Byzantine statesman George Sphrantes estimated that fewer than five thousand of these were able and willing to fight.

    Mehmed moved no fewer than fourteen batteries of artillery into place along the entire length of the outer line of walls, known as the Wall of Theodosius. Day after day, the Ottoman guns fired massive stone balls that carried away great chunks of masonry, sometimes entire towers. Although the entire population turned out each night to rebuild what they could, hour by hour the city's defenses steadily crumbled.

    About three hours before dawn on May 29, Mehmed gave the order for a final assault. The Greeks managed to drive back the first two waves of attackers. But the outer walls of the city were now virtually in ruins. The Janissaries, the sultan's crack troops, broke through the Kerkoporta, or "Gate of the Circus," and poured into the city. The fighting was fierce, but Ottoman victory was certain.

    For three days, Mehmed's victorious army was allowed to pillage the city. The Greek chronicler Kristovoulos lamented that the Turks fell upon the defenseless population, "stealing, robbing, plundering, killing, insulting, taking and enslaving men, women, and children, old and young, priests and monks—in short, every age and class." The blood ran in the streets "as if it had been raining," wrote the merchant Barbaro, and "bodies were tossed into the sea like melons into the canals of Venice."

    Ever since the armies of the caliph Umar II had been forced to abandon the first sustained siege of Constantinople in 718, prophecies had spread throughout the Muslim world of the inevitable day when the great city, the last bastion of the ancient enemy, would pass into the dar al-Islam. Now, under a sultan who bore the name of the prophet himself, these predictions had finally come to pass. Thereafter both Muslims and Christians alike referred to Mehmed II as "the Conqueror."

    For the West, the fall of Constantinople was a calamity. It was not only a great Christian city, the last bastion of Constantine's empire in the East, that had fallen. Gone too was the last living link with the ancient Greek world. And all this glittering past had been snuffed out by a horde of Muslim barbarians from the depths of Asia.

    Mehmed was now—save for the tiresome presence of the Timurid Persian Empire to the east—ruler of all Muslim Asia. He could also now claim to be the legitimate heir of the succession of emperors—Solomon, Constantine, and Justinian—who in myth and reality had built and rebuilt the city, and to have fulfilled one part of the prophecy recorded in the Hadith, the oral traditions coming down from Muhammad, that the day would come when a Muslim emir would take both Constantinople and Rome. With the fall of the Golden Apple, the Ottomans became the only other state in the world to which the princes of Christendom were prepared to concede the title of "empire."

    Mehmed, perhaps more than any subsequent sultan, determined to rule over a united, prosperous, and above all disciplined people. To that end, he restored to the Orthodox Church the powers and privileges it had enjoyed under Byzantine rule, together with a large part of its property.

    From beyond the Dardanelles, however, it seemed as though Eastern Christendom had now vanished for good. In its place stood the most imposing power to threaten the liberties of the peoples of Europe since the days of Xerxes. All Christendom waited to see what would happen next. Would Mehmed remain where he was and consolidate his gains? Were further conquests of the West to be expected? And if so, where would they stop? The sacred city of the West, the still-beating heart of Christianity, was of course Rome, and Muhammad himself had reportedly promised that one day Rome too would be incorporated into the dar al-Islam.

    On September 30, 1453, Pope Nicholas V issued a bull to all the Christian princes of the West, enjoining them to shed their blood and the blood of their subjects in a new crusade against the anti-Christ now seated in Constantinople. Pleading insolvency or the pressure of domestic affairs, the princes of Christendom—Charles VII of France, Henry VI of England (now, in any case, out of his mind), King Alfonso V of Aragon, and Emperor Frederick III—all politely declined.

    For Nicholas' successor, Pope Pius II, the Turkish menace became something of an obsession. Shrewd and well traveled, he had a far broader vision of the possibilities and need for Christian unity than his predecessors. In 1459 he proclaimed a new crusade to retake Constantinople, but nothing came of it.

    The pope also tried diplomacy and flattery, proposing not only to recognize Mehmed's claim to be ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire but also to transfer to him the imperium of the West. All the sultan had to do was to convert to Christianity. It was an empty gesture, as he must have known.

    Mehmed never did come to Rome. He spent most of the rest of his reign consolidating his hold over the Balkans and securing his eastern frontiers. The failure of Mehmed to make good on his alleged promise to march on Rome did not, however, lessen the fear of the West that this remained the ultimate objective of his successors. Ever since 1480, when Ottoman forces had sacked and occupied Otranto on the Puglian coast of Italy, the Turkish navy, backed by Barbary Coast pirates, had created an atmosphere of almost constant alarm. All along the coasts of southern Italy and Spain, towers were constructed, many of which are still standing, to maintain a permanent watch for the marauders.

    The fear was not limited to the Mediterranean or to the eastern borders of Christendom. Even as far away as Iceland, Christians prayed to be delivered from "the terror of the Turk." In 1627, Ottoman-backed corsairs from North Africa penetrated deep into the North Sea and carried off four hundred captives for sale in the slave markets of Algeria. For all those who still lived beyond its borders, the empire of the Turks had become, in the words of historian Richard Knowles, "the present terror of the world."

    Almost every Ottoman victory was greeted with calls to mount a new crusade, with the objective of pushing the Turks out of Europe, out of Constantinople, even possibly out of all that had once been the Byzantine Empire. Yet no pontiff could do more than pontificate—and raise a certain amount of money. If there was to be a new crusade, it would have to be manned and financed by the secular rulers of Europe. And whenever possible, they preferred diplomacy to conflict.

    While its leaders wrangled among themselves, Christendom watched the Ottomans slowly encroach. By the end of 1461, all that remained of the Byzantine oikoumene—the Duchy of Athens, the Despotate of Morea, and the Empire of Trebizond—had passed into Turkish hands. Serbia capitulated in 1459 and Bosnia four years later. Albania was overrun in 1468. Across the Danube, the Transylvanian state of Wallachia, which had maintained a precarious independence under the infamous Prince Vlad Drakula, known as "the Impaler" because of his favorite method of disposing of his opponents, fell in 1462. The neighboring principality of Moldavia followed in 1504.

    In 1521, an Ottoman army seized the Hungarian city of Belgrade, having failed before, in 1440 and again in 1456. In August 1526, Sultan Sulei*man I defeated Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia in the marshes of Mohács, whose muddy waters closed over the unfortunate king's head before he could escape the pursuing Ottoman cavalry.

    At the time, the Battle of Mohács seemed like a magnificent victory for the Ottomans. But in the long run, it was to be something of a pyrrhic one. For the death of Louis brought to the Hungarian throne Ferdinand II, the Hapsburg archduke of Vienna, brother of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and ruler of Spain, Spanish America, much of Italy, the Netherlands, and a great swath of central Europe.

    The Ottomans now faced a far greater and more united Christian power than they had ever had to confront before. As the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto put it, now there were "two suns" shining upon the globe and two rulers competing for universal supremacy: A Christian emperor in the West and a Muslim sultan in the East.

    Suleiman I, called "the Magnificent" in Europe, saw himself as the heir of Alexander the Great, the "last world emperor" who would destroy his rival Charles V and then march west and conquer Rome. Like his competitors in the West, Suleiman was also eager to see himself as the beneficiary of an apocalyptic tradition, based loosely on the Book of Daniel, that foretold of a time toward the end of the sixteenth century when the Great Year would dawn, in which one true religion (Catholic Christianity for Charles V, Sunni Islam for Suleiman) would triumph over all others, ruled by one divinely appointed ruler—the sahib-kiran, "Emperor of the Last Age."

    In 1529, Suleiman marched west again, his sights now set on the emperor Ferdinand's capital at Vienna. This time, however, the sultan overextended himself. The centralized nature of the Ottoman state demanded that the entire army, recruited from every province in the empire, muster outside Istanbul. This took months. Then, when the army finally was on the march, it was dragged down by heavy rains and floods and took more than four months to reach Vienna. By the time they arrived, the troops were demoralized and exhausted, and supplies were running out. After only three weeks, Suleiman called off the siege and retreated to Istanbul.

    Yet, the sheer audacity of the siege and the devastation Suleiman's armies had left in their wake staggered Western minds. If the sultan's forces could reach that deep into the heart of Christendom, across daunting terrain crossed by mighty rivers, the Danube among them, might they not, rather more easily, seize another Christian capital such as Rome, which was easily accessible from the sea? Alarmed by this prospect, in 1534 Pope Paul III commissioned the architect Antonio da Sangallo to build a protective wall around the Eternal City with no fewer than eighteen bastions. Lack of funds finally forced him to abandon the project.

    For Suleiman, Vienna was merely a setback. In 1551, the port of Tripoli, held by the Knights Hospitalers for Charles V, fell to a joint attack by the Ottoman imperial fleet and the legendary corsair Turgud Reis. That same year, Piri Reis, the Ottoman admiral who had commissioned a map of the Americas so that his master might see what new realms still waited to be conquered, sacked the Portuguese settlement at Ormuz, on the Persian Gulf.

    In 1565, an Ottoman fleet besieged the island of Malta. It was beaten off, but the success was short-lived. The following years, it was the turn of Chios and Naxos. In August 1571, another Ottoman force took Cyprus from the Venetians after a lengthy campaign and massacred hundreds of Christians holding out in Famagusta, flaying alive the commander, Marco Antonio Bragadino, and hanging his lieutenant, Lorenzo Tiepolo. Six years later Samos was also captured.

    A month after Cyprus capitulated, however, Christendom secured one of its greatest victories over the Ottomans, near Nafpaktos, in what was then called the Gulf of Lepanto. In May 1571, Venice, Spain, and the papacy had forged a somewhat shaky alliance in response to the attack on Cyprus and in the hope of preventing any further Ottoman incursions in the Mediterranean. A combined fleet was hastily assembled under the command of Don Juan of Austria, an illegitimate son of Charles V and half brother of Philip II of Spain.

    With 170 Venetian war galleys, it was the largest single Christian fleet ever to venture into the Mediterranean. In the front line were also six bargelike oared ships known as galleasses, which the Ottomans had never encountered. Each carried nearly fifty cannons and could deliver more than six times as much shot as any of the largest galleys of the time.

    On Sunday morning, October 7, Don Juan surprised a massive Ottoman fleet in the Gulf of Patras. The battle lasted a little over four hours. The galleasses disabled, destroyed, or scattered as much as a third of the numerically superior Ottoman fleet before the battle even began.

    No sooner had the galleys engaged than La Reale, Don Juan's flagship, succeeded in ramming the Ottoman admiral Müezzinzade Ali Pasha's flagship, Sultana. A bullet to the brain killed Ali Pasha. The victorious Christians decapitated him and exhibited his head on a pike on La Reale's quarterdeck. When the rest of the Ottoman fleet realized that their admiral was dead and his ship was in Christian hands, they scattered in panic. Some forty thousand men, both Christians and Muslims, died in the carnage, making it one of the bloodiest encounters in the history of European warfare. More than two-thirds of the mighty Ottoman fleet was sunk in flames or captured by Don Juan and his triumphant admirals.

    The victory was hailed far and wide across Europe. A European Christian fleet had crushed an Eastern enemy and, once again, saved Europe and all the values it represented from the yoke of a despotic power. The analogies were, of course, entirely empty. The forces of Don Juan did not represent either Greek democratic freedom or Roman civility. The Spain of Philip II was hardly less despotic than the Ottoman Empire, and in many respects a good deal more so. The men who had powered the galleys at Salamis in 480 bc had been free men fighting for their cities. Those at Lepanto, on both sides, were slaves.

    Furthermore, from the Ottoman point of view, Lepanto was far from being the victory the Christians claimed. The imperial fleet was largely rebuilt within a year. Don Juan put to sea again in 1572, and although the two fleets skirmished off the Peloponnesus, neither side could claim a victory. The Turks still dominated the eastern Mediterranean and still controlled most of Hungary.

    With the death of Selim II in 1574, however, the Ottomans were more concerned with maintaining the peace within their own territories through years of unrest, palace intrigue, and a number of weak and incompetent sultans than they were with making any further advances against the West. Then there was the Persian question. The struggle between the Sunni Ottoman Empire and the Shiite Safavid Persian one lasted off and on for most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

    For a while, one of the greatest of the Safavid rulers, Shah Abbas, actively sought support from the West. He was responsible for creating a great capital at Isfahan, which the English travelers who visited it in the late seventeenth century said rivaled London in size and opulence. With the help of two English adventurers, the brothers Anthony and Robert Shirley, he created a formidable and highly Westernized military machine.

    After Shah Abbas' death in 1629, however, the empire fell into the hands of a series of weak and quarrelsome rulers and went into precipitous decline. Freed from the need to maintain a constant presence along their eastern borders, the Ottomans resumed the offensive in the Mediterranean. In 1645, the Ottoman fleet attacked Crete. Parts of Venetian Dalmatia were seized in 1646 and then lost the following year. In 1665, a joint Maltese-Venetian fleet attacked the Ottomans off the Dardanelles. After a six-hour battle, the Ottomans withdrew, their forces still largely intact. Four years later Crete, which had been Venetian for four and a half centuries, surrendered to the forces of Sultan Mehmed IV.

    On August 26, 1682, Mehmed IV decided, somewhat reluctantly, to yield to the insistence of the grand vizier, Kara Mustafa Pasha, that the time had come for a massive military campaign against the Hapsburgs. The sultan had signed a treaty with Emperor Leopold I in 1664 that was not due to expire until 1684, but treaties in the early modern world, in particular those between Christians and Muslims, were often flimsy affairs. The sultan also had the support of the Magyar rebel leader Imre Thököly, whom he recognized as "king of central Hungary" and had placed under Ottoman protection. The French, who had long preferred the Turks to the Hapsburgs, had promised not to intervene. The other Christian power on the Ottoman's western flank, the Duchy of Muscovy, was eager to maintain the peace. The Hapsburgs, it would seem, were alone.

    In October, the sultan's insignia was mounted outside the Grand Seraglio in Istanbul, publicly proclaiming his intention to leave the city. By early December, he had reached Adrianople. Here Mehmed camped for four months while his forces gathered from every corner of the empire. On March 30, 1683, the sultan and his ever-expanding army began to move west toward Belgrade. Some hundred thousand people and the food needed to feed them were on the move. (The Hapsburg envoy Albert Caprara, who accompanied the sultan, estimated that thirty-two thousand pounds of meat and sixty thousand loaves were consumed daily.)

    The going was tough. Torrential rains turned the roads to mud. Great flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, which frequently strayed or sank into the mud, followed the troops, together with innumerable carts and wagons. The inevitable train of hangers-on, wives, women, and concubines that accompanied every army trailed behind.

    On May 3, the army finally reached Belgrade and pitched camp just northwest of the city at Zemun on the Danube. By the end of the month, they moved out again. As the Ottomans marched, they were joined by troops from Albania, Epirus, and Thessaly, even Egypt. "King" Thököly showed up with a sizable contingent, and some eighty thousand Tatars came along for the pickings.

    On June 26, the army entered enemy territory and moved on the Hapsburg city of Györ. Caprara's opinion of this massive but disparate and ill-coordinated force was dismal. It was, he said, outstanding only for its "weakness, disorder, and almost ludicrous armament." (On this last point, he may well have been right. One Turkish observer claimed that they had only sixty cannons and mortars.) The sultan fielded only about twenty thousand fighting men; the rest were a rabble. Such a force, Caprara concluded, could never hope to defeat "the men of Germany."

    Emperor Leopold, however, thought otherwise. By now he was in no doubt as to the sultan's ultimate objective, and on July 7, he and his court abandoned Vienna and retreated to Passau with all the treasure they could carry, pursued by Tatar cavalry. Nearly sixty thousand Viennese also fled. On July 14, the Ottoman army of roughly ninety thousand effectives set up camp in front of Vienna. An Ottoman envoy appeared at the gates with the demand that the Christians "accept Islam and live in peace under the Sultan!"

    Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, who had been left in command with about twelve thousand soldiers, cut him short, and a few hours later the bombardment began. Within two days, the Turks had completely surrounded the city and, by one contemporary estimate, were within a mere two thousand paces of the salient angles of the counterscarp. The grand vizier (Mehmet himself had stayed behind in Belgrade) set up a magnificent tent in the center of what was virtually another city outside the walls. There, in the company of an ostrich and a parakeet, he dispensed favors in complete confidence of an eventual victory, and sauntered forth each day to inspect the Turkish trenches.

    The situation inside the city grew steadily more desperate as water ran low, garbage piled high in the streets, and little by little the familiar diseases of the besieged—cholera, typhus, dysentery, scurvy—took hold. Yet the defenders managed to hold out for two months. The Turks, as Caprara had rightly observed, possessed very little heavy artillery; what they had could kill people and damage buildings inside the city but made little impact on the massive walls, bastions, ravelins, glacis, caponières, palisades, counterscarps, and the other paraphernalia of sixteenth-century fortifications that ringed Vienna.

    The Ottoman siege lines inched ever closer to the city walls, while miners dug elaborate caverns, hoping to place explosives that would blow gaps in the fortifications. In turn, the defenders dug countermines and occasionally exploded ordnance beneath Ottoman trenches. Eventually, mines were being set off daily, and the defenders fought hand-to-hand with attackers making desperate charges against the resulting breaches. Defenders also sortied outside the walls, but could not dislodge the Ottomans or spike their guns. In early September, Starhemberg had only about four thousand defenders left, and the city walls were imperiled at several points.

    Meanwhile, a relief army of some sixty thousand men under the joint command of King John III Sobieski of Poland and the emperor's brother-in-law, Charles Sixte of Lorraine, moved slowly toward the beleaguered city. It included forces from Saxony, Franconia, Bavaria, Bohemia, and Waldeck. Crossing the Danube at Tuln, they marched through the Wienerwald—a mountainous no man's land covered in dense forest—to approach the city from the west. The Ottomans, assuming that no relief army of any size could possibly penetrate the Wienerwald, had left it largely undefended. It would be a fatal mistake.

    The progress of the combined Christian army was slow, but by late Saturday, September 11, it had assembled along the ridges on the edge of the forest. The Ottomans had set up an observation post on the heights known as Kahlenberg, overlooking Vienna, but a small force drove them away and shot off a rocket, to alert the city's defenders that help was at hand.

    The following morning, the army swept down on the largely unprepared and poorly defended Turkish encampments below. Kara Mustafa had never been confronted by a relieving army bent on breaking a siege. He rejected the advice of some of his officers to abandon the siege and concentrate his full attention on the substantial force to his rear. Instead, the grand vizier kept up the pressure on Vienna, diverting only an estimated six thousand infantry and twenty-two thousand cavalry, backed by six cannons, from the siege.

    They were not enough. Even though the Christian army could not get most of its artillery over the mountains and into place, its steady attack and greater numbers proved impossible to withstand. First, the Saxons and Imperial troops attacked from the Kahlenberg heights; then additional Imperial troops advanced on the Ottoman center. The Ottomans launched a counterattack, but in twenty minutes they had been beaten back. Because of deep ravines and other terrain problems, the Poles had been slow to engage, but when they came in on the Christian right, the battle was decided. At about 4 p.m., the various Christian forces advanced on all sides, Sobieski leading his "winged hussars" in what was a decisive charge against the Ottoman cavalry. By late afternoon, the Turkish lines began to waver. A desperate Kara Mustafa led his personal escort into the fray, hoping to withstand the Christian onslaught, but could do no more than rescue the flag of the Prophet.

    "We came, we saw, and God conquered," wrote Sobieski to Pope Innocent XI, echoing Julius Caesar's famous remark on the conquest of Pontus, in modern Turkey. The siege was ended.
    Those Turks who had not been killed or captured fled back toward Belgrade. Kara Mustafa succeeded in taking most of his treasure with him, but it would do him little good. As so often happened to those who had failed the sultan, he was strangled two months later.

    Vienna, wrote one despairing Ottoman historian, had been a defeat "so great that there has never been its like since the first appearance of the Ottoman state." He was almost right (the 1402 Battle of Ankara, in which Tamerlane's Tatars captured the Ottoman leader Bayezid I, had been more devastating). And although neither he nor any of his contemporaries, Christian or Muslim, may have fully realized it, Mehmed's failure was to be the first step in the steady but inexorable decline of what had for so long seemed the unstoppable advance of the Ottoman Empire.

    After Vienna, the relationship between Christendom and Islam began to change. For centuries, the Christians had attempted to keep the Muslims at bay and, if possible, to recapture areas, most notably Palestine, that they considered to be sacred to their religion. Now, as Ottoman power visibly weakened, it became possible to imagine not merely limitations on Muslim power but its eventual elimination.

    The Hapsburgs were quick to capitalize on their success. In March 1684, in an unusual show of solidarity, Austria, Venice, Poland-Lithuania, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and Malta, and the papacy formed a Holy League against the Sublime Porte. Two years later, on September 2, 1686, they secured their first major victory when the Hungarian city of Buda, which since 1526 had stood on the frontier between Christendom and Islam, fell to a besieging Hapsburg army.

    For the Ottomans, the loss was of immense psychological significance. The failure to take Vienna had been a crushing humiliation for the mighty Ottoman armies, but Vienna had always been a European Christian city. Buda, by contrast, was considered a Muslim city, part of the dar al-Islam.

    The real threat to the continuing survival of the Ottomans, however, came not from the Austrians but from a relatively new Christian imperial power: Russia. The conversion of the Russians to Christianity in 988 had been one of the triumphs of the Greek Church. As the Byzantine Empire had slowly lost ground to the Turks, the Russians had been gaining territory from their former Mongol overlords, in a continuing struggle that, since it pitted Christians against Muslims, was also seen by the Christians as a crusade. With the fall of Constantinople and the disappearance of the Roman Empire in the East, Moscow had become, in Russian eyes, the sole bearer of Orthodox Christianity and consequently the true heir of the Roman Empire, now ruled by a prince who styled himself "tsar," the equivalent of "Caesar."

    "The Christian Empires have fallen," wrote the monk Philotheus in 1512 to Tsar Basil II. "In their stead stands only the Empire of our ruler….Two Romes have fallen, but the third stands and a fourth there will not be….Thou art the only Christian sovereign in the world, the lord of all faithful Christians." Now prophecies about a blond race of warriors emerging from the north to drive out the Muslims began to appear throughout the Eastern Christian world. In 1657, one Orthodox patriarch, rash enough to predict the end of Islam and the return of the Church Triumphant, was hanged for his perverse optimism.

    Yet, for all these claims, the peoples of Western Europe had never quite known what to make of the Russians. Russia's vast size and the fact that so much of it had for so long been ruled by nomadic peoples had placed it, in the minds of many Europeans, beyond the formal limits of "civilization." It remained in this way a stubbornly oriental despotism, firmly within Asia—the "Turk of the North," as the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz called it.

    But beginning in the 1680s with Peter the Great, founder of St. Petersburg, who is described by Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, as "having given the customs and manners of Europe to a European power," the tsars began to modernize. Once its aristocracy took to wearing silk brocade and conversing in French, what had hitherto been looked upon as the backward empire of the steppe gradually came to seem inescapably European.

    The modernization, or "Europeanization," initiated by Peter had not only transformed an Asiatic people into a central European one. It had also greatly enhanced the military capabilities of the tsars. Now Russia moved to seize her portion from what was clearly a giant in distress.

    On August 6, 1696, Peter the Great captured the Black Sea port of Azov. The Turks agreed for the first time in their history to discuss peace. In October, representatives of the two sides met at Carlowitz in the Voivodina. Finally, on January 22, 1699, with the help of British and Dutch mediators, a peace treaty was signed among the Ottomans, the Russians, and the various members of the Holy League.

    The Treaty of Carlowitz was not a total surrender, but it deprived the Ottomans of territories in Eastern Europe: almost all of Hungary and Transylvania, which they considered not to be European or Christian at all but a fully integrated part of the Islamic world. More crushing still, it was the first time in history that a sultan, the "Commander of the Faithful" and heir presumptive to the caliphate, had been compelled to sign a treaty with his enemies. In so doing the sultan had in effect agreed to abide by the admittedly rough-and-ready tenets of international law, as it was understood in the West.

    It was an unprecedented move for a political and religious culture for which war against all unbelievers was a necessary duty, the permanent obligation of every ruler. Muslims could and did enter into treaties with non-Muslim rulers. These might, for the sake of convenience, last for a very long time. But no Muslim ruler could accept a permanent settlement with a non-Muslim state, if only because the obligation of the jihad prevented them from recognizing that state's very right to exist.

    At Carlowitz, the sultan, the supreme leader of the Muslim world, had, implicitly at least, violated one of the precepts of the shari'a. It would change the nature of the Ottoman state forever. As long as Ottoman forces had been supreme, there had seemed to be little reason to question the established order. Now there was. Mehmed II might have adopted Byzantine and Latin modes of address and had himself depicted by Christian painters employing Western iconographical motifs. But no sultan before Mustafa II had had any compelling reason to suppose that the great empire over which he ruled would not go on until the day when the dar al-Islam would cover the entire world, one under Ottoman rule. This vision of the future began to fade after the Treaty of Carlowitz and continued thereafter to get dimmer and dimmer.

    More than any previous event, Carlowitz forced upon the Ottomans a new awareness of the potential might of the West and the recognition that, if the empire was to survive, it would have to adopt new ways of dealing with the West, ways that would replace the simple force of the jihad with diplomacy. It marked, too, an unmistakable reversal of fortune. Now it would be the West—utterly transformed culturally, religiously, politically, and militarily from the squabbling assembly of states that had failed to stop first Mehmed II and then Suleiman—that would take the offensive. And from 1699 until 1918, when a contingent of British troops entered Istanbul, it would be the West that steadily but inexorably pushed back the frontiers of Islam. MHQ

    Adapted from Worlds at War, by Anthony Pagden. ©2008 by Anthony Pagden. Published by arrangement with Random House, Inc.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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