1529 C.E.- Siege of Vienna

The Siege of Vienna
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    By 1529 C.E. the Ottoman Empire was reached its peak under the rule of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Under Suleiman, the Ottomans made a series of military campaigns to expand into Eastern Europe, conquering the cities of Belgrade and Mohacs from Hungary in 1521 and
 1526 respectively. Hungary was the last remaining power that impeded Suleiman's expansion into Europe, and the loss of the Christian strongholds to Muslim invaders sent fear throughout the continent. The Battle of Mohacs specifically led to the death of King Louis II and all of Southern Hungary falling under Ottoman control. With no heir, the vacant Hungarian throne would be disputed between Ferdinand I, Archduke of Austria and brother of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and John Zápolya, the Voivode of Transylvania who Suleiman recognized as king for him being a vassal to the Ottomans in return.
    Suleiman then turned his attention to Austria. It was the final threat and impediment in his advancement into Europe, and so he decided to launch an attack straight for its capital, Vienna.

     After being defeated by Ferdinand I at the Battles of Tarcal and Szina in 1527 and 1528 respectively, Zápolya fled and seeked support from the Ottomans. Suleiman would occupy the majority of Hungary and make it into a vassal state, and in return recognized Zápolya as King John I of Hungary. The remaining Hungarian territory would be claimed by Ferdinand for the Habsburg Empire.
Ottoman Army and Advance

    Suleiman's march to Vienna began in the May of 1529 with an army of approximately 300,000 troops, including sipahis, the light cavalry, 20,000 janissaries, 90,000 camels, and 500 artillery. Suleiman served as the commander in chief of the forces, with Ibrahim Pasha, a Greek slave, serving as his seraskier, or field marshall.

To the Ottoman's misfortune, the Spring rain in the Balkans was far stonger than other years, leading to flooding and the destruction of roads. The now muddy ground led to thousands of camels breaking their legs, approximately two hundred cannons being forced to turn back, and the infantry succumbing to disease. Despite Ibrahim's insistence on turning their forces around, Suleiman pressed onward with a slowly dwindling army and morale. When they finally reached Vienna on September 24th of 1529, only a fraction of their original forces remained. Only approximately 100,000 troops remained, including 20,000 camels and 300 artillery. Most of the surviving infantry were sipahis, who were ill prepared for a siege.

Vienna's Defenses

    News of the oncomming Ottoman army left Vienna in terror of the inevitable attack, as well as invigorated with the will to defend the city. After several failed attempts to request aid from Charles V, Ferdinand fled Austria, leaving his commander, Duke Frederick, in charge of the city's  defenses. Frederick in turn gave authority over the defenses to Nicholas Graf von Salm. Nicholas Graf von Salm helped lead efforts to reinforce the city walls,  leveling houses close to the walls to replace them with forts and blocking city gates. 

    By the time Salm arrived, almost all of Vienna's citizens have fled, leaving only four hundred who were capable of bearing arms. Most of those who fled were captured by Ottoman forces, and the men were decapitated with their heads put on stakes while the women and children were sold into slavery. Fortunately, Charles V sent around 17,000 landsknechtes, mercenary pikemen, to aid in the city's protection. In order to pay the landsknechtes, emergency coins were struck using treasures from the cathedral. Salm then worked fiercely to reinforce the city's 300 year old walls as well as constructing earthen bastions in case the walls collapsed. During the siege, he would be killed from wounds caused by a falling boulder.

History Channel: 1529 Siege of Vienna

The Siege

    The Ottoman host arrived at Vienna two months behind schedule, drained of resources, soldiers, and morale. Still, tents would appear around the city as far as the eyes could see. The akinci, the scouting division, arrived at the outskirts of Vienna three days before the rest of the forces on September 21st, 1529, capturing the fleeing Viennese. Suleiman intended for the city to surrender, because if he stormed the city, according to Islamic martial law, he would have to allow his troops to be able to pillage the city for three days, meaning that all of the city's wealth would be lost before he can claim it himself. He hoped that the sheer size and splendor of his army would intimidate the people of Vienna to surrender. Four  extravagantly dressed prisoners were sent into the city with an offer. If the people of Vienna converted to Islam, the city would be left alone. The offer was refused, and the next day the siege began.
     On September 26, all of the Ottoman's cannons fired simultaneously upon Vienna's walls, but with little effect. They showed to be more useful when fired over the walls, where the cannonballs would bounce off of the pavement to cause more damage. In response. the Viennese tore up the streets so that the balls would only sink into the ground. The Ottomans continued to bombard the city, but only as a diversion. Tunnels were dug under the city's walls, and black powder charges were placed to blow up the defenses. The Ottomans had to halt their tunneling on the 28th of December due to rain which would continue for 2 entire days, soaking the gunpowder and filling the tunnels and trenches with water which further delayed the Ottoman's plans. By the time the Ottoman began digging again the Viennese realized what the Ottomans were attempting to do.  Two thousand landsknechts launched a sneak attack on the Ottoman trenches in order to find were the gunpowder charges were at dawn. The landsknechts caught the Ottomans off guard, causing many of them to flee but a majority of the Ottomans in the trenches were killed. The landsknechts captured and brought back an Ottoman soldier to torture him until he confessed where the black powder charges were. The soldier confessed which side of the wall the charges were being placed but his information was to vague to reveal the true location of the charges. The people of Vienna were ordered to stay down in their cellars in order to detect where the Ottomans were digging from by using buckets of water to detect movement. If the water had a ripple the people would start digging to find where the Ottomans were digging their tunnels. Despite Viennese effort, the Ottomans successfully planted and detonated black powder charges underneath the city walls, blowing a 30 meter hole in the wall in which the Ottomans tried to use to enter the city. The landsknechts quickly went to the breach and fended off the Ottomans until the Ottomans decided to retreat. The Ottomans  decided after this defeat that if they couldn't succeed with one last all in attack and take Vienna, they would retreat. The Ottomans attempted but failed to take the city in their final assault but Suleiman still had a plan to take the city. Suleiman sent 3 spies into Vienna to set fires in 5 locations in order to take the city while the people were trying to put out the fires. Ultimately, Suleiman's spies were captured and tortured to death by being dismembered, having ropes tied to their limbs and having 4 horses the ropes in separate directions, tearing their bodies apart. The people of Vienna put the dismembered bodies on poles and displayed them on top of the city walls as the Ottomans retreated. The conditions the Ottomans faced as they retreated were just like the conditions on their advance towards Vienna,  rainy with muddy roads. On the way back home, many Ottoman troops froze to death and due to the much longer than expected siege which caused their to be limited food supplies, many troops also starved to death. 


    Many historians believe that the final attack on Vienna was only to weaken it for a later siege. Suleiman would lead another attack against Vienna in 1532, but his forces would be stopped at the Siege of Koszeg. The success of Salm's defenses and the failure of Suleiman's seemingly unstoppable army would bring an end to Ottoman expansion into Europe, as well as the start of the Ottoman Empire's decline.

Important People and Terms

Suleiman the Magnificent: The ruler of the Ottoman Empire and the commander of the Ottoman army

Nicholas Graf von Salm: A mercenary captain who helped to strengthen the defenses of Vienna 

Ibrahim Pasha: A Greek slave who rose to power, becoming a field marshal in the Ottoman army

Ferdinand I: King of Hungary and Bohemia
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John Zápoyla: King of Hungary(recognized by the Ottomans)

Hasburg Empire: They were in power of the Holy Roman Empire from 1438 C.E to 1740 C.E and had territories in both Spain and Austria

Sipahas: Ottoman light cavalry

Janissaries: Elite Ottoman soldiers which consisted of captured Christian boys  

Akinci: Ottoman scouting division that also was a cavalry

Seraskeir: commander in chief of the Ottoman Empire.

Landsknechts: German mercenary pikemen

Jan 3, 2016, 8:13 AM