Useful Notes / Siege of Vienna

Venimus, vidimus, Deus vincitnote 
-Jan III Sobieski

In 1683 the Ottoman Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa marched up the Danube with the objective of conquering the city of Vienna. They laid siege to the city in July. They battered and dug at the hapless city, slowly closing in on the defenders. Meanwhile the Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I assembled a coalition including several German princes and the Polish King Jan Sobieski. They attacked the Ottomans at Vienna on September 12, and routed the Ottoman army in a sudden and amazingly successful attack . This was to be the last time the Ottoman empire would attempt a major conquest in Europe and foreshadowed later offensives to be launched in turn by the Austrians and Russians which would severely reduce the Ottomans and gain these powers territory in the Black Sea region.

An earlier siege in 1529 by Suleyman the Magnificent is also important historically, and may sometimes be confused with the the later one. Together with the siege of Malta and Battle of Lepanto, it pretty much defined the limits of the Ottoman Empire's reach in Europe and the Mediterranean Sea.

Fictional Works Set During the Siege(s) of Vienna Include

  • The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers - An epic fantasy novel in which brewing beer is Serious Business; set during the 1529 siege.
  • In Quicksilver, first volume of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, "Half-Cocked" Jack Shaftoe and Eliza first meet at the Siege of Vienna, where he is serving as a mercenary and rescues her from the Sultan's harem.
  • The story The Shadow of the Vulture by Robert E. Howard uses the earlier siege as the historical backdrop to tell its tale about a personal vendetta between the Sultan himself (carried out by his servants rather than him personally, of course) and a Christian knight who happens to end up in Vienna at the beginning of the siege. It also gives us the original Red Sonja.
  • James A. Michener's Poland has an entire chapter devoted to the siege and battle of Vienna wherein Jan Sobieski appears as a major character. The famous hussar charge is recounted as well.

Real Life Tropes of the Siege of Vienna Include

  • The Alliance: Poland, Austria, Royal Hungary, and others.
  • Badass Boast: Jan Sobieski's quote, "Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit" (We came, we saw, God conquered).
  • Bling of War: The winged hussars.
  • The Cavalry: The allied army. Not the least of which was the Polish Army, famed for having some of the finest horses in Europe and therefore was literal as well as metaphorical cavalry. In fact, the cavalry charge at Vienna was the largest in history: eighteen thousand knights (including three thousand Winged Hussars) led by King Jan III Sobieski prompted the Ottoman army to do a good impression of a piece of drywall hit with a sledgehammer.
    • To give an idea of how massive it was, that's three times the size of the Rohirrim Charge in The Return of the King.
  • Cool Horse: See hussars.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Once the reinforcements arrived, that is.
  • Crazy Awesome / Obfuscating Stupidity: Jan Sobieski. People took him a lot more seriously after he won the battle and saved the city.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: King Jan Sobieski, who led the allied forces and is a legendary figure in Poland, is not commemorated much in Austria.
  • Even Better Sequel: The Ottomans also besieged Vienna in 1529 - a very significant battle in its own right but one which has been overshadowed by this one.
  • Morally Ambiguous Chancellor: Kara Mustafa. (That is a cool name though).
  • The Empire: The Ottoman Empire (do remember that most accounts are given by Europeans rather than Turks).
    • The Habsburg Empire, as well.
  • The Federation: The Holy Roman Empire.
  • Folkhero: Legend has it that the first Vienna coffeehouse was opened by a merchant who found coffee while gathering plunder from the Ottoman camp.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid
  • Glory Days: Ironically, the end of Poland's. The siege of Vienna was the Commonwealths last moment as an important player in European politics. It would spend the rest of its days being occupied, ruled or pillaged by Germans (several sorts), Swedes and Russians.
  • The Kingdom: Poland.
  • Last Stand: Averted spectacularly.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Legend has it that the Viennese café culture began after a Polish general who had spent some time as a Turkish captive picked up the bags of roasted coffee beans the Turks had left behind during their retreat and opened a coffee shop that the Austrians went totally mad for.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Jan Sobieski.
  • Warrior Prince: Jan Sobieski.
  • What an Idiot: Sobieski, to the future generations of Poles. 100 years later Austria and Germany (and Russia) partition Poland, and Turkey is the only neighboring state that doesn't recognizes the loss of Polish Independence.
    • It is hard to see how he could be responsible for that and Turkey was the chief threat at the time.
      • Actually, Stefan Batory (who was the king of Poland a while back) was trying to get Russia's help against Turkey (Russia wasn't really interested).
    • Sobieski's real fault was that he was a good warrior, but a somewhat lousy politician, unwittingly preparing the ground for later Russian dominance over Poland. Plus, a reason why Turkey didn't recognise the Partitions was that they were quite impressed by Sobieski and Poles note .
      • The battle of Vienna elevated Sobieski to hero status in Poland. Unfortunately, it was his only success. His main concern was dynastic politics (he wanted to get his son elected as the next king of Poland and marginalize other magnate families to create a ruling dynasty) and while he wasn't the first in the succession of weak, decadent kings which ultimately led to the Partitions, his rule was the point of no return.
    • Granted, "Austrian Poland" was generally benign (the Habsburgs are still recalled well ...Or So I Heard).
    • Kara Mustafa himself. By all accounts, the Turks should have captured Vienna. However, Mustafa decided to wait. This was probably because he gambled on the Austrians surrendering, which would have allowed him to claim all the city's possessions for the Sultan, whereas if the city was taken by force, its possessions would be divvied out between the army. Instead of attacking, he bid his time and was caught completely by surprise by the Polish and German reinforcements. Had he won, the Ottomans would have used Vienna as a bridge to Western Europe. Instead, it marked the stagnation of their holdings in Europe.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: According to some accounts, the Poles dragged their cannons over mountains to bring them to the battlefield. By hand. The Turkish commanders refused to believe anyone would try something so foolhardy and dismissed these reports. Big mistake.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Grand Vizier was executed for his defeat at the battle. A celebrated anecdote has him move his beard out of the way of the executioner's garrotte.
  • Young Future Famous People: This was the first battle of Eugene of Savoy, who would go on becoming one of the greatest generals of his time. Max Emanuel of Bavaria also fought here. A generation later, the two of them would fight on opposite sides in the War of the Spanish Succession.