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Useful Notes / Siege of Vienna

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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.

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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 The 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.
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  • 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.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: The Wallachians retreated from the battle because their prince Șerban Cantacuzino was secretly in league with the Holy League all along, feeding them about their plans, tactics and strategies in exchange for the throne of Constantinople. While the Habsburgs promised him the throne, he died before claiming it - presumably poisoned by his own men due to his unrealistic expectations.
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  • 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.
  • End of an Age: The battle marked the beginning of the Ottoman Empire's decline, as from that point on their expansion into Europe would be stopped and they would be on the back foot until their eventual collapse in World War I.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Irony: The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ended Ottoman expansion into Europe. Later when Poland was partitioned between Austria, Prussia and Russia, the Ottoman Empire was the only nation besides Persia that didn't recognize the decision for a variety of reasons: they were at war with Russia so naturally they'd antagonize them, fear of setting a precedent of the same could be done to them (since if Europeans were willing to tear apart another Christian state like them if it was vulnerable enough, what would they do to a Muslim state like the Ottomans?) or simply because they respected the Polish.
  • 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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Unlike what people believe this to be simply a battle between Christianity and Islam, the Poles had Muslims on their side, namely the Lipka Tatars who descended from Islamicized Mongols that settled in Poland after their khans were defeated by emir Timur the Lame. The Tatars were considered extremely loyal and patriotic since one of their warriors, Samuel Mirza Krzeczowski, saved Jan Sobieski's life during the battle and was rewarded after their victory.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Jan Sobieski.
  • Warrior Prince: Jan Sobieski.
  • 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.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Ottomans dubbed Sobieski "Lion of Lechistan" (literally Poland as it was referred by Muslims).
  • 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.


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