Vienna, Sieges of

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VIENNA, SIEGES OF. The city of Vienna was the object of two unsuccessful sieges by Ottoman forces during the early modern period.


When, at the battle of Mohács in 1526, the troops of Sultan Suleiman I (ruled 15201566) wiped out the Hungarian army and killed King Louis II, they cleared the way to the Hungarian throne for their main rival, the Habsburgs. After Suleiman's protégé, János Szapolyai (ruled 15261540), was ousted from Hungary by his rival, Ferdinand I of Habsburg, also elected king of Hungary (15261564), Suleiman was eager to redress the unintended consequences of his victory at Mohács. The Ottoman army of 80,000 to 100,000 men retook Buda, Hungary's capital, from the Habsburgs in September 1529 and gave it back to their ally János. Suleiman, however, wanted the resolve the Habsburg-Ottoman rivalry in Central Europe by conquering Vienna, the capital of the Habsburgs' Danubian Monarchy. Vienna was defended by some 18,000 to 25,000 soldiers under the able leadership of Niklas Graf zu Salm and Wilhelm Freiherr von Roggendorf, who had ordered the city's medieval and obsolete defenses substantially strengthened. The siege lasted for some two weeks (27 September15 October 1529). The Ottoman bombardment was not effective, for the attackers had had to leave their siege artillery in Bulgaria and Hungary owing to unusually rainy weather and muddy roads. The defenders discovered or disarmed most of the Ottoman mines, and when some mines did succeed in opening significantly large holes, the attackers were repulsed by pikemen and harquebusiers. With winter approaching, the Ottomans raised the siege. After another failed attempt in 1532, when the small Hungarian castle of Küszeg (Güns) stopped Suleiman's army, the sultan and Ferdinand accepted the status quo in Hungary.


In 1683 Vienna was besieged for the second time by the Ottomans, who by 1541 had conquered central Hungary, bringing the frontier dangerously close to the Austrian capital. The 1660s saw new Ottoman conquests in Hungary (1660 and 1663), Crete (1669), and Poland-Lithuania (1672 and 1678) under the able leadership of the Köprülü grand viziers. The recent revival of Ottoman military fortunes, the renewed Franco-Habsburg rivalry, and, more importantly, the weakness the Habsburgs had shown in Hungary against Imre Thököly's Kuruc insurrection (16811683), persuaded Kara Mustafa Paşa, the ambitious grand vizier (16761683), that the time had come to conquer Vienna. With the auxiliary troops of Crimean, Walachian, Moldavian, and Transylvanian vassals, the army that reached the outskirts of Vienna by early July numbered some 150,000 men, although only 40,000 were central troops of the standing army and although, as in 1529, the Ottomans lacked heavy siege artillery. Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg ably directed the 15,000-strong defense forces, but by early September heavy Ottoman bombardment and mining opened numerous breaches in the walls, and the defenders were running short of supplies. The fifty-nine-day siege ended with the arrival of the imperial and Polish relief army under the command of Charles V, duke of Lorraine, and King John III Sobieski (ruled 16741696) on 11 September 1683. The decisive battle of Kahlenberg, at the edge of the Vienna Woods, took place the next day when the relief army of 75,000 destroyed the unprotected attackers' camp. Kara Mustafa and his army fled, leaving rich booty for the Christians. Vienna was saved by a coalition of Central European countries, whose army proved to be tactically superior and was, for the first time in the history of Ottoman-European confrontations, able to match the Ottomans in terms of deployed manpower and weaponry, as well as in logistical support.

See also Ottoman Empire ; Suleiman I .


Barker, Thomas M. Double Eagle and Crescent: Vienna's Second Turkish Siege and Its Historical Setting. Albany, N.Y., 1967.

Broucek, P., E. Hillbrand, and F. Vesely. Historischer Atlas zur Zweiten Türkenbelagerung: Wien 1683. Vienna, 1983.

Kreutel, Richard F., ed. Kara Mustafa vor Wien. Graz, 1982.

Leitsch, Walter. "Warum wollte Kara Mustafa Wien erobern?" Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 29, no. 4 (1981): 495514.

GÁbor Ágoston