Suppression Of The Ottoman Power

During much of the Seventeenth Century the Ottoman power was at war with Venice, which at this time, though the Republic was in her decline, was the chief champion of Christendom against the Moslem. After a war of twenty-four years (1645-1669) the Turks succeeded in making themselves masters of the island of Candia or Crete, which they have kept ever since. The siege of the chief town, Candia, lasted for over twenty years, and is one of the longest in history. Volunteers came from all parts of Europe to aid the Venetians, the Pope sending troops and money, Malta supplying soldiers headed by her Knights of St. John, and Louis XIV and the Duke of Savoy also taking part- with auxiliaries. It was, in fact, another crusade against the infidels, but the Christians were forced to surrender when they were thinned by slaughter and disease, and the Turkish cannon had laid the city in ruins and battered down the walls. On this, as on other occasions, the quarrels and jealousies of the Christian powers of Europe prevented a combination which would soon have crushed Turkish aggression. The Turks lost nearly 120,000 and the Christians over 30,000 men; fifty-six assaults and ninety-six sorties were made; 1,645 mines were sprung by the assailants and defenders; over half a million of cannon shot were fired by the for-tress; and 9,000 tons of lead were used for musket balls by the Christians.

In 1684 the Venetians, aided by the Emperor Leopold, assailed the Turks in Greece, and conquered the whole of the Peloponnesus. During this war in Greece, in the Venetian attack upon Athens, the famous Parthenon, the glory of the city and of ancient Grecian ‘architecture, was greatly damaged in 1687 by an explosion-of gunpowder, the Turks having, on their capture of Athens in 1456, turned what was then a Christian church, first into a mosque, and then into a magazine.

Before this the Turks had been encouraged, by the discontent of Hungary with Austrian rule and her rebellion against the Emperor Leopold, to attack Western Christendom in great force. In 1683 the Ottoman army, along with the Hungarian insurgents, marched in irresistible strength on Vienna. Columns of smoke from burning villages flanked the advance of the destroying Turks, and in July they encamped for the second time before the walls of Vienna. The Emperor Leopold and the court had fled, leaving a garrison of about 10,000 men, while the Duke of Lorraine, with a large cavalry force, kept watch outside on the movements of the enemy. A Turkish host of 200,000 men surrounded the city, and a fierce resistance was made by the Viennese to the assaulting columns, when breaches had been made in the fortifications. For over forty days the efforts of the Turks were vain, and their commander, the Grand Vizier, Kara Mustafa, resorted to the explosion of huge mines under the ramparts. The Turks slowly gained ground. By the first days of September, 1683, Vienna was in extremity, but relief was now at hand.

During most of the Seventeenth Century Poland had been declining. She had lost territory to Sweden and to Russia, and been greatly weakened by internal dissensions and mismanagement, especially by the absurd system of veto in her Diet or political assembly, which allowed the vote of a single deputy to negative a proposal on which all the others were agreed. A parting gleam of glory for Poland came in the reign of her brave King, John Sobieski, who ruled from 1674 to 1696. To him Leopold had now appealed for help against the Moslem, and Sobieski, hurrying forward, had joined the German army under the Duke of Lorraine, with whom the young Prince Eugene was serving. The Turkish army had been much diminished and discouraged, but now faced round, with its back to the city, to meet the shock. The result was decisive. On September 12, 1683, Sobieski and his allies totally defeated the Turks, and raised the siege of Vienna. When the famous Janizaries gave way an utter rout of the Otto-man force ensued, and the last chance of a Turkish con-quest of Central Europe had passed away. A complete and disastrous overthrow had taught the Turks at last that in future it would be their task to maintain themselves, if they could, in Europe against Christian aggression and retaliation, and to abandon dreams of further permanent progress for their arms. The Florentine poet, Vincenzo da Filicaja, celebrated the exploit of John Sobieski and the deliverance of Christendom in verse. The forces of Austria, Poland, and Venice now assailed the Ottoman Empire on three sides, and the Turks, rallying from their defeat, resisted with their usual tenacity and valor. In 1686, however, a combined Christian force stormed Buda; in 1687 the Turks were routed in the second battle of Mohacs, on the very field of their Sultan Soliman II’s great triumph, and Hungary’s fatal defeat, in 1526. The fortresses between the Danube and the Drave were gradually taken by the Christian allies; and though the Turks managed to check Sobieski himself on the Moldavian border, they needed their whole strength to hold their own on the Danube. In 1688 Belgrade was captured, after an assault in which Prince Eugene shared; in 1689 the Imperialists drove the Turks before them, and then came alternations of success until Prince Eugene, now an experienced leader, gave the Turks a crushing defeat at Zenta, in the south of Hungary, on the Theiss, in 1697.

In 1699 the Treaty of Carlowitz gave back Hungary and Transylvania permanently to Austria; Venice kept Dalmatia and the Morea, Poland recovered some lost territory. This was the first time that the Ottoman Government had met the plenipotentiaries of Christian Europe in congress, and the first treaty in which the Turkish frontier was made to recede. The Turks were now, once for all, compelled to take a responsible place in the system of Christendom, which they had so deeply injured, and had to the last insulted and endangered. The treaty of Carlowitz proclaimed far and wide that the haughty pretensions and aggressive policy which had so long distinguished the Ottoman State had ceased to be endurable in the civilized world.