Today, we will attempt another role-playing strategy game based on the Siege of Vienna in 1529. While we have focused on the continent-wide struggle between Protestants and Catholics that began in 1517, today’s activity will introduce you to the powerful Ottoman Empire, an Islamic empire that originated from the region of modern-day Turkey.
The Ottoman Empire was superior to the kingdoms of Europe in almost every conceivable way. Its science, its military capability, and its cultural sophistication were impressive. Its ruler, Suleiman the Magnificent, deserved the title: his empire was truly a reflection of his formidable abilities. He answered petitions from citizens from throughout his realm; records indicate that his decisions were often considered fair and just. He was a literate and sophisticated patron of the arts, and a highly effective military commander. Yet, both he and his army could be unbearably brutal.
Thus, European leaders were truly worried by Suleiman’s arrival. When he declared a jihad and marched on Vienna, Europe trembled: if he captured Vienna, what was to stop him from taking the rest of Europe?
A few details before we begin:
- The city of Vienna was under the control of Charles V, the father of Phillip II. Remember him? He ruled large sections of Europe, including Spain; he was not actually in Vienna at the time of the siege.
- Historians regularly debate Suleiman’s intentions. Exactly what was this cunning and powerful leader after? Was religious conquest really his goal?
- The Ottoman Empire was an unusual mix of freedom and ferocity. On the one hand, any citizen of the Empire could reach positions of considerable power, indicating a somewhat enlightened view of the lower classes; on the other, the treatment of European farmers and peasants at the hands of the Ottoman army was horrific. Even Ottoman records note that some troops seemed to delight in these gruesome attacks.