This Day in History: One of Europe’s Biggest Cities Under Siege (9/24/21)

This Day in History: One of Europes Biggest Cities Under Siege (9/24/21)

A.J. Hargett, Feature-Writer

This Day in History marks the beginning of the first siege of Vienna on September 24th 1529. This was the first attempt by the Ottoman Empire to take the Austrian Capital. The siege was a part of the bigger conflict over who would be the next king of Hungary. The previous king Louis II had died in the Battle of Mohács on August 29th 1526, which was fought between the Hungarians and their allies against the Ottomans; this was a catastrophic defeat for the Hungarians after which saw large parts of the country occupied by the Ottomans. The aftermath of this battle was a disputed succession to the Hungarian throne between the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand I, who was part of the famous Habsburg dynasty. And the local Hungarian noble, John Zápolya. After initial setbacks against the Austrians John Zápolya petitioned the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent for their help in his war for the throne. In return he would offer his vassalization which would make the Ottoman influence in the region evermore present. 


The Ottomans accepted this request and assembled a massive army of around 120,000 ~ 300,000 and launched their campaign on May 10th 1529. The campaign was almost immediately met with a series of obstacles. One of which was the flooding caused by the uncommonly large downpour of annual spring rain that is common in south-eastern Europe. This flooding caused much of the route the army took to become barely usable, and as a result caused many of the large calibre siege cannons Suleiman brought with him to get stuck in the mud, which were forced to be abandoned. Another one of the problems Suleiman faced was the deteriorating health of his army which claimed many Ottoman soldiers. After linking up with John Zápolya and his forcesSuleiman’s army marched onwards towards Vienna.


As the Ottomans approached the city the residents assembled anyone they could who would put up a fight and defend the city including farmers, peasants, and civilians. The city also received support from various European mercenary companies and some Spanish soldiers sent by Charles V of Spain. The city’s defenders were led by a seventy-year-old German mercenary named Nicholas, Count of Salm. Nicholas wasted no time and immediately started making defensive plans that would ensure that the city could survive a lengthy siege. His improvements included blocking the city gates, reinforcing the walls, and constructing earthen ramparts and bastions where he could. Nicholas’s preparations were done none too soon as on this day in 1529 the depleted Ottoman army arrived and began setting up camp and besieging the city. The Ottoman force that arrived was short on artillery and was in a poor state of health.  


The Ottomans began their siege by settling in and beginning to dig mines under the city’s walls, the city’s defenders tried to disrupt this by launching sorties from the city. These attacks were successful and destroyed many of the tunnels that the Ottoman sappers had dug. The Ottomans attempted multiple attacks which were all fought off due to the defenders determined resolve. As more rain fell the besieging army was starting to run out of basic supplies like food and water. Sickness and desertion were also spreading throughout the army.The situation was starting to look worse and worse for the Ottomans. And on October 12th, it was decided by Suleiman to attempt one last all out assault on the city, which went as well as expected based on their current situation, and was beaten back once again by the stubborn defenders. On October 14th 1529, it was decided by Suleiman that they would abandon the siege and return to Ottoman lands as they were running low on supplies and winter would be arriving soon. The Ottoman retreat went very poorly as the unusually early snowfall killed many and the loss of remaining artillery.


Although Suleiman lost he would eventually return once more in another failed attempt in 1532, after which he would abandon all dreams of invading Europe. The failure to capture Vienna marked the end of Ottoman expansion into Europe and led to the Ottomans focusing their efforts more toward Asia and the Mediterranean. It also marked the start of the Ottoman-Habsburg rivalry which would lead to many more bloody wars. Although Suleiman lost his attempts to take Vienna his later successor, Mehmed IV would again attempt to take the city in the more famous Battle of Vienna in 1683, which again ended in failure. But it is on this day September 24th 1529 that the city of Vienna first came under siege by the Ottomans.