Battle of Vienna 1683 - 325 anniversary of saving Europe from Ottoman invaders

Sep 2008
Warsaw, Poland
These days we have 325 anniversary of the battle of Vienna 1683, when Europe was saved from Ottoman invaders.

Commemoration of this battle will take place 12-14 September in Krakow (Poland), former capital of Poland, which contributed mostly to that victory by sending 30 000 soldiers (including couple thousands of hussars) and commanding the coalition forces (Polish king Jan III Sobieski was the commander of coalition fores).

Little more about the battle, taken from websites:

Battle of Vienna 1683

The Battle of Vienna took place on September 12, 1683 after Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months. The battle broke the advance of the Ottoman Empire into Europe, and marked the political hegemony of the Habsburg dynasty in central Europe.

The large-scale battle was won by Polish-Austrian-German forces led by King of Poland John III Sobieski against the Ottoman Empire army commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha.

Polish hussar

The siege itself began on 14 July 1683, by the Ottoman Empire army of approximately 138,000 men (although a large number of these played no part in the battle, as only 50,000 were experienced soldiers (Turks), and the rest less-motivated supporting troops. The decisive battle took place on 12 September, after the united relief army of 70,000 men had arrived, pitted against the Ottoman army.

King John III Sobieski of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been made Commander in Chief of:

- his own 30,000-man Polish forces (Lithuanians did not take part in the battle),
- 18,500 Austrian troops led by Charles V, Duke of Lorraine,
- 19,000 Franconian, Swabian and Bavarian troops led by Prince Georg Friedrich of Waldeck,
- 9,000 Saxon troops led by John George III, Elector of Saxony.

The battle marked the turning point in the 300-year struggle between the forces of the Central European kingdoms and the Ottoman Empire.

Battle of Vienna on September 12, 1683 (Painting: F. Greffels)


The capture of the city of Vienna had long been a strategic aspiration of the Ottoman Empire, due to its inter-locking control over Danubean (Black Sea-to-Western Europe) southern Europe, and the overland (Eastern Mediterranean-to-Germany) trade routes. During the years preceding the second siege (the first one was in 1529), under the auspices of grand viziers from the influential Köprülü family, the Ottoman Empire undertook extensive logistical preparations this time, including the repair and establishment of roads and bridges leading into Austria and logistical centers, as well as the forwarding of ammunition, cannon and other resources from all over the Empire to these logistical centers and into the Balkans.

Yet, before the siege, a state of peace had existed for twenty years between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire, as a result of the Peace of Vasvár.

In 1681 and 1682, clashes between the forces of Imre Thököly and the Habsburgs' military frontier (which was then northern Hungary) forces intensified. The Ottoman Army was mobilized on January 21, 1682, and war was declared on August 6, 1682.

During the winter, the Habsburgs and Poland concluded a treaty in which Leopold would support Sobieski if the Turks attacked Kraków; in return, the Polish Army would come to the relief of Vienna, if attacked.

In the spring, the Ottoman army reached Belgrade by early May, then moved toward the city of Vienna. About 40,000 Tatar Forces arrived 40km east of Vienna on 7 July, twice as many as the Austrian forces in that area. After initial fights, Leopold retreated to Linz with 80,000 inhabitants of Vienna.

The King of Poland prepared a relief expedition to Vienna during the summer of 1683, honoring his obligations to the treaty. He went so far as to leave his own nation virtually undefended when departing from Kraków on 15 August. Sobieski covered this with a stern warning to Imre Thököly, the leader of Hungary, whom he threatened with destruction if he tried to take advantage of the situation — which Thököly did.

Kara Mustafa Pasha, Painting 1696

Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, Painting 1683

Events during the siege

The main Turkish army finally invested Vienna on July 14. Graf Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, leader of the remaining 11,000 troops and 5,000 citizens and volunteers, refused to capitulate.

As their 300 cannon were outdated and the fortifications of Vienna were up to date, the Turks had a more effective use for their gunpowder: undermining. Tunnels were dug under the massive city walls to blow them up with explosives, using sapping mines.

The Ottoman siege cut virtually every means of food supply into Vienna,[3] and the garrison and civilian volunteers suffered extreme casualties. Fatigue became such a problem that Graf Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg ordered any soldier found asleep on watch to be shot. Increasingly desperate, the forces holding Vienna were on their last legs when in August, Imperial forces under Charles V, Duke of Lorraine beat Imre Thököly of Hungary at Bisamberg, 5km northeast of Vienna.

On 6 September, the Poles crossed the Danube 30km north west of Vienna at Tulln, to unite with the Imperial forces and additional troops from Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, Franconia and Swabia who had answered the call for a Holy League that was supported by Pope Innocent XI. Only Louis XIV of France, Habsburg's rival, not only declined to help, but used the opportunity to attack cities in Alsace and other parts of southern Germany, as in the Thirty Years' War decades earlier.

Staging the battle

The relief army had to act quickly to save the city from the Turks and to prevent another long siege in case they would take it. Despite the international composition and the short time of only six days, an effective leadership structure was established, indisputedly centered on the King of Poland and his heavy cavalry. The motivation was high, as this war was not as usual for the interests of kings, but for Christian faith. And, unlike the crusades, the battleground was in the heart of Europe.

The Holy League forces arrived on the "Kahlen Berg" (bare hill) above Vienna, signaling their arrival with bonfires. In the early morning hours of 12 September, before the battle, a mass was held for King Sobieski.

The battle

The battle started before all units were fully deployed. Early in the morning at 4:00, Turkish forces opened hostilities to interfere with the Holy League's troop deployment. A move forward was made by Charles, the Austrian army on the left, and the German forces in the center.

Mustafa Pasha launched a counter-attack, with most of his force, but holding back parts of the elite Janissary and Sipahi for the invasion of the city. The Turkish commanders had intended to take Vienna before Sobieski arrived, but time ran out. Their sappers had prepared another large and final detonation under the Löbelbastei, to provide access to the city. While the Turks hastily finished their work and sealed the tunnel to make the explosion more effective, the Austrian "moles" detected the cavern in the afternoon. One of them entered and defused the load just in time.

At that time, above the "subterranean battlefield", a large battle was going on, as the Polish infantry had launched a massive assault upon the Turkish right flank. Instead of focusing on the battle with the relief army, the Turks tried to force their way into the city, carrying their crescent flag.

Battle of Vienna 1683, Painting 1689

After 12 hours of fighting, Sobieski's Polish force held the high ground on the right. At about five o'clock in the afternoon, after watching the ongoing infantry battle from the hills for the whole day, four cavalry groups, one of them Austrian-German, and the other three Polish, totaling over 20,000 men, charged down the hills. The attack was led by the Polish king in front of a spearhead of 3000 heavily armed winged Polish lancer hussars. This charge broke the lines of the Ottomans, who were tired from the long fight on two sides. In the confusion, the cavalry headed straight for the Ottoman camps, while the remaining Vienna garrison sallied out of its defenses and joined in the assault.

After the battle, Sobieski paraphrased Julius Caesar's famous quote by saying "veni, vidi, Deus vicit" - "I came, I saw, God conquered"

King of Poland, Jan III Sobieski


The Turks lost about 15,000 men in the fighting, compared to approximately 4,000 for the Habsburg-Polish forces. Though routed and in full retreat, the Turkish troops had found time to slaughter all their Austrian prisoners, with the exception of those few of nobility which they took with them for ransoming.

The loot that fell into the hands of the Holy League troops and the Viennese was as huge as their relief, as King Sobieski vividly described in a letter to his wife a few days after the battle: "Ours are treasures unheard of ... tents, sheep, cattle and no small number of camels ... it is victory as nobody ever knew of, the enemy now completely ruined, everything lost for them. They must run for their sheer lives ... Commander Starhemberg hugged and kissed me and called me his savior."

Battle of Vienna at wikipedia: [ame=""]Battle of Vienna - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]
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Feb 2007
Just as a little footnote in early modern European culinary history, the Battle of Vienna was responsible for the inventions of both the croissant and the pretzel. The bakers of Vienna, trying to hedge their bets as to whether the Muslims or the Christians would win the battle, baked some of their bread to the shape of an Islamic crescent moon (the croissant) and they also baked some of their bread to the shape of Christian praying hands (the pretzel).
Sep 2008
Warsaw, Poland
Below more detailed picture of Polish hussar in armour from the period of battle of Vienna.

And couple words about that cavalry.

Polish hussar
, 17th century.


These were the elite of the Polish army being a unique, highly trained, manoeuvrable, hard-hitting, heavy cavalry. The hussars used tactics of speed and manoeuvrability, especially in the charge which was carried out at a full gallop in tight, knee-to-knee formations.

During the first half of the 16th century they began to replace the knight as the main striking arm of the Polish field army and at the same time they began to wear armour. By the Livonian war (1557-70) there were twice as many hussars as knights. They were equiped with a mail coat, helmet, shield, lance and sabre, while a significant proportion wore breastplates.
However though they gained armour they did not become extra-heavy cavalry. It was King Stefan Batory who ensured they remained a fast heavy cavalry and did not get slowed down by excess weight. He also introduced a much higher level of training, as well as higher pay than the cossack cavalry and benefits for those serving for longer periods.


The unique part of the hussars was their battle field tactics which gave the Polish army a powerful striking force, superior to all other European cavalry for over a century. The hussars charged in 3 to 4 ranks (only two ranks in the second half of the 17th century) depending on terrain and numbers, the rear rank could be detached to deal with flank attacks. They normally travelled in open order, for ease of movement and manoeuvring, but during the charge, when the last phase was reached they would compact their frontage until they were as close together as was practical and were moving at the horses full gallop speed (knee-to-knee charge). This not only gave them a powerful crushing strength but also minimised losses from enemy firepower. The hussar's armour was relatively light in comparison to the heavy cavalry of the West and this allowed them to charge as the horses maximum speed, while Western heavy cavalry depended more on the actual weight of their troops rather than speed. This also allowed the hussars to move form standing to charge speed relatively quickly. It was this quick change of speed and or direction and their ease of movement that led to much of their success, originally against the Tartars and later against Muscovite, Turkish and Western armies. In fact Gustavus Adolphus was forced to order his carocoling heavy cavalry to charge as the Poles did.

More about husaria:

Hussar's armour

Sep 2008
Warsaw, Poland
Movie about the anniversary event in Krakow, Poland:



Oct 2008
Thankyou, very interesting.

Just as a little footnote in early modern European culinary history, the Battle of Vienna was responsible for the inventions of both the croissant and the pretzel. The bakers of Vienna, trying to hedge their bets as to whether the Muslims or the Christians would win the battle, baked some of their bread to the shape of an Islamic crescent moon (the croissant) and they also baked some of their bread to the shape of Christian praying hands (the pretzel).
Now that is interesting. I think there's a credible source (albeit through wikipedia) that predates the battle that suggests they weren't invented as a response to the siege. ([ame=""]Pretzel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame])
Aug 2008
Copenhagen, Denmark
Thank you, that's a very good post.
This is very important milestone date in Ottoman history.

16 years from this war, The Treaty (Peace) of Karlowitz (Karlovci) was signed in 1699 in Sremski Karlovci ( German: Karlowitz, Turkish: Karlofça, Hungarian: Karlóca), a town in modern-day Serbia, concluding the Austro-Ottoman War of 1683–1697 in which the Ottoman side had finally been defeated at the Battle of Zenta.

Following a two-month congress between the Ottoman Empire on one side and the Holy League of 1684, a coalition of various European powers including the Habsburg Monarchy, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Republic of Venice and Peter I of Russia, a treaty was signed on January 26, 1699. The Ottomans ceded most of Hungary, Transylvania and SlavoniaPodolia returned to Poland. Most of Dalmatia passed to Venice, along with the Morea (the Peloponnesus peninsula), which the Ottomans regained in the Treaty of Passarowitz of 1718.

The Treaty of Karlowitz marked the beginning of the Ottoman sagnation period, and made the Habsburg Monarchy the dominant power in Central Europe. Ottomans will no longer be a nightmare figure for the Europe.
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