The siege of united Christian forces in Buda, 1686
No fewer than eight wars fought between the Austrian and Ottoman Turkish Empires, 1529–1739. The Turks sought to expand into Europe proper and the Austrians stood in the way, while harboring expansionist dreams of their own.
The war of 1529–1533 was a direct result of the Ottoman defeat of Hungary in the Hungarian-Turk War of 1521– 1526. The Hungarian king John Zapolya, now a subject of the Turk sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, requested help against the Austrians. The sultan took more than four months to move his huge army from Constantinople to Vienna, allowing the Archduke Ferdinand time to build his defenses. The unsuccessful siege lasted from 27 September to 14 October 1529. The sultan tried again in 1532 but a month-long siege at the Austrian fortress of Guns failed. A truce was called because of the Turk-Persian Wars of 1526– 1555 but this agreement did not stop the Turkish army from pillaging and plundering.
The sultan Süleyman, reacting to the attack by 24,000 Austrian and Bohemian troops on the Turk fort at Essek in 1537, renewed the war of 1537–1547. In 1543, issues of succession for the Hungarian throne led to a well-planned Turkish expedition that left Belgrade and captured the large forts of Stuhlweissenberg and Grau, then occupied Croatia as well as Buda and Pest, the capitals of Hungary. In 1545 Ferdinand offered a truce and an annual tribute of 30,000 ducats for Austrian Hungary. Again, the Turk-Persian Wars of 1526– 1555 played a role in this 1547 truce being signed at Adrianople.
The war of 1551–1553 involved Austrian and Turk disputes over Transylvania. Ferdinand besieged its capital, Lippa, in 1551 while an Ottoman army captured three fortresses in the nearby Temsvar region, soon made into a new Turkish province. However, the Turks failed to take the fortress at Erlau (Eger), and the army was recalled for the Turk-Persian war, yet again! An armistice restarted the 1547 truce of Adrianople.
The war of 1566 saw Süleyman repulsed at Malta in 1565 by the Knights Hospitallers. The sultan, near the end of his life, sought one vindicating victory over the Austrians and their new emperor, Maximillian II.A Turkish army of several hundred thousand crushed the Croatian fortress town of Szigetvar but the sultan died of natural causes during the battle. And some 3,000 Turks were blown up when timed powder bombs exploded as they breached the last defenses. The Turkish army returned with the body of Süleyman to Constantinople, effectively ending the war.
The “Long War” of 1591–1606 began with the defeat of the Bosnian Ottomans by Croatians at Sissek in 1593. The Porte (Ottoman government) suffered its worst losses against Vienna in the longest war between the two. The Porte lost much of Hungary, Romania, Moldavia, Walachia, and Transylvania both on the field and through defection to Vienna. Attacks by Dnieper Cossacks and losses of Esztergom and Giurgiu forced the sultan Muhammed III to take the field with the Prophet’s standard and rally his retreating infantry for an unlikely victory at Mezokersztes. Here 30,000 Germans and Hungarians died. Fortress and siege warfare became the norm, with the Austrians taking Raab but not Buda in 1598 and the Turks failing to take Varazdin and Pest in 1599 and 1603. The Turks regained lost territory in alliance with the Transylvanian prince Stephen Bocksay, and the fluctuating Long War ended in the Treaty of Zsitva- Torok of 1606, with the Austrians as clear winners over the Porte, now busy with yet another Turk-Persian war, 1603– 1612.
The war of 1663–1664 stemmed from the success of the Turks in the Transylvanian-Turk War of 1657–1662. The Turks, led by Grand Vizier Fazil Pasha, were now seen as liberators by Wallachian and Romanian Christians against the Habsburg Austrian reformation and the Thirty Years’ War in Europe. Buda was captured in 1663, as was Neuhasel, a great victory for the Turks. After winter in Belgrade, the Turkish-led forces captured forts on the road to Vienna, forcing the Austrian Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I to start peace talks. Unfortunately for the Turks, during the final battle at the Raab River on 1 August 1664, flooding allowed only half of their army to cross the river, and that half was defeated by the Austrian cavalry under Montecuccoli. The Treaty of Vasvar, a 20-year truce, was signed afterwards.
The war of 1683–1699 began with renewed hopes by the Turks that the tide had turned against the Austrians. Some 70,000 Austrian and Polish troops under King Jan III Sobieski repulsed 138,000 Turks led by Kara Mustapha Pasha. This last invasion of Austria and siege of Vienna was a disaster for the Turks. Pope Innocent XI started a crusading Holy League in 1686, composed of the Holy Roman Empire, Venice, Poland, and Moscow, to combat the Turks. Buda was taken from the Turks in 1686, as was Transylvania in 1687. The sultan Süleyman II sent a Turk army that captured Serbia and Belgrade in 1690. Turk forces invaded Transylvania in 1691, but were decisively defeated. Austria became involved with France in the War of the Grand Alliance, and a fixed border between the Turks and Austrians remained stable for five years. In 1697, a large Ottoman Turk army left Belgrade to invade Hungary and was met by the imperial army under Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Turks suffered a crushing defeat on 11 September 1697, at the Battle of Zenta. The war ended with the Treaty of Karlowits in 1699, as the Turks were now occupied with the Russo-Turk War of 1695–1700 and the Venetian-Turkish War of 1685–1699.
The war of 1716–1718 began with 60,000 troops under Eugene Savoy decisively defeating the Turks at the Battle of Peterwardein on the Danube River, on 5 August 1716. The Turks lost 6,000 men, 100 artillery pieces, and their grand vizier. Eugene then besieged Belgrade, the strongest city of the Turks in the Balkans. A large Turkish relief force was initially victorious, but was finally routed by Eugene’s cavalry charge, forcing the surrender of Belgrade. The Austrian forces then marched on Constantinople, and with most of the Balkans lost, the Sublime Porte sued for peace in 1718.
References and further reading: Hourani, Albert. A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991. Rothenburg, Gunther. The Austrian Military Border in Croatia, 1522–1747. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1960.