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‘The Enemy at the Gate’

By Jessica Schneider Jun 21, 2009, 16:42 GMT

‘The Enemy at the Gate’

In 1683, an Ottoman army that stretched from horizon to horizon set out to seize the “Golden Apple,” as Turks referred to Vienna. The ensuing siege pitted battle-hardened Janissaries wielding seventeenth-century grenades against Habsburg armies, widely feared for their savagery. The walls of Vienna bristled with guns as the besieging Ottoman host launched bombs, fired cannons, and showered the populace with arrows during the battle for Christianity’s bulwark. Each side ...more

“The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe” is what the NYT notes as: “the skirmishes and the pitched battles that raged for centuries between Habsburgs and Ottomans, and their numerous vassals on both sides, represented not so much a “clash of civilizations” as a collision of empires.”

Authored by Andrew Wheatcroft, Booklist notes: “On the front line opposing the Ottoman advance were the forces of the polyglot Hapsburg Empire. Wheatcroft indicates that the Hapsburgs had their own particular assets, including a superbly trained infantry, and an effective, largely Polish cavalry. Relying to a large extent on contemporary Hapsburg sources, Wheatcroft offers an outstanding blow-by-blow description of the siege, which in the end was decided through a combination of luck and several critical Ottoman blunders.”

Another point the NYT review mentions is: “The Ottomans inspired dread in their enemies; fear was part of their arsenal. But, as Wheatcroft repeatedly demonstrates, the Habsburgs were fearsome too, and perhaps even crueler than their opponents, engaging not only in full-scale massacres but in flayings, beheadings and impalements.”

Basic Books, 384 pages. Read the NYT review here.


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