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The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe Paperback – November 9, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
I guess if my memory of relatively recent readings had served me better, I would have passed on Author Wheatcroft's latest effort in view of my reaction to his 2005 work, "Infidels." As with that earlier effort, "Enemy" gets off to a decent start but trails off in unsupported observations and uncertain conclusions. Two failings stand out in my mind. First, Mr. Wheatcroft possesses a distressingly dry and unimaginative writing style. If an author can't invigoratingly portray the inherent drama and human terror and suffering of the Siege of Vienna, then I don't know what other event could propel the effort. I understand that it was long ago and that the implicit sprawl of a siege does not lend itself to concise and engaging descriptions.Read more ›
The conquest of Vienna would have been the crown achievement of the Ottoman Empire, a victory to rival the conquest of Constantinople. Vienna had withstood a siege by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1521, and topping his achievement would have immortalized his distant successor, Mehmet IV. It was a battle for the glory of the empire and that of Islam - "to be hailed as the Conqueror of Vienna was an irresistible Prospect" (p. 82).
Irresistible, but far fetched. From the get go, the Ottomans were disadvantaged - their troops, although superior to the Habsburg forces individually, were far less disciplined, and were unable to maneuver as ably. The Ottomans were facing an invasion of a well defended country in an era in which military maneuvering were moving away from pitch battles into sieges. By the late seventeenth Century, the Ottoman Habsburg border was littered with formidable castles. Vienna itself sported impressive defenses, admittedly poorly maintained. Mehmet's task was considerably more onerous than the one attempted by his legendary ancestor.
Not that the Sultan was there to command the campaign - in fact, neither sovereign participated directly in the campaign. Mehmet IV, after accompanying his soldiers part of the way as a de jure commander, gave formal authority to his Grand Vizier, Kara Mustafa in Belgrade.Read more ›
However, when I opened the book and started reading it, I was impressed. The pictures that it painted of this period of time, where very good. The Ottoman Empire of that period was a very dictatorial environment with the Sultan running everything and disobedience resulting in death. And, when they attacked a Christian city, the inhabitants were provided two options prior to the start of the siege - either surrendur or die. At the end of the battles, if the inhabitants did not surrender, the results were truly barbaric.
This was the lead in to the campaign that resulted in a near run affair of the siege of a major European city in 1683 - the siege of Vienna. The city was under siege for 2 months - and the book shares the specifics of the bombardment, the Ottoman mining (which they were very good at), the assaults of Ottomans (after mines were exploded taking down some of the city walls), the defense and the potential loss of the city. As the book continued through this section describing these events, I couldn't put it down. I kept wondering what it must have been like to experience this. And, what would have happened to the thousands of people in the city, if the city was taken.
The highlight of the book is the arrival of the "cavalry". A joint army of units from Poland, Saxony and other locations arrives in the nick of time, fights a battle with the Ottomans that ends with a successful heroic attack of the Polish Winged Hussars. You can just picture the result as you are reading the book - the hussars attacking with their lances, chasing the Ottomans and routing them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great filler for a personal gap in my understanding of eastern Euporpean history in the 15-17th centuries. Read morePublished 12 days ago by PS
Wheatcroft does a great job of building suspense about the siege of Vienna. I never though I would read several hundred pages about the build-up to a battle, but he kept my... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Marcia P. Halio
A good history. But I was not overly pleased with the organization of the book and the repetition of various things. Read morePublished 1 month ago by john binder
The description of the actual siege was very good, but the historical context was superficial and sometimes downright silly.Published 2 months ago by bragi
Interesting especially because of the current Isis attempt to conquer Europe. Drags in spots but still worthwhile. European historians will find m uch of interest.Published 3 months ago by History Buff
The Enemy is no longer at the gate - they are infiltrating, deceiving and terrorizing all non-Muslim territory, Islam's Land of War. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jennifer
I love reading history, especially world changing times that I previously knew nothing about. However, this book just didn't hold my interest. Read morePublished 5 months ago by JLucci