Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
In a little more detail...

1) Regarding "bravery", I find your belief that crusaders were not motivated by conquest and were motivated by the protection of others extremely naive. This wasn't true of the famous Crusades into the Holy Land already, not to mention the Teutonic Knights' land-grabbing in the Baltics (or Sweden's in Finland as askod reminds us). (I could also mention the Spanish Armada -- was it all altruism towards the suffering Catholics of Albion?)

Self-defense (Mircea had to deal with lots of Ottoman raids after all) and pride (in not shrieking back from a call into battle by the nominal feudal overlord or the Pope) are the most charitable motivations. But, given the prior record (I mention Vidin), who do you think would have got to rule in the lands taken "back" from the Ottoman Empire? And already during the campaign, you forget about loot -- and the feeding of the troops, which was usually at the "expense" of local peasants (dead or alive).

2) As discussed in the context of my upthread comments and the diary, it should have been obvious that "mighty" in "two mighty neighbours" is relative to Wallachia and the other buffer states.

Wallachia's rulers faced demands for vassaldom (underlined with armed invasions) from its very formation in the 1330s. First from Hungary and Bulgaria. After the 14th-century Ottoman expansion, the Hungarian influence became overbearing, until Mircea could gain some autonomy. But from them on, rulers with the backing of the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire would replace each other in rapid succession, usually with significant outside meddling. I mentioned the eight coups in eight years after Mircea, but it continued so even if on a timescale of years. Vlad III (Dracula) would arrive as an Ottoman liege, then turn on them, and after much upheaval that included exile in Transsylvania, signifivant victories and raids towards both neighbours, imprisonment by Matthias Corvinus, and ended with assassination after being sent back to take the place of yet another Ottoman liege.

3) One can separately consider how the opponents of the Ottoman Empire in Europe compared to it in relative power. While, as I stated in the diary, Ottoman superiority can be assumed continuously from the end of the 14th century, that superiority could not always be qualified as "enormous".

On one hand, due to personal unions and conquest, successive kings of Hungary had rather large realms under their control: Hungary's Angevin King Louis I also became King of Poland, King of Hungary Sigismund, as a Luxembourg, later became Holy Roman Emperor, Vladislaus I/III was King of both Poland and Hungary, he was followed by a Habsburg, then (as I told in the diary) Matthias expanded West and also aimed for Holy Roman Emperor, then Vladislaus Jagiellon/II was still co-King of Hungary and Bohemia. Later, Ferdinand I of Austria and Hungary would become Holy Roman Emperor, too (again see the diary).

On the other hand, the Ottoman Empire had its times of vulnerability (which opponents failed to exploit, unlike in and after 1683) -- in particular around the time of the second crusade mentioned in my top-level comment. I referred to a prior successful campaign. That one, an attack in winter, got near the then capital Edirne (ex Hadrianopolis). The 1444 crusade itself could have turned out very differently, had the navies of Italian city-states blocked the passage across the Dardanelles, or had the land army made use of their Hussite war wagons: the Ottoman Empire would have lost not just an army but all its European possessions, and with that its economic superiority.

  1. FYI: modern Romania (and medieval Moldavia) may or may not be considered Eastern Europe (depending whether one considers the cultural factor of Eastern Orthodox religion or just geography), but the Ottoman conquests discussed here touched Southeastern Europe (the Balkans) and Central Europe (Hungarian Kingdom, Wallachia, Poland, Austria).

  2. The 1529 Siege of Vienna did not finally mark a stop of Ottoman advance -- the second to fifth sections covers just that explicitely.

The 1529 campaign came because though the Ottomans considered Hungary a liege kingdom, Ferdinand I took over all of it in 1527, and then the exiled king John Szapolyai appealed to Suleiman. Both expansionary invasions and punitive missions beyond the borders continued after this confrontation. As I told in the diary, the real constraint on Ottoman expansion was the time limit dictated by the seasonal nature of campaigns - thus in 1529 (just like at Eger 23 years later), they had to abandon the siege with the arrival of the rainy season. Just three years later, in 1532, the next invasion aiming for Vienna lost time with the siege of a smaller castle (Kőszeg = Güns), then broke off the march in sight distance of Vienna and turned South, pillaging across Eastern and Southern Austria on its way home.

From the assimilation of Central Hungary into the Empire in 1541 to 1566, Suleiman's armies were extending the Empire at the expense of Austria. In 1543, as a revenge for an attempted takeover of Buda by Ferdinand the previous year, Suleiman started another invasion aiming for Vienna, this time following the Danube. But this one got bogged down with the siege and punishment of some Hungarian towns that switched sides. Worth to note that in a peace in 1562, Ferdinand agreed to pay tribute to Suleiman, which was paid on and off for 40 years (effectively becoming a liege kingdom!). In 1566, another invasion that was probably aiming further got bogged down at the castle of a nobleman, and then Suleiman died during the siege.

Ottoman conquest continued during the 15 Years' War (mentioned in the fifth part of my diary, with a link to an earlier diary that covered the years to and after the Second Siege of Vienna, from an angle I suppose unfamiliar to you). But its final extent in Europe was only reached in the Habsburg-Ottoman War of 1663-4 (fall of Érsekújvár/Neuhäusl, today's Nové Zámky), during which another run on Vienna was stopped in the battle of Szentgotthárd-Mogersdorf.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 22nd, 2008 at 01:01:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The red dot on the map of Austria and its states above denotes the city of Ybbs. (Vienna is the small enclave near the Eastern borders.) This is how far West (part of) Ottoman troops got in the Danube valley during the 1532 invasion (their passage South was only a bit further East). Though that's still not the Westernmost reach -- half a century earlier, when Mathias Corvinus allowed raiding parties free passage as punishment for Austria, they reached Western Carinthia (the Souhernmost state of Austria).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 22nd, 2008 at 01:20:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder at what point in history the focus shifted from the physical boundaries to the political boundaries. I was thinking that I wanted to see a map showing the terrain and the Danube - and Ybbs, of course. Because at the time of the Ottoman invasion, the movement of people was like water - gravitational, following also the gravitationally influenced roads and the gravitational rivers.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Oct 22nd, 2008 at 01:29:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Check with Google Maps! They now have relief map, too.

The bands reaching Ybbs must have had to cross the Northernmost chain of the Alps as they joined the rest of the Ottoman army. The main body, too, had to pass through a pass (though only c. 700 m above sea).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 22nd, 2008 at 02:35:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...and, er, I don't know on what route they reached Ybbs -- bypassing Vienna along the Danube, or crossing the Wienerwald mountains above Vienna.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 22nd, 2008 at 02:37:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not so sure boundaries were ever all that physical, since the end of the Roman Empire. For much of the middle ages, they did not exist fully - nobles ruling near the boundaries of two kings' zones of influence would quite regularly switch allegiance. Maps of "France" in the middle ages usually show a few enclaves. Land was more property than nation or state at the time...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Oct 22nd, 2008 at 05:24:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
3b) I forgot one further note on numbers -- an issue touched upon in my diary only implicitely.

While the Ottoman Empire had superior manpower from the late 14th century, for the magnitude of that superiority, contemporary reports of troop strength should be viewed critically.

On one hand, it was part of the Ottoman Empire's psychological warfare to spread rumours of the approach of an incredibly big army. As covered in the third part of my diary, the enemy could often be compelled to run. On the other hand, in Christian (or, on this subject more aptly: feudal) Europe, boosting the numbers of the enemy served both to heighten the valor of victors or to better excuse a defeat. Modern historians' estimates usually cut the standard figures for Ottoman invasion armies by 50% or more.

For Eger, I mentioned that the standard figure of 150,000 (spread between "80,000 soldiers and innumerable freeriders" and 250,000) was halved (with a spread of 40-80,000). For the 1456 Siege of Belgrade, figures were similart: 150,000 vs. the modern 70,000.

Figures were even more extreme for Suleiman's troops in the 1529 Siege of Vienna: from 200,000 upwards to 300,000. But modern estimates are around 90,000: it was surely Suleiman's biggest army, as he brought even Serbian and Moldovan vassal forces, but his entire regular army was less than 50,000, and the army that may have numbered 120,000 at the start had travelled for four and a half months (arriving very late on 26 September) and had a number of battles behind them (across Transylvania and Central Hungary for the vassal forces, Buda for the main force).

A second aspect of comparisons is the 'value' of soldiers. Up to half of Ottoman invasion armies were irregular forces, while most Hungarian, Austrian (and Wallachian, Serbian) armies were almost exclusively feudal and/or professional. The numbers of regular soldiers compared more evenly, though I contended in the diary that just the lack of commoner foot-soldiers was a critical factor. So I think the best direct matchup was in the 1456 Siege of Belgrade: regular units were 18,000 (castle crew+Hunyadi) against 40,000 (Mehmed II), while irregular units were 30,000 (John Capistran's crusaders) vs. 30-40,000 (Mehmed II) at the outset, with a more significant reduction in Mehmed's forces by the final battle.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Oct 23rd, 2008 at 05:35:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for your exhaustive explanations, DoDo. I was of course aware of much of all this - not in so much detail though. I will return on this later, since there are other replies as well. For now I'll just make an attempt (probably quite boring by its very retrospective nature) at clarifying my own words.

By bravery and self-defense I meant Mircea the Elder, of course. In general I hardly find the german or the french crusaders' attitude (let alone goals, be those real or displayed) either brave, or extremely honourable.

Wr to the two mighty neighbours: of course your viewpoint might* stand in relation with Wallachia; much less so if we look at the greater picture: when you have a frog, a fly and a couple of ants, well, from the frog's perspective, the others are all ants.

*I say "might" thinking at that Middle-Ages custom of marrying to enlarge territory. In reality, those were hardly genuine states; accumulation of territory in the feudal order was SO ephemerous that it really doesn't deserve much attention.
I don't even speak about Hungary, which, like any other state, had its better and worse moments. But just look at the german "empire", first Roman, then Roman of German nation, then Habsburgic really, Austrian, finally Austro-Hungarian and ending with two small (relative to their neighbours, let alone to the Barbarossa's realm) albeit very honourable states: modern Austria and modern Hungary.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Thu Oct 23rd, 2008 at 03:05:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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