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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
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