|The Awakening of Europe|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book III of the Story of the World series. Covers the reformation in Germany, the Netherlands, France, and England, as well as the settlement of colonies in America. The rise of England and the Netherlands as sea powers, and the corresponding fall of Spain, as well as the rise of Russia, Austria, and the German states are also presented. Ages 11-18 |
THE SIEGE OF VIENNA BY THE TURKS
"Think with what passionate delight
The tale was told in Christian halls
How Sobieski turned to flight
The Moslem from Vienna's walls."
AMONG the great names that fill the stage of Europe in the last quarter of the seventeenth century—William III., King
of England and Holland; Louis XIV., King of France; Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia; and Charles XII. of
Sweden—the name of John Sobieski, King of Poland,
 must not be forgotten. Sobieski was a national hero rather than a great king. He might well have belonged to
the old crusading
days, for his head, even now, was full of crusading ideas. With other Christian rulers he watched the growth of
Mohammedanism over Western Europe with increasing anxiety.
For the last two hundred years the Ottoman empire had stood high among the Powers of Europe. Greece was subject
to Turkey; parts of Hungary, Austria, and Russia owned her sway. Now in the year 1683 the Turks were marching
on Austria's capital, Vienna, and Vienna was totally unprepared for a siege. The Emperor of Austria was no
soldier, so he removed his court to a place some fifteen miles away and calmly awaited events. The Viennese now
turned to Sobieski, the King of Poland, a well-known champion of the Christians, a well-known hater of the
Turks. The fate of Austria hung on his reply. To Sobieski the appeal had all the old romance of the Crusades.
"Yes," he answered in haste, "I will come and help you."
And "flinging his powerful frame into the saddle and his great soul into the cause," the King of Poland began
eagerly to recruit his scattered army. Meanwhile the defence of the city was intrusted to Count Stahremberg. He
instantly set all hands to work.
 "Set fire to the suburbs," he ordered. "They shall not serve as cover to the enemy."
The flames rose high around the city, a wind sprang up, and Vienna herself had a narrow escape of being burned
to the ground. Presently the main force of the enemy appeared on the plain in front of Vienna. In a short time
thousands of Turkish tents had sprung up, and the camp was alive with bustle and excitement. The tents of the
Grand Vizier, or Prime Minister, were conspicuous with their green silk worked in gold and silver, their pearls
and precious stones, their gorgeous Eastern carpets. Around them were arranged baths, fountains,
flower-gardens, and even a menagerie of animals. From time to time the Grand Vizier, in gorgeously embroidered
robes, was carried out in a litter to inspect the works.
The siege had begun in real earnest. Assault followed assault. Day by day Stahremberg climbed up the lofty
fretted spire of the cathedral church in the heart of Vienna; he looked gloomily over the busy Turkish camp and
owned sadly to himself that the Turks were gaining ground inch by inch. Sickness and famine followed, and still
Sobieski did not come.
Sobieski had left Poland a few days after the siege had begun in July, but the way was long; he himself was
stout and heavy. It was the end of August before he reached the outskirts of Vienna. Here he found a little
crowd of German princes
 awaiting him, together with Duke Charles of Lorraine, ancestor of the Imperial House of Austria. Here was the
Hanoverian prince, afterwards George I. of England; here was Eugene of Savoy, the colleague of Marlborough
at Blenheim; here were men who had fought in the battle of the Boyne, veterans of the Thirty Years' War,—all
united in a common cause.
"We have not come to save a single city, but the whole of Christendom," said John Sobieski, as preparations for
an attack on the Turks went forward.
Marching to within four miles of Vienna, the Christian army occupied the heights of the Kahlenberg.
The sun was just setting on the evening of September 11 when Sobieski and his generals stood on the crest of
the hill. They could hear the Turkish cannonade raging vigorously, they could hear the feeble reply from the
despairing garrison within the town. But Sobieski's rockets from the Kahlenberg brought new hope to the brave
defenders, and Stahremberg despatched a messenger with a few urgent words: "No time to be lost!—no time indeed
to be lost!"
Morning dawned misty and hot. The fate of Vienna depended on the events of the day. The army of the Christians
began with a solemn service in the little chapel on the heights of the
Kahlen-  berg. Then a standard with a white cross on a red ground was unfurled amid shouts of enthusiasm, and the
leaders of the great army moved forward. The sky-blue doublet of John Sobieski marked him out above his
fellows, as the descent of the wooded slopes towards Vienna began.
The Grand Vizier's preparations for the battle were somewhat different. He slaughtered thirty thousand captives
in cold blood and then ordered the advance.
Down the slopes poured the Christian army like a whirlwind, while the shout, "Long live Sobieski!" rolled along
the lines. With all their faults the Turks did not know cowardice; they fought as brave men, but they could not
withstand the rush of the Christian army.
"Can you not help me?" cried the Vizier in despair to one of his pashas.
"No," was the answer. "I know the King of Poland. It is impossible to resist him. Think only of flight."
Panic-stricken, the Turks fled, away through the wasted suburbs of Vienna, towards the frontier of Hungary. The
Grand Vizier, weeping and cursing by turns, was hurried along with the stream.
By evening communication with Vienna was established, and Stahremberg led forth his starving garrison to greet
his deliverers. Amid the shouts of the people John Sobieski entered Vienna, the city which he had saved from
 "How will the Emperor receive him?" the people asked in their joy; "for he has saved the empire."
They might well question. The Emperor received the deliverer of his people with a few cold words in Latin, for
he was jealous of Sobieski's success. The King of Poland saw how matters stood. With a courteous chivalry that
might have belonged to the middle ages, he saluted the Austrian emperor.
"I am happy, sire, to have been able to render you this slight service," he said simply.
A general chorus of admiration and thanksgiving arose from Europe. John Sobieski had not only saved Austria's
capital, but he had destroyed the growing power of Turkey and forced the Mohammedans back to their own
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