I came, I saw, God overcame… Jan III Sobieski to the Pope, with the captured Mussulman standards


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The enemy at the gate : Habsburgs, Ottomans and the battle for Europe  Andrew Wheatcroft  New York : Basic Books, 2009, c 2008  Hardcover. Originally published: London : Bodley Head, 2008. 1st American ed., later printing.  xxv, 339 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps, plans ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [301]-326) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Wheatcroft reveals the story behind four centuries of Ottoman incursions into the heartlands of Europe. In 1683, two empires – the Ottoman, based in Constantinople, and the Habsburg dynasty in Vienna – came face to face in the culmination of a 250-year-old struggle for power at the Great Siege of Vienna. Within the city walls, the choice of resistance over surrender to the largest army ever assembled by the Turks created an all-or-nothing scenario: every last survivor would be enslaved or ruthlessly slaughtered.

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In 1683, an Ottoman army that stretched from horizon to horizon set out to seize Vienna. The siege pitted battle-hardened Janissaries wielding seventeenth-century grenades against Habsburg armies. 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 was sustained by the hatred of its age-old enemy, certain that victory would be won by the grace of God.

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Although it was their most famous attack, the 1683 siege was the historical culmination of the Turks’ sustained attempt to march westwards and finally obtain the city they had long called “The Golden Apple.” Their defeat was to mark the beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Empire – although they would still be in the pirate and slavery business throughout the Mediterranean until the early part of the 19th century.

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The Great Siege of Vienna is the centerpiece for historian Wheatcroft’s  portrait of the centuries-long rivalry between the Ottoman and Habsburg empires for control of the European continent that presages the contemporary fight between the muslims and the West for domination. Today there are many muslim aspirants to the mantle of the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha and no one in the West who can hold a candle to Jan III Sobieski. The Enemy at the Gate not only provides a timely and masterful account of this most epic of conflicts it sounds a warning to those who would take cognizance of the fact that the nearly 50% inhabitants of Vienna died and more than 30,000 Christians were executed in captivity by Ottomans – islam may not be quite the religion of peace that its apologists present.
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